MORE THAN QR CODES: TABLE SERVICE TRENDS
- Making the most of your menu
- Tailoring your drinks recommendations
- Exceeding customer expectations like you were born to do it!
TOP SERVICE YOU JUST DON’T GET AT HOME
Now more than ever, the at-home bartender has the resources and tools to be able to make excellent cocktails at quickly and easily in their kitchen – not to mention access to takeaway batched cocktails. So, how can you cement your competitive advantage and coax guests away from the comfort of their homes? It’s all about creating an experience. Going above and beyond with your table service is key to making guests feel special and instilling a sense of excitement. By paying attention to key details, bartenders, managers, and business owners alike can unlock the power of excellent service and encourage a return to venues and turn first time visitors into seasoned regulars!
NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL WHEN IT COMES TO TABLE SERVICE
Someone walks into a bar, is seated at a table, orders some drinks from the wait staff, and is delivered those drinks in a timely manner. Pretty simple, right? Most venues have a documented sequence of service, but this copy/paste approach needs reworking in the current climate. In most cities in the world, the hospitality landscape is incredibly diverse and with drinks and food available at the click of a button on a smart phone, it’s crucial to nail your customer service , and tailor your approach to make everyone feel welcome. This could include:
- Gauging when (and when not!) to engage your guests in conversation based on their body language, and responses.
- Making checks back during service based on the pace at which guests are consuming their drinks.
- Always ensuring your guests are topped up with water and snacks (if available).
- Giving your guests the opportunity to try new serves by making recommendations based on their previous orders.
- Knowing your regulars! Offer to serve these guests their favourite drink, or the chance to try something new that you think they’d like.
WANT TO BECOME THE PERFECT SERVER? HERE’S HOW…
There’s no uniform way to nail customer service in hospitality and in fact the very best servers bring their personality to life at work. If every member of the waitstaff had the same speech, energy and personality in a restaurant, guests would soon become bored of the offering. After all, we hire people for their personalities! The best servers…
- Are always present but never overbearing
- Seem to have a sixth sense to know when to arrive to offer extra dishes, an extra bottle of wine or an after-dinner cocktail
- Have an ability to get guests onside immediately and can recover difficult situations and turn them into positive ones
- Know when to take risks when recommending something slightly different, like a lesser-known varietal of wine
- Above all, are genuine in their interaction with every guest
LEARNING FROM THE VERY BEST IN THE BUSINESS
The number one thing other servers can learn from the best is to observe how they carry themselves at different tables. Table presence is crucial in ensuring excellent guest experience but it’s just as important to know when to step away and leave guests at the right time to continue their night – after all, they’ve come to spend it with each other, not you.
When it comes down to it, the answer is very simple – would you serve a hen’s party or stag-do the same way you would a table celebrating their grandmother’s birthday? Hopefully not!
PERFECTING THE ART OF TABLE SERVICE WITHOUT MASKING ALL WARMTH
In the current climate, where guests are still finding their feet when returning to the bar, personal interaction and respectful boundaries are more important than ever. Some options previously available to waitstaff – like a handshake or maybe even a hug – may not make guests feel comfortable anymore in line with social distancing guidelines.
This is a unique challenge for the industry in an era where masks for hospitality staff are now the norm rather than the exception – you only realise how much you use your face for cues when half of it is covered!
Speaking in a clear tone and using eye contact to deliver or receive cues from guests takes on extra importance and is a great way to maintain a genuine connection.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL CUES: READ YOUR GUESTS LIKE A BOOK
There is much of reading guest cues that comes with life experience but there are a few tips and tricks that even the novice hospitality employee can pick up on!
- Pay particular attention to facial expressions when providing great service to guests. Especially when it’s loud and busy - language and tone can be hard to perceive during a busy shift!
- Observe guests from afar when they are having their first sip of a cocktail – first impressions matter and if a guest doesn’t like a drink, they’ll likely not hide that. Often though, some guests are too polite to say anything when you check on them.
- Have the confidence to step in when you know that a guest isn’t happy, even if they might be too shy to admit it. This is an excellent step in service. We don’t always nail recommendations and sometimes a drink might just have been made incorrectly. Observation is key here.
THE MAKE OR BREAK OF A GREAT GUEST EXPERIENCE: WHERE TO SEAT YOUR CUSTOMERS
Reservation platforms today are excellent at automating the most profitable table plans for your venue, but sometimes you know best. An excellent host will be able to instantly recognise that a table with elderly guests require a more comfortable table or notice that a table is now only for four instead of five, and adjust on-the-fly, taking this information in their stride.
Walk-in trade can make this task tricky, but seating guests at the right table can really make the guest experience. Making a decision to seat a table clearly up for celebration in a louder part of the venue can make their night more fun, or similarly a couple celebrating an anniversary might suit a more intimate setting.
Solo diners and drinkers should always be offered seats at the bar. Often, guests dining alone love to sit at the bar and engage with the bartender – after all, the best spot to sit should be here! This is a great opportunity for the bartender to make a new regular out of a first-time visitor, or just to make a special effort to give great service to someone travelling solo.
TREADING CAREFULLY AND COMMUNICATING WELL: HOW TO MAXIMISE TABLE TURNOVER WITHOUT RUSHING YOUR GUESTS
As much as we’d love for guests to stay as long as possible and never be under pressure to leave a venue, the business reality of running bars and restaurants is that it is financially imperative to turn tables. This can be a potential flag for disappointment for guests who might hope to stay 3-4 hours and really settle in for the night.
The key here is communication between the floor team and the guest. This can start well before they arrive on the evening with the reservations team, who might ask some questions about their reason for booking and deduce a seating time from that. Even still, when guests arrive at a restaurant it’s a great chance for their waitstaff to set the expectations quickly.
Language really is everything here, and internal communications like “out-by 7pm” or “we need the table back by 7pm” should never be communicated to guests. Instead, try language such as “we have another party joining us at 7pm” – this sounds a lot less like you are robbing a guest of their table and will enhance their overall experience!
Most guests will understand that they might have a shorter seating time if they turn up 45 minutes late as long as you communicate it, but if the bill gets dropped unannounced it can appear very rude and blunt. Talk to your guests!
TECHNOLOGY IS OUR FRIEND: HOW TO USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
The hospitality industry is historically very slow at adopting new technology. Even today it’s not uncommon to see bar owners resorting to handwritten rosters and timesheets, outdated POS systems and nightly handover diaries, despite the ready availability of scheduling apps like Kronos and Deputy, cloud-based POS systems like Lightspeed, and communication tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack.
One leap that many venues have made is to incorporate a digital menu into their regular offering. With paper menus having issues over environmental and hygiene concerns, QR codes have become the norm, even in the world’s best bars such as Bulletin Place (RIP) and Maybe Sammy.
Digital ordering platforms, including “Me&u”, have provided new ways of delivering menus and drinks to guests. These platforms are very effective for large volume venues, especially given the global shortage of hospitality staff. They have a well-documented ability to increase spend per head with beverage and food options available at the click of a button. .
For business owners and managers, consider borrowing from popular e-commerce and marketing tactics, with decoy pricing (to help influence customer choice) and upselling/cross-selling (to increase spend per head and deliver a better guest experience) at the forefront of this. More money for businesses, better guest experience, faster table service. It’s a win for everyone!
For small bars with bespoke offerings not all of these will be appropriate but there are elements from technological improvements that are applicable to almost any venue.
TRACKING CUSTOMER DRINKING TRENDS WITH TECH ON YOUR SIDE
Bars are working even harder now to deliver exactly what guests want and increase customer satisfaction – with so many bars and restaurants to choose from plus a plethora of other drinks and food options, this is critical in maintaining regulars and making new ones!
Most good bars and restaurants will have some way of recording guest preferences, whether it’s making a note of a previous poor experience, a favourite bottle of wine, allergies or just a preferred table.
Nowadays, reservation systems like OpenTable, RESY and SevenRooms allow venues to track this automatically. POS systems integrate with reservation systems, effectively allowing bars and restaurants to form profiles of their guests. This allows you to deliver what guests truly want when they visit a venue – and this information is easily transferrable between staff, no matter how new they might be in their role!
Technology is the future for our industry, and with innovations like digital menus helping with suggestive selling already, it goes to show that a combination of clever service and the right digital tools can help drive spend per head and therefore revenue in your venue.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: HOW TO REAP THE REWARDS OF WELL-TRAINED STAFF
They say that knowledge is power, and this certainly rings true for being able to deliver excellent service!
The key here is developing an ongoing, structured training plan for your team. To drive revenue and deliver an excellent experience for guests, we need an incredible team of well-trained staff – “Tanqueray makes for an excellent dry martini, but have you tried Tanqueray No. 10 with a grapefruit twist?”.
Well-trained staff are more confident, professional and are able to deliver a better experience to guests. With first impressions crucial, being able to confidently recommend a signature serve or classic cocktails is a great way to encourage guests to place their night in your hands, ensuring a better experience for all!
There’s no venue that can truly be everything to everyone, so having a well-versed team makes all guests feel comfortable, even if you can’t meet every request. Someone might really want to drink a Ketel One Apple Martini, but if 90s and early 2000s cocktails just aren’t part of your offering, having the staff available to recommend an excellent alternative is crucial to keeping guests happy.
STAND OUT WITH UNFORGETTABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE
There’s certainly a huge place for pubs and bars where bar service is the norm, but if you want to elevate your offering and be able to charge top dollar for a premium experience, table service is crucial.
Firstly, it gives hospitality professionals the chance to nail a first impression. Furthermore, excellent table service drives increased spend per head, encourages return guests and delivers what Danny Meyer called ‘tomorrow dollars’ in his book, Setting the Table. Consider a solo visitor who might sit at a table and only drink one beer and pay for their tab. This isn’t going to pay the bills, but the excellent table service they received might encourage them to book an exclusive event or return for a special occasion where they do spend big!
This is a timely reminder that every guest is as important as the next – don’t judge a book by its cover.
NO OFF DAYS: GO ABOVE AND BEYOND FOR EVERY SINGLE GUEST
Providing consistently good service for every customer really is the million-dollar question – every industry, not just hospitality, strives for this every day. Nailing consistency is the difference between a good and great venue. It’s one thing to ask employees to “just be good all the time” but creating a high-performance culture where that is the norm will ensure consistency for all guests.
It’s as important to treat first time visitors or guests that maybe don’t quite “get” your offering with the same level of care as you would your grandmother. You really never do know who you are serving. Excellent service can lead to job opportunities, extra tips, and personal satisfaction. All of these are of course asides to the fact that delivering excellent service and going above and beyond for your guests is just part of doing your job properly. All staff have days or particular tables where they don’t quite nail service to the best of their ability, but constantly thinking about the level of service required and self-evaluating your performance is half the battle.
GENUINE HUMAN CONNECTION: THE KEY TO SUCCESSUL SERVICE
More than ever, guests are crying out for genuine human interactions with staff – this is important! Everyone has a sixth sense for disingenuity. Make your conversations with guests genuine, considered and really listen – you’ll be surprised at what guests tell you when you ask questions. Consider every conversation an opportunity to make a new regular, drive premium sales, or just a chance to provide excellent service. First impressions count for everything and instantly being able to read tables is a real skill and can only be developed with experience over time, but perfecting this gives guests the confidence that as staff we are on their side, a crucial aspect of delivering excellent guest experience.
- Personal interaction is more important than ever – look at non-traditional alternatives when finding ways to better connect with your guests
- Technology in the hospitality space has come so far – consider these options when updating or creating your offering!
- Delivering excellent table service can help offer a point of difference and set your venue apart from others in a very crowded marketplace
- Knowledge is power – having a well-trained team is key to delivering great guest experience and driving revenue
- First impressions count for everything – convince the guest that you are on their side by delivering excellent service
PRACTICING RESPONSIBLE SERVING LIKE A PRO
Creating a fun, vibrant yet safe space for guests should be top of every bar’s agenda. In this article, we delve into the finer details of responsible serving, how to spot the signs of intoxication and promote responsible serving in your bar.
CUSTOMER SERVICE AND THE POWER OF BEING HEARD
Steve Martin, award winning author and behavioural scientist chats to Tristan about techniques for being heard and enhancing customer communication and experience. Whether behind the bar, serving tables or greeting customers, pick up tools to affect behaviour of others and how to put them into practice in a bar or restaurant environment.
ELEVATING EXPERIENCES IN HOSPITALITY
Top tips on how to best amplify the experience for your guest from Tim Philips-Johansson & Anna Sebastian.
REMARKABLE GUEST EXPERIENCES
Service is what you do for someone. Hospitality is an intimate exchange between a group of people. Read more for top tips on how to delight your customers and ensure you see them again.