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How Can Sparks Steak House Improve Their Restaurant Dining Room Customer Service?

The above question was asked on Quora to which my answer is given below.
I hope that you can apply this answer to your restaurant!

To improve the customer service in a restaurant of any size, shape or form, one must first understand the definition.

Excellent Restaurant Service has 2 parts: Excellent “Attitude” (Mental) and Excellent “Mechanics” (Physical)

We can actually sum up the Attitude part with 2 words: “Care and Concern” — at ALL times with guests, co-workers and oneself.

Webster’s Dictionary best describes it as “Serious Attention.”

Everyone who walks through that restaurant front door must have an awesome dining experience telling all friends and family.

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Yet, the Mechanics part is much more complex.

There are two main aspects to improving the “Mechanics” (Physical) part of Customer (Dining Room) Service

1) On-site Restaurant Dining Service Operations Evaluation, Review and Troubleshooting

2) Dining Room Staff Training-–especially Waiter Training

The first aspect is an intense evaluation, review and troubleshooting of the restaurant dining room system by a well trained and experienced eye like myself — A Waiter in NYC for over 20 yrs. and a Restaurant Service Consultant in NYC for over 20 yrs.

If there are many flaws in the dining room service system, then even the most highly trained and experienced waitstaff will make unnecessary mistakes— translating into headaches, lost revenue and poor reputation.

Operations with these flaws will end up losing their best waiters to the restaurant across the street whose service system is flawless.

So now, the restaurant is left with a still poorly run dining room and inexperienced waiters who don’t know any better.

Here lies the recipe for failure even though the food may be phenomenal.

PS — 8–9 restaurants fail within the first year.

Some very important concepts that a superb restaurant service system must include are clear, readable floor diagrams on paper with position points (posted!), proper seating coordination beginning at the front door, available menu glossary/descriptions, properly forecasted and balanced staff schedules, detailed operational manuals for each service position, sidework postings, and many more.

Every restaurant may also have flaws unique to their operation which must be be spotted, reported and fixed by a highly experienced eye.

After the dining room service system is organized, structured and functioning at top efficiency level and speed, the waiters and dining room service staff can now be trained to work within this particular system.

PPS -The big mistake is to train the waiters and dining room staff without having understandable and coordinated service systems in place first.

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Now, we can go on to aspect 2:

For the second aspect of Restaurant Service Training, I break it into 2 more parts:

a) “Steps of Table Service Cycle” Lecture

b) Mock Service Sessions.

For the “Steps of Table Service Cycle” Lecture: A lesson must be taught to each service position group—- running everyone through the Cycle.

For example with the waiters: the steps of table service cycle will be intensely reviewed covering important areas such as dining room service preparation, greeting, awareness, understanding, communication, food and beverage knowledge/upselling, service and sales technique, (including wine and champagne service), table maintenance throughout the meal, food service sanitation and safety, plus an overall review of restaurant customer service understanding and more.

The rest of the staff (Food Runners, Bussers, Hosts) must have similar, separate training sessions–obviously a bit shorter.

Customized, detailed, operational staff manuals mentioned above must be utilized for these training sessions at each position.

b) After the Restaurant Service Lectures are completed, we can move on to Mock Service Sessions.

An excerpt from a past article I wrote explains:
(http://www.topserveconsulting.com/are-you-using-mock-restaurant-service-training-techniques/)

The Mock Service technique is very simple as you will have all staff take turns serving a table from beginning to end. The 2 people to be served must be highly experienced restaurant people constructively criticizing and correcting staff mistakes while highlighting the good points.

There is a certain amount of improvising that must be explained to the staff ahead of time as no food or beverage will be served. There will only plateware and glassware with “mock food and beverage.”

Waiters and other staff who are actively serving will learn. And, all staff who are observing will quickly learn the do’s and don’ts in providing superb restaurant service.

All (hosts, bussers, food runners, waiters etc.) will be participating, watching and learning. And, ALL possible, proper service techniques will be instilled during each trial run.

Please note that after observing and understanding the process with/through myself, the owner/operator can continue this restaurant service training process well into the future.

During the mock service, each waiter can interrupted numerous times to point out the good and bad techniques.

It is important to let the best waiters, bussers, food runners perform the first mock runs to give everyone a chance to observe the best style and technique that the restaurant has to offer.

And then, let the lesser qualified and experienced staff go last.

This way they can utilize what they have just learned and apply!

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Well Restaurant World, there you have it all in a nutshell.

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About the Author:
Improve Restaurant Customer Service - Proper Floor Diagrams & Table Numbering
Richard Saporito is the Founder of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, author of “How To Improve Dining Room Service.” If you’d like to improve your restaurants’ service reputation and increase sales, contact Richard today for a Free Initial Consultation by calling (888) 276-4808 or visiting his
Contact Page.

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