Tag Archive | Communication

COMMUNICATION is the KEY- Part 2

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WELCOME BACK TO SOUPFLY!

 

How many times have you been out for dinner, the server takes your order and then, all of a sudden, he’s a magician, that is, he does a disappearing act .  Nowhere to be found.  And even his assistant has disappeared as well.  Poof.  Gone.  And then, as if by magic, once your food is ready to be served -Voila!  Or he only reappears after your food is served. He reappears.

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Now, while he’s disappeared, you’re looking around trying to find him.  No luck.  He’s definitely gone.   You want to ask a question, order another drink.  But sorry, no luck.  You have a Disappearing Server.

Or sometimes you have a server that didn’t disappear, he’s just faded out of sight.  You’re looking, straining your eyes, tilting your head back, stretching your neck to catch a glimpse of this elusive creature.  There! There he is -so far in the distance, he seems to be cavorting with one of his colleagues off in the corner.  You try to make eye contact but he never looks your way for more than a fleeting glance.

Without shouting or raising your voice it’s next to impossible catch his attention.

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It seems that some servers feel uncomfortable going back to their table while their guests are waiting for their next course.  They often seem uneasy and that’s why they disappear.  Maybe they don’t know what to say to their guests.  Some of them don’t disappear, they just hide behind the service station peering around the corner to spy on their guests and see what they are doing while they’re waiting.  Waiting is what they are doing.  Waiting without knowing.  Wondering.  Wondering how long it will be before they see you again.  Wondering why you won’t come back to the table unless you have their food in hand.   Wondering with no communication is so disconcerting.  It creates a feeling of helplessness.  They have no information from you.  They see other guests around them being served.  They can’t go back into the kitchen themselves, so they wait. And their wine glass is empty.  Shame.

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Of course, you, the server, can’t control what goes on in the kitchen.  Yes, that’s true.  However, the situation is not entirely out of your hands.  There are many things that you can do.

Here are some suggested action steps:

1. Go to the kitchen and find out what order in line your ticket is.

Every restaurant’s expediting system is different.  You may be able to ask the expo person, although, oftentimes they do not want to be interrupted.

2. Look on the screen, if the kitchen has a computerized system, or where ever the order tickets are hung and observe what is going on behind the line. If you know that there are some larger parties in the restaurant that evening you should see if by perhaps, that table is being plated ahead of yours.

3.  Ask. Ask the kitchen manager. Ask the expo person. Ask the chef. Find out. Don’t just assume.

4.  Return to your waiting guests and COMMUNICATE.  Tell them something.  Give them an estimated time of arrival for their next course. Just please don’t let them wait and wonder with no information.

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If a reasonable amount of time has not passed between courses- again, each restaurant is different- (a fine dining restaurant in New York City will  have longer lag times between courses than a bistro in Topeka, Kansas)  You should know your restaurant, though and what is a normal time between courses.  It is imperative as the server,  to be aware of what your guest’s are feeling.   They may not realize that it’s only been a few minutes and here they are looking around the restaurant impatiently.

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My friend Adam Gnau, of Acero Restaurant in Maplewood, Missouri aims for 15 minutes between courses.  I asked him, “What about for a table of 12 or 15?”  He said “Still the same.  Fifteen minutes.” That means that he plans to have guests wait for no more than fifteen minutes from the time they are done with one course until the next one is served.  Acero, is  a smaller restaurant so this is doable for them.

 

If our focus is  about creating an exceptional dining experience and really being hospitable and a gracious host to our guests then we need to be cognizant of something as simple as this.  If you had guests over for dinner and they were, say, sitting on the patio by themselves while you and your spouse were in the kitchen cooking, would you leave them out there indefinitely without communicating anything about when dinner was going to be ready?  Of course not! You would check on them, tell them it’s coming soon.  Let them feel welcome and relaxed.  Your restaurant guests are just like your home dinner guests.

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You must know what is normal timing for your restaurant and at the point that it appears that your guests have been waiting too long you need to be proactive and take action.  It is incumbent upon you to be informed and then to inform your guests.

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Have you ever been in  a restaurant or at a bar and the server or bartender pays no attention to you yet  they seem to be completely focused on other guests?  They finally come over because you flagged them down and when you mention that you’ve been feeling neglected-they respond with “Well, you can see that I’m busy.”  You think to yourself, “Of course, they’re busy but who are they busy with? Other guests. So what am I-not a guest?”

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We know that service can become very hectic at times.  It’s the nature of the business.  Even if you’re super busy, just passing by the guest and saying, “I will be right with you.”  goes a long way to alleviate guests’ impatience.  And an added “Thank you so much for your patience,” when you return to them is always a great way to avoid negative energy from your guests.

Of course, often there are unusual circumstances.  A couple who are sitting at their table waiting for their main course and have not ordered even an appetizer or a salad or any sort of first course will feel like 10 minutes is 30 minutes.  The situation will be even more compounded if they have no drinks in front of them.  So, imagine, they have no drinks, no first course and they’ve already devoured all of the bread that you’ve put in front of them.  Waiting fifteen or twenty minutes for their entrée will seem like forever.  And of course, they will observe others who were seated after them being served ahead of them but most likely it’s a first course or appetizer which typically takes less time.

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Regardless of the situation, it is your job as the server to find out what the status is, communicate it to your guest and set their minds at ease.

If it’s going to be a while, don’t just disappear.  Strike up a conversation with them.  Sell them another glass of wine.  Talk about your chef, the restaurant or ask them about themselves.  Tell a funny story. Humor usually can lighten any situation.

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Many people who haven’t done it think that being a server really takes no special skill or talent. That, however is very far from what reality is. This is not a job for everybody because not everybody can do it.  And certainly not everybody who does it, does it well.

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Being a server takes a variety of aptitudes; one has to be part diplomat, part entertainer, part host.  You must have an ample supply of patience and great communication skills.  You must be able to anticipate your guests’ needs.  Yes I guess that means that you’re sort of a mind reader as well.  The importance of great communication skills cannot be overemphasized.  You may know exactly what is going on in the kitchen.  Just please don’t keep it a secret from your guests.  Communication is the Key and you hold this powerful tool in your hands.  Use it wisely and use it well.

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Thank you for reading this new serving of Soupfly!  I appreciate your support.  Please feel free to Comment. Also, please continue to Like and Share with others.  I now have readers from the following countries; United States, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Serbia, Australia, Philippines, Netherlands, Switzerland, India, South Africa!  

I am humbled and so grateful for all the support.  And please feel free to connect with me and introduce yourself.  I would really like to connect with Soupfly fans.

 

Cheers and God Bless you all!!

Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas, NV

ChristoffJWeihman.com

Communication is Key

 

 

 

 

WELCOME BACK TO SOUPFLY

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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

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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?”

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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 TableOpen 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.

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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. 

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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

Tell

Say

Inform

Describe

Explain

Elaborate

Expound

Detail

Impress upon

Imply

Infer

Teach

Train

Discuss

Educate

Influence

Proclaim

Declare

Announce

Convey

Transmit

Interact

Relate

Pass on

Put across

Mention

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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

 

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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…

Thank you for enjoying another serving of Soupfly.  Please Like and Share on Social Media.  Also, I encourage you to hit the FOLLOW  button so you can receive an email each time a new Soupfly post is published.

Thank you for your continued support!!  And we now have readers in France!

Cheers and God Bless you All!!

Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas, NV

ChristoffJWeihman.com