WELCOME BACK TO SOUPFLY!!
Now that Halloween is past and we’ve turned our clocks back-(at least in the United States), and there’s a bit of a cool nip in the air, it signals that the Holidays are fast approaching. Soon we’ll be seeing the return of ugly sweaters, elves on shelves and Black Friday shopping mania. That wonderful festive, joyous, stressful, happy, depressing time of year. Yes, it is Holiday Party Season for the restaurant and service industry. Many businesses do the largest percentage of their year’s business over the next two and a half to three months, from November til early January.
This time of year is a huge revenue generator for most in the Hospitality Industry. This is the time of catered office parties, large family reunions and get-togethers, special romantic dinners, and huge corporate events. If you work in any type of restaurant or bar-you know that the next 2-3 months are going to be super busy and crazy. You also know that you can expect to make a lot more money than during other slower months-like August.
Unfortunately for the customer, oftentimes these large parties, group dinners and special events don’t always receive the best of attention, care and concern that they ought.
Ensuring 5 Star Hospitality for Your Holiday Parties
Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind to ensure that you are truly delivering WOW! Service & Hospitality at all the holiday parties and events you host and serve.
First, I’m going to address something and I know that many of you will disagree with me, but I feel compelled to say. All of these holiday parties, group dinners etc., because they have a certain number of people-6 or more-the gratuity is already included. It is what we call in industry speak “auto-grat”-as in automatic gratuity. What I have observed many times is that there is often a lack of attention and focus and frankly on doing the job well and right because the service staff is already guaranteed a specific tip ahead of time. It seems to happen on large groups-where the server is no longer “earning” their tip. In my mind though, it ought to cause the Service Professional to desire to do an even better job, provide above average service. This sub-par service takes many forms. I want to share with you some things to avoid and some tips to apply to ensure that every party or group you and your team serves receives 5 Star Service.
Host, Hostess, Maitre D’ (HHM) It is super important for you to realize that You set the Tone. How you greet and seat your guests establishes the tone of the evening and what they expect their dinner event to be like. Please be pleasant and polite and use sentences. Don’t just say, “Can I get a name?” or “How many?” Use your personality and actually engage your guests. Greet them. “Hi, Good Evening, Do you have a reservation? What name is it under?” Or “Hello, welcome to abc restaurant. Have you been in before? Are you with the XYZ Corporate Party?” Your job is extremely important. And yes, when you have 50 people crowding your reception area and you have only a few non-reserved seats that you can sell and you have to tell people that it’s going to be a 1 to 1 1/2 hour wait-it can be very stressful for you. But you must keep your composure, keep smiling, be attentive and send out positive energy. You play a very vital role in the overall smooth flow of service and the perception the guests have of your establishment.
Servers-Communication and accuracy of order are so important. When food is being served-there is often no system of distribution. There is no organization or communication between the service staff as to who ordered what. In this situation the food is auctioned-“Who had the chicken parmagian? Who had the veal saltimbucca?” etc. This is not professional. This is not great service. This is poor service. The Service Professional, whomever is acting as the lead or head waiter over the table or group must do exactly that-take the lead. Write down position numbers of the tables. Draw out a chart with seat positions, and what each order is. By doing this, other team members who are assisting in serving- can refer to your diagram and efficiently and smoothly serve the proper order to each guest. It is very disconcerting and quite comical (not in a good way) to watch as guests pass plates after the server has left the table because they were not served what they ordered.
Communicate effectively with the kitchen. As much as possible, make every effort to serve ladies first. If that is not possible on the entrees-certainly you can ensure that ladies are served their initial drinks first, and their salads. It is still proper in 2015 to serve ladies first. Please endeavor to make this happen
Timing-Most people when they dine out together whether it’s a couple, a group of 6 or 20, they would like to be served at the same time. Many restaurants seem to treat groups like they’re eating tapas-sending out a couple of dishes at a time. This is not good service. As a Server in charge of a large table, you must act as the conductor or the quarterback, leading your team to seamlessly provide great service. You must develop your Restaurant Eyes and non-verbal cues that you can use to communicate to your team without saying in front of your guests. There is a whole chapter on this in my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service.
Connect and Care- Even though you are serving a large group of people all at once, rather than the usual 2 or 4 or 6, you must still maintain that personalized service. Don’t view them as merely a group-Treat each guest as special. Look at them as you take their order. Don’t just stand at the head of the table and shout to each person, saying “And you Ma’am, what will you have? And you, sir, what is your order?” never once looking up from your notepad as you write it down. That is not great service. Treat each one as if they were your Grandmother, your mother or best friend. How would you talk to and treat them if you were serving them in your restaurant?
Bussers, Food Runners, Server Assistants-When you are assisting serving a large party or bringing the food out to a server, you must ensure that the order is correct and complete before returning to the kitchen. It is very frustrating for a server to be standing at a table about to serve a group of 10 or more and he sees that there is an item that is missing or incorrect but the food runner, the busser, and the server assistant are all nowhere to be found. He is now feeling stranded, abandoned. He still has to serve each of these guests and he knows that some item is missing. Did the kitchen forget to plate it up? To put it on the tray? Did he the server forget/neglect to put the order in? Precious seconds are ticking as he knows that at least one guest will have to wait for his order to be made. Communication is so key in this situation. Oftentimes the server is depending upon their busser or assistant to help things go smoothly.
Anticipate your guests needs. If the glass is half full and it’s a free refill item-water, iced tea, soda, coffee-please don’t wait for the guest to ask-offer to refill.
Pre-buss. Both Servers and Bussers need to be on the top of their game with this. Many times with group service there is a lack of attention to detail of clearing unused, unneeded or dirty items from the table.
Communicate effectively with the kitchen. As much as possible, make every effort to serve ladies first. If that is not possible on the entrees-certainly you can ensure that ladies are served their initial drinks first, and their salads. It is still proper in 2015 to serve ladies first. Please endeavor to make this happen.
Management-One of the biggest problems or challenges I see during the Holiday Season is that when restaurants are booked with so many parties, they tend to be understaffed. I’ve been places where one server is serving 25, 30 or more guests all by herself. That is not great service. There is no way to provide WOW! Service if you are stretching your staff so thin. I know every restaurant is different but no server should be taking that large of a party alone. It would be better to have 2 servers share the duties of a large group and then for each server to also have a couple of smaller tables that are seated staggered in time. Yes, this is stressful for you. Yes, making schedules work is a challenge but it is also your most lucrative time of year. You must lead by example with a sincere desire to make every guest’s experience at your establishment a positive and memorable one.
There are many more points to cover on how to really give 5 Star Service to every Group, all the time. We’ll continue this conversation in our next post. Until then, Thank you for reading. Happy Holiday Season!!
If you are interested in ordering a copy of my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service, you may order here (it is still on special for a few more days)
Outside the U,S. please order your copies on Amazon:
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God Bless You and Cheers!!
Christoff J. Weihman
Las Vegas, NV