Restaurant Training – Waiter & Waitress Training Tips For Customer Service – Hospitality Education

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:

1. Celebrating

-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

2. Elderly

-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

5. Business

-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.

What Is Your Customer Service Worth?

Customer service is not always on our minds as leaders. It’s often seen as a cost, and little else.

What’s the purpose of customer service? You might think, to fix problems. With that mindset, it doesn’t make sense to invest much in it.

The thing is, it’s a little more complicated. Here are 7 purposes of customer service:

  1. To answer questions
  2. Yes, to solve problems
  3. To educate your customers
  4. Even better, to learn from your customers
  5. To improve their experience of your company
  6. To strengthen your relationship with your customer through empathy and care
  7. To give your company another opportunity to have the desired impact.

These 7 purposes start to shift your perspective.

You can reduce your costs by designing a better product or service. By doing a stellar job at education in your manual, online, or in a video.

You can enhance your customer service ROI by learning from your customers so that you can do all these things better: design, execution, education, relationships, and impact.

When someone makes the effort to call or email your company, your customer is giving you a second chance.

Your customer service staff have the opportunity to not only make it better, to build your relationship, and to decide to refer you or to buy again. These members of your team can make the difference between whether your company has its intended impact or not.

That’s worth the investment.

Confusion about what you want to achieve and what it costs helps no one.

If you engage with customers, be clear about what it’s worth to your company, what it is you want to achieve, and what it costs. Then decide and do that.

Don’t Give Lip Service to Customer Education

The information age has brought about additional expectations of consumers. They want information and they want it on their time table, day or night, 24/7. I ask you; is your business delivering on this new demand? You must not give lip service to customer education and information. Today, your clientele wants to be able to access your company’s website and find exactly the information that they are looking for within a few clicks

Your website must be easy to navigate and have answers to the questions folks ask most. There should be in depth information that is downloadable as well. Corporate Communication and Small Business Blogs allow your customers to interact with you on a more personal basis. Should this be part of your new marketing strategy? Yes, absolutely, but you must realize that high pressure sales tactics have no place.

So, how can you take a stand for your customer, tell them you care, give them the information they desire without looking trite or merely going through the paces? Well, it will not be easy and as you might have guessed if you do not make it sincere, you may as well skip it, because your customers will know it is only lip service.

You must have a button on your home page labeled; Information. If your company becomes a source of information to consumers, clients and your future customers your message will outpace your competition in the market place. You must remember that we are in the information age and you have to realize that, deal with it and run towards it, not away from it. Please, Don’t Give Lip Service to Customer Education.