Treat those how you would like to be treated. It may be a statement your parents have told you since you were small, but this is one of the most valuable phrases to remember.
How would you like your waiter to speak to you? Would you need an explanation of the menu? Do you need items on your table clearing? Is your waiter interacting enough with you or maybe too much?
Treat all diners individually
There are varied demographics when it comes to customers, and it’s important to alter your service depending on the customer. If they're a family, think about the table specifically. Does it have room for a pram or is it the correct height for a highchair? Children tend to be the loudest customers, so try to keep them away from older people or couples, who may feel they have to compete against the volume. If your customers are younger, try adopting a more casual approach and explaining the menu thoroughly - most young people dine out less often and can feel embarrassed asking questions.
It is important to remember that some people dine out twice a week, others once a fortnight, others just for special occasions, so no matter how regular your customers they all deserve a ‘treat night’. You’re there to make everyone in your restaurant feel comfortable and in turn, enjoy their experience, and these slight adaptions will give you bonus points for service.
Communicate with diners
Communication and transparency are extremely valuable traits to have with your customers. If your customers seem to be looking around the restaurant, chances are they feel they're ‘missing’ something. Whether that translates into a delay on their food or a side that’s missed from a check, or they want to order another drink, communicating with your customers throughout their meal will prevent confusing customers or making them feel anxious.
Most customers you serve will have never worked in the industry, so use phrases such as ‘the chefs are just beginning to plate your meals now’ or ‘and I’ll be right back with your side-salad, but can I get you anything else?’ or ‘this pie is quite deep, so it may take 20/25 minutes in the oven, is that okay for you?’
Additionally, if you have a dish on your menu that as the same issue every time you take it to a table, try being honest with the table from the beginning. For example: ‘So that burger has slaw inside the bun, is that okay for you or would you prefer it on the side?’ or ‘The sauce is quite rich on that dish, if you haven’t tried it before I would recommend getting it on the side’. Statements such as these will help catch issues or complaints before the food is even made - in turn, making customer service easier.
On the other hand, there are those who may be asking for the bill as soon as they have put down their knife and fork. Just let them know you’re going to take their plates to the kitchen and you’ll be right back with their bill.
Keep your tables clean
We’ve all eaten at restaurants where there’s still a dirty knife or sauce pot on the table while you’re eating your dessert. Something as small as this can unconsciously make a customer feel that their whole table is dirty, and in turn, that the restaurant is dirty. It is important to treat every course as a meal of their own. Meaning, the whole tables meal should be served within 5 minutes so that no one is left without a meal or no one has started eating before others. The entire table can then be addressed for condiments or extra drinks, which will cut down your job also.
Furthermore, when clearing plates, everyone on the table should be finished. If in doubt, use phrases such as: ‘are we all finished here? Oh, still going? No problem at all’. Once plates are cleared, it’s important to pop back to the table one last time. At this point, you have an opportunity to scan for cutlery or crockery that has been left on the table, empty glasses or dirty napkins. This will instantly make the table look and feel cleaner, but it also gives you the perfect opportunity to up-sell deserts or coffees.
If your customers aren’t the dessert type, having cleared the table will also start them thinking about the bill, which will help rotate tables quicker. Additionally, because you have been clearing, when it comes to cleaning and relaying your tables you will be a lot more efficient. The same can be said for bringing the bill - the bill should be a course of its own, so leave them with a nice clean table and chances are you’ll get a nicer tip too!
Specific service for specific demographics, communication and transparency, clearing and serving by courses, will allow your personality to do the rest. Every restaurant has steps of service or service standards. However, these three are applicable regardless of where you work. Don’t over complicate your service, stick to the basics and you’ll give ACE (amazing customer experience)! Additionally, for management, all you have to do is teach your staff. Training and informing is the key to success.