Helpful Hints for Holiday Party Hospitality

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Continuing on our theme from last week’s post, I will be sharing here some helpful hints to help make your Holiday events Successful.  It is so important that we think from the customer’s perspective.  In doing so, we’ll be better equipped to not only meet their expectations, but hopefully to really provide a WOW! experience for all.

As I mentioned previously, we all know that this time of year-the Holiday Party Season, is for many, including restaurants and such establishments, very busy and hectic.  But this season need not be a source of stress-it is meant to be a happy, joyous and celebratory time.  Let’s endeavor to make it so.  With that in mind, take a deep breath and let’s dive in with some thoughts that can ensure a smooth flow of service for each and every party or group event at your establishment.  The following is by no means meant to exhaustive but merely 5 helpful hints.

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  1. Start with a Positive Attitude
    This may seem very elementary and it is, but I’ve seen so many Service & Hospitality Professionals stressed out during the service of large parties.  They often are seen running frantically, to and from the bar, the kitchen and the dining room.  The energy that you convey and exude literally is being transmitted and transferred to your guests.  You want your guests to enjoy this very special occasion.  Your job is to help ensure that they have a wonderful holiday party.  So, please begin with a positive mindset, with positive energy and with the expectation that everything is going to go smoothly, orderly and in a timely fashion. Your Attitude affects your outcome. Of course, being organized ahead of time will make it easier to have a good positive attitude.

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  2. Be Knowledgeable
    Please know your menu, your wine list and your specials. Imagine that you are serving a large group and as you are taking their order, one of your guests ask a question to which you don’t know the answer. Your response of, “I can go find out for you” is not providing great service. So, if your guest says, “Yes, could you please find out for me?”, now you have to either go back to the kitchen to get the answer, putting a halt on the order taking of the rest of the table.  Or you decide to take everyone else’s order-skipping this individual for the moment, and then you go to the kitchen to find the answer and THEN return to your guest to provide him or her with the answer.  This slows everything down for the rest of the table and does not make for smooth flow of service.  I admit, yours is a very difficult job. There is a lot that you must know.  Please educate yourself and do not rely on the “I can go find out for you” method.  If your guest has asked a question, they probably really want to know the answer BEFORE they decide what to order.

    Many times for large parties-there is already a set menu with limited options available for guests to choose from. In this case your job is a little bit easier.  Still, I encourage you, become a student of what you are selling. You really need to know the menu completely.

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  3. Think of Your Grandma
    Jeffrey Gitomer, Sales Guru and Customer Service Expert says to “Treat every customer as though they were your favorite celebrity, hero, friend, neighbor or GRANDMA.”  I completely agree with him. Actually, I would say, just Grandma.  If you knew your Grandma was going out to a restaurant with a group of people for a holiday event you would want her to have a great experience, right?  And if afterwards, she told you how awful it was, the Service staff were not polite, they didn’t get her order right, it seemed like they didn’t care and they weren’t friendly to her, how would you feel?  Because you’re in the the industry and because you’re a professional you’d feel bad for her, right?  You would also probably think or even say to her, “Well, Grandma, that would not have happened if you and your group came to my restaurant and I was serving you.”  -That’s the kind of attitude and approach and care you must take for EVERY group that comes to your place of business.  Ask yourself, “Is the service I’m delivering right now, the level and type of service that I would be proud to deliver to my Grandma, my Parents, my Loved ones?”  Hopefully the answer will be yes. Sometimes with Grandma you may need to be a little more patient.  You may need to explain or repeat things.  If Grandma-your guest- doesn’t know what quinoa is, or hummous, or arugula or whatever, take a moment and explain.  Be kind, be gracious and be helpful.

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  4. Consider the Coats
    The temperature is dropping all around the country and yes, most everyone will be bundling up as they go out to these wonderful festive parties.  The problem is that oftentimes their coats are too big and bulky to hang on the back of the chair at which they’re seated or the restaurant doesn’t have nearly enough hook space for the number of guests.  Perhaps your guests may arrive wearing long knee length or longer, coats which actually are much taller than the height of their chairs.  So what to do?  I know this may not be something that you’ve considered, but again put yourself in the shoes-or in this case, the coats, of your guests.  They got all dressed up to come to this Holiday gathering at your restaurant, they’re decked out in their favorite long winter coat and when they arrive they find out there is nowhere to hang their coat.  How frustrating. Now they spend the entire evening picking up their coat as it gets brushed and knocked to the floor every time a service staff or someone else walks by.

    So, what is the answer?  I know every restaurant is set up differently and the answer may require some creativity on your part. Of course if yours is a more upscale restaurant-you probably solve this issue with providing a coat check service.  But what of the smaller establishments?  I know it’s not ideal, but at one place where I worked in the past, we actually stacked up the coats in the owner’s office.  Will that be the answer for your establishment?  I don’t know but I do know that this is a situation that you need to be aware of.  It’s really very similar to during rainy season when all your patrons are coming in with soaking wet umbrellas. Do you want all your guests carrying wet umbrellas to their table, dripping all across the dining room floor and creating a slipping hazard?  Of course providing a bucket to stash umbrellas in is a bit easier of a remedy than where to place 25, 40 or 50 coats.  I don’t know the answer for your establishment but I do know that considering the coats and having a solution will help you deliver WOW! Service.

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  5. Respect Food Sensitivities
    There may be nothing more disheartening for a guest at a Holiday Party than to find out that there is really nothing on the set menu or even the regular menu that he or she can eat. If you are creating a set menu for your Holiday Group Parties, please make sure that there is a vegetarian or vegan option as well as a gluten free option available. This should be something that is thought of, considered and planned for ahead of time. Perhaps the one organizing the event from the company or organization didn’t think about this. But you the Service Professional should be aware and discuss this with whomever is planning said event. Or at the very least, please have options for these sensitivities available to be ordered by your guests.

    No one wants to go to a Holiday Party if they know that they’ll just be watching everyone else enjoying their dinner.  Again, what if your Grandma was Celiac and she went to a party where they had nothing for her to eat?  And a suggestion, please use some creativity. If you’re serving Filet Mignon to the majority of the people, please don’t just put a plate of steamed broccoli and carrots in front of your vegan guests-that is not very festive.

    Perhaps worse than a guest not being able to eat anything at a Holiday Party because the establishment was not able to accommodate his food allergy or sensitivity, would be if they ate something that they thought was okay but then they later find out had gluten in it or whatever their senstivity was.  This is a very serious issue and could cause discomfort or sickness for your guest. That would not make for a very good Holiday Party.

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    One last thought: So many times I’ve seen guests at restaurants walking out carrying a stack of 2 or 3 or more togo containers because either they didn’t ask or the server forgot to offer/give them a bag to carry them in. Please Give A Bag.
    If you implement these 5 hints you will be on the road to a successful Holiday Party Season. You will be creating and delivering WOW! Service for your guests, who in turn will hopefully, become loyal, long time fans of you and your establishment.

    Thank you for Reading!  Happy Holiday Party Season!!  I appreciate all my Soupfly Readers from over 100 plus countries around the world!!

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God Bless and Cheers!!!

Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas, NV


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