Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Key to Great Service

Throughout my Restaurant Service Journey I have often been asked "what is the key to great service?"

Having worked several service positions in 30 years; busboy, waiter, Captain, Chef de Range, Wine Steward, Maitre d'hotel, Restaurant Manager and Restaurant General Manager I thought at each position I had found the answer. Culinary knowledge, formal service techniques (e.g. tableside service) wine expertise, computer literacy, written and verbal communication skills to name a few. These qualifications are very important however the answer was there for me from my first busboy job.

The Key to Great Service are Great Employees.

Successful Service Restaurants retain great employees by: Hiring people with a Passion for Service and a can-do attitude, training and developing ALL employees, promoting on ability, compensating fairly and enforcing policies equally.

Many times management becomes focused on administrative and financial responsibilities, latest food & beverage trends and bringing in more customers we forget the foundation of our restaurant is:

The Employees.

The Service Culture (see previous blog) will determine the type of employees and ultimately the level of service. We live in a multi-cultural society. Our employees are a representation of this society. How do we successfully create and maintain a Service Culture with such a diverse workforce.

Let's discuss this in our next blog.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Journey to #1

On our previous posting we mentioned the restaurant I manage is #1 in dinner service (year-to-date) in a very large company. This didn't happen overnight. In fact it took years. Let us start that long, exciting and sometimes frustrating trip.

A few years ago this restaurant was on the bottom with dinner customer service. As the GM coming from a very successful dinner restaurant with professional service, I was in for a culture shock. Some would say I was in for a challenge, however I use the term culture shock for a reason. Many industry professionals state; "to turn a restaurant around you have a progressive action plan with timelines, training goals, incentives, motivational meetings, etc." They are correct to a point, these things can be useful in improving service. However every journey must have a beginning and the beginning of successful service in a restaurant is it's culture.

Proper Service Culture in a restaurant starts with the management team. The team should have these basics:
  • Professional desire to give customers quality food, great ambiance and excellent service.
  • Genuine respect for all team members from the dishwasher to the owner (notice the first person mentioned could be the most important, from a service perspective.)
  • Willing to share industry knowledge and experience.
  • Love of service and an understanding how it contributes to the BIG picture.
  • Realize change takes time and daily effort.
  • Commitment that it takes money to make money (i.e. fair wages, proper equipment, advertising, etc.)

If the team doesn't have these basics then the chances of developing consistent professional service is minimal if not impossible. Most employees want to do a good job in taking care of customers. The customer relationship is very direct ( great service = lots of satisfied customers = I have a job.) The actions by the management team that they support and understand this relationship will energize the service culture. We know there are other factors that contribute to a successful dinner restaurant but this is about the service component.

Well we've started our journey to #1 but as in life the unexpected happens. How do we keep the ship on course in both good and bad weather.

I get the feeling that's our next posting.....