The restaurant business is fundamentally a service business, one that requires attention to the guest and constant execution on their wants and needs. Thus, this month, we are going to discuss being present for your guests; what it means and why it is important.
Being present seems like an obvious concept; management and servers interacting with guests must be present in order to do their jobs, correct? To a point, yes, but that is the difference between good service and great service. Every point of contact with a guest needs to be treated as both an opportunity and a threat. For example, glancing at the next guest in line or trying to communicate with another server while helping a guest destroys the sense of connection and gives the guest the impression that you’re not paying attention. Repeated violations of this sort, and the guest will lose interest in the experience and distrust in the team.
Conversely, if the server is giving his/her full attention to the diner, you can create an opportunity—to upsell, to educate, to build rapport with the guest. In the above example, let’s say the guest was curious about the difference between two signature coffee roasts. As an opportunity, the team has the chance to wow the guest with their knowledge and maybe sell them on the more expensive cup. At the very least, the team has showed the patron that they’re listening, and they’re there to help. This is, in essence, the ethos of Danny Meyer’s enlightened hospitality; put your team first, so that the team can concentrate on going above and beyond for the guest. Small gestures from small conversations with your guests can lead to big raves—which they will share with their friends.
The reasons for being present should be more obvious: it’s good service, and good service is good for business. The actual “ROI” on attentive service and guest connection is hard to calculate, but the implications are not. When your team is truly present and keyed in to the operation of the restaurant, guests are happier, the team is more efficient, and, ultimately, the business will reflect that in positive ways—word of mouth, good reviews, and busier nights. Ultimately, every single guest interaction has a tiny impact on the bottom line that will, eventually, build or erode your business.
The foodservice business is inherently busy and sometimes chaotic. The guest, though, should never feel as though the team is not paying attention. Being present for the guest is fairly simple—paying close attention and executing efficiently. However, the difference in being and not being present is the different between great service and poor service, success and failure.