Service employees are one of the most important assets of catering operations. Too frequently waitstaff and bar staff are seen only as ‘order takers’.
When customers enter a restaurant their first personal contact with the restaurant staff is usually the waitstaff who shows them to their table. How often is that same customer presented with the menu and then left to ponder for a considerable time without being asked if they would like a drink while considering the menu? A potential drink sale is lost immediately.
When the waiter comes to take customers’ orders there is another chance for the employee to promote the menu, perhaps the restaurant’s specialty, a side salad, additional vegetables, wine to accompany the meal, rather than simply being an order taker.
At the end of the meal, the presentation of the dessert and liqueur trolleys can do much to revitalise a customer’s palate, rather than the waitstaff merely asking if coffee is required.
Some establishments operate training programs for service staff to help increase their awareness of the different ways in which they personally can contribute to an operation’s sale.
These training programs can include basic sales functions of the waitstaff, such as asking customers if they would like a drink when they arrive at the restaurant for more in-depth sensitivity training. Such techniques can be considered intrusive and when badly performed by waitstaff it can be seen by customers as ‘script’ reading.
It is important that staff have been trained to be able to ‘read’ the customer and to offer a personalised service that will increase the quality of the meal experience (which would then naturally lead to increased revenue)
Some operations encourage their staff to sell by providing incentives. For example, the waitstaff may receive a sales-related bonus for every additional $5 spent by a customer over and above a pre-fixed average spend; the additional sale indicating that the waitstaff sold more food and beverages than the average for that restaurant. Incentives are given to service staff in this way, however, needs to be introduced with sensitivity so that the wrong type of competitiveness between staff does not develop to the detriment of the restaurant.
When we consider that a menu is the primary sales tool for any restaurant operation it follows that product/menu item knowledge is important. Aside from issues concerning allergies, special diets or preferred tastes. discerning customers will expect waitstaff to have a thorough understanding of all dishes both in terms of ingredients, preparation and cooking. Good menu knowledge is an essential aid in the sales process, it provides an opportunity to discuss and where appropriate to up-sell more expensive or more profitable dishes. It also gives the customer assurance that the establishment is managed professionally.
Service Staff Selling Tips
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