Should you throw away the book?

No one can deny the importance of ongoing staff training. Whether it is for veteran staff or new hires, training is one of the most important practices in any restaurant.
 
If you are like most owners or managers, you have a training manual equipped with your restaurant’s standard operating procedures and expectations.  As a result, rather than enhancing the individual’s hospitality assets, the training boxes individuals into a predetermined script, and a cookie cutter service atmosphere prevails.

I am not suggesting you throw away your training manuals. However, what if rather than have a book filled with “if/then” statements and greeting and time requirements, you trained your service staff to identify cues, then mirror and mock, and empowered them to use their best judgment in service situations?

Contemplate these examples:

Mirror and mock; identifying cues: A table of four comes in for lunch. Each person is dressed in business attire and there is a feeling of formality when the group walks in. Before approaching the table, the server takes this cue that this is a business meeting and approaches the table in the same formal manner as the group, which builds the professional atmosphere that the party was anticipating.

Mirror and mock; identifying cues; empowerment: A table of four comes in for lunch. Each person is dressed in business attire, yet there is a feeling of excitement and joviality. The members of the party are laughing as they are shown to their seats and one member of the party seems to be getting teased by the other members. The server takes the cue that there is some sort of work celebration and approaches the table with a greeting of “Good afternoon! I sense there is a celebration occurring here. Can you let me in on it?” From there the server finds that the group is celebrating a party member’s impending nuptials.  Further, to enhance the party’s experience, the server is empowered to offer a complimentary dessert.

Mirror and mock; identifying cues; empowerment: A table of four comes in for lunch. Each person is dressed in formal business attire. The members of the group are solemn. When they talk to one another they use low voices. As the host is seating the party, she overhears one say, “It’s such a shame,” Another says, “he was so young.” With the cues presented, the host feels comfortable that the party is part of a funeral and tells the server. The server, using mirror and mocking techniques, approaches the table softly and empathetically. He is careful not to interrupt and not to talk too loud, jovially or formally. The empowered server then orders a dish for a member of the party to take to the family who has experienced the loss with the restaurant’s sympathies.

These are just a few scenarios with similar participants where identifying cues, using mirror and mocking and being empowered give the staff an opportunity to create a “wow” experience. Incorporating these techniques in your training will put your restaurant above the service standard. In return, your guests will have an unprecedented hospitality experience and come back again and again.

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Wendy Dimitri

Wendy Dimitri is the principal of The CRB Group, a full-service restaurant consulting group specializing in independent restaurant concepts. With more than 20 years of experience in the service...
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