Let me set the scene: A couple of friends have finally managed to set aside some time together. This is a rare thing given everyone’s hectic schedule. They’ve agreed to meet at that certain restaurant people have been talking about.
The place is really nice, surprisingly chic and no wait for a quaint corner table – perfect for catching up and sharing laughs. The bottle of wine has arrived, prices look reasonable and apps are on the way. A gentleman approaches the table welcoming them. He introduces himself as the manager. This is a nice touch and rare to find such personal attention these days. The group continues to be impressed. One person poses a simple question: how long have you been open? And that’s when charm does harm! This very personable man continues to answer that question and every other question that was NEVER asked. The appetizers arrive and this would be the perfect cue to let these friends carry on with the evening, but that doesn’t happen! This person has become The Unwanted Guest!
Managers/ Owners – BEWARE of monopolizing your customers dining experience. Engaging your guests is a beautiful and necessary thing. Hijacking the table with long winded conversation and your agenda is a huge turn off to customers. In the restaurant business, you need to understand that people bring their own entertainment, therefore you (and your staff) DO NOT need to be the main event. Even the solo diner is there for a quiet, uninterrupted experience and quality time with their book, their tablet or just their thoughts accompanied by your food… period.
Every customer should be greeted and briefly engaged. You may even find that one table seeking your undivided attention, but even then, BEWARE! Giving 20 or so minutes to one table means others are being overlooked and you miss the important opportunity to connect to an entire room. It’s important to be an equal opportunist when it comes to interacting with your guests.
There are some quick ways to avoid becoming The Unwanted Guest:
- Learn the art of small talk – make the rounds greeting and checking in with every table.
- Set the inner alarm clock – most engagements take seconds but should you come across the talkers, give several sincere minutes and then excuse yourself and move on.
- Make it count – solicit feedback from customers and be genuine. Customers love to feel part of the process by sharing their thoughts and opinions with you.
- Give back! Treat your guest to a shared dessert or an after dinner drink or let them sample a new creative idea from you chef. Giving something back occasionally will comeback to your business in spades…!
Finally, remember we serve to please. Every customer experience needs to be valued. The goal is to have a steady flow of returning guests paired with new people wanting to try that certain restaurant that everybody is talking about. Make sure the talk is good!
Here’s to success!