Good customer service is crucial to satisfying your tables–here’s how to build up that customer service skillset to keep them coming back for more.
Offering a great customer service experience is not limited to the front of the house— the whole team needs to contribute for the restaurant to succeed. The host’s friendly welcome, the chefs’ ability to accommodate special requests, and the managers, or owners, ability to establish the foundational training needed. The responsibility is on everyone.
It’s called the service industry for a reason, amirite?! While a celebrated menu is a good indicator of a fruitful restaurant, delivering skilled customer service to every table can turn any visiting diner into a regular.
Customer Service vs. Hospitality
Danny Meyer, award-winning restaurateur and NYT best-selling author of Setting the Table wrote, “Service is a monologue—we decide how we want to do things and set our standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue.”
Though these words are often used interchangeably, the concepts of service and hospitality are vastly different. One is so transactional, whereas the other is listening to the customer’s needs and figuring out how to meet them. The best way to meet, or exceed, the guest’s expectations is to utilize both skill sets in tandem.
Most restaurant work isn’t as rigid or strict as fine dining, but proficiency in the sequence of service will help you remain consistent with your table service.
- Welcome/seat guest
- Present menu
- Pour water
- Answer questions
- Take drink order
- Serve drinks
- Take food order
- Serve food
- Clear empty plates
- Take dessert order
- Present check
Service is knowing the proper sequence to do your job well. Hospitality is the tone of your voice and the warmth you exude when interacting with guests, affecting their overall experience.
Know Your Menu
Whether your customer has a question about the new seasonal special or allergenic ingredients in a specific dish– you should be prepared to answer the question confidently. By quickly recalling accurate information, you establish yourself as someone your guests can trust.
Also, being comfortable with your menu and bar program allows you to curate a unique dining experience for your guest. This type of genuine thoughtfulness goes a long way for them, whether it’s their first time or not.
If someone has a dietary restriction, you can easily provide multiple options so your guest can still enjoy the family-style meal with the rest of the table. Or you can more naturally offer beverage pairings for bonus points.
Telepathy isn’t a requirement to be a server– but a key to providing exemplary service to your guests is to try and anticipate their needs before they know they need it. When walking through the floor, always do a scan of your tables.
If you see a table running low on napkins or a condiment, be proactive and bring it to the table. If a drink was accidentally spilled, bring a replacement and a towel. This shows excellent awareness, and your guest will definitely appreciate your attentiveness.
I will never forget accidentally breaking my wine glass at Zuni in San Francisco when I got back from the restroom. The whole place went silent, and I turned beet red. Our server didn’t even bat an eye. He came right over with a new glass of the same wine and a little joke as he swept away the glass and my anxiety.
Take Criticism and Find a Solution
Mistakes or complaints are bound to happen. No matter how thoroughly you prepare, mishaps are inevitable. This is where accountability comes into play– if you forgot to ring in the order or misheard which wine they wanted, own up to it.
Even if the problem wasn’t in your control, it is up to you (or, if needed, the manager) to make it right with your table.
Regardless of whodunnit, acknowledge there is a problem and apologize. Exhibiting that you have the empathy to listen and respond in a way that makes them feel heard is vital in maintaining a positive relationship. Otherwise, they will take their business elsewhere.
Customers rely on the restaurant to provide a unique and hospitable experience they can’t find elsewhere. Ensuring you have a basic understanding of what good customer service means, will set you up to leave a positive impression on your guests. Creating those memorable experiences is 100% a team effort, but you can do your part to turn an ordinary dining experience into something truly unforgettable.