There are superstar servers in just about every restaurant. You know who they are. They’re personable, attentive, love meeting the public and make great money for themselves and your business. They're a great front-of-the-house asset who never skip a beat and just seem to get it.
But what about those who don’t? It's not necessarily their fault, of course. It all comes down to the training they’ve received—or more often, haven't received. It's in your best interest to train your servers well. Even the best of servers with great personalities can still function simply as “order takers” and miss out on opportunities to generate sales. Many restaurant owners too often forget the fact that it is they who are taking all the risk in a very challenging business, and, that it is they who are providing valuable, money-making real estate to servers who may or may not be maximizing sales.
Salesmanship is part of great service. Here’s an example: My wife, some friends and I dined out at a chef-owned “foodie” restaurant. The decor was beautiful, the menu was tempting and the server was super-knowledgeable. If you asked her anything about the food, she had the answer. She spoke all about preparations, flavor profiles, even the presentations. Same thing with the cocktail list. She could tell you anything about any drink almost as if she was the bartender mixing them. Great experience, you might say. But was it?
Our table wanted a second round of drinks quickly after being seated. She missed that. There were numerous opportunities for add-ons to our entrees that would have enhanced our enjoyment. Again, no suggestions were made. After we finished and ordered coffee, we were not informed of their famous home-made desserts or even asked if we would prefer a shot of Baileys or Sambuca with a dollop of whipped cream in our coffee. The point is, even in very nice, more expensive restaurants, the service teams are still missing lots of sales opportunities. They are just going through the motions, albeit knowledgeably.
Service is an art form: one that takes the diner on a magical journey that is unique to that particular restaurant. Every operation is special in its own way and it is up to the server to show this to every guest by delivering consistent, informative and entertaining dining experiences each step of the way. If knowledge is power, then your staff needs to know before your guest can know.
In your next preshift why not take a few moments to discuss what makes your restaurant great and unique, or how you, as the owner, would describe a particular meal or drink if the next customer through the door were the President of the United States. Train your staff to suggest what they know your guest will enjoy, remind them that good service and sales go hand-in-hand, and don’t forget to share the interesting nuggets that tell your restaurant’s story. Your guests want to know. You and your servers will reap the rewards.