Rule Four: Guests do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care

We have truly become a nation of cynics.  We doubt the sincerity of others and feel that no deal comes without a catch.  We have good reason.  Every special offer comes with fine print.  We are constantly being faced with offers that seem too good to be true and usually are.  In the modern world, we have decided it is better to be a cynic than a sucker.

Restaurant guests are no different.  Deals that seem too good to be true get questioned.  The motives of restaurant servers are constantly in question.  Is the recommendation honest or to help them win a contest?  Is the more expensive wine really worth it?  Are the nachos really as awesome as the server says they are?  Their concerns are warranted because servers are often more interested in raising their bill than earning the guest’s confidence.

This is particularly troublesome because servers should be one of the most trusted professions.  We give guests the opportunity to decide what the value of our service is.  While there are societal norms for tipping, the guest is often willing to exceed them if the service we provide merits it (see rule 3).  The consequences of being caught making recommendations not in the guest’s interest will be financial.  Losing rapport with your table will invalidate all of your speed and knowledge.  Clearly maintaining that bond of trust with your table is far more important to earning the exceptional tip than your knowledge or efficiency.  Only when that bond is formed does your skill and expertise come into play.

Here are three quick tips for establishing rapport and showing the table you care about their dining experience.

Speak With Sincerity: This post began by describing the cynicism of guests; sincerity is the antidote to cynicism.  Sincerity is tough to fake (obviously), but is easy to convey.  The benefit of living in an insincere world is that sincerity is much easier to recognize.  Greet your guests by asking how they are and then reply to their answer.  Ask them if they are celebrating anything.  Honor their special occasions.  Pay sincere compliments.  Speak to them like you would your favorite family member.  People appreciate the attention and sincerity.

Talk to Them: Far too many servers fall into a routine of talking at their guests.  They might make a half-hearted attempt to ask questions, but it is more reminiscent of filling out a survey than a conversation.  When you ask your guests a question, think of yourself as a reporter rather than a census worker.  When you tell them information, do so as a tutor not a lecturer.  This allows you to avoid the perception of talking down to them while adding significance in their mind to what you are informing them of.

Let them Lead: Serving is like dancing with someone who is not as good as you.  You can just take the lead and drag them around the dance floor.  A great server knows how to let them lead and compensates for them when they miss the beat.  Your role is not to determine how the dining experience should go, but rather how to make their vision a reality.  Try to determine the pace and order they want in their meal and provide it to them.  By doing this you are using your skill and expertise to give them what they want.  Which is the mark of professionalism in the guest’s mind.

Servers often pass up the opportunity to take advantage of the greatest asset they have: Sincerity.  We do not have to take advantage of our guests to make money.  We do not partake directly in the profits of the prices on the menu, but we also do not shoulder the blame from the guests.  They decide what to pay for our service.  Sincerity is more important accordingly than skill or expertise.  A misstep in service in relatable, but a misstep in sincerity gives them every reason to return to cynicism.  Be the person who gives them a reason to let their guard down and you will be rewarded.

Waiter Extraordinaire posted a great blog today about planning for the future that merits a read.  Manana espanol para restaurantes.

Related Posts From This Blog:

The Rules of Serving

Rules One and Two

Rule Three

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