Accommodating, helpful, and high quality service in general, but restaurant service in particular, has become rare in North America and Europe. This is mostly due to the irregular hours the profession requires, and perception that it pays poorly.
Helpful and superior quality service always pays well, and today only classic restaurants in France, Switzerland, Germany, New York, Chicago, Vancouver, and Toronto offer what may be considered as such.
Poor service results mostly because of the unwillingness of restaurateurs to hire and train suitable individuals with good attitude to serve, also understaffing in an attempt to squeeze more profit and partially also to keep prices as low as possible for competitive reasons.
Good management, constant training, and relentless pursuit of improving quality standards can provide attentive service.
More than any service technique and style servers must be trained to be friendly, flexible, dignified, accommodating, quick on their feet, well co-ordinated, to know all the ingredients of each dish on the menu, enunciate every word properly and communicate effectively.
Servers should greet guests by saying: “ Welcome to the ….. We are glad you are here”.
Use the name of regular guests pronouncing correctly, and be friendly, but never familiar or indiscreet.
End every step of service and conversation with guests by asking, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” and respond to a request with “absolutely” rather than a simple and laconic “yes”.
Servers must be made to understand that competition is fierce, every guests counts and their jobs depend very much on how successful the establishment remains.
It is important to wish guests “Bonne appetite” or simply say “Enjoy” after serving each course and return to the table a few minutes later to ask whether everything is satisfactory.
Complaints must be handled quickly and effectively, even if they may be questionable. The principle in any service industry is to satisfy all consumers. It is five times less expensive to retain a guest than acquire a new one.
Guests go to a restaurant with the objective to consume. The level of spending depends on how the server(s) takes the order(s) and suggests additional dishes or beverages.
The most important aspect of selling is to know the product intimately, and suggest it with confidence, and enthusiastically in a mouth watering way. The same applies to wine, beers, and cocktails, even bottled water.
Good service is invisible. It must be there when a guest thinks of something or makes a request. Some pundits refer to this type of service as anticipatory or “telepathic” service. Such service impresses guests more than anything else; Restaurants deliver a bundle of services – food, beverages, service and ambience. All three aspects are equally important to convince guests to repeat the experience.
(Steps to achieve high quality standards are on the sidebar).
Experienced servers “read” the mood of guests and cater accordingly. A party in celebration mood will consume more than average, as will business people trying to seal a deal, or celebrating a done deal, or a family entertaining fiends.
Good service requires keeping an eye on how guests are progressing, and inform the kitchen accordingly. Nothing is more annoying than to bring the next course when guests are still enjoying the previous course. Similarly, all dishes must be removed immediately after everyone has finished eating.
It is always a good idea to suggest desserts, coffee, liqueurs, or digestives while removing the main course and crumbs from the table. Better yet, bring dessert trolley, if there is one, to the table and explain a few of the items, including fresh fruit should the guests claim to be on a diet.
An accurate bill must be ready when guests ask for it.
Once the bill is settled and guests are ready to leave always thank for their patronage and ask them to return.
Service means detail, genuine concern for the well being of guests, and consistent quality of food, beverages, service and ambience.
QUALITY SERVICE STANDARDS
Check temperature, lighting level, and cleanliness of the restaurant including all toilets.
Check parking lot, cleanliness of the sidewalk, and that the entrance is clear of snow and ice.
Polish all cutlery and glassware
Clean and replenish all condiment containers
Ensure that all breads are available and fresh.
The setting up must finish at least five minutes before opening.
Check all tables for steadiness
Check the condition of all menus
Check coat check and attendant (if applicable)
Hold a short meeting with all servers to inform about specials, beverages to recommend, and VIP’s expected
Acknowledge guests at 3 meters (10”) by eye contact and at 1.1/2 meters (5’) verbally and with a smile.
If busy, indicate that you will attend to guests within minutes. Nothing annoys guests more than being ignored.
Ideally the menu should be presented within two minutes after guests have settled in.
Bread and butter should be served quickly
Recommend aperitifs first
Recommend specials and “accessorize” the order
Serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This requires co-ordination and communication with the kitchen
Wish “Bonne appetite” or say “Enjoy” after serving each course
Check after guests have eaten one or two bites whether everything is satisfactory
Never remove empty plates before everyone has finished eating
Serve a new course after removing dishes from the previous course
After clearing the main course and before “crumbing” and removing salt and peppershakers, roll dessert trolley to the table.
Propose after dinner liqueur and/or digestives including brandies.
(Make sure beverage prices are reasonable to encourage sales).
Have the cheque ready and present it to the person who appears to be the host, and if unsure, place it in the middle of the table.
Always thank guests for their patronage and ask them to return
For breakfast service serve orange juice, coffee or tea as soon as guests sit down.
Place mat menus speed up service
If bud vases are on the table ensure that flowers are fresh and the water is changed daily
Before promising any food not on the menu, check with the kitchen
Inform guests about preparation time if such are foods ordered
After lunch/dinner shift, a short meeting will help discuss shortcoming, problems encountered and successes. Sales by server should be analyzed and announced.
Banquet Buffet Service
Use 5’ diameter tables for 6 – 8 people, and six for 8 – 10.
Provide full set up including water and wine glasse3
If cold soup or appetizer is on the menu put it on the table
Set up buffet table for appetizers, salads and main course separate from dessert and cheese
Serve coffee or tea
If wine is ordered, fill glasses 1/3 full and replenish
Provide adequate number of “lines” according to the number of guests.
Before service starts ensure that all items are on the table that they look fresh and appetizing, and proper service utensils must be available.
Decide whether the buffet will be manned or not. Servers behind the buffet table ensure faster service, less food consumption and timely replenishment.
Co-ordinate with convener to ensure smooth flow of service
Ensure that the public address system is in good working order, and audiovisual systems required are handy and properly installed, lapel or wireless microphones are at hand.
Prepare preliminary invoice and have the convener sign it
Ensure the availability of an adequate number of properly functioning elevators
Telephone order takers must know the menu and preparation times intimately
Order takers must be able to provide approximate time of service. If delays appear inevitable, guests should be informed accordingly
Doorknob breakfasts help speed up service.
Prior to knocking on the door, the server should know the name of the occupant and address the person accordingly
Knock three times twice and say room service
Greet appropriately and ask whether guests want table set up or will accept the tray as is.
Present cheque and ask for signature
Ask whether you can do anything else
Greet and leave
Never engage in private conversations or accept invitations
If nudity is displayed, ignore and proceed as if everything is normal
THOUGHTS ON QUALITY SERVICE
• Service is only one part of what it takes to satisfy a patron. Good service does not guarantee satisfaction.
• Quality means a prime cut of beef or any other meat; service stands for cooking it expertly at the table (or in the kitchen); and customer satisfaction means enjoying the experience enough to return for another meal.
• Restaurants and hotels famous for patron satisfaction outperform others.
• An internal customer is the employee who receives and uses output of another employee in the chain of production. The internal customer concept stresses the importance of each employee.
• Every establishment must have a guest satisfaction program. It must be simple, and exciting with a name that includes the objective
• Management must set standards and demonstrate by example how they should be delivered without deviation. Management must be committed to customer satisfaction program objectives as with all employees.
• Guests use the information provided about products and services to form expectations. The perception of superior performance is eroded when preceded by exaggerated promises.
• Expectation levels must be set high enough to attract guests, but sufficiently accurate to reflect the reality of what can be delivered.
• It is better to under-promise and over deliver, rather than the reverse.
• Customer feedback can be in form of surveys, complain/suggestion cards, toll-free telephone number, focus groups including mystery shoppers, spotters, and computer-aided questionnaires.
• Customer satisfaction requires frequent communication with guests, employees and competitors.
• It is important to know how the product affects users today in order to be able to prepare for the future.
• Benchmarking provides the missing link that allows managers/owners to focus achieving competitive advantage by learning from others.
• Improvement efforts should start with customer driven processes i.e service and product side of the service cycle.
• Employees treat guests similar to the way they as employees are treated by management.
• Creating a passionate and motivated workforce starts with a vision for the organization. Visions should be simple, communicated frequently, and personally by the executive management.
• Eliminate unnecessary levels of management.
• Instead, create worker-teams with responsibilities.
• Conduct performance reviews including compensation twice a year.
• Create a frequent-guest program, but keep it simple.
• Resolve complaints quickly, and if possible, personally.
• Communicate guest feedback to all employees, but keep personal comments private.
• Admit when you, as a manager are wrong, apologize, correct the error, and offer sufficient restitution.
• Offer guests a guarantee that has real value. Make it unconditional, easy to invoke, and quick to pay.
• A guest who returns food to be cooked again is complaining. Value the input, and solve the problem at once and for the future.
• New technology can improve quality, make service faster, and add value.
• Guest satisfaction must advance as fast as the technology it supports.
• Hire people with a positive and friendly attitude and who consider the position to which they are applying as careers are courteous, pay attention to detail, and believe that promoting your interests advances their own
• In service-oriented markets restaurateurs/hoteliers must emphasize quality, service and environment.
• Good service is invisible. The server appears when a guest thinks of something. It is “telepathic”. Good servers anticipate needs, run-of-the-mill folk, react to them.
• Cooking and service are manual highly detailed, require good co-ordination and both happen to be highly aesthetic.
• All departments in a restaurant/hotel are interconnected and work towards the goal of satisfying the needs and wants of guests.
• The quality of thinking determines the quality of the future.
• Training is an important tool to deliver consistently high levels of service and must be provided on an ongoing basis. Quality of service is a moving target and should progress to the next level when a set level is achieved and delivered for a certain period.