How to train staff to deliver an exceptional guest experience
Coach your staff with these top 5 tips to improve customer service in your restaurant and make happier guests
A great dining experience does not solely depend on the food. A connection with the table waiter or an enthusiastic explanation from the chef can make any restaurant visit as memorable as its cuisine.
For a restaurant to deliver a great dining experience, its staff must be trained thoroughly in the art of customer service. While hospitality is no easy skill to teach, here are 5 essential tips on how to best prepare your staff to provide the best guest experience possible.
1. Teach proper greeting etiquette
The critical first impressions of a restaurant are often decided on the initial interaction the guest has with a staff. Whether it be a receptionist, waiter, or chef who greets the customer, the greeting must be a balance of professionalism and friendliness.
All staff should be taught to use appropriate language when greeting a guest; titles and last names should be used when addressing them and politeness should always be maintained through suitable distance and proper body language. Any information about the guests should not be assumed, particularly information concerning their name and phone number when it is a reservation and about their party size when it is a walk-in since these mistakes can make a guest feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
Keeping these formalities in mind, remind the staff that the ultimate purpose of greeting a guest is to welcome them into the restaurant–and kindness and sincerity will do just that. Smiling and taking the time to let the guests know that the restaurant is happy to host them or paying attention to repeating diners will make the guests feel taken care of from the get-go, a feeling that is sure to stay with them throughout the remainder of their dining experience.
With the TableCheck online reservation platform, restaurants can record crucial guest data beforehand which will help the staff avoid mistakes when guests arrive at the venue.
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2. Create a reliable staff schedule
Staff organization is crucial for delivering a good guest experience since the attitudes of the staff will translate directly into the atmosphere of the restaurant and the overall guest experience. If the staff are overworked and irritable, the diners are sure to notice it, which may impact how they view the restaurant's customer service in general.
Routine is key to building a good staff schedule. Reliability on the restaurant management part can be established by publishing the shift schedule on a regular timetable, such as on a monthly or biweekly basis. Doing so will enable the staff to plan ahead for not only their days on shift and also for their days off, creating a more balanced work environment.
When deciding on the staff shift schedule, it is important to forecast how busy the restaurant will be. Depending on the day of the week or the time of day, perhaps the restaurant gets more or less hectic. Predicting the flow of customers and adjusting the number of staff accordingly will prevent understaffing or overcrowding in the restaurant, resulting in more efficient workers and happier guests.
Using a reservation management platform like TableCheck will help the management keep a better track of customer flow that can enhance the shift scheduling process. TableCheck compiles reservations from multiple channels into one, and the number of reservations per time slot as well as the seatings of each reservation can be checked quickly and easily with its multi-purpose interface.
With the business analytics tool TableCheck Insight, restaurants can leverage the forecasting feature to check patterns and trends, busy days, and times to plan staff schedules. TableCheck Insight is part of the core package of the TableCheck platform.
3. Train staff on how to handle customer complaints
Mistakes and dissatisfaction are inevitable. Afterall, it is near impossible to fully please each and every diner. That said, how a restaurant handles customer feedback can make a big difference in the overall guest experience. If the restaurant is able to offer a sincere apology or even make some small amends, there is a better chance of customer retention that is a boost to any restaurant.
One principle all staff should remember when handling a customer complaint is that a complaint is still feedback, and feedback is necessary for the improvement of the business. This open-minded attitude is key when dealing with customer complaints that can, at times, sound irrational or unimportant. Furthermore, although the popular phrase believes that “the client is always right”, the staff should know that management can always intervene to de-escalate or better the situation. Building this trust between the staff and the management will support the staff to attend to customer complaints more respectfully and swiftly, making the process a more comfortable experience for both sides.
TableCheck’s reservation system creates customer profiles that sync with their booking, whereby prior complaints or reactions can be noted down alongside other information such as allergies and dislikes. Having the staff check the guest profiles before attending to them can minimize the risk of repeating the same error, which will provide an opportunity for the restaurant to demonstrate its improvement and retain its customers.
4. Customize training methods
Millennials, who are expected to compose 75% of the global workforce by 2025, are a technology and people-oriented generation. The more traditional, top-down approach is less likely to resonate with their leadership values, not to mention how the classic pen and paper is too outdated for their tech-savvy skills.
Incorporating technology can thus be a more efficient and effective way to train millennial staff, making the initial investment worthwhile later on. Visual training can be done through videos and online tutorials; interactive training can be achieved through gamification and the use of tablets or mobile devices. Technology-based training will allow staff to continue learning outside of the restaurant since such resources can be made available to them whenever and wherever. What’s more, the flexibility and accessibility of technology-based training can be beneficial for reducing instructor time as well as offering a more standardized training method that will reduce confusion and gaps in learning.
Team building and peer mentoring should also be implemented during the training process to encourage friendly competition and bonding. Laying a strong foundation for knowledge and collaboration among staff is essential for equipping them with the skills to provide a stellar guest experience, and it starts with training staff in a way that fits them best.
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5. Have staff dine in as a guest
Many things can be learned through first-hand experience. Providing an opportunity for each staff member to dine at the restaurant is a great way to teach them the small details necessary for creating the best guest experience.
Afterward, prompt them to reflect on their dining experience. Was there a warm welcome and a sincere goodbye? What things were more noticeable when sitting down at a table? How hard was it to catch the waiter’s eye? How did it feel to be interrupted during a meal? When were plates cleared too fast or too slowly? What explanations felt too long or too short?
Having the staff first experience, then understand the emotions and thoughts of the guest will help them become more attuned to the finer details of customer service, which is guaranteed to improve their delivery of the best guest experience possible.
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