There is an expectation of the guest to feel welcome, cared about, waited on and special when they decide to spend their hard earned money in the place you are trying hard to earn your money. Given that service is a big part of why guests return, it is one of the three major areas of focus for all owners. Whether it be a drive thru, a family restaurant or a fine dining venue, owners and managers strive to deliver hospitality that will be remembered, tailored to the expectations of the guest. Countless hours are spent in training, observing, correcting, fine tuning and perfecting the impossible: how to make every guest experience memorable. Think of it this way. Throw a bull’s eye every time you throw a dart. Or a ringer every time you play horseshoes. Or answer every question right on the SAT.
Sounds hard right?
That’s because it is. Every person is different. Opinions are uniquely individual as are expectations.
Fundamentally, these are the components of good service from a front of the house perspective. A genuine smile and warm welcome as you walk in. An accurate estimate of the wait time, if there is one. Another genuine smile and welcome from your server, who is actually happy to see you and very personable. A brief but complete explanation of the evening’s specials and a suggestion of what to enjoy from the drink and food menus. Knowledgeable responses to questions. Quick delivery of water, bread, if offered, and drinks. Refills that appear before you ask for them or an offer of another drink before your glass is empty. Timely delivery of food. A check on your satisfaction and needs within a few minutes of the serving of the meal. A suggestion of dessert. Timely delivery of the check. A fond farewell and invitation to return.
There are myriad other things to be done to execute stellar service, but these are the basics. And sincerity is crucial. The server must care about the guest. The most awesome thing delivered with a ho hum attitude ruins the experience. Very much like a waffle. They smell great and make your mouth water, but never taste as good as they smell. No matter how good the food is, lack of service will prevent a guest from returning. And vice versa.
If the experience in the dining room is outstanding, mediocre food will also ruin the guest experience. The kitchen has their part to play in delivering expectations. A drive through burger that is cold, a wilted, over tossed salad, tasteless entrees; all of these will also prevent a guest from returning. Why would a guest spend more of that hard earned money that we talked about in a place where they feel the value is not good? I’m not talking about $10 a person “value”. I’m talking about an experience a guest has that leaves them feeling they received what they paid for. Now, that can be a $5 burger or a $200, five-course fine dining meal, or anything in between.
We, as food and beverage professionals, work hard to determine and deliver the experience for which we are charging. From the level of service to the menu; from the ambiance to the silverware and glassware; from the beverage offerings to the server uniform, we spend much of our time identifying what it is we need to do to deliver what the guest expects for the price we are charging. A LOT of time. Daily in fact. We constantly observe, change, improve, elevate, correct, elicit feedback, observe some more, change some more, improve some more, continually train, update food and beverage menus seasonally for variety, create daily specials, and on and on and on. Every day. All to ensure the guest experience. To deliver the best product at our price point plus a little plus one so our guests return. To provide our guest a feeling of home but better. Nothing frustrates us more than an unhappy guest, a plate returned to the kitchen for any reason, or the perception of a mediocre or worse, a bad, experience. These are not what make us get up and go to work every day. We do not abuse our bodies and minds with 16 hour days, six and seven days a week, to see a plate come back only half eaten. Or to have a guest leave our establishment saying “we’ll never eat here again!”.
Bottom line? We care about what we do. We love what we do. We are a passionate group of people for whom hospitality makes our hearts beat, our minds create and our blood flow through our veins. We appreciate good service and a satisfying meal, and we check out our competition to find out how we compare. And, we are our own worst critics. Constant analysis is bred into us like chasing the hare is bred into the greyhound. We simply cannot help it. Whether it is our own operation or a joint we are trying for the first time. WE NOTICE EVERYTHING. A spotty fork, lipstick on the water glass, a grumpy hostess, a server who hates what they are doing, hot food served on a cold plate… EVERYTHING.
This makes us possibly the worst kind of guest.
What kind of guest are you anyway…?