Ten Rules for Emotionally Connecting with F&B Guests | By Doug Fiedler
Employees that are engaged with your food and beverage brand will help you build emotional connections with your guests. When your guests are emotionally connected to your brand, they are much more likely to return the next time they need a meal!
Rule 1: Employees can personally relate their own opinions and experiences
Employees that are engaged are genuinely excited about what they are offering guests. You can hear it in how they converse with guests at the table or the bar. They say things like, “I tasted the sea bass last night and it was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend it.” The bartender responds to a guest that orders a Martini with, “I love to make dirty Martinis. Have you ever had one? They are delicious!”
Rule 2: Employees can independently offer alternatives to satisfy guest requirements
When a guest questions a server about an entrée item, the server is knowledgeable and can skillfully answer a question about an ingredient or food preparation without having to enquire of the Chef. The engaged server can offer alternatives to the guest based on the conversation. For instance, instead of pan frying the sea bass, perhaps a guest would prefer it to be broiled. If the the server is engaged with the menu, the ingredients and methods of preparation, then a guest will feel more connected to the restaurant and trust the knowledge of the servers!
Rule 3: Check back on satisfaction with meaningful questions
Engaged employees also proactively seek feedback from a guest after an item is served. Engaged servers, for example, will touch the table within two minutes of serving an item. Instead of asking, “How is everything?” (a meaningless question) the engaged server will ask a specific question such as, “Are you enjoying the sea bass?”
Rule 4: Everyone understands the importance of their role
Service is not only about the front of house either. Engaged employees in the back of house are double checking everything from the quality of raw food on delivery, to exact cooking and plating preparations in the line kitchen. There is passion for what each employee is doing and the job they are performing. Because they each know they have a role to play, they take the initiative to make sure that what gets cooked is delicious and properly prepared.
Rule 5: Actively engaged managers are visible and helpful
The engaged Chef or Kitchen Manager will make a tour of the restaurant, stopping at tables to ask meaningful questions such as, “Is there anything we could have done differently so you would have enjoyed that dish more?” This is true and genuine hospitality. Engaged employees can be seen and heard making a genuine extra effort to ensure that guests are connecting emotionally with the food and beverage products.
Rule 6: Cleanliness is next to Godliness
It doesn’t matter how great the food or service is if the restaurant or bar is dirty or appears less than clean.
Many surveys indicate that guests are most critical about a bar or restaurant’s overall cleanliness. Fastidious care must be taken to thoroughly clean all floors, seating, tables and table legs, light fixtures, and anywhere a cobweb might develop. Restroom facilities must be checked regularly not only for cleanliness, but also to ensure adequate supplies are available and that any equipment is working properly.
Rule 7: Respect the guest’s time
Today’s guests appreciate every effort that protects and respects their time. After all, time is one of a guest’s most valuable assets. It’s where they make (or lose) their money, so respecting their time will help your restaurant emotionally connect with them.
Engaged employees can sense if a guest is on a tight deadline or if a more leisurely service might be appreciated. A simple question to the guest might be included in the tableside greeting, such as, “Welcome to the Park Lawn Restaurant. My name is Greta and I’ll be serving you today. Are you here on business or leisure?” This question will start a conversation with the guest that will provide clues as to whether they would prefer their service fast or leisurely.
Rule 8: Orders meet expectations – no surprises
Menu and verbal tableside descriptions should accurately describe flavors and preparation techniques so guests aren’t surprised when a food or beverage is served. Guests expect hot food hot and cold food cold, but they don’t want to taste their food only to find it heavily spiced with crushed red pepper, something not listed in the menu description.
Engaged employees will make sure the guest is ordering the right item by asking a question such as, “The Chinese Noodle Bowl contains crushed red pepper and is quite spicy. Do you like spicy foods?” This helps the guest set the correct expectation before they receive their order.
Rule 9: Refill before empty; Reset for next course
For all beverages, guests appreciate a refill before the glass is empty! When a water glass is half full, always refill it without being asked. When a guest has about one-third of a cocktail left, solicit another beverage order.
Clear the dirty plate and silverware then reset the place setting with clean silverware. Anticipate what kind of silverware is needed for each course and your guest will be very happy!
Rule 10: Thank the guest
Present the check promptly and offer personal thanks for visiting the restaurant. Great servers will also ask a question such as, “Is there anything we could have done to make your dinner more enjoyable this evening?” This can open up an entirely new conversation with the guest, as well as offering them the opportunity to suggest what could have been improved. It will also decrease the chance for the upset guest to use social media to criticize your operation!
Food and beverage can be either a revenue enhancer, or a drag on the finances of any hotel or resort. Emotional connections are more important than ever with guests. Guests are seeking experiences, not just a functional meal in a restaurant. The tableside etiquette of your service staff and the supporting role of your back of house staff are vitally important to creating this experience. Guests will recognize engaged employees and will reward you for it.
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