Waitstaff—Training your Sales Team

After several successions of hiring their waitstaff based on an exceptional resume, many restaurateurs change their selection philosophy. More than once an owner or GM will be heard saying, “I can’t train them to have a personality.” From this point forward, hiring is based on a person’s ability to be personable, smile and engage with the customers. It’s a hiring model that has worked for some of the largest corporations, and it can work for you. They key to success? Have a comprehensive training program in place that is both consistent and thorough.

Return Guests

It is estimated that repeat diners make up over 50 percent of a restaurants sales. That is a number worth remembering. The goal, then, is to have every party that walks through your doors wanting to come back for more as they walk out your doors. To that end, your servers play a key role. In order to maximize guest satisfaction, your servers will need to demonstrate the following:

  • Expert knowledge of both the food and beverage menu. This includes appropriate pairings, which meals your establishment prepares for special dietary concerns such as gluten or lactose free, and your signature dishes. Make sure your waitstaff comes in a few minutes before their shift starts in order to learn the specials of the day verbatim so they deliver the information without hesitation. As your menu changes, make sure to hold staff meetings to keep your servers informed. If the customer asks for the leanest piece of meat—they’ll know. The least fishy piece of fish? No hesitation.
  • The ability and willingness to sell. The best sales person knows that the true key to success isn’t talking, but listening. You have to know what the person’s needs are before you can determine what to sell them. Instead of making recommendations by rote based on a set number of appetizers or deserts to sell each night, train them to listen and observe your guests. Did they turn immediately to the dessert section in the menu? Are they browsing through the wine selections? While they will be suggesting select appetizers, premium drinks and deserts, they don’t want to overwhelm your patrons leaving them feeling as if they’ve just been to a used car lot. Selective sales will leave your staff feeling like they’ve helped your guests receive the dining experience they were looking for, and your guests will be telling their friends and family about their experience.
  • Ownership. Unless they feel that they have a stake in the game, their enthusiasm will be short-lived. Share the figures. Reward the top weekly or monthly server who produced the highest sales. Remind them that as they increase the restaurant’s sales, they increase their tips.
  • The ability to stay cool under pressure. There is a vast difference from the server that exudes they are on a time constraint because the host did not do their job properly and just sat three tables in a row, to the cool cucumber that acts as though they have all the time in the world and knew enough to wear a heavy coating of antiperspirant. Dry Idea first coined the phrase that every server should live by: “Never let them see you sweat.”


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