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.”

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Leadership: Empowering Others

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Provide the power and watch your staff come to life.

“If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.” -Dee Hock

You have two choices as a manager.  You can force every staff member to do things as you would do them or you can encourage them to achieve the results you want to achieve.  The first choice will force you into a great deal of resistance and move you further from your goal.  The second will reduce your stress as your staff finds innovative new ways to achieve your shared goal.  In the past I have addressed the desire for autonomy as a vital motivating force for restaurant employees.  Today I will address it from the perspective of a leader and how it benefits the leader as well.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

On A Good Night

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On the great nights

(Note: I am enjoying the final day of my mini vacation.  Having a great trip.  Met my favorite musician and a personal hero yesterday.  Today I will be taking the scenic drive through the Ozark hills of Central Missouri.  This is a post I wrote a couple months ago.  Not my standard fare, but I hope you all enjoy it.)

Some nights I just love waiting tables.  They are the nights where everything goes right.  The guests are congenial and friendly.  You make connections with your tables and they are happy.  They take your recommendations and commend you on them afterwards.  It almost doesn’t seem like work.

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Weird Restaurant Stories 9/11

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Welcome to a very special episode of Weird Restaurant Stories.  This does not mean that Arthur Carlson will try to take naked pictures of Gary Coleman while the girl from Striptease pops caffeine pills and Tom Hanks gets hammered on vanilla extract in Michael J Fox’s kitchen.  Nope, this one is even more special.  Today’s weird restaurant stories come with a theme.  Even though the economy is rough, restaurants open everyday.  Today I want to share my insight with restaurant owners on how to open a successful restaurant.

Read the full post at Restaurant Laughs

How To Memorize Orders

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brain

I know that order is in here somewhere

(Note: In yesterdays post I discussed why I feel it is beneficial to memorize orders.  I will not recap to avoid redundancy, which itself if redundant in this post.)

I am terrible with names.  Not particularly good with faces either.  I will forget three things every time I take a trip.  I promise I will remember to bring that CD I was telling you about next time I see you.  I have left the house in my slippers.  This seems like a good chance to wish a happy belated birthday to everyone who had one before the days when Facebook reminded me.  There was a point to this paragraph, but I am not sure what it was.

If you ask most of my friends, they will gladly tell you how forgetful I am.  If you ask my guests, they will tell you I am some sort of memorization genius.  Memorizing orders is skill rather than a talent.  A talent is something you are born with.  A skill is something you get better at through technique and practice.  I am an absent minded person who has trained himself to be highly proficient at memorizing orders.

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Memorizing Orders

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When I started my first serving job years ago I worked for a company I will affectionately refer to as “Five Four.”  That isn’t what it says on the signs out front, but it what we all called it.  My first day a manager who introduced himself as “CSV” told me that if I couldn’t figure out how to carry three plates at once by the end of the shift, I was fired.  I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, but I learned to carry three plates.  A couple days later I was training with a guy named “Timmy” who never wrote down his orders.  I asked him why and he said, “Only rookies write down orders.”

There are any number of managers who would read that last sentence and be horrified.  The thought of not writing down orders puts fear in the heart of managers who are responsible for the rise in food costs related to misrung food.  A former boss once put it this way; “I would rather have a stubby pencil than a sharp mind.”  The debate on whether or not to write down orders has pretty much been won by the side of managers who want to eliminate mistakes.  I do not disagree with them, but I also do not write down orders.

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The Evolution of Free Bread

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Lamberts

Home of the Throwed Rolls

In the far corner of Southeast Missouri is a town called Sikeston.  If you have heard of Sikeston, MO it is probably because of a restaurant called Lambert’s Café.  I’ve eaten at Lambert’s a number of times over the years, but don’t recall what I had.  I always remember the food being good, but nothing amazing.  The menu isn’t what made Lambert’s famous though.  Lambert’s is known around the world as “The Home of the Throwed Rolls.

If you are unfamiliar with Lambert’s, the atmosphere is best conveyed on video.  You almost have to be on guard at all times while eating there because any stray glance could result in a roll being unintentionally thrown at your head.  The rolls aren’t the only thing they give away. Fried potatoes with onions, macaroni with tomatoes, black-eyed peas, fried okra, and sorghum are all handed out free of charge around the dining room.  At first glance it makes no sense to give away so much food.  Yet this small town restaurant is thriving and has spawned three other locations.

In contrast, several years ago an girlfriend at the time worked for O’Charley’s when they released this video on their website.  I immediately declared it the single stupidest marketing move I had ever seen a restaurant make. Why would they spend money to advertise something they are giving away that directly trades off with the things they are trying to sell?  It is at exactly 1:53 in that video where they completely missed the point.  After relaxing with a couple rolls while considering the menu guests face a decision: buy an appetizer or eat more of these delicious free rolls.  Anyone who has ever waited tables can tell you how that decision ends.  At the end of the meal, guests ate too many rolls to buy a dessert, but one more roll sounds good.

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Management Mentality Mistakes

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Motivating servers is a tricky business.  Without question servers crave autonomy and tend to resist being told what to do.  At the same time, managers in general are given very little guidance on what is perhaps the most important part of their jobs.  Two similar restaurants in the same company with the same menu and with the same amount of sales can produce radically different results.  The difference generally boils down to leadership.

Restaurants go to tremendous lengths to train managers on how to control costs, increase profits, and manage the balance sheets.  Very little time is spent on developing skills for leading a staff.    Recruiters look for management skills, but seldom can assess accurately the leadership traits that are effective in a restaurant.  To make matters worse, a manager starting out with the best attitude can lose it after months of the daily rigors of the job wearing them down.   To prevent this it is vital to keep a continuous focus on training for leadership and monitoring the methods a manager is using.

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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

How To Sell The Bottle

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There really is no greater subtle statement of status in a restaurant than having a great bottle of wine on your table.  The surrounding tables all take notice.  It is a declaration of class and announces to the dining room that you can afford the finer things in life.  It is a reward.  It is the stuff of memories.  It is romantic.  It is professional.  It tells the world you mean business.

It is also expensive.  It is no secret that restaurant’s markup on wine is often absurdly high.  While more expensive bottles have lower markup, they still can be intimidating to guests.  Guests want all of the perceptions in the first paragraph, but between the price, uncertainty about the wine list, and the amount of wine they may be fearful of the commitment.  This often times leads them to order only a glass at a time.  As a server, part of your job is to make people comfortable ordering what they want to order.  The guests want the bottle.  Your job is to make them comfortable with the purchase by addressing any of the three issues listed above that they might have.

There are two things you must know in order to make this work:

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