The Lost Art Of Suggestive Selling

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This will be relevant by the end of the post.

“Subtlety is the art of saying what you think and getting out of the way before it is understood.” –Anonymous

We as a society have really lost the power of subtlety.  It could be because we have lost the patience to unravel it.  We receive far more information on a daily basis than our ancestors a hundred years ago could even process.  Most of this information is not subtle.  It is blasted at us with bells and whistles to get our attention.  The news channels do not just report the news, they also tell us what to think about it.  Movies no longer imply that a couple is about to “make whoopee”, they show us the scenes in the trailer.  In a few generations we have gone from Marilyn Monroe standing over a vent to Britney Spears getting out of a limousine.

With all of these changes, we have forgotten what it means to be “suggestive.”  This is particularly true in restaurants.  A few decades ago, corporate restaurants determined that they wanted their servers to be sales people.  The also determined that they had no interest in paying for the training necessary to actually accomplish this.  Instead, they decided to teach their servers to use adjectives and “suggestive selling.”  One of the first posts on this blog was declaring my disdain for the overuse of adjectives.  I recently realized that I never discussed my equal dislike for the corporate restaurant incarnation of “suggestive selling.”

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

The Rules of Serving: Rule Five

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Rule Five: Always recommend what is in the guest’s best interest, not yours.

(Note: There are many hyperlinks today that will send you to posts were I have previously addressed specifically issues that I address in this post.)

This is the second time in two days I have sat down to write this post.  Yesterday, I got caught up in a tangent which I think serves as an important preface to this post.  It even inspired a comment immediately that proved its accuracy.  In the preface, I discuss how restaurant companies have encouraged servers to focus on upselling and thus significantly damaged the relationship between servers and their guests.

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

Selling, Upselling, and Integrity

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I sat down today to write about rule five.  As I did so I realized that a preface was in order.  This morning I sat on my patio drinking coffee and reviewing the outline that I have scribbled on a legal pad. I began thinking about why this post was even necessary.  It should be common sense not to try to rip off your guests.  “Always recommend what is in the guest’s best interest, not yours” should go without saying.  Unfortunately, it directly contradicts what many servers are being encouraged to do.  So much so that even the guests know it.

I experienced this yesterday.  Waiting on a large group of teachers at lunch, I offered recommendations off the menu.  I suggested the sockeye salmon the chef was offering as his daily special.  I mentioned the flavor difference of wild caught salmon.  I discussed the life cycle, diet, and high levels of omega 3.  When I took the order, most of them chose my recommendation.  The last one looked up at me and said, “you are a great salesman, so I will have the salmon too.”  I was taken aback by this statement.  My description was more reminiscent of a teacher or a food critic than a salesman.  I did not use a “close” or try to appeal to their emotions.  I tried to sell them the best item by educating them and allowing them to make an informed decision.  My response to her was, “The difference is I will be here for the entire time you have the plate in front of you.  That is a guarantee no salesperson can make.”

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

How To Sell More Desserts

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I suppose I should start this post by thanking all of the servers who are still reading after my six post series on management and motivation.  I know it is a server blog, but I also recognize that a large portion of my readership is comprised of managers.  I hope those who read it found it interesting.  I promise to stick to server information for the next few days.   Today I wanted to come up with a big payoff for those that stuck with me through the series.

Today is one of my most loyal readers birthdays.  I noticed this and decided to dedicate a post to her for her birthday.  Becky was the first person I met as a result of this blog.  This is actually her second mention in the blog.  As I thought about what to write about in her honor, a light bulb went off.  In honor of one of the sweetest people I know, a post about desserts is in order.  I can’t buy her a free dessert, but I can write a free post about one.  So for Becky, I am for the second time digging into the folder titled “book” and posting some previously written material on desserts.

Let’s be honest.  If chocolate, cheesecake, and apple pie were healthy, calorie free, and provided you with all your daily vitamins and minerals, would you ever eat a salad?  Most people like steaks, salads, and pastas, but they love dessert.  Yet most servers will sell far more entrees than desserts.  Your guests come to the table with a great number of expectations and beliefs.  One of the most common beliefs is that ordering dessert is gluttonous or wasteful.  While you should not try to change that belief, you can always take a shot at being an exception to it.

Selling desserts is about exploiting the contradiction between what the guest feels they should do and what they want to do.  Buying a dessert is an emotional decision rather than a logical one.  You have to make the dessert appeal to their senses.  You have to instill the belief that the pleasure they will receive will outweigh any guilt they may feel afterwards.

In order to capitalize on these emotions to sell desserts, keep in mind the following concepts.

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

What Motivates Servers: Mastery

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(Note: This is part five of an ongoing series regarding what does and does not motivate servers.  It is based on research provided in part one.  I highly recommend visiting that post to gain proper perspective on this one. The second part dealt with how money fails to motivate servers.  The third part showed how lack of money destroys motivation.  Part four addressed autonomy as the first motivator.  Tomorrow, I will wrap it up by discussing the final motivator, purpose.)

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July.   One of the benefits of being in the business as long as I have is getting invited to the best cookouts.  Nothing like a few chefs putting together a meal.  I live in one of the greatest BBQ cities in the world, but yesterday I had the best ribs this city has ever seen.  Brined and then marinated for days in advance.  These ribs were treated with TLC that would never be possible to replicate in a restaurant.  The Executive Chef at one of the best Italian restaurants in town makes the best ribs in the city.  Moral of the story: you can’t buy the best ribs in town.

More importantly, you can’t pay to have the best ribs in town made.  A chef who cooks for a living and spends as much time cooking as sleeping made his finest meal for free.  Money did not motivate the extra effort.  He decided what he wanted to cook and he was cooking for his friends.  In the lexicon of this series, that translates to “autonomy” and “purpose.”  The interesting part to me is that as we all praised his ribs, he talked about how he would make them better next time.  Even as a professional certified chef, he was thinking of ways to improve.  The term for that is “mastery.”

Mastery for the purposes of this post is not perfection, but constantly striving for improvement.  Serving is not something that can be perfected.  Even the greatest servers in the world are still looking for ways to improve.  This is how they became one of the world’s greatest servers.  The key to mastery is constantly striving to improve.  Servers who recognize this find far more fulfillment, challenge, and reward in the job.  Managers who are able to instill this mindset in their staff are rewarded with highly motivated and productive employees.

Here are some tips on encouraging the pursuit of mastery amongst your staff.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

What Motivates Servers: Autonomy

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(Note: This is part four of a series based on research presented in part one.  Part one serves as the basis for the whole series and gives a great deal of background for this post.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend doing so to get the most out of this post and series.  In part two I addressed how financial incentives do not motivate servers.  In part three I looked at how lack of income can destroy your staff’s motivation.  The next few posts will look at what does motivate servers.)

I am sitting at my computer writing this on July 4th, 2010.  It is Independence Day.  Outside my window I have been hearing fireworks for hours.  They are completely illegal, but what better way of demonstrating independence than by flagrantly and loudly breaking the law.  The news tells us it is dangerous.  The police write tickets.  Cities and tourist attractions sponsor larger and safer displays.  They still go off outside my window.  Even when the law is in our best interest, we love to violate it.  We love exercising our independence despite the consequences.

Yet when people become managers and owners they seem to forget this.  Independence or autonomy is a core principle we are raised on and strive for.  When people try to take away our independence, we fight.  It is no mystery that people will rebel against rules in the workplace.  What is seldom considered is the power of autonomy to motivate.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

Why Contests Don’t Work

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(Note: This is the second part of a series I am posting over the holiday weekend.  The first part of this series lays out the basic premises this post and the rest of the series is based on.  In order to full appreciate this series, please read “The Epiphany” where the research behind this post is presented.)

Over the years I have been in countless serving contests.  The manager comes out at lineup and explains that whoever sells the most of the evenings fish special wins a lovely pink women’s size small t-shirt with the phrase “Buy Me a Tequila Rose” across the front.  Immediately visions of sporting this stylish shirt out to the club on my six-foot tall frame to pick up women go through my head.  Nothing says “class” like liquor company promo shirts.  All I have to do is regale my guest with mentions of the finely aged fish special that guests who came in the last three nights did not choose.  Tonight I can tell them that it truly is a limited time offer.  I will leave out that if they don’t buy it the kitchen manager can no longer in good conscience avoid throwing it out.

Fortunately, most of the contests were not as bad as the previously mentioned tale.  Most managers have accepted that cash is “one size fits all” and far more effective in the aforementioned club.  What surprises these managers, and myself in my time as a manager, is how poorly it works as a prize to motivate a staff.  The previous post outlines numerous studies that show cash incentives actually harm performance.  At first glance, this seems to make no sense.  Servers tend to be highly money motivated as a whole.  Yet cash incentives don’t lead to better performance.  Upon further examination though it can be easily explained.

Here are the basic reasons why financial incentives in the form of contests fail to motivate servers:

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

The Epiphany

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Epiphany: noun- a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

I suppose there is nothing more simple or commonplace than scrolling through Facebook.  I was scrolling through Facebook today trying to decide what to write about for today’s post when I ran across a video my friend Drew posted.  The description said it was something people who manage employees should watch.  I have been reading and writing quite a bit about that topic lately so I decided to give it a spin.  In one video I found the most concise explanation of a phenomenon I have been trying to put my finger on for a while.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

Coupons, Discounts, and How to Deal

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The old adage says, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Whoever said this wasn’t looking hard enough. Today it seems every restaurant is offering some sort of deal. Prices are being slashed. “Buy one get one free” is a growing part of the lexicon. Restaurants that previously never would have thought of discounting their food are now spending money to advertise specials. I went into the restaurant I began my career at the other day and found prices lower than when I worked there fifteen years ago.

As servers this trend is particularly disturbing. We typically get tipped a percentage of the bill. Twenty percent of free is hardly a reward for great service. This compounds the difficulties of serving. Discounts may fill the seats, but often translate to more work and less money for servers.

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

Ways To Motivate Servers

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Given the popularity of last Monday’s post on management styles, I decided to follow up with another management post.  This may become a regular Monday feature depending on the feedback.  While I am a server, I have worked on the other side of the office door.  I prefer serving.  I enjoy making guests happy and connecting with them.  Managing led me to have to deal with too many angry ones and not have the opportunity to prevent the problems in the first place.  As a manager, you spend your day fixing the problems your staff creates.  I moved back to serving years ago and don’t regret the decision.

In my time as a manager, I had the chance to test some of the theories on management that I had developed as a server.  It is far more difficult than it seems.  I decided when I made the switch that I was going to be the type of manager I wanted to work for.  This is where my theory of “Sergeants and Generals” was born.  Make no mistake about it; I was a Sergeant.  I always made it clear that I would never ask my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do.  I was forced to stand behind that principle enough times that no one doubted it.

At my first management job, I instituted three very specific ideas to motivate them.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

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