Great hospitality is all about attention – to detail, timing, and the whole guest experience. It’s about anticipating a guest’s wants and needs before they’ve even thought to ask.
To learn more about how restaurateurs delight guests, keep tables turning, and run a smooth front of house, we talked to the pro teams of three restaurants: LB Steak in San Jose, California, and Mission & Market and Il Giallo, both in Atlanta. Read on for their expert tips and (free!) tools that benefit both the guests they serve and their bottom line.
Know the status of every table in your dining room.
Great hosts and managers know how to walk the dining room, taking note of where each table is in their dining experience. Maybe they’re waiting on entrees, or just paid the check. Savvy hosts keep track of table progress without even leaving the host stand – with automatic table status updates. That means hosts can welcome guests right when they walk in the door and give them accurate wait times, without having to constantly walk the dining room, and front-of-house staff can turn tables faster.
Stephen Racheff, General Manager at Mission & Market, says with automatic statusing he walks around the dining room about 40% less than he used to. “As long as you have your POS integration set up properly, it will update it for you to show the host where they’re at [in the meal] without having to update it.”
For Serena Harkey, LB Steak’s General Manager and sommelier, the extra visibility helps her run a leaner, more efficient front of house.
“It definitely maximizes the efficiency of our host stand,” she says. “It was very visual before and took a lot of legwork from the host team. We used to run a three-man team at the host stand, and I’m now able to do a two-man team because I don’t need one person constantly walking around doing visual updates – the system is literally doing it for us.
“Now we can better gauge the quote time we’re giving to our walkin guests, and the secondary person can be more present and readily available to greet guests. It’s made a huge difference.”
At Il Giallo, automatic table statuses free hosts up to focus on welcoming guests rather than walking the dining room. “The benefit is the guest coming in and having someone there to greet them,” says owner Leo Moura. “They don’t need to leave the door.”
Anticipate what your regulars want.
Now that you can spend more time with guests, get the right information at your fingertips to surprise and delight guests by staying one step ahead with service. Knowing their favorite cocktail, who served their table last time, or what they spent and when helps you recognize regulars and big spenders and make them feel appreciated.
Serena regularly reviews a guest’s previously ordered items before they’re seated. “That allows our servers to know our guests – and their wants and needs – before they’ve even sat down at the table,” she says. “We’re able to build on that relationship by offering things that they’ve already experienced here and hopefully have enjoyed.”
The LB Steak team keeps track of food and drink preferences in OpenTable guest notes, then delivers those notes to servers in advance so they know what to offer guests when the they arrive. That way, the server can see when a guest has ordered Pinot Noir in the past and recommend a new one to try. “It makes it effortless for the server to give the guest an experience we already know that they like.”
Restaurants using OpenTable and Upserve can have checks created automatically when a guest arrives at the host stand, improving staff communication and cutting down the number of steps required.
Stephen says, “Chef and I know which regular guests are coming in – we look at the notes every day and recognize people.” When the restaurant is busy, having two sets of eyes helps ensure no one goes unnoticed. The kitchen team can see the name on the chit in the back of the house, and the front-of-house team can keep an eye on the dining room. “It’s about maximizing efficiencies and making sure that Chef and I know who’s there, what table they’re at, and making sure that we’re updating tables properly.”
Motivate your team to perform their best.
Spend data can not only help you deliver personalized hospitality, it can motivate your team to do their best work. Servers can use information about past visits to upsell guests on items like wine. “They already know what the guest likes and can expand upon it without being necessarily intrusive,” says Serena. That’s a big benefit both for the guest and for your staff.
“I’m able to motivate and incentivize my team a lot more when I can say, ‘this person has been in five times and they average $125 a person, so let’s make sure we take excellent care of them,’” Serena adds. “It’s up to the server to take that information and make it count. It’s that extra bit of motivation that goes a long way.”
Not just your service staff but your marketing team can see results, too. Jonathan Akly, owner of Mission & Market, uses spend data to measure the effectiveness of OpenTable’s marketing engine. “The ROI is easier to track through OpenTable, where we’re paying a per-cover charge, because we can relate it back to their actual spend,” he explains. “The ROI on traditional print media – there’s really no way to track it.”
Ultimately, operational efficiency affects both your profits and your hospitality. “It’s all about driving sales and the guest experience really going hand in hand, together,” says Serena. “Those things are required for the business to thrive. How can I advance both of those things?”