7 Things Your Service Team Might Be Screwing Up

There are some things you just never forget. Your first kiss, your first car, an amazing movie and horrible service. Great service can sometimes be an elusive creature, much like Bigfoot.

7 Things Your Service Team Might Be Screwing Up

Written by: Donald Burns
Incredible service not only is comprised of the mechanical aspects like serving from the left and clearing from the right, it also contains the human element. That's called hospitality. When you combine the mechanical and human together it creates that synergy that today's guests have come to expect.

Here's the real secret to amazing service… It has to be constantly managed and monitored. I'm a big believer that incredible service teams are orchestrated and guided like a well-choreographed ballet.

I eat out to restaurants around 260 times a year. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. When you dine out that much you tend to see patterns in behavior. At this point, I can read the team dynamics much like Neo can read the matrix.

Here's my short list of the 7 things your service team might be screwing up.

1. The Greeting. Would it kill you to smile?

Nothing sets the tone, good or bad like the greeting. I am constantly shocked and surprised by the staffing choices some restaurant operators choose to make in placing people in positions where perhaps an outgoing and friendly disposition could have a big impact.

I've driven across town to dining your restaurant, I'm hungry and I make the decision to spend my money in your establishment. Then I am greeted by a hostess or server who can't even muster up a smile that conveys the message, “I'm glad you're here.” Strike one.

2. Stuff on the floor.

They say that “the devil is in the details” and it's very accurate. You have to understand that guest perception is paramount to the overall guest experience. If the guest thinks your restaurant is dirty (especially the bathrooms) then their perception is your kitchen is probably dirty too. Whether this is true or not, unfortunately does not matter because your guest will have already formed a preconceived notion about your business.

I ate at a restaurant once and had food under the table that must have been two weeks old judging by the "fur" that was growing on the french fry. I have never been back.

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3. Taking things from the table. 

Now this one falls into the category of Service No No’s. Service teams should be trained to replace and never take away from the table. There's a great example: the server just dropped off my entrĂ©e and notices that my iced tea is almost empty. They asked me if I would like a refill. Since I just got my entrĂ©e, I would love more iced tea. The server reaches over and takes my glass away. Now I'm sitting there with food and no beverage. If the server would have simply brought me a new iced tea, place it on the table and take away my empty glass I would not have felt like I was in an episode of Seinfeld with the Soup Nazi, “No iced tea for you!”

4. Not bring me the "extras" before my food arrives.

Here's another one that should go under the list of Service No No’s. Please, and I'm asking please. Bring me everything I need to enjoy my meal before my food arrives. Nothing drives customers crazy as having the flag down someone for something as simple as ketchup to enjoy their entrĂ©e.

5. Not reading the table.

It's amazing how much human beings actually communicate nonverbally. There are some studies that claim is as much as 55% of how we communicate to each other is through body language. Your service team should always be aware of the tables not only in their own section, but the entire dining room. Now restaurants do divide up the dining room into “sections” for the purpose of better managing service and flow. We all know does not really dotted lines on the floor separating the section from that section. Some servers (the bad ones) do see a line and when they are asked for something they say these fatal words, “That’s not my table.” Strike two.

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6. Asking the "standard dessert" questions.

Of all the cliché questions asked in a restaurant the desert question has to be the most common. 8 out of 10 times while I am dining out this is how the desert dance goes down. Server comes up and while they are clearing my entrée plate they asked me one of the following questions:

“Would you like to see the dessert menu?’
“Did you save room for dessert?”

In most cases my answer is usually no.

If you want better results, you need to ask better questions. I'm a big believer in planting the seed for desserts right when taking the entrée order. Now if a server tempts me with the idea of dessert for my entrée comes out actually be more inclined to save room and order one.

7. Forgetting about me after I've paid.

Too many bad servers are guilty of this. As soon as I cash out, I don't see them anymore. This can be especially frustrating if I'm out entertaining business clients, were having great conversation and we decide to linger and talk a little longer. Water glasses are empty, dirty plates still the table and our server has moved on to new guests.

It's like, I paid for dinner, left you a tip and now you have forgotten about me. You have now taken away the human element and made this a straight business transaction. For the kind of prices, you charge, I could have stayed home and had food and beverage much cheaper. Strike three.

In today's market guests expect good food and good service. To go beyond that your restaurant has to connect with its customers at the human level. Mediocre restaurants are a dime a dozen. Most don't last, at least not long. Great restaurants embrace a culture of excellence, attention to detail and thrive at creating an atmosphere of hospitality.''

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