Everything on the Menu is Not Good!

I'm not so thrilled with servers who, when asked about the menu, say, “Everything is good!”

I’m a big fan of servers, particularly those who act as tour guides of the menus they serve. On the other hand, I’m not so thrilled with servers who, when asked to recommend highlights on the menu, or items the cook/chef is particularly proud of, say, “Everything is good!” Soon as I hear that, I know I’ve got someone waiting on my table who isn’t particularly interested in providing superior service or someone who hasn’t been properly trained.

Like so many of the other service-related subjects I write about, it’s the small things done well that separate one place from so many others. Consider a recent, first-time experience I had in a busy restaurant. After giving us time to peruse our menus, the server returned and asked if we had any questions. I asked her if there were any signature menu items the restaurant is known for. This is what she said:

“The chef loves pork, so you can’t go wrong ordering any pork item. However, I’m a huge fan of his beef short ribs, which he serves over a creamy polenta. But if you’re not a meat eater, consider two amazing pasta dishes that everyone raves about.” She goes on to explain the ingredients in the two pasta dishes, and then directs us to a fish entrée: “If you’re not a fan of whole fish, head and all, this is not for you.”

This server could teach a course on how to wait tables. And I certainly don’t expect to find servers like her wherever I go. I do expect, however, that when I ask a server to recommend a menu item the restaurant is known for, he or she should have a response. Even if it’s one item. How difficult is that?

The “everything-is-good” response tells me and other customers that nobody took the time to train the servers. Or, worse yet, management at the restaurant trained servers to respond “everything is good.” I would hope not. In my eyes, it’s a real copout.

I would think that you, as a restaurant operator, would want your servers to be well-versed enough to discuss any menu item. Or, at the very least, suggest one item that you know will blow customers away. And if your servers steer customers to a higher-priced item, good for you as long as your kitchen can back up the price with a menu item that delivers value.

Is this a subject you deal with when training servers? Do you teach them to steer customers to particular menu items, or do you give your servers the option to recommend items they personally like? Or does “everything is good” work for you? Also, does your menu strongly reflect any items servers may be recommending? I’m talking about where the item is located on your menu and if it’s highlighted in some way to catch the customers’ eye. Email me.

Pick Up the Pace. RH has a cover story coming up in May titled: “Beat the Clock: 5 Ways to Speed Up Service.” If you’ve implemented any measures that improved your speed of service, let me know. I’ll include you in the feature.

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