Previously I discussed how to create the right culture within the business, which the staff can believe in and be proud of as well as some of the various ways to communicate that message to the team and ensure each person learns while having fun. This week, I will start to look at the guest’s journey.
WHERE DOES THE GUEST’S JOURNEY START?
There is a great deal of disagreement regarding the start of a guest’s journey through a restaurant. Some say it starts with making the reservation; others argue it’s when the diner arrives at the venue or sits down at the table.
Agreeing on where the customer’s journey starts is important because it gives the team clear direction and allows for consistency. Restaurants are simple really and in the end it always comes down to the same basics – creating the right first impression and always delivering what you promise.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION
This is vitally important for a restaurant. Very few (if any) guests will ever compliment you on the cleanliness of your toilets or the appearance of the venue from the outside. Instead they expect it to be perfect. If their expectations are not met as they set foot in your restaurant, then their perception of it will immediately change for the worse.
Your restaurant must be clean, safe, welcoming and warm. The principle is about good old values, which were probably understood better by front-of-house staff when I started my career. Then it was the duty of the front-of-house team to clean the restaurant. Nowadays this is done by kitchen porters or specialised cleaning companies.
RESERVATION AND RECEPTION
Reservation and reception are the first and last points of contact for guests. Answering the phones and welcoming guests seems simple enough but it is an integral part of the restaurant experience that must be consistent with your vision and the values of your business.
ANSWERING THE PHONE
Do it right and you deliver the guests’ expectations (or above); do it wrong and you can lose the customer from the word go. Restaurants need to think about phone cover in four dimensions:
● Quality of cover This is about the training of staff and the standards in place to answer phones and take reservations. Phones must be answered in a systematic and organised way from early morning to late at night, seven days a week.
● Staffing level Staff must deliver a consistent, friendly, efficient and effective service. Be clear on how many staff you need to cover the phones and when cover needs to be increased.
● Technicalities Be clear on how your phone system works and make sure everyone on the team knows how to use it. Have an answering machine if you need it.
● Business objectives Have a clear vision of the business objectives specifically related to reservations, including number of covers, and ensure they are agreed upon between the front and back of house. Make sure the team knows how to maximise bookings and ensure a high quality service at the same time.
One team or two?
In some restaurants, reservation and reception are one team; in others they are two separate teams. There is no right or wrong setup; both have their advantages and disadvantages. Managers must remember, however, that we can only be good at what we repeatedly do and that cross-exposure and versatility are key success factors for any teams or restaurants.
This is the first physical contact a diner has with a restaurant so people manning the reception are very special. They are not only here to deliver that very important first impression that will set the tone for what is to come, they are also here to create the desired atmosphere in the restaurant by controlling the flow of guests in the dining area.
REGULATING THE FLOW
By regulating the flow of guests and therefore checks to the kitchen the reception staff have a direct impact on the quality of the food and overall kitchen atmosphere. Therefore you could say that the reception team has a direct impact on the long term success of the business.
ONE STEP AHEAD
Receptionists must have their eyes and ears open at all times. They must be intuitive, always anticipating what may or may not happen. I work very hard with the management team at Galvin at Windows to create this special culture within our business. This way we won’t be caught by surprise and we will always be one step ahead of the guests.