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Prepare to be Remarkable

October 28th, 2008

Last week I was watching Cinderella with my daughters during our Friday Family Movie Night. I love the part where the fairy godmother uses her magic wand to create the carriage and ensemble to take Cinderella to the ball. While I was watching that I was thinking to myself; I wish I had a magic wand! Smile

That wand would be helpful when we receive calls to discuss how to get a service team to be Remarkable. I could then just wave my wand and poof, your old service team would be gone and a shiny, new and Remarkable service team would appear.

Ok now back to the reality. Let’s take your current service team and prepare them to be Remarkable.

In our Elements of Service workbook we teach the Remarkable Service Cycle. Maybe it’s because the first stage of the cycle isn’t “sexy” but for whatever reason we’ve only had one article written about the Preparation stage in four years of Service Talk.

It’s because of an experience I had yesterday that I feel we need to talk about the Preparation stage. (I’m not going to talk about that experience. It may take a magic wand but I’m hoping they will read this article and think “a-ha, we need to change some things around here”)


There is no guest interaction during the Preparation stage but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Ben Franklin said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The Service Cycle is repeated for each new guest so the server will go through the Preparation stage several times during the shift. And if done correctly you will see a more engaged service team, better guest impressions, increased sales and the guest will be more apt to leave having had a Remarkable experience.

3 Steps to A Successful Preparation Stage

===> 1. Prepare Yourself

A well-groomed appearance communicates professionalism and creates a great first impression. Uniform or clothing should be pressed and spotless. What’s that saying, “The Clothes make the man”? This can certainly be true for servers.

Stained aprons are a no-no, hair should be tied back and please wear a belt when possible. Hand washing is important for many reason and don’t forget to clean the fingernails.

Owners/Managers, put a mirror where the staff can check themselves during their shift.

===> 2. Prepare the Dinning Area

It’s a big turn-off to be seated at a dirty table. I also tell servers that even if you have bussers cleaning and setting the table, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure everything is prepared correctly for the guest. If it’s not clean or there aren’t plates on the table for the bread or the seats are wet, guess who gets blamed……YOU!

===>3. Know the Daily Menu Changes

It’s very discouraging to hear a server say “I’ll have to go check with the kitchen” when my wife asks about the soup of the day. Lots of blame to go around for this but I tend to blame management. A servers lack of knowledge around the daily items and specials means management isn’t pre-shifting.

Every server on the floor should know the soups, daily specials and 86′d items. Managers should be quizzing their staff before and during the shift. It’s hard to maximize a ticket average when you don’t know these simple things.


Remarkable Service doesn’t just happen in your establishment. There is no magic wand to wave around. There is no silver bullet. It’s takes training and consistent reinforcement. Now go prepare to be Remarkable!

The 100,000 Dollar Server

September 30th, 2008

Yes, it’s a well-worn road to say that service is of paramount importance, but it’s a road that must be traveled often to ensure a restaurant’s success. Quality of service immediately impacts a restaurant’s bottom line, and instilling a Remarkable Service attitude not only benefits the restaurant, but also the server.

With that thought, let me share a conversation that occurred after a recent Maximizing Sales session at a Minneapolis restaurant.

One of the class participants came to me after the program to share her exuberance for the event. She was thrilled that her employer cared enough about the guest experience that training was ongoing, relevant and timely. The service professional was clearly demonstrating an attitude of gratitude and was excited to get to share this learning with her guests. The discussion advanced, and I asked her to share with me her goals for 2008.

Her answer?

“I will earn $100,000 as a server!”

Yes, you read that correctly. Of course, this conversation led to more questions, such as, “How much did you earn last year?”

With great pride, she responded, “$92,000.”

And no, she was not working more than 40 hours per week. It should also be said that the Minneapolis restaurant in which she works is definitely upscale, but not fine dining. Still, $92,000 last year, with a goal for $100,000 in 2008? What does a server do to earn that level of compensation? Her answer:

“I write 17 to 25 personalized, handwritten ‘Thank You’ notes every shift that I work. Over 70 percent of my tables on a given night are repeat guests who I have developed a relationship with. My employer even mails my ‘Thank You’ notes for me and puts on the stamp, and we also enclose a bounce back card!”

From this conversation, some questions for all restaurateurs to ask themselves are:

• What is this frontline employee worth to this restaurant?

• Based on a 20 percent tip factor, what sales dollars need to be generated to earn this return?

• How many $100,000-a-year servers do I have on my team?

• And, finally, perhaps the most important question: What would I do to keep this server representing me?

The Do’s and Don’ts of Running an Effective Pre-Shift

August 26th, 2008

Running a pre-shift meeting is like flossing your teeth. Everyone knows you need to floss at least once a day but for whatever reason some people just don’t do it. And just as there are consequences for not flossing, skipping pre-shifts can impact your bottom line.

If you are not interested in building service consistencies, or teamwork, or even educated and motivated team members then maybe pre-shifts aren’t for you. :) But for the rest of you they should be an integral part of your daily operations and part of your communication strategy.

Communication is very important to any business and pre-shifts are a great communication tool. A tool that creates a structure to assure the whole team is aware of what is going on in the business, market and community.

Here are some guidelines for running a successful Pre-Shift. By Following these simple Do’s and Don’ts you will achieve success in this important training function.

Do Plan – I’m sure you have heard the saying “managers don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”. Our clients utilize a pre-shift template that helps them plan the meetings. Having a template tends to help ensure a very smooth & consistent running pre-shift.

Specific things to talk about include the daily specials, soups of the day and any 86x items. Talk about restaurant goals, team goals and any goals or objectives you have for different areas of your team, like Servers, Cooks, Bussers, Hosts and such.

Do KISS – Not figuratively of course because kissing all of your team members could lead to some legal issues. :) KISS stands for Keep it Short and Sweet. And by short I mean really short. Two minutes, three tops. These meetings should be quick hits that inform, instruct and motivate right before the revenue period starts.

When your staff hits the floor you want lots of positive energy so keep the meeting sweet & positive. No sour grapes during these gatherings. There is a time and place for reprimand and negative issues and this isn’t it.

Do Focus – Focus on one primary area to talk about. Whether it’s maximizing sales, providing remarkable service or menu knowledge, pick one topic and focus on that area during your meeting.

Don’t do all the Talking – You want to keep your teams attention so make the meetings interactive. For example when you mention the daily specials have someone give a sales presentation around one of those specials or ask servers what their check average goal for the day is. Try and come up with questions you can bounce off your team where they have to respond.

Don’t Forget to Recognize Team Members – Everyone likes to be hear that they are doing a great job. When that recognition is done in front of their peers that makes it even better. Look not only for individuals to recognize but teams as well.

There, no more excuses about not knowing how to run or what to talk about during a pre-shift. We will also soon be releasing a DVD that will not only talk about how to run an effective pre-shift but will also show real examples of our clients engaged in a pre-shift. Until then follow these guidelines and you will soon be reaping the benefits of a well coached wait staff team. And don’t forget to floss!

Failure of the Shadow Method

June 30th, 2008

“Hi! My name is Paris and I’ll be your server. Are you ready to order?”

It’s an unfortunate fact that I’ve heard that greeting a million times. When a waiter or waitress leads with that greeting, 99 percent of the time it means that my service experience isn’t going to be Remarkable :)

But this experience was oddly different.

My waitress, while extremely energetic and friendly, was very short. But what she lacked in height she more then made up for with her smile. That smile was beaming and went from ear to ear. As I looked at her I could actually read on her face how excited she was to be taking my order.

She was neatly dressed from head to toe in all black, and her hair was pulled back into a pony tail. She had a pencil placed behind each ear and one in her hand eagerly waiting to write down my order on a small pad of paper. She was very skinny so she wrapped the apron around her body twice and then tied it off with a bow in the back.

I ordered the Orange Juice and French Toast which she carefully wrote down on the pad of paper. She repeated the order back to me and waited for my OK. I said it sounded perfect and she quickly ran the order to the kitchen.

The rest of the meal was incredible but here’s what was so different and special about this dining experience.

The server was my 6 year old daughter. It was Fathers Day and she was waking me up early to take my breakfast-in-bed order.

On the outside this just looks like a cute little story. But take a deeper look and you’ll find my daughters actions very revealing.

Let’s start with her greeting. It wasn’t very good. In fact on a 5 point scale with 5 being Remarkable and 1 being sucky, she floated more to the sucky side. So what does that mean? We are talking about a six year old here.

Those of you that have children know that young minds learn from their surroundings and mimic behaviors they witness. I’ve never taken my daughter through the training program “Elements of Service” (although maybe I should. :)) and I doubt she has read any of my articles on service. That leads to the conclusion that her initial greeting was developed using what we call in this business, the shadow method. She developed her greeting by watching & listening to your service team.

WOW! Does she really hear “are you ready to order” that often?

I hope this opens your eyes as to why the shadow method doesn’t work. Your team isn’t doing it right to begin with! :) You need a structured service training system in place that takes your team through the entire service cycle, including the initial greeting. Setting the service expectations is imperative to a successful guest experience. Call us to help you with this.

Now for the positives. Did you notice that she repeated the order back to me. That’s a great habit because it gives the guests the confidence that the order was taken correctly.
The other positive was how she dressed. Her perception is that a server should be dressed impeccably with neither a wrinkle or a stain on the uniform.

It’s amazing what we can learn from our children. And as a parent it’s my job to help my child learn the correct way of doing things. Which is why, after the breakfast-in-bed, it was so hard to decide which feedback form to use; the mystery shopper or the service audit. :)

The Ultimate Guide to Consistency

April 28th, 2008

Consistency is a word I’ve been hearing over and over lately. Unfortunately I usually hear the word consistency after the words “lack of”, “need better service” and “I can’t get no” :)

I hear this from restaurant owners who are calling to ask for help in getting their team to provide better service. 75% of these calls are from people feeling anxious about the economy.

You can’t pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the news on TV these days without hearing news about the economy. And it’s being presented with a very doom and gloom slant.

As a result of all this negative talk, many restaurateurs are starting to worry about how this economic downturn will affect their business. They are taking a hard look at their restaurant operations looking for ways to improve. Most come to the same conclusion; they need to outservice their competition.

Here’s a typical phone conversation:

Restaurant Owner: Our service is very inconsistent. What can I do to get our staff to be more consistent?

4RS: What kind of service training do you provide?

RO: What do you mean?

4RS: If you hired me as a server today, what kind of training would I receive before I was given the green light to start waiting on guests?

RO: You would have to pass our menu test and follow a head waiter for a couple of shifts. (Shadow method)

4RS: OK. How do you communicate YOUR service expectations to your new team members?

Restaurant: huh?

4RS: How does your team know what you expect during the service cycle? For instance do you have standards about what should happen when they greet a table or what to do after the entrees have been delivered? Do you have anything written down or any classroom training that focuses on these types of service expectations?

Restaurant: No, not really. We’ve been meaning to get to that.

4RS: Well let’s not focus on what isn’t happening, but instead lets focus on what you should and will be doing moving forward :)

That’s a pretty typical conversation and here’s the plan we lay out to help these restaurants outservice their competition.

1. ==> Have your service cycle steps and standards on paper. It’s easier to train your staff when you have your service standards written down. You need to present these in a classrom setting. Whether you use an off the shelf training package that includes an instructors guide, like what we offer, or you develope your own material this is an important first step.

2. ==> Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. If you want consistent service then your message has to be delivered over and over and over. Every pre-shift meeting should include a topic about service expectations. Use a game like our Millionaire style game to help hammer your points across each month.

3. ==> Measure. Have you ever watched a sporting event on TV that didn’t have a ton of stats on each player. In golf they keep track of fairways hit, greens hit, average number of putts and so on. What you’ll notice is that no one is perfect…but they measure to see how close they can get. I have yet to watch an event that didn’t keep score.

That’s the way your service team should be. No one will get it perfect every single time but most team members don’t have any idea how they are doing. They don’t know the score. A service audit for each team member once a month will put you on the path to a consistent level of service.

We’ll talk more about a service audit next month. Until then I’m off to the driving range to see if I can get rid of the consistent slice I have when using the driver.

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