Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Ten Commandments of Good Service

Recent surveys conducted by Zagat across the U.S found that the number one complaint from diners about their restaurant experience was bad service. I suspect the same survey carried out here would yield similar results. Most people will forgive problems with their food if the service is excellent, few will be as forgiving if the reverse applies.

It's a hugely important element in any restaurant or café's business yet so many do not give it the attention it deserves. Many leave their servers to their own devices in which case their business is only as good as their weakest employee. As I've mentioned before, it baffles me why something so critical to the success of a business is overlooked so frequently.

I've delivered a lot of structured training programmes for FOH staff over the years and written several training manuals. All were tailored to specific types of business but some core principles apply across the board. These are the fundamentals of service which I refer to as the ten commandments.

  1. The customer is king. Never forget it. Sounds obvious but very often staff need reminding, especially in busy restaurants where guests can often be taken for granted.
  2. Love what you do and always try to improve. You need to have an inner desire to please and make people feel welcome and valued in order to succeed in hospitality. 
  3. Engage with guests, smile and always make eye contact. They should have your undivided attention at all times. Nothing worse that an indifferent waiter looking around the room while taking your order. 
  4. Keep your head up at all times in the room. Very common problem in restaurants is staff walking around the room looking down, usually to avoid being asked for something.
  5. A warm welcome on arrival and genuine thanks when leaving are essential. They are basic good manners and book-end the guest's experience.
  6. Be switched on and focused for service. It's like being on stage so you have to be well prepared and ready to perform...even when the restaurant is quiet. Ever noticed how the service is better in busy restaurants?
  7. Understand the difference between "serving" and "looking after" people. Any one can bring a plate or glass to a table without heart. Looking after a guest means consciously thinking about their needs and making them feel special.
  8. Always be honest with guests. This covers everything from not spoofing about menu items to not trying to sell them what you know they don't need.
  9. Be professional at all times, even when engaging with very friendly guests. Never cross the line into over familiarity.
  10. Take pride in your appearance at all times. From a crisp shirt to spotless fingernails, anything less than pristine is unacceptable.
These are the basic values that I have always tried to instil in my staff and others I've trained. It can be difficult at times because so many service staff are not looking to build a career in the industry but merely passing through en route to somewhere else. 

Working as a service professional has never been viewed as a career in Ireland in the same way it is in other countries like France, for example. This saddens me as I have huge passion for the industry and think it can be hugely rewarding, in every sense, for dedicated people who want to succeed. Maybe some day it will change...

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