Before serving a table of chatty guests, the waitresses familiar with the best server tips and tricks are able to size up their tables. These server tricks and tips are also known as feeding, reading, or having eyes for the table.
Waiters are getting hip to the fact that all restaurant guests are different. They’re scrapping the “hello my name is” introduction in favor of more individualized welcome, along with employing the following strategies.
1. A polite way to interrupt:
A waiter at Blue Smoke restaurant in New York calls customers’ attention by placing his hand on the table. “Placing down his palm draws the group’s eyes up and out of the conversation, interrupting but without being pushy.”
2. Ditching the script and upsells:
Even the most profitable chain restaurants are honoring their guests by humanizing their sales pitches. “Chain restaurants like Denny’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill are focusing more on personalized service by training staff to note body language, eye contact, and offhand remarks, hoping to make service feel less mechanical.”
3. Detecting how long they want to stay:
In order to find out whether or not dinner is the main event, the waitstaff at Romano’s Macaroni Grill offers house wine to “find out if the table will want a fast, leisurely, or lively meal.”
Food is easy to copy, a building is easy to copy, but it’s not easy to copy our people.”
4. Determining how much will be ordered:
According to Ricky Richardson, COO at Carlson Restaurants Inc., the restaurant’s waitstaff pays attention to how guests have allotted the space on their table. For example, “if diners have a laptop open on the table, they might not be interested in appetizers that are best for sharing or learning a lot about the cocktail menu.”
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5. Getting kids to eat:
Kids can be fussy eaters, so when waitstaff is trained at the Cheesecake Factory, they’re told that “if a kid says he doesn’t like green things, don’t use lettuce, even as a garnish.” A waitress in the article recalls her experience as a new waitress: “It took me three months to realize you give the dessert menu quietly to the mom, otherwise kids scream.”
6. Reading the group dynamic:
The managing partner at Blue Smoke in New York says that he watches the body language of every group he approaches to see whether they’re drinking alcohol, are friendly and in conversation, or are tense and distracted. He asks himself: “Am I approaching the table to rescue them or am I interrupting them?”
7. Getting the check right:
In a recent study at Cornell, second only to bad food, was the complaint about the process of getting the check, which can be delivered too fast or too slow. A Chicago restaurateur said that they let the customers ask for the check, while other restaurants give customers a paperweight or a check holder to place out and signal to the waitress when they’re ready for their check.
Your restaurant customer service is what differentiates you from your competitors, sometimes even more so than your food. Wayne Vandewater of Applebee’s reminds restaurateurs that “food is easy to copy, a building is easy to copy, but it’s not easy to copy our people.”