Managers who focus on sales, profits and managing service will struggle to prosper in the long term. It’s too easy to be replicated. Competitors will just come along and mimic the tangible — the menu and the prices. Shoot, they may even lower the prices.

It’s difficult, on the other hand, to copy the intangible — the hospitality your staff delivers on a daily basis. Hospitality drives sales and profits, not the other way around. It’s the difference maker, the catapult to greater heights. The words service and hospitality tend to be used interchangeably, but they’re very different. Service involves steps and tasks to fill a need. A vending machine dispensing a soda is service. Delivering food is service. Hospitality is the desire to serve others. It’s the flair and customization of going through the service steps in a unique manner. It’s the sizzle that makes you say: “Wow, that place gets it!”

The Art of Delivering Hospitality

The best way to master the art of delivering hospitality is to experience it firsthand. Guests form opinions within seconds — seconds waiting to be acknowledged, to be sat, to place a drink order, to get and pay the check. Eye contact and a warm smile go a long way in helping guests form a positive impression. These simple behaviors also minimize dead time and underscore your restaurant’s hospitality focus. Typically, employees today don’t have a hospitality skill set when they arrive. They’ve grown up watching TV personalities and athletes talking smack, being rude, using slang and dressing differently. It’s up to managers to teach the right way of doing things.

With the understanding that restaurant concepts have different types of guests and levels of expectations, train your staff to void terms such as:

  • “Dudes,” “man” or “guys.” (“Hey, guys!” when it’s a family entering).
  • “Cool,” “awesome,” “kickin,” “wicked,” “sic”
  • “Whatever,” “OK,” “No problem (when used instead of “You’re welcome”)
  • “No” or “Can’t.” Teach employees to offer alternatives: “What we can offer is…” Or: “What I can do for you is…” Or: “Yes, for a slight charge.”
  • “It’s our policy.” Yeah, and it’s the guest’s policy not to return when treated in this manner.

Server Training – Record Your Role Plays

To help your staff move from service to hospitality, role play various interactions position by position. Consider recording the exchanges on a camcorder or phone, shooting from the point of view of the role-playing guests. This will allow servers or hosts to see what they look like through the eyes of those they’re serving. When this is done, typical employee responses heard are: “I didn’t know I sounded like that.” “Wow! Look how I’m holding my arms, I look mad.” “Do I really sound like that?” “The second way sounds much more friendly.” And so on. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, video is worth 10,000.

Restaurant Service and Sales Training

The Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series is based on Service That Sells!, a restaurant training philosophy developed by restaurant owners for restaurant owners. Click here to learn more.