Did you know that approximately 14 percent of your customers will not return to your business because of food quality and 68 percent because of service quality? So, doesn’t it make sense to train your waiters and waitresses to deliver superior service to win your customers back every time?
To gain the competitive edge today, you have to do much more to place your restaurant on the “favorites” list. One way is through personalizing service for each type of customer that comes to your business. For example, selling and service techniques employed for a family with children are different from that which would be delivered to elderly customers. The same holds true for business customers versus vacationers. It is never safe to think that your restaurant service staff will inherently understand these differences. Unless trained, they are most likely to offer one size fits all service.
Teach your waiters and waitresses to be observant and follow the tips below to help assess the needs of your customers:
•Time limitation (leisurely or time restricted)
•Mood (celebratory, romantic, stressed)
•Age group (children, teenagers, baby boomers, seniors, geriatrics)
•Purpose for their visit (social, private/intimate, or business)
•Gender (male, female)
Since approximately 80 percent of communication is conveyed through facial gestures and verbal and non verbal body language, as opposed to the actual words, teach your service team to focus on the following areas:
•Verbal Language (voice tone, rate, inflection, speech, pronunciation, and grammar)
•Body Language (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and movement)
Look for telltale signs of a customer in a rush such as looking at their watch, looking around or rubber necking, talking quickly, crossing their arms, or tapping their fingers. Also, closely observe your customers’ image (e.g. clothing, accessories, hair, makeup, etc.). This can also provide you with many clues about their dining needs.
Here is an exercise to share with your service team. It lists various types of customers and ways to customize service for each customer category. During a pre-shift meeting or company training session, review this exercise with your restaurant service staff.
Customer Types and Service Suggestions:
-Since celebrating customers usually have larger budgets, suggest higher priced items along with party-spirit foods/drinks and a cake to recognize the occasion
-Congratulate the celebrating customer and focus on their main event
-Be social unless serving a couple desiring privacy
-Since many elderly customers are on a limited income, guide them towards value-oriented foods and recommend light, soft, and less spicy foods
-Be patient and speak slowly, project your voice, and listen carefully
-Refrain from acts which can be construed as condescending or treating them like children
3. Family (with children)
-Offer high chairs and booster seats
-Be prepared to make kid-favorite suggestions and easy to eat finger foods
-Offer something to occupy the child’s attention (game books, crayons, crackers)
-Be patient while the family orders and give the children the opportunity to place their order themselves
-Sincerely compliment the customer about their children
-Ask the child kid-friendly questions
-Place drinks where spills are less likely and remove obstacles (e.g. vases and centerpieces)
-Quickly clean spills and keep the area tidy
-Deliver extra napkins
4. Romantic Couple
-Guide the couple towards a booth or secluded area for privacy when seating them
-Suggest higher priced items along with wines, champagnes, and exotic desserts, since romantic couples and people on first-dates usually have larger budgets
-Deliver highly organized and efficient service
-Minimize your conversation and allow them privacy, without hovering over them
-Suggest higher priced items, since many business people have business accounts and set allowances
-Suggest items that are prepared quickly and inform them if their selected order requires a long preparation, if they are on a business lunch
-Deliver highly organized and efficient service and ensure their order is delivered promptly
-Minimize your conversation and allow them privacy without hovering over them
Please Note: When serving alcohol, train your staff to be aware of the signs of intoxication and avoid overselling alcohol. Teach your staff to refuse alcohol sales to any minors.
Other customer types include customers dining alone (the solo customer), disabled customers, teenagers as customers, customers who are in a rush, first-time customers, and customers who dine in large groups/gatherings. Again, each different type of customer has “specific” service needs. Along with recognizing the category customers belong in, the above service suggestions are meant as recommendations and are not set in stone. Always, be sure to fully assess every dining customer by closely observing verbal and body language to determine how to positively interact with them. Mike Owens, General Manager of Brick Oven LLC, located in Topeka, Kansas, says, “Using the above examples in role-play scenarios is a highly effective method to properly train your service teams…it helps them fully understand the importance of tailoring their service versus delivering the same canned service to everyone.”
“Service” is not just about delivering food and drinks to the table-it is giving the customer much more than he/she expects. Implementing a solid training program that focuses on personalizing service will set you apart from your competitors. Exceeding the needs of each customer with customized service takes a little extra time. However, it is worth the effort. When the customer wins, everyone wins and it’s a triple play-more money for you, increased tips for your service staff, and happy customers that become loyal patrons and refer their friends to your business.