Great hospitality is all about attention – to detail, timing, and the whole guest experience. It’s about anticipating a guest’s wants and needs before they’ve even thought to ask.
To learn more about how restaurateurs delight guests, keep tables turning, and run a smooth front of house, we talked to the pro teams of three restaurants: LB Steak in San Jose, California, and Mission & Market and Il Giallo, both in Atlanta. Read on for their expert tips and (free!) tools that benefit both the guests they serve and their bottom line.
Know the status of every table in your dining room.
Great hosts and managers know how to walk the dining room, taking note of where each table is in their dining experience. Maybe they’re waiting on entrees, or just paid the check. Savvy hosts keep track of table progress without even leaving the host stand – with automatic table status updates. That means hosts can welcome guests right when they walk in the door and give them accurate wait times, without having to constantly walk the dining room, and front-of-house staff can turn tables faster.
Stephen Racheff, General Manager at Mission & Market, says with automatic statusing he walks around the dining room about 40% less than he used to. “As long as you have your POS integration set up properly, it will update it for you to show the host where they’re at [in the meal] without having to update it.”
For Serena Harkey, LB Steak’s General Manager and sommelier, the extra visibility helps her run a leaner, more efficient front of house.
“It definitely maximizes the efficiency of our host stand,” she says. “It was very visual before and took a lot of legwork from the host team. We used to run a three-man team at the host stand, and I’m now able to do a two-man team because I don’t need one person constantly walking around doing visual updates – the system is literally doing it for us.
“Now we can better gauge the quote time we’re giving to our walkin guests, and the secondary person can be more present and readily available to greet guests. It’s made a huge difference.”
At Il Giallo, automatic table statuses free hosts up to focus on welcoming guests rather than walking the dining room. “The benefit is the guest coming in and having someone there to greet them,” says owner Leo Moura. “They don’t need to leave the door.”
Anticipate what your regulars want.
Now that you can spend more time with guests, get the right information at your fingertips to surprise and delight guests by staying one step ahead with service. Knowing their favorite cocktail, who served their table last time, or what they spent and when helps you recognize regulars and big spenders and make them feel appreciated.
Serena regularly reviews a guest’s previously ordered items before they’re seated. “That allows our servers to know our guests – and their wants and needs – before they’ve even sat down at the table,” she says. “We’re able to build on that relationship by offering things that they’ve already experienced here and hopefully have enjoyed.”
The LB Steak team keeps track of food and drink preferences in OpenTable guest notes, then delivers those notes to servers in advance so they know what to offer guests when the they arrive. That way, the server can see when a guest has ordered Pinot Noir in the past and recommend a new one to try. “It makes it effortless for the server to give the guest an experience we already know that they like.” [Read more…]