In our last post, we discussed several tips I learned from Tim Kirkland that will help your staff improve their service and maximize tips. Fortunately, Tim had so many great pieces of advice that we couldn’t fit them into one post. Below are 4 more ways to improve the customer service at your restaurant or bar.
4. Sell round 2 as soon as you notice someone is almost ready for another drink.
As I discussed in tip #1, timing is everything. This is just as true for when you ask your table about the next round as it is for upselling. Consider the following example:
Two people go out for a beer after work. When the first person finishes his drink, his friend still has half a beer left. The worst way to address this situation is for the server to wait until both people are done to ask if they want another round. Since they are both done, they’re more likely to say no and ask for the check.
However, if the server comes over to the table right as the first person is finishing his drink and asks if he wants another, the customer is more likely to say yes since he’s still waiting for his friend to finish. Now both people are ordering drinks at different times. This increases the likelihood that the second person will also order another drink since his friend will have a nearly full drink that was just delivered to the table.
Key takeaway: Timing is key. By paying attention to the timing of when you ask customers about the next round, it increases the chances that you can potentially get several rounds out of a table that might have otherwise bought one beer and left. This boosts the bar’s profits and helps the server make more in tips.
5. Find the decision maker.
This strategy is particularly useful when you have tables of work colleagues. In these situations, employees may take a cue from their manager regarding whether it’s appropriate to order an alcoholic beverage. If you ask the wrong person for their order first, you may find yourself with a table full of iced teas since no one will want to be the first person to order a cocktail.
In order to avoid this situation, your server should try and find the decision maker and let that person order first. Hopefully, this person will order an alcoholic beverage which will let everyone else know it is acceptable to order a cocktail.
The best way to accomplish this is to tell the table about one of your signature craft cocktails (or list off your Happy Hour drink specials for the day) and ask the open-ended question, “Would anyone like to try one?”
Your server will need to pay attention to the delivery of this so that it doesn’t come across as being pushy (see tip # 1 about upselling). But by presenting the entire table with an option that is considered a house specialty and asking if anyone would like one, you are likely to have the decision maker respond first.
If the decision maker jumps on board with the server’s recommendation, others are likely to follow suit (or order their favorite alcoholic beverage). This will increase the tab for the table, get them having more fun since they’re drinking, and create a situation where everyone wins – the bar will make more money and the server’s tip should improve as well.
Key takeaway: Learn how to read your tables. The more effectively your servers can read their tables, the more likely they will be to adjust their actions in a way that increases alcohol sales.
6. Get and use names.
This suggestion is particularly useful for bartenders, but it can still apply to servers in the right situation. When a customer sits down at the bar, the bartender should introduce himself by name and ask the customer his or her name. The bartender can follow this up with a “Nice to meet you Bob. Just call me over anytime you need something.”
The bartender should then address the customer by name every time he walks by. For example, “How is your drink tasting, Bob?” or “Can I get you something else, Bob?” or “Would you like to see a menu, Bob?”
If your bartender uses the customer’s name three or four times during this interaction, it’s more likely that he’ll remember the customer’s name the next time he returns to the bar. Now this new customer may be on his way to becoming a regular.
Key takeaway: Be personal in a disarming manner. By asking for the customer’s name in a way that isn’t creepy, such as by introducing yourself first and asking the customer to address the bartender by name when they need something, you make it a more comfortable interaction for the customer. By continuing to address the customer by name, you make him feel special. This may increase the chances they’ll return, and it may also result in a better tip.
7. Have servers introduce managers.
In a lame attempt to increase customer service, many restaurants require managers to engage in a forced interaction with every table. In most instances, the manager will simply walk up to a table with no knowledge of the customers or their current experience and ask how everything is.
Most customers will find this a bit creepy and intrusive, leading to a dismissive response such as, “Everything’s fine.” Handled this way, the manager-table interaction becomes a box checking exercise that is a waste of time for everyone involved.
A more effective way to handle the manager check-in is to have the server introduce the manager to their tables. In order to make this interaction more meaningful, have the server tell the manager something about the table at the time of the introduction.
This tactic instantly creates a more engaging conversation because the manager learns something about the interests of the customer. This conversation will eventually segue into the manager asking how the table is enjoying their experience, but due to the more natural way it comes up, it will likely lead to a better response.
As a side benefit, this tactic forces the servers to learn more about their tables. Ultimately, this improves the customer experience because your customers will feel like their server cares about them and is truly interested in engaging them.
Key takeaway: Make the customer feel special. This is yet another way that you can make the customer feel special by taking a few brief moments to engage with your tables beyond simply taking their order. These small efforts to make a customer feel more important than they feel at other establishments will help you create a great experience that will keep people coming back for more.
Leveling the Playing Field for Independent Restaurants and Bars
One interesting point made by Tim Kirkland is that the restaurant industry is somewhat unique in terms of the value of being a small, independent establishment. In many industries, there’s a big advantage to being a huge company or brand. This is somewhat true in the restaurant industry, but not nearly as much as it is in other industries.
The big advantage independent restaurants have over large chains is personality. By creating a unique experience that customers enjoy, you can cultivate long term success at your restaurant. This ensures small, independent restaurants will always have their niche in the restaurant industry.
However, there are some advantages that large restaurant chains enjoy:
• Cost advantages
• Process advantages
As a small, independent restaurant, you can level the playing field by partnering with the right service providers, including Bar-i. Working with Bar-i allows you to have the same control over your processes and your bar inventory as larger franchises enjoy.
Ultimately, this provides you with the best of both worlds – your restaurant retains its unique personality while enjoying the streamlined processes typically found only at larger establishments.
Please contact Bar-i today to learn how our bar inventory system can help you maximize profits and improve your operations. We provide services to bars nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.