Are You Being Served?

Are You Being Served?

John Inman - Notting Hill Gate tube Station 1973 05 - 005a by normko.

Over on the Telegraph’s excellent business blog, Richard Tyler writes about restaurant tips and tipping. Which reminds me that I’ve got a couple of useful tips for London-based waiters and waitresses today which I’m eager to pass on.

One of the best things about escaping the capital is that you can almost guarantee that the standard of service in restaurants will improve. If you’re unfortunate enough to dine out here on a regular basis, you’ll have noticed that almost every single eatery (and I struggle to think of exceptions) has this one thing in common. Miserable, inattentive, sloppy, unintuitive, rubbish rubbish RUBBISH service. Pop down to Brighton, the New Forest, Dorset or anywhere outside the M25 for that matter and things start to improve remarkably quickly.  Service is more relaxed and relaxing, it’s friendlier.  It’s just a lot better.   And I’m not just talking about the smarter places, I’m talking about the simple Italian restaurants or seaside cafes.  Well why is this? Is it that  London servers, and the central London ones in particular, ‘get what they’re given’? In the face of grumpy, busy Londoners, they feel they ought to fight fire with fire? You tell me, and in the mean time, the jury is out on a single London restaurant, with the exception of Adam Street (and Jenny in particular) where this is not the case.

I remember some techniques from Disney’s service excellence training programme (which I went through over ten years ago) which may come in handy.  Some are simple things like acknowledging a guest even if you’re not ready to serve them, saying you’ll be with them as soon as possible.  This one is particularly handy for pub and bar staff, yet almost never gets used.  Others tips are more advanced.  For example, a table server should identify the ‘lead buyer’ as quickly as possible. In other words the person who they think will be paying the bill.  Then, they should position themselves opposite that person, and NOT next to them as most servers do.  Standing next to them forces them to strain their neck and puts them in a lower status position relative to the server.  Once the lead buyer has been identified, the waiter or waitress must identify their ‘hidden sales assistant’.  This could be a father-in-law, a daughter or a girlfriend.  Interesting menu items can then be sold to the hidden sales assistant, followed by quick cross checking with the lead buyer to unlock permisison.  In this way, a whole table can be moved from a one course to a two or even three course meal easily.  This means bigger sales, which lead to bigger tips (on the basis that many people add a standard amount) and more enjoyable meals all round. 

One final technique for selling specific dishes is the ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’, taught to me my the legendary Bob Brown in Florida.  This consists of a simple introduction (for example, ‘If you’re looking for a really light starter, I can recommend the Summer Salad), followed by the ‘line’, which details, briefly, the ingredients and preferably how it is made if it’s a main course.  Finally, the ‘sinker’ must be used, which is a brief personal endrorsement (for example ‘it’s delicious’ or ‘I love it’).  Past great ‘sinkers’ have even been known to consist of nothing more than a noise (‘mm’mmmm’). 

It will not have escaped your notice that ‘lead buyers’, ‘hidden sales assistant’s and ‘hook line and sinkers’ exist everywhere in business too.  Please do let me know if one works for you this year, and especially if the deal-closing moment turns out to be a loud and hearty smack of the lips. 

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