Greet your customers at the door for a great first impression

Every customer who enters your restaurant must be greeted or acknowledged by your staff in a timely manner. This is the customer’s first impression.

Too many times, restaurant customers are not promptly greeted or recognized when they enter the restaurant. This first impression is vital for repeat business. Not only can a positive first impression lead to sales, but the opposite can happen if your customers leave your restaurant dissatisfied or unhappy. Do you want something as simple as a greeting to lose customers to your competition?

The first focus of restaurants is the front door. Do whatever it takes to ensure that each guest is greeted with a warm and friendly smile.

Some restaurants have limited cash flow and cannot afford to program a lobby. During off-peak hours, no one may be watching the door to see if customers are arriving or leaving. If that’s the case, look for an alternative.

It is frustrating to walk into any business and then have to search for staff members who can help you. Worse still is seeing staff members who do not even recognize your presence and employees who are involved in leisure activities such as being with other employees or talking on the cell phone.

Many restaurant complaints occur during peak hours simply because fewer staff are working and management is often in the office catching up on paperwork. The number one reason for off-peak complaints is because staff and management became more relaxed and less customer-focused. You must instill the value of each customer in your staff and managers.

If you can’t always have someone guarding the door, use other ways to alert staff to the arrival of customers. Installing a doorbell system or alarm at the front door would be an inexpensive way to alert staff members that a guest entered or left the restaurant, especially when someone is not available to greet guests.

Install another doorbell or intercom system in the manager’s office from the kitchen and service area. Then, if a staff member needs a manager, the staff can use the doorbell or intercom system to alert the manager that they need it right away. This way, employees can focus on their work and don’t have to rush to the office to find the manager. This also serves as an emergency alert system.

If you have customer complaints because no one greeted or acknowledged them, it will be expensive. Your restaurant relies on repeat business. You must take responsibility for making every customer feel welcome.

Teach all staff members, including cooks, dishwashers, and servers, that the front door is priority number one. All staff members should be able to greet the guest and then seat them in a timely manner. Show employees the server seating chart and table numbers.

A schematic diagram of the dining room floor should be placed in several areas, including the reception area and the service hall. The board must be laminated or on a protective sheet.

The diagram is used in the larger area to track which tables are in use and have a rotation system on the guest seats. It is a good idea to set up multiple “section” charts, with some of the “preferred tables” in each section. You know which tables can be requested more frequently, such as booths or tables near a window, private seating for clients on an appointment, or larger tables for families and groups. Make sure these preferred tables are evenly divided into each section, and if that’s not possible, make sure your servers aren’t always assigned to the same sections.

In addition to welcoming guests, attendees should ask guests if they have any preferences, such as a table or booth. When a large group arrives, there should be no question whether the group can sit together. Find a way to make it happen. They are there to share that group experience and if you can’t deliver it to your clients, they will find it in your competition.

The service hall chart will allow the manager to list all the names of the servers with their table numbers and section assignment. Once the table is complete, it will be much easier to know which server is assigned to which section along with the numbers in the table.

The seating chart is also useful for bringing food to guests. This shows, at a glance, the location of each table in the dining room with the table number and the currently assigned server. Make sure that the server names and table mappings are updated as the servers come and go from their shifts. When a server is running, it is best to keep that server in a section and not change it mid-shift or when another server arrives.

Start training how to greet customers at employee orientation. If you don’t have a training program and don’t know what to cover with new staff, seek help learning it because that’s another key to your success.

Explain to all employees that it is their responsibility to greet all guests when entering and leaving the restaurant. Teach all staff members how to recognize the guest if their hands are full. For example, if a server is carrying plates or glassware and cannot immediately seat the guest, the server should greet all guests entering the restaurant. They should welcome the customer and assure them that someone will be fine with them. Then the server should continue to seat the guest or tell greetings or other servers that there are customers waiting to be seated at the front door.

If the employee is on break or has reported to work early, and is loitering in the lobby area, it is still their responsibility to greet guests. Ignoring them sends a negative message whether the staff member is on duty or not. That customer does not know that the person is after hours. Train each employee to represent your restaurant anytime they are present in the restaurant, or even outside the restaurant in uniform.

Most restaurants have a policy that employees cannot stay in the lobby area, but it can still happen. It is best to tell employees after they have finished their shift that they should go home and not stay anywhere in the restaurant. In addition to the negative meaning it can give to guests, off-duty employees who stay after their shifts are done create a distraction for restaurant employees who are actually working.

Any employee in view of a customer must have a clean and pressed uniform. If a kitchen employee is sent to seat guests, the kitchen apron must be removed before greeting the guest to take a seat.

All employees arriving at work or taking a break or finished for the day or night are required to wear a thoroughly clean and pressed uniform; their shirts must be inside. Nor should they be sitting reading, playing games, texting, or talking on the cell phone. The guest does not know if the employees are on break, arrived early for work, or finished the day. Look at it from the guest’s perspective to understand what they see through their eyes and hear what they hear. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will help you see and hear a different perspective on customer service. If you were the guest and you saw these things, what would you think? This is very important to the success of your restaurant.

Teach all employees that there is no cell phone use while on duty or during a break in full view of the guest.

You also must not allow employees to smoke in front of the restaurant or in the guest’s view, even during recess, or after hours at the beginning or end of a shift. Many restaurants and businesses have designated smoking areas for employees that are out of sight of the customer.

A very good idea is for your staff members to add an additional enhancement of excellent customer service by opening the doors when the guest arrives and leaves the restaurant.

Work out of the box and be creative in how you want your guests to be greeted and seated. Do whatever it takes to beat your competition by providing service and food beyond the norm.

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