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.

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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.”

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The Rules of Serving: Rules One and Two

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Rule One:  If you worry about the guest, the money will take care of itself.

Rule Two:  If you worry about the money, the guests will not take care of themselves.

Rules one and two are corollaries of the same basic principle.  Your focus as a server must be on the guest and not the money.  We all know that the reason for serving is to make money.  No one should pretend they are altruistic enough to wait tables 40 hours a week just for the fun.  At the same time, the key to making money is to not focus on making the money, but the process by which you make it.  Focusing on the guest is the key to insuring that at the end of the shift you have made the money you want.

There is no denying that focusing on the guest can still lead to disappointment. The odds of you making what you need are infinitely more in your favor though if you focus on the guest first and the money second.  The only thing you can do to control how much you make is to make every guest as happy as you can.  Guest counts, guest spending, and the amount the guest leaves are beyond your control.  Instead focus on the guests and trust that it is the best way to make the money work out in your favor.

Here are three commonly violated guidelines to keep your money on track:

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