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Are you being served?

We want our guests to receive the best service in town...flawless greeting scripts...impeccable plate placement...perfect pacing...a sincere thank you and invitation to return. We want our servers to deliver that first class service. But is it happening?

Do you think the typical Gen-Y server—they account for 75% of all new hires—has been served in a four-star restaurant, or even a two-star restaurant?

I know this for a fact: it's impossible to deliver a level of service that you have never experienced first-hand. So, I'm going to put all your managers and owners to work — as a role model — to demonstrate how you want your servers to serve.

I'm suggesting that there is no more effective way to communicate your culture and your service expectations than to have your staff experience it from the customer's point of view.

Invite your employees to lunch or dinner (on the clock), and treat them like "real guests" from they moment they arrive until you thank them and ask them to return. And quick service operations should do this, too. Customer service at a drive-up window or at the counter is just as important.

This will be one of the most valuable training sessions you've ever conducted. And it will generate the most measurable results. Service will improve because your staff will appreciate and understand what it means to be served well. And guests will be impressed at the improvement in your service.

By the way...this exercise doesn't have to be limited to waitstaff. Bussers, hostesses, runners and back of the house employees need to know how they contribute to the total experience. It's also a great morale booster and contributes immensely to creating a successful team effort.

Serve 'em up right

Here are some suggestions for setting up the exercise. And don't leave out the part about getting feedback. As always, you'll hear great comments, and you'll be able to see who's really tuned into spectacular service.

  • Schedule lunch and dinner shifts to provide your service staff with the best service you can offer. If you're quickservice, ask your employees to come in during a one or two day period.
  • Take Employee Reservations. If necessary, have a couple of seatings throughout the shift or schedule employee reservations on more than one day.
  • Make sure the floor is covered and you can wait on a small section of your own employees. Don't let yourself get called away from your duties as a server to solve problems, or get swept up in your management duties.
  • Deliver the best food and service your operation has to deliver. Allow wine or specialty beverage tastings. Give them the red carpet treatment. Isn't that what you'd want them to deliver?
  • Make sure your service skills shine. Do you pause when you approach the table, or interrupt a conversation? Do you ask if you can "bring a glass of Chardonnay," or if they "want another one?" Do you run out of the special, or sell out? Do you wait until all have finished eating before clearing plates from the table (unless you've been asked, of course)? These things will be noticed and hopefully mentioned in the evaluation your employees will complete after their meal. If they're not, you'll know where to focus future training sessions.
  • At the end of the meal or after handing them their order, thank the employees, and invite them to dine with you again as a guest. And last, but not least, ask them to fill out a special service questionnaire designed for this occasion.

We've created a ready-to-use version of the service questionnaire. Just download it, print it, copy it and you're on your way!

I recommend that you let the employees read the questionnaire prior to their reservation. This will help them be more aware of the subtleties you're striving to convey. These subtleties are what distinguish excellent service from mediocre service.

See also:
Connect the dots
The ten commandments of service

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