A few weeks ago, I went to a restaurant with a group of friends. It was a busy Saturday night, and there were lots of servers — all dressed in the same black uniform — running around. After a while, we were ready to order drinks and, to save time, just asked the first server whose attention we could get. He said, “Oh you’re Brittney’s table, she’ll be by soon.” Twenty minutes later, our drink order had finally been taken, but the other server never followed up with us. Now, as a result, this establishment is officially on our “Do-Not-Visit” list.
There are many different reasons why this issue could have happened — our server was busy or on break, or her fellow teammate didn’t deliver the message — but the end result was the same: we decided against returning to that particular spot.
The moral of this story is that your guests often won’t look beyond these types of bad customer service experiences — and it’s important to remind your staff of this important fact.
We’re officially halfway through the year, which means now is the perfect time to refresh your employees on how to give excellent customer service. The change in traffic you see in the summer months — when you start seeing lots of vacationers or notice a subtle decline in numbers as your guests run off to the beach — also means your staff will have plenty of opportunities to practice once you’ve reviewed your expectations and standards.
When it comes to customer service, one of the most important points to get across to your employees is that despite everyone having their individual responsibilities, delivering a great guest experience is always a team effort.
Below are a few tips for training your staff to ensure they always band together to deliver a consistent customer experience:
1. Always be a resource.
This includes being helpful to both customers and fellow staff members. It can be frustrating for servers to be stopped by customers who are sitting at another person’s table, especially when they’re busy. But remind your employees that many customers see your staff as a cohesive team — meaning they won’t hesitate to ask another server a question about the restaurant or for a quick refill.
Rather than referring that table back to their designated server — like the server mentioned above — encourage your staff to do their best to help every customer, every time. This could be as simple as grabbing the drink for the customer, or, if they’re too busy, taking a moment to find a fellow teammate to handle the task.
This drive to help shouldn’t stop with the customers, either. Encourage your staff to help each other in busy times — and drive the point home by being there to assist them, as well. Remember: your restaurant’s culture starts with you, so chipping in yourself when necessary will show your employees how they should behave. Besides, regardless of what function they serve, each employee will need their teammates’ help eventually. Reminding them that their willingness to help will be rewarded in the future is a great way to be sure they’ll always be happy to handle that extra load.
2. Communication and honesty are key.
Even the best employee can’t know all the answers all the time, or finish every task on those super hectic days. And sometimes, your staff may just end up with a situation that they can’t handle. Follow up on that theme of helpfulness by reminding your staff that you understand their limitations — and they should, too.
Whenever they run into one of these can’t-solve situations, encourage your staff to speak up. Whether it be telling a fellow teammate that they’re simply swamped and need assistance delivering drinks, or letting you know when a table has gone from irritable to downright angry, letting the rest of your team know where the problems are means you always have plenty of brainpower dedicated to solving it.
This also applies to being honest with customers. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them you’re unsure, and make a point of circling back once you know. Just as everyone can understand the feeling of not quite being sure about the answer, everyone can understand that being incredibly busy — and juggling too many tasks — can lead to some mistakes.
Encourage your staff to speak up immediately and inform a table of what is happening, even when it’s not good news. Most will appreciate that warning, and even those who can’t forgive the mistake won’t leave your restaurant feeling as if they’d been lied to.
3. Don’t have your blinders on.
More than in any other industry, the restaurant business requires each team member to be aware of what is happening nearly everywhere in the building. Chefs must know when large parties have been sat, servers must know when the kitchen is slammed, hosts must know when servers are at capacity — the list goes on.
That means that even though each individual person a specific job, everyone needs to be willing to help wherever they can, whenever they can. Cross-training your staff on various tasks and systems can help ensure that no matter what needs to be done, someone is there to do it. And don’t forget to make an example of yourself.
A hardworking and cohesive team starts with you. Get everyone on the same page from the get-go with consistent pre-shift meetings, and make a point of monitoring everyone as they work — and step in to help as soon as they need it.
Once you start showing off these best practices, your staff will fall in line — especially when they realize how much easier it will be to deliver an outstanding customer experience with the help of their teammates.