The Importance of a Great Dining Room Staff
The interaction between your dining room staff and customers can do more to increase or decrease sales than any ad, special or promotion you run for your restaurant business. It costs marketing dollars to get customers into your restaurant the first time, so generating no-cost repeat business is key to maximizing profits. Your servers should help create a dining experience that ensures repeat visits from your customers.
Wait staff owns a strong position to up-sell customers, based on their knowledge of the menu. Your servers should taste all of your menu items soon after they begin working with you and be able to describe each one to customers. Have your head chef suggest wine pairings with dinner entrees. Tell your servers to suggest soups, salads, appetizers and desserts. Simply asking, “Would you like to order soup?,” is not as effective as, “Have you tried our lobster bisque? It’s made with sherry.”
Kitchen staff should prepare tickets in the order in which they come. But, during busy times, especially, things can get off track. Tell your wait staff an ideal timeline from order to meal delivery and train them to keep track of each order to make sure it’s delivered on time. Have kitchen and wait staff meet to discuss communication methods that don’t make the cooks feel harassed with constant questions about orders or servers frustrated by a lack of response from the kitchen.
It’s important that your wait staff double-check orders before they serve each meal. Whether it’s because of poor handwriting, a busy kitchen or new cooks, customers might not get the meal they ordered. It might be the wrong side dish served with an entrée or the wrong temperature of a steak. Train your staff to first communicate orders correctly, then to check each plate before it goes out, asking the kitchen staff to verify an order if they have any questions. If customers aren’t satisfied with their meals, have a problem with their table or otherwise aren’t happy, set a policy that servers alert the dining room manager who will then make the call on how to handle diner problems.
Make it the mission for everyone on your staff to make the total experience of visiting your restaurant a personal one, and one that encourages repeat business. Train your staff to properly greet customers, learn and use their names, maintain eye contact, deal with unruly children, check to see how diners are doing during service and ensure that customers are not simply seen as another sale. The more personal your staff can make the experience, the better. If you have regular diners, learn personal information about them, such as whether they have children, follow a particular sports team or where they work, so you can reference this the next time they dine with you. Mandate that your staff be well-groomed and wear clean, professional clothing or uniforms and footwear. Budget for two uniforms per staff member if they work frequently so they have time to clean their clothing regularly.