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Greet Your Customers At the Door for a Great First Impression
Every customer that enters your restaurant needs to be greeted or acknowledged by your staff in a timely fashion. This is the customer’s first impression.
Too many times restaurant customers are not greeted promptly or acknowledged as they enter the restaurant. This first impression is vital for repeat business. Not only can a positive first impression build sales, the opposite can happen if your customers leave your restaurant dissatisfied or unhappy. Do you want something as simple as a greeting to lose customers to your competition?
The restaurants first focus is the front door. Do what it takes to make sure every guest is greeted with a warm and friendly smile.
Some restaurants have limited cash flow and cannot afford to have a greeter scheduled. During the off-peak time maybe no one is watching the door for arriving or departing customers. If that is the case, then find an alternative.
It is frustrating to walk into any business and then need to search for the staff members who can help you. Even worse is seeing staff members who don’t even acknowledge your presence and employees who are involved in leisure activities like hanging around with other employees, or talking on their cell phone.
Many restaurant complaints occur during the off peak times simply because there are fewer staff working, and often management is in the office catching up on paperwork. The number one reason for complaints during off peak times is because the staff and management became relaxed and less customer-focused. You must instill the value of every customer to your staff and managers.
If you can’t always have someone watching the door, then use other ways to alert staff of customers arriving. Installing a bell system or a door alarm at the front door would be an inexpensive way to alert your staff members that a guest entered or departed the restaurant, especially when you don’t have someone available to greet guests.
Install another bell or intercom system in the manager’s office from the kitchen and service area. Then if a staff member needs a manager, the staff can use the bell or intercom system to alert the manager that the that they are needed right away. This way the employees can stay focused on their work and don’t have to run to the office to find the manager. This also serves the purpose of an alert system in case of an emergency.
If you do have customer complaints because no one greeted them or acknowledged them it will be costly. Your restaurant depends on repeat business. You need to take responsibility to make every customer feel welcome.
Teach every staff members, including cooks, dishwashers and servers that the front door is priority number one. All staff members need to be able to greet the guest, and then seat the guest in a timely fashion. Teach the employees the server seating chart and table numbers.
A schematic diagram of the dining room floor should be posted in several areas, including the greeter stand area and service aisle. The chart should be laminated or in a protective sheet.
The diagram is used in the greater area to track which tables are in use and have a rotation system in seating guests. It is a good idea to set up several “section” charts, with some of the most “preferred tables” in each section. You know which tables may be requested more frequently, such as booths or tables near a window, private seating for customers out on a date, or larger tables for families and groups. Make sure these preferred tables are evenly divided in each section, and if that isn’t possible, then make sure that your servers are not always assigned to the same sections.
In addition to welcoming guests, the greeters should ask guests if they have a preference, such as a table or a booth. When a large group arrives, there shouldn’t be a question about whether the group can sit together. Figure out a way to make it happen. They are there to share that group experience and if you can’t provide that to your customers, they will find it at your competition.
The service aisle chart will allow the manager to list all the server names with their table numbers and section assignment. Once the chart is filled out it will make it a whole lot easier to know what server is assigned to what section along with their table numbers.
The seating chart is also helpful in running food to the guests. This shows, at a glance, where each table location in the dining room with the table number and the server assigned at that time. Make sure the server names and table assignments are updated as servers come and go from their shifts. When a server is working, it is best to keep that server in one section and do not switch it mid-shift or when another server arrives.
Begins training how to greet the customers at your employee orientation. If you don’t have a training program and you don’t know what to cover with new staff, then look for help in learning it because that is another key to your success.
Explain to all employees that it is their responsibility to greet all guests as they enter and depart the restaurant. Teach all staff members on how to acknowledge the guest if they have their hands full. For example, if a server is carrying plates or glassware and can’t immediately seat the guest, the server should still greet every guest entering the restaurant. They should welcome the customer and assure the guests that someone will be right with them. Then that server should follow through on either seating the guest or tells greeters or other servers that there are customers waiting to be seated at the front door.
If the employee is on break or has reported to work early, and they are hanging around the lobby area, it is still their responsibility to greet the guests. Ignoring them sends a negative message whether the staff person is on duty or not. That customer doesn’t know that the person is off the clock. Train each employee that they are representing your restaurant any time they are present in the restaurant, or even outside the restaurant in uniform.
Most restaurants have a policy that the employees cannot hang around the lobby area, but it still can happen. It is best to tell employees once they are done with their shift they must go home and not to hang around at any part of the restaurant. In addition to the negative sense it may give to guests, off duty employees who hang around after they are done with their shifts creates a distraction for the restaurant employees who are actually working.
Any employee who is in eyesight of a customer should have a clean and pressed uniform. If an employee from the kitchen is sent to seat guests, they should remove the kitchen apron before they greet the guest to be seated.
All employees who arrive to work or take a break or they are done for the day or night needs to be in a full clean and pressed uniform; their shirts need to be tucked in. They should also not be sitting reading, playing games, texting or talking on a cell phone. The guest does not know if employees are on break, arrived to work early, or are done for the day. Look at it from the guest’s perspective to understand what they see through their eyes and hear what they hear. Putting yourself in the customer’s place will help you see and hear a different perspective on customer service. If you were the guest and saw these things what would you think? This is so important to your restaurant’s success.
Teach all employees that there is no cell phone use while on duty or on break in the guest’s view.
You should also not allow employee smoking in front of the restaurant or in the guest’s view even while on break, or off the clock at the beginning or the end of a shift. Many restaurants and businesses have designated employee smoking areas that are far from a customer’s range of sight.
A really good idea is to have your staff members add an extra enhancement of great customer service by opening the doors as the guest arrives and departs the restaurant.
Work outside the box and be creative on how you want your guests greeted and seated. Do what you have to do to beat your competition by providing service and food above and beyond the norm.
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