Most restaurant managers would say their guests are their top priority. Unfortunately, though, how their restaurant service training programs support this service goal isn’t always spot on. There are so many details associated with running a restaurant that it’s easy to overlook the reason we’re so preoccupied with these details in the first place: to meet the needs of our customers. The only way we as managers can get our entire team to make guests our top priority is to ensure our restaurant training programs are in sync with our guest service goals.

Well, yes, you say, but how? How can you train on the concept of good service? The most important thing you can do is set a good example. The best type of training is doing. Make it obvious in everything you do and say—even behind the back of that rude woman at table 3 who is clearly having a bad day—that every customer is your top priority. Then, you pass that attitude on to your team.

Here are some tips you can employ today:

  • Show them good service. It may be a sad social commentary, but it is extremely possible that some of your younger employees may not know what good service looks like. When they continually encounter poor service—the clerks who finish cell phone calls before they ring up purchases or the gas stations with the attendants that don’t speak through the bullet-proof glass—they find it acceptable. Take a service field trip (a short trip to the mall, another restaurant, etc.) and discuss the experience afterward. Did you feel like you were a priority there? Why or why not?
  • Watch your language. Even in the most laid back settings, many people don’t want to be called “guys” or by their first names. It’s always best to train your team to “overdo” politeness (ma’am, sir, Mr. Smith). Once servers get to know the feel of guests at the table, train them to match their friendliness to the cues guests give.
  • Go beyond what’s expected. Do more than you should and require your team members do the same. Incorporate that concept into every training session. Even during pre-shift meetings, you can practice sales strategies within a service framework. How can we make this meal more enjoyable for our customer? What add-ons or specialty items would help? How can we steer our customers to make these decisions that will make them feel as if they’re our priority… instead of the means to reaching our sales goals? Only by opening dialogue about how service leads to sales will you create an atmosphere where your team truly makes guests a priority.

Remember, service and sales go hand in hand, but every sale starts with good service. And good service starts with a solid restaurant service training program.