The first five minutes with any new guest are crucial. Get them right and the chances are that the rest of their meal will go perfectly too; get them wrong and it could be a struggle.
Of course, every guest is different, but there are certain key principles that we can all follow to ensure that those early encounters set up a positive environment.
First, get the non-verbals right
At the very beginning look carefully at their manners and their movements; try to understand who you are going to be dealing with. Then make eye contact and give a smile to establish a connection before stage two: show time.
It’s Show Time!
Let’s start with a positive, personalised introduction: Customers like to interact with humans, not robots. Introduce yourself clearly and make sure they understand your name and your role in the restaurant. Reassure them that you’ll take care of their table.
Let’s continue “small”
Questions like: “how was your day so far”, “have you been here before”, “how was your weekend/vacation/summer etc” are always an effective way to open a conversation, or, if it’s honest and you feel comfortable enough, you could compliment them. Maybe about a necklace, a dress, a pair of glasses they are wearing. By praising them, you’re making them feel good about themselves, proving that you’re paying attention, and moving the focus away from you. They are at the centre of your attention, remember, so show interest.
Now for the tough part: listening and caring
Listening is the easiest way to make people appreciate you. So genuinely listen to what they are telling you about and resist the temptation to break in with personal opinions. That way you will likely win them over. Care about their needs and desires and do your best to satisfy them.
Recommendations: your time to shine
Now that you have absorbed their insights and have a clear idea about their taste and preferences, I’d suggest targeting three different products at different price points and make sure you are able to clearly explain the differences between them. Don’t be too cocky suggesting only the product you think they will like. There is a very fine line between aggressive selling and smart selling.
And finally, here’s a general list of rules that I like to keep in mind for each table:
- Project confidence
- Be a chameleon, and adapt. We need to shape ourselves based on someone else’s needs and behaviours to make them feel comfortable, as if they were at home.
- Do not forget to SMILE.
- Mind your manners. “Thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “goodbye” and “hello” never grow old.