Customer service standards are one of the fundamental tools used to maintain a high level of service in a restaurant, which contributes to its image and financial performance.
In brief, customer service standards outline the main elements of service from the moment guests are welcomed in the restaurant to the presentation of the bill. It might seem that the most important aspect of service is taking orders and serving dishes with the idea that "good food speaks for itself." However, that's not necessarily the case. Positive restaurant experiences are composed of many factors, which is why attention to every detail is so important.
Customer service standards in a restaurant also encompass key stages of the sales process, with the server acting as the salesperson. In most cases, the role of the server is reduced to taking and delivering orders. Very often servers do not sell, as they are not trained to do it well and consciously. The first step is to raise awareness about the essence of the server's role during service, which is essentially a sales process. Knowledge and skillful use of sales techniques bring triple benefits: for the restaurant (streamlining service), for the server (increasing the bill and tips), and for the guest (improving service quality).
How can the service and sales process in a restaurant be standardized to improve its financial performance? We address this question in the further part of the post, step by step.
Welcoming the Guest
When greeting the guests in a restaurant, it is important to make them feel welcome. The response time from staff is crucial - guests shouldn't be left unattended for more than 30 seconds. We can greet guests in the following ways:
"Good evening, it's nice to see you (again)"
"Good evening, for how many people do you need a table?"
Guests who have made reservations usually inform us about it right after entering the restaurant. The server (or host) shouldn't be the first to ask about the reservation. Guests without a reservation might feel uncomfortable. Every guest is equally important to the restaurant.
After escorting guests to their table, the server should present the menu, informing the guests about daily specials or dishes that are currently unavailable. The server can also mention that they will return to the table shortly to take the order, giving guests enough time to decide.
Taking the Order
The server should take the order shortly after guests receive the menu. Whenever possible, observe the situation and choose the right moment to approach the table, so as not to interrupt the guests.
"Can I prepare something for you to drink? I recommend our homemade lemonade."
When guests ask for recommendations for dishes or beverages, servers shouldn't rely on their own preferences - this is a common mistake. Asking for recommendations by the guest gives the server a chance to guide the guest's thinking.
In general, guests know what they want. However, if there is some uncertainty among the guests, it's worth subtly offering assistance, describing dishes or drinks in an encouraging way.
"Do you feel like having a meat, fish, or vegetarian dish?"
"Our guests really enjoy..." "Today we recommend..."
Being aware of sales techniques, it's important to distinguish between upselling and aggressive selling. Upselling aims to encourage guests to choose a different dish or drink than they initially intended. Although these are two different concepts, the line between them is quite thin, making it easy to cross. As a rule, it's not advisable to recommend the most expensive items on the menu or items not on the menu (e.g. daily specials) without informing guests about their prices. A good example of upselling is suggesting add-ons to main courses, desserts, or digestives at the end of a meal.
When still taking the orders, the server should write down who ordered what and in what order. After taking the order, it's a good practice to repeat it in front of the guests - this is a simple way to avoid potential mistakes, especially if the order is taken in a foreign language.
After sending the order to the kitchen, the server should prepare the appropriate amount and type of cutlery, then serve it to the guests along with the prepared beverages. When serving dishes, the server should describe what they are serving. The same principle applies to wine, taking into account its country of origin and grape variety. During the meal, the server should continuously refill guests' wine (if a bottle was ordered) and other beverages, or ensure if they would like to order something else.
After main courses, it's a good idea to encourage guests to order dessert by presenting dessert options. This is also a good time to suggest coffee or tea to accompany the dessert.
"Would you like to try one of our desserts?"
"Would you like coffee or tea with your dessert?"
Presenting the Bill and Farewell
The bill should always be presented upon the guest's request and handed to the person who requested it. It's acceptable to arrange the payment method in advance, but regardless of the chosen method, the server should wait a few minutes after presenting the bill before taking and potentially processing the payment.
In conclusion, the service staff should thank the guests for their visit and encourage them to come back.
The main advantage of implementing customer service standards is the uniformity in the way restaurant staff behaves towards guests, ultimately leading to increased satisfaction.
By applying customer service standards:
Countless examples of service standards can be found in available sources. When defining service standards for your restaurant, it's important to ensure they are personalized and tailored to the restaurant's specific characteristics. In other words, they should be based on its concept's principles.
When designing service standards, keep the following rules in mind:
Standards should be clear for employees. Standards shouldn't be too complex or disconnected from guest needs. It's better to have fewer standards in the restaurant, but consistently adhere to them. They should consider two aspects of the guest's visit - the dining experience and the restaurant as a business. Employees should treat standards as motivation while fulfilling set goals.
After establishing service standards, it's valuable to review them from time to time among your staff. One way of doing so is by conducting a Mystery Shopper assessment, which is one of our services.