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“Communication changes everything” Al Danklefsen
My friend, Al espouses this principle. He is VP of Sales & Marketing for STL Communications. I believe this aptly applies to all businesses including this business of Service and Hospitality
Set up: You’re out for dinner with some very close friends who you only see once every year when they come to town. You’ve decided to take them to one of the top 5 best new restaurants in your home city. This restaurant has been written up in all the local industry publications, been on local tv and generally has gotten a lot of buzz over the past 12 months. You’ve never been there but you figure it’s the perfect place to enjoy dinner with these special friends.
From the moment you walk in til the moment you leave, you feel like you’ve been welcomed into the owner’s home.
You had a reservation for 7:30 pm, you’ve arrived about 30 minutes early so the hostess invites you by name to the bar. The restaurant and the bar are both very busy but there is still an energy of peace not chaos. The hostess escorts you to the bar and she tells you she’ll call you when your table is ready.
“What, no paging device with flashing lights for us to hold onto?”
You settle in at the bar for a drink. You are greeted by the bartender who not only asks what each of you would like to drink-he also asks if you are the couple meeting friends from out of town- Las Vegas. You mentioned this when you made the reservation and it was put in the system notes of Open Table. Open Table is not only an automated reservation system whereby one can make reservations online or by phone but it is also an invaluable resource, a database which a restaurant can use to note guest’s likes, dislikes, allergies, birthdays, anniversaries, wine preferences etc. In this case, either the manager or the hostess must have read the notes regarding your reservation and communicated it to the bartender.
As the bartender engages you in conversation while making the drinks you find out that you have a love of rock climbing in common. Sure, it’s a small thing but how nice does it feel to be acknowledged and communicated with while waiting for your drinks instead of having a bartender that just says “What can I get ya?” and then he doesn’t say another word until he says, “Are you ready for the check?”
When you are nearly finished with your drinks, the bartender addresses you by name and tells you that your table is ready when you are. “Just let me know when and I’ll call Samantha- the hostess, to show you to your seat”.
You pay your bar tab and the hostess escorts you to your table.
Now, I know that calling someone by their name may not be a big deal and yet isn’t it amazing how such a seemingly small thing can set the tone for your evening? To you, it may not be so impressive that the bartender engaged you in conversation but many bartenders don’t see this as ‘part of their job’. However, remembering and acknowledging that you are meeting friends from out of town and to remember the specific location where they are from speaks volumes about the place and the mentality of the staff here.
It all begins with communication. As my friend Al, whom I quoted earlier, says, “Communication changes everything.” Indeed it does.
Excellent service-Wow! service begins with effective communication. Your job as a server goes far beyond just greeting the guests, informing them of the night’s specials, taking their order and bringing their food to their table. That is not even the bare minimum. Okay, maybe it’s the bare minimum and it’s often all that a guest sees in terms of service. If our goal is to provide an exceptional dining experience, then a key component has to be excellent communication.
So what do I mean by excellent communication? What more needs to be communicated? If you tell them about the specials and answer any questions your guests might have -what more is there to communicate?
Merely,telling or informing your guests about the specials is not really going to get them interested and excited about ordering them. You have to be creative in not just telling but describing them. But more on that later. Let’s consider what communication is. It’s so much more than just telling. Consider these:
Synonyms for Communication
It is incumbent upon you to ensure that your guest knows what’s going on in regards to each course. There is nothing more annoying or aggravating when one is out for dinner than waiting a long time for your food and not having anything communicated to you by your server. You’re just sitting around and waiting and wondering and waiting and wondering. With no information and no communication.
If there is a delay on a dish, or some hold up in the kitchen, it is not only your responsibility to let your guests know -it is common courtesy. Your guest should never be the one who asks how much longer it will be. You must be aware and then communicate to them. You must be proactive rather than reactive in your communication. This goes a long way in alleviating their concern and preempting their complaints.
“My friends, I want to let you know that we have a large group of 30 in the other room. The chef is now plating up their entrees and as soon as those are out he will be finishing your dishes. Thank you so much for your patience.”
There. You took preemptive measures. Your guest may still not be happy about the long wait. But at least it’s now not a wait with wondering. Any complaint, is hopefully, now diffused. Communication changes everything
“Sir, I want you to know that the risotto pescatore does take a little extra time to prepare. Rather than your entrees being ready in 20 minutes or so it will be more like 30 minutes. Is that okay with you?”
You’ve told them in advance that it will take longer. Now they won’t have to ask what is taking so long. Be proactive. If a particular menu item has a longer prep/cooking time than other items you are responsible to inform your guests. Do not wait until they are waiting and they ask you, “What’s taking so long?” How would a guest know that risotto will take longer than other menu items to prepare? Do all guests know that soufflés take extra time? Please don’t say “Well, they didn’t ask.”
Effective Communication begins with you sharing information. It’s your responsibility to ‘offer’ the information.
I recently took a trip to LA and was looking for a place in Hollywood late in the evening to eat. I went to one of my old hang outs-The Cat N Fiddle. When I walked in I was told that if I want food I would have to order now. I asked if they had fish and chips-they did. So I ordered that. I didn’t look at the menu-I just asked the waitress and ordered right away. A short while later when my food came out I was appalled to see that my fish and chips were lying on a bed of green peas! UGH!! Yuck!! I absolutely am repulsed by green peas. I asked her what this was and she said “Oh, it just comes that way.” I’ve had a lot of fish and chips at British pubs and I’ve never seen it come that way. She should have told me. It was her responsibility to offer that information.
The main point here is -Communication is Key. Please, let your guests know. I assure you they will appreciate being kept in the loop. Hey, that’s another synonym for communication.
Successful communication is not just about what is said but also how it is being said. It also involves the sender of the message taking responsibility that the receiver actually got it. It’s not enough to have the attitude of “Well, I told him. If he didn’t hear me that’s on him.” Words have power and spoken words even more so.
Communication also involves listening. Involves what? Exactly. There is so much more involved in effective and successful communication and we’ve only scratched the surface here.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Cheers and God Bless you All!!
Christoff J. Weihman
Las Vegas, NV