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The 4 C’s
It does happen quite often that you may be partnered with another server to serve a larger table-or in banquet service you may be part of a team. When this occurs, the success of the service of the entire party depends not just upon you or one individual but rather upon each and every member of that team.
It is really no different than in any team sport; you may have a star running back that shines on his own but if the other members of the team cannot or will not carry their weight and play their role-take ownership of their role-that team will not win. That running back may indeed be a superstar but guess what? When he is not carrying the ball he has another responsibility that he must carry out as function of the team. Do you know what it is? It’s blocking. That’s right. He has to block when he’s not carrying the ball. Not very glamorous is it? How very non-superstar-ish. But that’s what linemen do on every single offensive play. And who sings the praises of the lineman? Not too many people and not too often. Yet they are so vitally important to the success of the entire team and to every game played.
There are 4 aspects of working with another or multiple other team members that must happen in order to achieve a successful service. Each of the following four are of equal importance and value.
- 1.) Coordination– There must be someone who is coordinating the team, calling the plays and ensuring their execution. Just as every football team must have a quarterback-every service team must have someone in this role. This person may be the captain, head server or other name. In fact, the name is inconsequential. It doesn’t even matter if the person has been given a title. True leadership, according to John Maxwell comes from ability not title. What is important though, is the function. With a team of servers, someone has to be in charge. You can’t have everyone running their own play or it will end up in chaos. Even if you think the one in charge may not be the best for that job, in order to keep a smooth flow of service, you may have to be humble, keep quiet and just go with the flow. Play your part. Follow your leader’s guidance. That is, as long as the captain is not telling you to do something that would adversely affect the guest or their dining experience.
- 2.) Communication-There has to be clear communication between all team members at all times. If a guest asks you for something-a beverage refill for example, or a vegetarian option, etc., -if you are unable to fulfill the request yourself in a timely manner-then you must communicate to another team member who is available and ready to do it. Do not just give lip service to the guest-‘Yes, ma’am, I’ll take care of that’ when you know that you aren’t going to get to it immediately. Or quite often the server will say yes and have no intention of doing it because they know that the persistent guest will also ask the next server that comes by until the request is fulfilled. Communication is always key. If a guest has a special request-vegetarian or gluten free entrée-whatever the case may be-you must communicate this in a timely manner-that means NOW to the kitchen or to the team leader so they can execute completion of service. I’ve seen it happen so many times where a guest will have a special request and it is either not communicated to the kitchen at all or it is mentioned after everyone else has been served. That does not make for an exceptional dining experience. Everyone else at that table may be happily enjoying their dinner, yet if one person’s needs are not attended to then that is not a successful service in my book.
- 3.) Competence-This simply means doing your job right, well, effectively and efficiently. Competence is being good at what you do and achieving the desired results. An amateur is not competent because they haven’t yet developed the skills and ability. As a server, there are a lot of areas that one must gain competence in. A few of those areas are: Traymanship (a word I coined) is just what it sounds like- “A man with a tray on a ship”. Kidding. Traymanship-is one’s ability to use and balance food or drink on a tray. This is not easy to do. It takes manual dexterity, concentration, focus and of course, balance and the other kind of coordination.
- In basketball this would be ball handling, in hockey-how you wield your stick to control the puck.,etc. You get the picture. Isn’t it interesting that at the root of competence is the word compete? One really can’t compete well if they lack competence. I see so many servers that can carry the tray filled with beverages to the table-yet they cannot maneuver and balance the tray as they remove the glasses. So, improperly, they set the tray on the table of the guests they are serving or on an empty table beside them, then they remove the glasses. That would be like a basketball player being proficient at ball handling-able to dribble toward the hoop but having no idea how to actually shoot the ball. This is not acceptable. This person lacks competence in traymanship.
- Although there are many, some of the areas where competence is needed is in: wine presentation and pouring, actual serving of food, how to properly place the plates in front of the guest. Yes, there is actually a proper manner and special knowledge required. The only way to gain competence is through practice and repetition. We’ve all heard it said that “Practice makes perfect.” but that is actually not completely true. I’ve met servers who have been in this industry for many years and they have been practicing the same thing over and over again. But the problem is that they’ve never been shown or taught how to do it correctly. So, in actuality, the proper phrase is “Perfect practice makes perfect.”
- Just as any athlete or musician must continually practice and train, doing the basics over and over again, so, too must the service professional continually practice in order to become more adept and proficient at their craft. A server’s competence lends to creating an exceptional dining experience for the guests. And isn’t that what it’s all about? To have a great experience? If not, then everybody would just be ordering take out all the time. It truly is the service team that makes the guest’s meal an experience, an event.
- 4.) Consistency-If Competence means doing your job right, well and effectively. Then just add the word “everytime” and now we have a complete picture. Consistency is so important. Does that mean we never make a mistake? No. But your guests don’t want it to be a crapshoot everytime they come to your establishment. Yes, I live in Vegas and unfortunately some places that were once my wife and my favorite restaurants have fallen to the less frequently visited category now due to their inconsistency. Sometimes the food is great. Sometimes it’s mediocre. Sometimes the service is spot on, sometimes it seems like nobody really cares. Consistency.
- Again, back to the sports analogy. How frustrating for the fan when their team wins by a blow out one week then is slaughtered the next. Of course your team can’t win every game every time. But what they can do is show up consistently, execute properly and if they’ve given everything possible and were just beat because the other team was better then that’s fine.
- In this business, there are so many elements that must synchronize in order to achieve success. But consistency is definitely in your control. Like I’ve mentioned in a previous post IT ALL STARTS AT THE TOP. If the owner and management don’t care, are not aware and don’t show up ready for the game, why would the staff?
- Consistency means, treating every guest with respect, care and concern everytime. Consistency means that you give your all everytime. Your first and main thought is the guests’ satisfaction. Consistency is making sure that every plate you bring to every guest is correct, accurate and what they ordered.
- When we are consistent in our service, our hospitality and the care we give to each of our guests, then word begins to spread. When your guests know that both you, personally and the restaurant in general are consistent in both quality of food and service-everyone benefits.
When we effectively apply these 4 C’s -Coordination, Communication, Competence and Consistency, the establishment gets great reviews, it is always busy, it gains a great reputation, (as do you with your regulars), revenue increases, you receive generous tips, and life is wonderful.
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CHEERS AND GOD BLESS!!
Christoff J. Weihman
Las Vegas, NV