Everyone talks about customer service as if they understand it; we talk glibly about how important it is and how we know exactly how it should be done. Have you noticed how quick we are to complain about poor service, yet nothing ever seems to come of our complaints? Could it be that we are complaining to the wrong ears? How many times have you actually asked to speak to a manager so that you could calmly and rationally tell him/her why you were unhappy with the service you received? If we really thought about it, our goal is not to get someone fired. We simply want to point out what would improve the service so that we continue dining at that establishment. After all, if we never tell them what we think is wrong, how are they ever going to know they are doing anything at all wrong? Maybe they are completely unaware and they need to hear it from a customer who wants to continue patronizing an establishment.

What do you like about your favorite restaurant? I have a few personal favorites and the reasons are simple and I suspect they are the same as yours. I'm talking about casual dining, not the five-star, upscale dining experience. Most of us don't go to those establishments on a regular basis; we go to the casual to casual-upscale restaurant, where we know the food quality is consistent, the bar carries our favorite wine or brand of vodka. Probably the most important reason we go is for the consistent service. Of course we know the food is generally to our liking, but we also take for granted that we're going to receive the same service as usual, nothing outstanding, but they always manage to get our food to us in a timely manner and they aren't rude. And the atmosphere? Well, it's always kind of loud and we don't usually go there if we just want some peace and quiet while we eat. Sound like your reasoning when deciding to go out to eat?

Beware of the Sidework Slacker!

Everyone knows who the sidework slacker is. The culprit knows who he/she is. The sidework slacker is forever looking over his/her shoulder to make sure no one is going to stop him/her on the way out the door. For some of us in the business, we’d rather let the slacker go than have a confrontation. Yet, whenever I have confronted the sidework slacker in my own work experiences, he/she never reacted badly. In fact, it became a restaurant’s pet joke that one particular fellow would always try to get out the door without doing his sidework completely. It also became the pet joke that I would literally chase him down and have him come back and finish his work. I think he started to look forward to our daily clash of ethics!

What about them? In the restaurant business we like to say we know how important they are, yet we seem to push them aside when it comes to training and menu knowledge. They aren’t the ones who have the most contact with your guests; therefore, they don’t need to be trained as extensively as your wait staff.

Who is the first person your guests see when they enter your restaurant? Usually it is your host/greeter. Even if he/she is only 16 years old, he/she needs to be knowledgeable and above all, personable. Personable embodies the terms friendly, accommodating, likable and courteous. Everyone has gotten used to the high school student’s part-time job as every restaurant’s first impression when they walk into your establishment. Typically, they are wearing the latest fad, but they wouldn’t know how to put on a smile if you gave them written directions with an illustration. If there is more than one, they are gossiping with their fellow host and continuing doing so right up until they say “Hi, two for dinner? Right this way…” He/she takes you on a course through the restaurant to your table, puts the menus down and walks away. Next, you are visited by your teen-age busperson, who may or may not grunt a “hello” to you as he/she pours your water and then rushes off to clear a table so more people can be seated and served water.

Training Outside the Box!

Restaurant owners wouldn’t be owners if they didn’t know everything about every position in the business. While that is certainly true, owners/managers are not always able to make sure that training is being handled in the way that is the most productive and profitable. In fact, I don’t know of an owner or a manager who can spend more than 10 minutes per day with an individual and expect to accomplish an effective change in attitude and check average. I have been told by more than one restaurant owner that a problem with offering training for wait staff, hosts and buspeople is that owners don't want to believe that their staff may need more training beyond what they have received in standard, in-house training.

Managers hold weekly or monthly staff meetings in which they remind staff to really push those sides and appetizers. Try to get check averages above the usual $9 per person, do your side work, pick up trash if you see it laying on the floor, be a team player, don’t run with scissors, etc. They have heard it before; they’re not going to listen this time either, because they know all of that.