Why train on service and sales? For starters….

  • It’s your crew members or staff who determine if you maintain your customers.
  • Your staff will do as much or as little as you lead them to do.
  • The way you treat your employees determines how they’ll treat your guests.
  • The more you expect from a person the more you have to train them.
  • If the son swears… strike the father!

An effective waitstaff training program not only helps you acquire and maintain more customers, it helps you acquire and maintain better employees. And employees should be treated as our internal customers. Service is a level playing field. You may not be able to match your competition’s advertising budget, but you sure as heck can train your staff as well or better than theirs.

So now that we’ve covered the question of “Why train?” here’s another question: What do we train them to do? Read on.

Putting wind in your sales

Tell your staff about the “honor” of serving people all you want, but eventually the topic gets around to dollars and sense. They say money can’t buy happiness … but every hospitality employee we know says, “Fork some over and watch me smile!” The best way to justify raises is for the employee to generate sales. The best way to earn bigger tips is to provide better service.

Seeing your restaurants or bars as retail sales operations means we need to see our servers as commissioned salespeople and manage all of our employees as potential profit centers. Everyone who works for us is a salesperson disguised as a server, bartender, host, hostess or cook. As a matter of fact, everyone who works anywhere doing anything is a salesperson in one form or another! In a restaurant, we merely have different departments of salespeople, like counter help, waitstaff, bartenders, host staff, service assistants, managers and chefs. Let’s focus now on the employees who deserve and require the most and best sales training: servers, bartenders, service assistants, host staff and managers.

Training servers & bartenders

Servers and bartenders should be trained to see themselves as independent contractors. Your waitstaff’s station, section or bar is their “territory.” Guests “sign” their commission checks daily in the form of tips, repeat business and referred business. The restaurant takes all the risk and pays for all the up-front costs: table settings, utilities, insurance, flatware, napkins, food and beverage, etcetera. Your servers have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The smart restaurateur realizes that servers aren’t our only salespeople. Service assistants, host staff, foodrunners and expediters are all potential profit centers, too. Seeing all of your front-line employees as salespeople means you have a daily obligation to teach and train everyone to use service that sells.

The little service assistant that could….

It probably makes sense to you to think of your servers as salespeople. But how does training your bus staff or host staff have an impact on better service or higher sales? Good question! Consider this scenario:

A couple having dinner flags down a passing service assistant and asks him to please get their waitress. “What do you need, sir?” asks the service assistant.

Just another drink, please,” the man says. “A vodka tonic.”

“Did you want to try Absolut in that?” asks the service assistant.

“Sure…” the man says, surprised. “Absolut would be great.” The service assistant tells the waitress, and she brings out the drink. The guest was served quicker (and therefore better) and the waitress saved a step and made a better tip (and maybe the service assistant too), all because someone took the time to invest some product knowledge training in their bus staff. As our friend Christopher O’Donnell says,

“The restaurant business is a series of opportunities and you either hit ’em or miss ’em!”

Selling from the front door

Don’t forget to also invest restaurant training time and money in the first salesperson your guests meet … your host or hostess.

For example, a hostess seats two of your guests and instead of just saying “Enjoy your dinner!” she says, “We’ve got a great selection of wines by the glass listed here, and an incredible Mud Pie for dessert. Enjoy your dinner!”

Hear the difference? By briefly pointing out specific beverages and food (wine and Mud Pie) this hostess has opened the “Window of Opportunity” for the server to follow up with another wine or dessert suggestion and most likely make the sale and higher tip!

Could your service assistant, host or hostess perform his or her job in the same manner as the one in the above scenario? Do you think that the service assistant, host or hostess was born with that ability or were they taught that skill? Training all of your “frontliners” to know the menu and the right words results in better service, higher sales, and perhaps most importantly, sets your restaurant and bar apart from your competitors who don’t. Remember: 90 percent of all restaurants and bars do 90 percent of the same things the same way. It’s the 10 percent we do differently that means success.

Excerpted from Service That Sells! The Art of Profitable Hospitality.

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