Restaurateurs always look to enhance guests’ dining experiences and boost sales. Here, service expert Bob Brown, a speaker at our Restaurant Revenue Growth Conference, offers six tips on turning servers into service stars and increasing customer engagement:
- Know the products you’re selling. This is the foundation for increased sales and engagement. Many restaurants don’t provide servers with detailed information about menu items. A great server needs to know why an item is interesting, how it’s prepared and plated, and whether there are allergens to be concerned about. This allows them to be completely knowledgeable and act as advisors or consultants. That makes for better dining experiences. If servers are uninformed about menu items, they can’t explain their benefits to customers.
- Avoid yes/no questions. Too often, servers ask only yes or no questions: would you like a drink, can I interest you in a starter, would you like a soup or salad, or are you ready to order? All of those questions typically lead to ‘no’ answers and decreased engagement. Those yes/no questions can result in leaving money on the table.
- Be a greeting expert. Make sure your servers don’t just greet guests by saying hello, giving their names and asking if they’d like a drink. It’s also important to size up how they’re dressed, what they’re carrying and what the mood is like. That will quickly provide positive or negative cues about the experience desired. The verbal and nonverbal responses to what your server suggests will guide the selling style.
- Emphasize front-end beverage sales. Restaurateurs leave money on the table by not training servers to suggest front-end beverages, like bottled water, cocktails or beer, when appropriate. They should also be able to talk about wine, your wine list and suggest wine to the guest.
- Give a menu tour. Highlight some signature items or information about your chef. A guided tour of the menu increases interest and often results in the guest giving verbal or nonverbal feedback about what they like or dislike. When that happens, the server can tune into the guest and help them find what they want.
- End the meal with the grand finale. Have your server group together desserts, liqueurs or cordials, cognacs, dessert wines and specialty coffees. Again, make sure the server avoids the yes/no questions, like ‘Can I interest you in dessert?’ More times than not, the answer will be no; the guest is too full, out of money, out of shape, whatever.
“The big question to ask yourself is did your guests feel cared for? Was your server and restaurant interested in finding out what they wanted? In a way, the diners are shoppers. They are shopping for great food and beverages. You have to have a great sales person to make that happen,” Brown says.
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