Happy December. There’s a bit of a coolness in the air, ugly sweaters and elves on shelves are everywhere and we know that we are well into the Holiday Season. Yes, it’s that wonderful festive, joyous, stressful, happy, (depressing-for some) time of year-the Holiday Party Season for the restaurant and service industry. Many businesses in the service industry do the largest percentage of their year’s business over the 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 these 2-3 months are 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, sometimes 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! / Five Star Service & Hospitality at all the holiday parties and events you host and serve.
First, I’m going to address something that needs to be stated. 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. Many times it seems that there is often a lack of attention and focus on doing the job well and right because the service staff is already guaranteed a specific tip ahead of time. Since the tip is already included the server is no longer “earning” their tip. But if you think about it, this ought to cause the Service Professional to desire to do an even better job in to provide great service. However the opposite is sometimes the standard. 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 so very 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. Welcome them. “Hi, Good Evening, Welcome. 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 host stand 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. You are the first impression and when you exude positive energy, and greet guests with your upbeat attitude, you really do set the tone for the guests entire evening. If you feel overwhelmed, or stressed, take a few deep breaths, smile and welcome your guests. They will remember how special and welcomed you made them feel as soon as they set foot into your establishment.
Servers-Communication and accuracy of order are so important. When food is being served-sometimes there is no system of distribution. There is a lack of 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 2018 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? Having eye contact and personal connection with each guest even when servicing a very large group, will make for a very positive impact on the entire event. Your guests are not expecting perfection, but they do expect a level of excellence that you and your team certainly are fully capable to provide. This is your time to shine. Imagine as you serve this large group of guests that you are making such a positive impression upon them that many of them, will become your regulars in the future.
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 or her order to be made. Communication is so key in this situation. The server is depending upon their busser or assistant to help things go smoothly. Teamwork is absolutely vital in this situation.
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. If you are serving dishes to be served family style, please provide serving spoons, forks, tongs. Don’t wait to be asked. Provide spoons for sauces. Be proactive. Your guests will be very grateful for your forethought.
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. You’ve done amazing in service thus far. Keep up the high standard of excellence by clearing unwanted items off the table. You may think it’s a small thing. I promise you it makes a huge impact.
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 2018 to serve ladies first. Please endeavor to make this happen.
Management-One challenge that happens during the Holiday Season is that when restaurants are booked with so many parties, they sometimes 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. Of course every restaurant is different but no server should be taking that large of a party alone. It would be better to have 2 or 3 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.
Touch Tables– As a manager, one of your roles and a vital one is to engage your guests and ensure their great experience. Don’t be that manager that stays in the office and only emerges when a complaint comes to you. You have a great team but they need your presence and support. Though it may be stressful, this can be a fun, exciting, enjoyable Holiday Season for everyone, guests, staff and management alike.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!
Thank you for reading!! I know it’s been a while. I appreciate all my Soupfly Readers from all around the world. Thank you for your loyal support. Please feel free to share your comments.
Christoff J. Weihman
If you are inspired to up your Customer Service game, I invite you to order a copy of my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service or my new one, The Customer Experience, (a Number 1 Amazon Best Seller) please go here.