Did you know that approximately 14 percent of your customers will not return to your business due to the quality of the food and 68 percent due to the quality of the service? So doesn’t it make sense to train your waiters and waitresses to provide superior service to get your customers back every time?

To gain a competitive advantage today, you need to do a lot more to get your restaurant on the “favorites” list. One way is by customizing the service for each type of customer that comes to your business. For example, the sales and service techniques used for a family with children are different from those that would be offered to older customers. The same applies to business customers versus tourists. It’s never safe to think that your restaurant’s serving staff will inherently understand these differences. Unless they are trained, they most likely offer a one-size-fits-all service.

Teach your servers and waitresses to be observant and follow the tips below to help assess your customers’ needs:

• Time limitation (paused or time restricted)

• Mood (festive, romantic, stressed)

• Age group (children, adolescents, baby boomers, seniors, geriatrics)

• Purpose of your visit (social, private / intimate or business)

• Gender Male Female)

Since approximately 80 percent of communication is conveyed through verbal and non-verbal facial gestures and body language, as opposed to actual words, teach your service team to focus on the following areas:

• Verbal language (tone of voice, speed, inflection, speech, pronunciation and grammar)

• Body language (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and movement)

Look for telltale signs of a customer in a hurry, such as looking at your watch, looking around or frowning, talking fast, crossing your arms, or tapping your fingers. Also, take a close look at the image of your customers (eg clothing, accessories, hair, makeup, etc.). This can also provide you with many clues about your gastronomic needs.

Here’s an exercise to share with your service team. It lists various types of customers and ways to customize the service for each category of customer. During a pre-shift meeting or company training session, review this exercise with your restaurant service personnel.

Types of clients and service suggestions:

1. Celebrating

-Since customers hosting the celebration tend to have larger budgets, suggest higher priced items along with festive food / drinks and a cake to mark the occasion.

-Congratulate the celebrating customer and focus on your main event.

-Be social unless serving a partner who wants privacy.

2. Elderly

-Since many older customers have limited incomes, steer them towards value-oriented foods and recommend light, mild, and less spicy foods

-Be patient and speak slowly, project your voice and listen carefully

-Abstain from acts that could be construed as condescending or treat them like children.

3. Family (with children)

-Offer high chairs and booster seats

-Be prepared to make kid’s favorite suggestions and easy-to-eat finger foods

-Offer something to occupy the child’s attention (game books, crayons, cookies)

-Please be patient while the family orders and give the children the opportunity to place their order themselves.

-Pay a sincere compliment to the customer for their children.

-Ask children child-friendly questions.

-Place drinks where they are least likely to spill and remove obstacles (e.g. vases and centerpieces)

-Quickly clean up spills and keep area tidy

-Give extra napkins

4. Romantic couple

-Guide the couple to a cabin or secluded area for privacy when seated

-Suggest higher-priced items along with exotic wines, champagnes, and desserts, as romantic partners and people on first dates generally have bigger budgets.

-Provide a highly organized and efficient service.

-Minimize your conversation and give them privacy, without hovering over them

5. Business

-Suggest higher priced items, as many business people have business accounts and set assignments

-Suggest items to be prepared quickly and inform them if their selected order requires lengthy preparation, if they are at a business lunch

-Provide a highly organized and efficient service and ensure your order is delivered promptly

-Minimize your conversation and give them privacy without having to hover over them

Please note: When serving alcohol, train your staff to be aware of signs of intoxication and to avoid over-selling alcohol. Teach your staff to refuse the sale of alcohol to minors.

Other types of clients include clients who dine alone (the client alone), disabled clients, teenagers as clients, clients who are in a hurry, clients for the first time, and clients who dine in large groups / meetings. Again, each different type of customer has “specific” service needs. In addition to recognizing the category to which customers belong, the above service suggestions are intended to be recommendations and are not set in stone. Always be sure to fully assess each dining room customer by closely observing verbal and body language to determine how to positively interact with them. Mike Owens, General Manager of Brick Oven LLC, located in Topeka, Kansas, says, “Using the above examples in role-play scenarios is a highly effective method of properly training your service teams … it helps them fully understand the importance of tailoring your service rather than offering the same canned service to everyone. “

“Service” is not just about bringing food and drink to the table, but about giving the customer much more than they expect. Implementing a robust training program that focuses on personalizing your service will set you apart from your competitors. Exceeding the needs of each client with a personalized service takes a little more time. However, it is worth the effort. When the customer wins, everyone wins and it’s a triple play – more money for you, more tips for your service staff, and happy customers who become loyal patrons and refer their friends to your business.

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