Here’s a detailed list of some of the more effective service ideas in the business. Try ‘em if you like ‘em, and ditch ‘em if you don’t…..
Doggie bags with flair
Teach servers and kitchen crew how to wrap leftovers in creative aluminum foil animal shapes so that customers are reminded of their dining experience the next day.
Teach several people on your staff how to tie balloon hats. Use them for customers and children of all ages celebrating special occasions.
Creative birthday greetings
Don’t just sing “Happy Birthday” to celebrating customers, add flair to the occasion. Sing it in Chinese. Or Hungarian. Offer to sing it backwards (turn your back and sing), the “short” version (on your knees), or the “short version, backwards under water” (holding a glass of water over your head).
Place Trivial Pursuitª cards on table tops next to the salt and pepper. Unoccupied time passes slower than occupied time and anything you can do to keep customers busy and entertained adds to their experience at your restaurant. Keep a couple of newspapers at the bar for solo diners.
Describe food and beverages properly
Where things come from is more fun than how they’re made. Florida orange juice. Danish ham. Texas beef. Pedigree beats process every time. Have your service team develop fun stories about your products. For instance, a restaurant server should never describe your oysters as just being “fresh.” Find out their “story” from the chef and then inform the customer enthusiastically. For example tell the customer how the oysters are plucked daily, 175 miles northeast of Boston and 40 meters deep-in the coldest part of the North Atlantic-where the plumpest and most flavorful oysters grow. If you feature shishkabobs on your menu, don’t stop with explaining how lamb, beef, and chicken are your featured meats. Promote the skewers as one of the unique features of the meal. “Yearly expeditions trek to the high plains of the ancient Burmese jungle to remove the kaba-kaba tree branches that are the source of these succulent, spicy skewers.” Heck, have fun with it. Don’t make your customers (and staff) suffer from the current dearth of menu fatigue resulting from so many same-sounding items. And avoid the other extreme, too-those chef-as-artiste-fueled wordy descriptions of food on our restaurant menus. A fellow chef may be impressed, but to borrow a phrase from my pal, Mike DeLuca, your menu descriptions may make you sound like you don’t know shiitake from shinola.
Restaurant servers should check back within two to three bites to make sure the meal is ideal. The quicker you discover the problem, the quicker you can provide a solution.
Call or email every customer who had a reservation or picked up a takeout order the next day to make certain their food and experience exceeded their expectations. Also, consider a 10 percent off coupon on the next purchase or some sort of “bounce-back” coupon offer if you do these kinds of promotions in your operation.
Respect the special moments of people’s lives
If you wait tables or tend bar, you are a steward of very special moments in customers’ lives. Restaurants are the setting for key events, like engagements, divorces, birthdays, anniversaries, first dates, weddings, reconciliations, reunions, rejuvenation, or just plain nourishment. Respect the sacred trust you have to serve, and enhance those occasions through respect, courtesy, and service. It may be just another meal to you, but to the customer, it’s always a special occasion.
All work is teamwork
Every employee contributes to customer service. In a restaurant the kitchen is the heart of the house. Its employees are the people who make good service in the dining room possible. To prove this point, restaurateur Nick Nickolas once gave his dishwashers the night off. Servers soon realized how important those team members are, and worked more closely with their “tableware maintenance technicians.”
What gets inspected gets done
A monthly customer service report is as important as a monthly P&L. How you measure it is up to you: mystery shoppers, customer letters/phone calls, or feedback forms. Either way, share the feedback with your staff publicly. If you have a kitchen staff that uses English as a second language, post service reports in the languages native to those team members. In today’s high-tech world, you can even get instant feedback from diners at the same time they receive their guest check.
A hundred books and innumerable articles have been written about service, but I’ll give you my favorite definition, and it’s only six words long. Good service is “never having to ask for anything.”