Service that Sells| Restaurant Management and Training Articles
Service That Sells is a full line of training, marketing, and management tools designed specifically for the ever-changing world of hospitality. Read restaurant management and training articles from Service That Sells for tips on how to increase restaurant sales and improve service.
Why do restaurants fail? Despite the popular notion to the contrary, bad food or poor service alone never caused a restaurant to close. The bottom line is that restaurants fail because they couldn’t sell enough product to cover their costs. Your servers are your salespeople. You know that already, but do they? Servers often like to think of themselves as only what their title suggests. They serve guests – nothing more, and nothing less. As their manager and trainer, it’s your job to turn that mindset around. The key? Effective waitstaff training.
Teach your employees that sales and service are connected – you can’t have one without the other. Exceptional service may create word-of-mouth traffic in your restaurant, but it’s making sales that keeps the restaurant or business open. Service and sales (combined with effective cost control) are what make and keep a restaurant successful, your staff employed, and your business in operation. Service is what you do that expedites, or results in, a purchase, a sale, or a return visit. Service is the handle. Sales is the pump. It takes both to keep the water running.
Service is your invisible product. Good service adds value to the purchase, and service is what ultimately brings your customers back. No matter how unique your concept is – or isn’t – service is the one thing you can always do better than your restaurant competition. Selling is an integral part of the service process. No business provides service without aiming for a pocketbook somewhere along the line. As the expression goes, “Business is what, if you don’t have, you go out of!” Amen.
Service and Sales Training
Restaurants fail because they don’t sell enough to cover their costs. You can turn your servers into salespeople with The Service That Sells! Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series. Click here to learn more.
So you think you’ve got this hiring thing down. You’ve joined all the right groups. You’re recruiting in all the right places. You know how to ask the right questions. But still those less-than-suitable employees keep slipping through to muddle up your operation. What’s gone wrong? Maybe you’ve prepared yourself to hire the best people, but other managers within your operation are still going with the same old “hire ’em if they can breathe” method that’s so prevalent in the restaurant industry. It may be time to send in some mystery applicants to find out what’s not working.
Restaurants hiring the best should be first and foremost on everyone’s mind for the good of your operation. So train your managers with the best techniques for recruiting and interviewing quality employees. Then, test their skills by hiring “Mystery Applicants” to help you see where the problems are.
You’re probably familiar with the idea of a mystery shopper program to evaluate customer service. Using mystery applicants is basically the same idea. Setting up interviewees to evaluate the interviewing skills of other managers will help you identify the weak spots in your operation’s hiring chain. Shifty? Well, maybe… but keep in mind that you’re evaluating interviewers to identify where there’s a need for further training — not to get someone in trouble. And, by all means, tell your hirers that you may eventually send mystery applicants their way just to see that they’ve retained and are using their training.
Begin by soliciting the help of people about the same age and personality type as your typical employee. Consider contacting a temporary agency — be sure to describe in detail what you’re trying to do! Some restaurateurs have even contacted talent agencies for mystery applicants — aspiring actors will obviously be great at pretending to be someone they’re not!
Explain your interviewing and hiring policies and philosophies so they know how they should be treated. You don’t necessarily have to find people with restaurant experience. In fact, tell them to say they do anyway. If experience is one of your criteria and the interviewer can’t see through the fib and recommends hiring the applicant, they obviously need some additional hiring training.
The weather is getting warmer, it’s time to heat up your sales! It may surprise you how many national observances are in May. And while many of us don’t “celebrate” them, they can be effective tie-ins for creative summer promotions. Here are some May marketing ideas to try in your restaurant:
National Hamburger Month – The entire month of May is dedicated to the burger. The hamburger began in Hamburg, Germany, and the holiday is considered an official “celebratory” month for everyone. Increase your burger sales this month and bump up lunch traffic with hamburger specials. Create different specialty hamburgers each week, including some non-traditional vegan options, and post hamburger trivia for customer contests. Put all winner’s names into a bowl and draw the grand prize winner at the end of the month. The prize? Burgers for everyone, of course!
National Salad Month – If burgers aren’t your operation’s thing, May is also National Salad Month. Use the same strategies (create specialty salads, schedule different weekly specials) to make the most of this summer promotion. Be sure to include options for people with special dietary needs.
National Strawberry Month – If you’re a family-service restaurant, this holiday is perfect for promoting summer desserts, fruit plates and breakfast and lunch sides. Offer special prices on homemade strawberry dishes and check into local “pick your own” strawberry patches. They may be willing to trade services with you, allowing you to promote “fresh-picked, local strawberries” while you provide your smallest customers with gift certificates to “pick your own quart.”
National Barbecue Month – While many people view this observation as an opportunity to fire up the grill on their patio, it’s also an opportunity to create barbecue promotions for your guests. Or, if you’d like to perk up carry-out and catering orders, offer sides that compliment barbecues. Then market it as, “You fire up the grill; we’ll serve up the sides!
International Pickle Week – The fourth week in May International Pickle Week this year. Deep fry pickles and serve them as appetizers, offer unusual pickles with your deli sandwiches or stick pickles on a stick and promote them at the bar (“Beer and pickles?!” Why not!).
There’s no such thing as a “free” glass of water. In fact, according to industry reports, the typical glass of regular tap water can cost over a dollar per serving. How? The glass has to be ordered, inventoried, filled and washed for each guest — up go labor costs. When a glass breaks, it must be replaced. The cost of dishwasher soap, dishwasher rental or depreciation, heat, gas and water — hot water to clean the glass and cold water to fill it — all add to the cost, too. The ice machine runs all day and the air around it must be ventilated — up go the water and electric bills. Finally, don’t forget…the guest is likely to ask for ‘extra lemons’ and then use a few sugar packets and make their own lemonade. Ouch!
It stands to reason, then, if you haven’t correctly factored the cost of a glass of free water into your entree price, you’re losing serious bucks per day. Think about all those glasses of water on each table. It’s like placing a dollar bill next to each guest’s napkin. Share this information with your staff so they understand free water isn’t really free.
How to Make up for the Cost of Free Water
Consider making it a policy never to have water on the tables unless a guest asks for it. According to restaurant surveys, when guests were seated at tables with table tents that stated “In order to conserve the earth’s natural resources, we serve water by request only”, only about half of them went ahead and asked for tap water. You’ll have saved about half the costs of those free glasses of water! In addition, think of the labor efficiencies when servers or service assistants are not having to constantly refill water glasses. If you do provide water to everyone, perhaps put a half-carafe of water on the table to at least save some of the labor required to refill glasses.
The Customer Service Angle
We know what you’re thinking. Servers need to be able to provide free water to guests as a gesture of exceptional guests service. We’re not suggesting you stop offering free water. Just change your thinking about it, and train your staff to do the same. Offer your servers an incentive to take an active role in cost control. For example, encourage them to make up for the cost of free water by increasing check averages a dollar per person. With the right sales training, servers can cut costs and make more money for themselves and the restaurant.
As the restaurant employment outlook changes, effective restaurant managers are once again looking at tapping into a non-traditional labor pool in order to staff their restaurants. So where will you turn and what kind of employee will you turn to? First, take a look at the four general categories of today’s labor pool:
The Transients. On their way to some other career, they’ve stopped off in the industry for a relatively short time. Your student employees will often fit in this category.
The I-Don’t-Knows. They’re in the industry because they simply don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. They’re trying it out.
The I-Shouldn’t-Be-Heres. With no innate skills for food or service, they tend to give the service industry a bad name.
The Dedicated. They’re in the industry to stay, but still change jobs on a regular basis, always looking for that leg up, an opportunity for career progression and increased income.
Obviously, it would be beneficial to attract the Dedicated and the I Don’t Knows, provided you can convince the latter that this is the industry to be in and that yours is the operation to work for. With that in mind, think of your recruiting plan as a marketing plan. Not selling the traditional products you’re used to selling, but selling yourself and your business. Your aim is to be the employer of choice.
As you set out to be the employer of choice, know that the traditional labor pool must expand to meet industry demand. That means you’ll be looking at a new brand of employee with different needs and expectations. Certainly you can improve on the things you’re already doing, but to recruit in a tight labor market successfully, you have to analyze who is working for you and whom you want to be working for you.
The question that eventually arises is: If there aren’t enough quality people to fill your restaurant employment needs, where will I find them? More than likely in segments you’ve never considered before. Once you target those segments, you can create programs and policies and undertake actions that fulfill specific needs. Don’t forget that you’re competing within not only the restaurant industry for quality employees, but also cross-industry, including retail and other service-related businesses.
It’s happened to everyone in restaurant management. You arrive 10 minutes early, walk into the restaurant and immediately, without so much as lifting a pencil, find yourself already an hour or two behind because of the lousy close during the previous shift. What’s more, you know, as the day wears on, you’re going to uncover other issues, keeping you there even longer.
It’s easy for one manager or several employees to overlook key tasks required for a successful close — and a successful close means a successful opening the following day. What you need is a system of well-defined checks and balances to address the tasks. You need to adopt a “close-to-open” philosophy. Here’s how to get it started:
Analyze and Define
List each job position by category and add one for restaurant management. Then look at tasks that would make the following shift’s opening easier. Ask yourself: “If an employee fails to report, which tasks in his or her position could already be done for a smooth open.”
Once your open-to-close lists are complete, it’s time to implement them for each position. Ignoring close-to-open will have a negative impact on the environment you’re responsible for creating as the restaurant manager. After all, it’s demoralizing for any employee to feel he or she is cleaning up someone else’s mess or doing someone else’s job.
A key to the philosophy’s success is the consistency with which it’s executed. You and your employees must follow through on individual responsibilities every shift. If one dishwasher is allowed to skate one shift, it will encourage the next person to skate on something else, causing the system to break down. The typical excuse: “It wasn’t set up for me!”
Communication and follow-through from employee to employee and from manager to manager must occur regularly. Any items that get missed, no matter how small, must be addressed. The critical steps to getting this process under way are:
Getting the close-to-open tasks down on paper.
Involving employees in the creation of the standardized system.
Explaining the benefits to the staff.
Walking the next shift manager through the entire restaurant, discussing the current shift and reviewing expectations for the next shift.
Following up on everyone’s close-to-open tasks.
Constant and consistent follow-up will lead to permanent, positive behavior changes from your managers and your hourly employees. You’ve installed a series of checks and balances. As employees pick up and complete tasks they are responsible for, you’ll never enter the restaurant facing surprises due to the previous shift’s shortcomings.
Minimize waste. Prevent accidents. Control costs. Produce the best quality product. Oh, and make it quick. No wonder the atmosphere in the kitchen feels like the hot seat. But your kitchen employees can take the heat — or can they?
Safety and skills training: The majority of restaurant accidents happen in the kitchen. Training topics such as knife safety, proper cooking procedures, safe lifting techniques, and cleaning processes can all help reduce accidents in your restaurant.
Compliance issues: Some training topics, specifically for kitchen employees are required by federal, state, or local guidelines. Food safety training, for example, may be required to safeguard public health.
As a restaurant manager, it’s important that your kitchen employee training program also promotes teamwork. Train your kitchen workers of their importance in the big picture. (And train the rest of your staff on this issue, too!) Their team’s contributions often seem to go unsung because, from their view in the back, they rarely see the end user of their product.
Kitchen Employee Training to Promote Guest Service
Your training program should also stress that good service isn’t just the front-of- house team’s responsibility. It takes a concerted effort from everyone on the kitchen crew, too. The prep cook, the food expediter and the cook are critical to providing a great dining experience for guests. Serving those guests well means a kitchen production line that operates at its most efficient level.
Cross Training Your Kitchen Staff
When you cross train members of your kitchen crew, they’ll not only be able to back each other up when necessary, but it will also keep their jobs from becoming mundane. And, should your cook have a family emergency, you won’t be wiped out for the shift since you’ll be able to rotate your prep cook in to cover the orders.
Greeting and Beverage Window: First and foremost, greet customers quickly. Always have a specific idea of the beverages you’re going to suggest, using the Law of Primacy and Recency. All primacy and recency means is that people tend to remember the first and last things you say.
Here’s how it works. Just mention the menu item twice when suggesting it to your customers — in general at first, then get more specific at the end. Say you want to increase your specialty coffee sales. This could be your approach: “Hello, what can I start you off with to drink? Coffee, a soft drink, an iced tea (nodding)? Tonight we’re featuring our cappuccinos and lattes.”
Appetizer Window: After returning with the beverage order, assume your guests want an appetizer. You may hear “no thanks” from a four-top when you suggest something, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again with another four-top. In assuming the sale, you’re confident that not only you can sell, but also your customers want to buy. It’s a fact of life that salespeople are in the business of assuming success, not failure. Listen to the assumption used in this dialogue: “Have you had a chance to look over the appetizers? Which can I bring you?”
Entree Window: Describe daily specials and compliment guests on their selections (“Good choice!”). Take the order, suggesting sides or extras that go well with the entree. Grilled onions, bacon and mushrooms would enhance a burger, a side of guacamole would suit that burrito. At some point in the Entree Window, remind guests to save room for dessert with (“Don’t get too filled up. Our Chocolate Decadence Cake is out of this world and our Peach Cobbler is to die for.”)
Wine Window: The best time to suggest and sell wine is after the entree orders have been taken. After repeating back the orders to ensure accuracy and before leaving the table, servers can use the wine list as a sales prop, pointing out specific selections that will complement the meal but never pressuring the guests. The soft sell: “I’ll give you a minute to look over the wines and be back to take your order. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
Dessert Window: The Dessert Window includes suggesting desserts, coffee, tea, espressos, cappuccinos and other specialty beverages. If possible, use a dessert tray or specialty coffee list. Always suggest dessert before you mention coffee. Coffee tends to signal the end of the meal. If a guest declines dessert, suggest cappuccinos or lattes ahead of regular or decaf coffee.
Waitstaff Sales Training from Service That Sells!
In a restaurant, service and sales go hand in hand. Without sales, service can’t exist. And without service, you can’t sell anything. The Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series is based on the Service That Sells!, a restaurant training philosophy developed by restaurant owners for restaurant owners. Click here to learn more about our online waitstaff sales training programs.
The restaurant industry has always attracted teen employees. In fact, about one in three American workers had their first job at restaurant. And the truth is, we need young workers just as much as they need us. When hiring and training teen workers, you have a few goals as a restaurant manager. First, you want to bring them up to speed quickly, building their confidence along the way. Second, you want to inspire loyalty so you can keep them on your payroll as long as possible. And lastly, you want to teach them both hard and soft skills that will be the foundation of their future careers.
Training Teen Employees
Teen employees need to be trained and managed differently than your older employees. Follow these tips:
Don’t let them work too much. Research has shown that teenagers who work over 20 hours a week show high levels of psychological distress. If a doctor can detect it, so can your customers.
Keep them safe. Teen employees are more likely to get hurt on the job than your more experienced workers. Training should ensure that your teen employees can recognize safety hazards and are capable of following safe work practices. If they’re not, do everyone in your team a favor and let them go. Use video training to appeal to a teen’s need for visually based training.
Implement a buddy system. New hires have many questions, but teens often fear looking “stupid.” A one-on-one relationship with an experienced mentor takes the pressure off and makes the new hire more productive and safer.
Be specific. Every parent knows that if you want a teen to do what she’s asked, you need to be very specific about the task. And, because teens have shorter attention spans than adults, you also need to be brief. Consistently and specifically restate your expectations until the behavior you want is happening.
Model the behavior you want. Don’t expect teens to know the rules or what’s expected of them. Role play with experienced employees in team meetings and point out basics (smiling and greeting customers, asking permission to remove a plate, filling water glasses courteously, etc.). If you don’t show them what you want, you can’t expect them to deliver it.
Cycle of Service Restaurant Service Training
With every guest who walks through the door, your staff should be striving to not only meet expectations, but exceed them. Our restaurant service training follows the Service That Sells! Cycle of Service, breaks down a guest’s visit into separate steps from the moment guests pull into the parking lot until that final moment when they walk out the door. Click here for a preview.
Somewhere between new employee orientation
and today’s shift, employees lose some knowledge and skill. How much or how
little depends on the frequency of practice and reinforcement. Guests,
meanwhile, don’t care about the past. They’re interested in the service they’re
receiving at the present time. Are you confident your employees can deliver? Ongoing
and pre-shift meetings help ensure employees implement their training on every shift.
Make Your Pre-Shift Meetings Mean More
By design, pre-shift meetings have to be quick. But that
doesn’t mean they have to lack substance. Make the short amount of time you
have in your pre-shift meetings really count with these tips.
pre-shift meetings with a fill-in-the-blank approach. Multiple-choice tests
seemed easier than other forms of testing, didn’t they? You could figure out an
answer from the list of possibilities. But was the information really
understood? To succeed at fill-in-the-blank tests, on the other hand, you
really had to know your stuff. When you challenge your employees to apply
skills during pre-shift meetings, they will be able to apply them with guests
about your menu with the “recipe-of-the-day” activity. Select an item or a
few items to review with the front-of-the-house crew. In the back of the house,
have kitchen crew prepare the item exactly to standard. Cooks get to hone their
preparation skills, cashiers/phone reps get to taste items which, in turn, they
can describe to guests in better detail: “We tried one earlier today and it’s
outstanding!” Who can resist?
product knowledge. One by one, have front-of-the-house crew name a
characteristic, price, or other information about a featured menu item. What’s
missing? Who provided the best descriptions? Managers don’t have all the
information — employees do. This exercise encourages employees to share product
knowledge best practices and hear from peers, not just the boss.
employees by making them trainer for a day. Assign a menu-item or restaurant
policy to an employee and have them lead a short session in your pre-shift
meetings. Not only will this train your staff, it will help you uncover mentor potential
throughout your staff.
employees with a quote of the day. Post a quote about service, motivation,
or positive news each day. Employees are barraged with so much negativity
through social media, let their workplace be a source of positive inspiration. You
control the environment
in your restaurant. Positivity is contagious — pass it on!
The restaurant landscape is filled with competitors
who deliver ordinary experiences extraordinarily well. Your pre-shift meetings
give you the opportunity to set your restaurant apart. Use this time to build excitement,
reinforce communication, enhance product knowledge, and improve service skills.
Pre-shift meetings also foster fun interaction with guests. And fun translates
guest experiences every time.