Training restaurant employees

When training restaurant employees: Set The Expectation

If you’ve had the good fortune of attending any presentation by legendary marketer, Bill Glazer, you’ve left a better marketer and restaurant operator than you began.

In a recent presentation I attended, Bill told a story about how he had analyzed the service steps in his menswear business to determine the best time to ask for a favor, in his case, it was something to the effect of “would you be so kind to refer someone just like yourself to our business?” He determined the best part of the transaction sequence to ask for the referral was right after the Thank You.

What do your service steps look like?

As restaurant owners, and, more importantly, as leaders of our businesses, we must decide exactly what the service steps and the right timing are. We map out the guest experience (the service structure) from top to bottom – beginning to end – including the language used by our associates. It’s up to us to set the expectation.

We can leave nothing to chance – or we risk ending up with nothing.

Consider these service structure, restaurant questions:

  • What is the maximum time you’d allow a guest to stand at the front door before being greeted?
  • How long are they allowed to sit at the table before being offered beverages?
  • How long till the beverages are served?
  • At “menus down” what’s the maximum time you accept before the order must be taken?
  • What’s the maximum time you’ll accept from the time an order is in till the food is served? Is it different on weekends? Holidays? Big parties? Deuces? Four Tops?
  • How many check backs do you want your servers to do, and what do you want them to say when doing them? Is there a minimum or maximum check back time interval?
  • When does the guest check get delivered?

There are dozens more questions we could consider… (Premium beverages offered? Appetizers suggested? Upgrades pointed out? Desserts presented? Are they members of the loyalty program?).

The point is, if you don’t know the exact answer to these questions, how are your restaurant employees supposed to know? The answer is they don’t – and they often make it up as they go along. That’s not a bad thing, they are thinking, they are trying, but there is a much better way.

If you want a better guest experience, if you want happier restaurant employees, don’t ask them to be mind readers, to figure it out as they go along. Set the expectation for them, set the structure, write their script.

Here’s a four-step strategy to write your Guest Experience script:

  1. Create a set of questions relevant and critical to YOUR restaurant and service style. Try to write the questions in the actual existing sequence of your usual guest experience – you’ll want to adjust it after the exercise. Work to get two-dozen questions into your initial set. (Example: How long will I accept a guest standing at the front door before being greeted? What greeting is appropriate for my restaurant employees to say?)
  2. Now, here comes the hard part: Without telling your restaurant employees anything about what you are doing, sit in your restaurant with your smartphone or digital timer. Situate yourself in the best position to monitor everything, but don’t make it obvious. Monitor 10 tables from entry to exit, beginning to end, timing out the entire sequence of their visits (with ZERO interference from you!!! I told you this would be hard, it can be excruciating not to leap up!). Start the hour/minute/second timer when the guest arrives exact timing is a critical aspect of your task. As each step in the sequence unfolds, just note the specific time in the appropriate column, this way you end up with the overall visit length as well (i.e., guest entrance begin the timer at zero; greeting, 37 seconds, seating 1.56 seconds, beverages happened at 3:31, etc). Do the math later, figuring out the seconds and minutes between intervals. I also don’t suggest monitoring 10 tables at once, it’s way too easy to mess up!
  3. When you’re done, you’ve got a 10-table data sheet, the basis to set the expectation for your restaurant employees. Use the worksheet to calculate average time, scripted timing, new expected steps and, new language you’d like every guest to hear – and at what point you want them to hear it.
  4. Write up your newly timed guest experience expectations and share them with your restaurant employees. Remember, you don’t want your restaurant employees to have to be mind readers! Incorporate your script into your job descriptions and training manuals. This will help everyone to be on the same page, both front and back of the house AND will help you with very specific measurements for, literally, in the moment accountability and at performance evaluation time.

Restaurant guests aren’t browsing!

We all know restaurant guests aren’t coming in to browse, like they do in menswear stores. In our business, guests are coming to buy. Guests pay with money AND time and they are also paying attention. We can best serve them, and earn more money in so doing by paying more attention than our guests do.

Here’s to getting your restaurant employees doing it your way!


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