The Art of Greeting: Setting the Stage for a Powerful Performance

lchumpitaz / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Most of us size up our server in the first few minutes—even seconds. That’s why how well you manage the greeting—with its multitude of opportunities to express warmth and thoughtfulness—sets the stage for a boon or a bust.

1. Assist guests everywhere.

Years ago, I helped a couple waiting for a table, perusing the menu at the service bar of the Georgetown Seafood Grill. “I see you’re checking out the Crab Cakes. They’re the best in town: made with fresh jumbo lump crabmeat lightly bound with mayonnaise, Dijon and Old Bay Seasoning. And by the way, a bottle of our Robert Mondavi Chardonnay would be a perfect match.” Minutes later, they were seated in my station and ordered exactly what I had suggested!

2. Help seat guests.

Being at your table from the get-go is not only courteous but smart business. Are your guests dressed to kill? Do they have Christmas presents? Did they bring their children? Do they want to be left alone or pampered? Remember, if you’re leaning up against the wall, you’re missing out on tons of cues that uncover opportunities to dazzle and delight. While you help a guest with a chair, you can also eavesdrop with the intent to help. Overhearing, “Wow, I’m ready for a stiff drink,” provides an obvious lead-in: “Our bartender Billy from Philly makes a mean Patrón Margarita.”

Read this: What You Need to Look for Before You Buy a Bar

4. Touch the table.

Most tables have a bubble of guest resistance: a wall of yakking, texting and surfing. Graciously moving the salt and pepper shaker or adjusting the petunias is not only thoughtful but affords a simple yet powerful way to connect with your audience.

Being at your table from the get-go is not only courteous, but smart business.

5. Find the leader/buyer.

Most tables have an in-charge kind of person. She influences the buying habits of the table. She controls the conversation. She has the power. First, find her, and then stand across from her when greeting the table. If she likes what she sees, she’ll root for you and make certain fellow guests follow.

Read this: This New Marketing Strategy Will Pack Your Bar with Little Effort or Money

6. Use icebreakers.

Shooting the breeze unlocks a wealth of information to act on regarding the purpose and context of a guest’s visit.

  • “Is this your first time with us?” opens the door in two ways. A “yes” answer provides an opportunity to give an overview of your menu, wine and beverage lists. A “no” answer allows you to inquire about their last experience. “What was your favorite appetizer?”
  • “What brings you to [insert your city or town]?” Guests will tell you if they’re tourists, live in the neighborhood, are attending a convention, visiting relatives, celebrating an anniversary or closing a deal.  
  • “Are you in town for business or pleasure?” helps you adjust your approach. “You’re here for the medical convention and it’s your last night? Well, that calls for a celebration with our finest steaks and bottles of Silver Oak all around!” Or, “Since you’re here sightseeing, don’t miss our crab cakes—they’re hard to find in Montana!”
  • “I love your pin!” provides insight into how people spend. “I bought this pin at Nordstrom’s.” Now you know you have an educated buyer who is open to quality. 

7. Make “hello” special.

“Hi, my name is Tyler. May I offer you a cocktail?” is a robotic, function-based greeting that dooms you from the start. A genuinely expressed, “Good evening and welcome to J-Paul’s. Thank you for your patience, we’re delighted to have you,” is polite, warm and gracious.

Read this: 3 Talented Women Share Their Bar Business Insights

Now, through a number of compelling tactics and strategies both verbal and nonverbal, you’ve laid the groundwork for a powerful performance.

Want more from this author? Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions,, pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program and has worked with clients such as Disney, Hilton, and Morton’s of Chicago, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. He’s leading a workshop during the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show, “Teach & Coach Your Staff to Become Hospitality Heroes,” aimed at helping operators build their hospitality A-Teams. Brown has appeared on the Food Network and is author of The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, The Big Brown Book of Managers’ Success, and the newly released The Seven Keys of Beverage Sales Success and Eight Keys to Dining Sales Success DVD learning systems. Visit to learn more. 

Suggested Articles

Learn how to convert interested leads into faithful followers and, eventually, booked clients.

Research from the latest National Restaurant Association and Yelp Show the Latest Rate in Closures

Six-month sales, education and networking virtual event series offers a brand-new approach for the industry to connect with owners, operators and supp