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a busy restaurant filled with chefs and cooks

Each year, millions of people from all over the world travel to the U.S. for business and leisure travel. In 2016, international travel spending supported approximately 1.2 million jobs and $32.4 billion in wages. According to the US Travel Association, each overseas traveler spends about $4,360 per visit and stays an average of 18 nights.

If your restaurant is located near a major tourist destination, you can’t afford to miss out on the money flowing in from this segment of the population.

Become a destination on a traveler’s itinerary by preparing your staff for a wide range of travelers with some server tips and tricks. 

How can your restaurant and staff be more friendly to international visitors?

guests laughing over a light snack in a restaurant

Have bilingual menus.

While restaurants in most major travel destinations around the world have their restaurant menus designed in multiple languages, the US seems slow to adopt this convenience. People are hungry and navigating a new city, new culture and new food. Make this part of their travel experience easier by offering a menu in their language. Sure, it’s impossible to have every language available, but pay attention to the international guests you see the most, and try to accommodate them. In Honolulu, that might mean having a Japanese menu, while in Southern England it may mean Portuguese.

Explain how tipping works.

Tipping culture varies widely around the world, and American tipping culture can be very confusing to people. The idea that it is mandatory is often the most confusing part. Visitors want to know what to do, and are often relieved to be instructed rather than commit a faux pas that could cost their server money earned. Try to make this easier on your guests by tucking a small explanation card in with the check, printing tipping suggestions on the bottom of checks, or training servers to ask if the table has any questions about how tipping works in America.

Be ready with suggestions and recommendations.

Visitors enjoying their experience at your restaurant may feel comfortable asking for recommendations for similar restaurants, or even shopping or entertainment suggestions. Travelers will want to explore what your city has to offer, be ready with ideas or maps.

Remember that not everyone speaks English.

They don’t, and that’s ok. They may, or they may speak a little, and that will make life easier, but not everyone will. However, they are still your guest and deserve the same level of service and respect as any other diner.

Stay calm and be polite.

Restaurant customer service is key. The way people are treated by others when they’re traveling to a new place can influence their opinion about that place. Think of your restaurant and your staff as ambassadors for your city and your country. Aim to make the impression you’d want people to come away with.    

Avoid politics.

Or at least, tread lightly. On one hand, the U.S. is making news around the world and visitors are genuinely interested. They’re also not from here, so these topics will be less emotionally charged for them. On the other hand, it could get weird. For starters, your servers could be emotionally charged about a topic or simply feel uncomfortable talking about these topics at work. As anywhere else in life, handle it gingerly.

happy guests

Dining out has changed forever. Does your restaurant have the guest experience today's consumer demands? Learn how to make it unique and worth coming back for.

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.
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