Spell it like it is

Is your host or hostess making a good first impression?  By pronouncing the names of guests correctly, this impression can be improved.  Try this idea.My partner Barbara worked as a hostess at Marie Callender's in her college days. After noticing that other hostesses had been promoted to waiting tables, she asked management why she had been overlooked. The answer was amazing. She had a special skill, one that customers had remarked about. She pronounced their names correctly. She had even received tips from appreciative diners who never had their names pronounced correctly before!

It amazes me that as restaurateurs we leave first impressions, seating assignments, and the pacing of table turns to our youngest and least experienced staff members. My partner Nick always worked the front door at our restaurants, and I know it made a big difference to our clientele. Nick said that as host he could keep his finger on the pulse of our restaurant. I believe he's right.

My suggestions
Re-evaluate the role of host or hostesses. Hire the best and brightest for this often under-appreciated position. You'll realize the benefits immediately—in ways you can't even imagine.

Here's a tip to help your existing staff excel at the simple but important skill of pronouncing names correctly. Regardless of the "correct" spelling of a name, have your host or hostess spell the name phonetically — just like it sounds.

When Mr. Knowlton comes in and gives you his name, spell it NOLTON. If Mr. Knowlton insists on the correct spelling (and don't be surprised if he does), humor him and spell it correctly, and then write the phonetic spelling next to it.

You can keep it simple, or get fancy and separate names into syllables, use accent marks or indicate a word it rhymes with. So they'll understand it and remember the rules, let your employees help design the phonetic system you use.

Training exercise
We've created a simple training exercise to help you and your team establish your own phonetic spelling system. Download the exercise and get started today!

The point is: Pay attention. Names are very important. Just being aware of the problem will make a noticeable difference in performance.

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