Is This the Service Industry?

Editor's Note: The following is one in a series of blogs provided by the experts who have worked incredibly hard to make Bar 
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On the menu: “No substitutions.”
The bartender: “I’m sorry, we can’t do that.”
The server: “The chef said no.”
The manager: “No!”

I have heard and read these phrases far too many times. This way of thinking actually makes me mad! We are in the service industry; it is our job to serve our guests, our duty to make our guests “raving fans” and our livelihood to provide a service to our guests.

I recently walked into a restaurant in NYC’s Rockefeller Plaza on a Friday for lunch, headed to the bar and sat down with cash in hand. After waiting 6 to 8 minutes for the bartender to stop cutting lemons, she had the gall to hold up her hand and say, “I’ll be there in a minute.” She then walked over and asked, “What can I get you?” I ordered and she replied, “No.”

No?! I left, hungry and furious. I was so mad I didn’t even have time to rant via social media!

There are way too many opportunities for bar staff members to take a ball and run with it unobstructed right into the end zone. But so many times the ball is dropped simply because of management’s inability to effectively communicate their goals to the staff.

Too often we go into business with the intention of service but our intentions later become that of a disgruntled owner, always talking about how much everything costs, how much the staff sucks and how much of a pain “Mike” at the end of the bar is. But if it weren’t for “Mike,” guest counts would begin to diminish.

We need to grab our guests (please note that in the service industry, we use the term “guests”) with our service, intellect, personalities and product. If I feel I am interrupting a bartender at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday while she is cutting lemons, I will feel uncomfortable when I need service.

My goal is to create a synergy among managers, servers, chefs and cooks; we are all in this together. We all have to work as a team to make sure our guests continue to walk through our doors, to tell their friends how great it is to walk into “Billy Frank’s Burger Emporium” and be treated like the King of Table No. 24 or Barstool No. 17.  It is our job to go beyond our guests’ expectations.

Try this: Every time one of your guests walk in the door,

• Have your host or hostess walk with them to the table, not 20 feet ahead.
• Have your server introduce his or herself to your guests, ask the guests their names and then use them! For example, “Here is your burger, Tim.”
• Managers should spend a few minutes walking through the dining room. Imagine if Jill the server introduced Liam the manager to Tim the guest: “Liam, this is Tim. This is Tim’s first time here.” The guest is now engaged.
• Chefs also should spend a few minutes out in the dining room meeting their guests. I loved walking through the dining room, meeting my guests and hearing feedback. Listening to what they would like to see on the menu! To go the extra distance, run the special the guest wanted to see and call him to let him know it will be on the menu.
• Give your servers business cards to create the regular guest experience.

A few years back, I was introduced to a book, “Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. As a chef, I was uncertain which direction I should run with it. It’s a simple book. There are not many pages, but the message is powerful: Go 1% above what your guest is expecting. I have shared this book with many of my clients, students and even my children.

I am a chef; I love to create and play with food. I love the business of creating reactions and guest experiences, but that is only going to happen if we are all on the same page and have the same mindset. As owners, operators and managers, we need to engage our staff and give them the tools to succeed. Create your “raving fans” every time you open the door, answer the phone or drop the check. It’s what we do.


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