The hardest task for any restaurateur is convincing a potential customer to walk through the front door for the first time. This takes considerable effort in the form of image building, identifying target markets, use of social media, advertising, building an effective website, selecting the right physical location, etc. Convincing a customer to make that leap means that they are willing to take a risk, sit down and spend some money. After all of that effort how much time do you spend on convincing customers to buy and set the stage for a return visit?
Keep in mind that your service staff are your ambassadors and sales force. Have you taken the time to train them how to sell and have you provided them with the tools that they need to be effective in that role? Your job is not to simply make a sale, it is to build a relationship that will result in steadily increasing sales, check averages and return guests. Your service staff holds your future in their hands.
That initial customer visit will likely result in “safe” purchases until your operation is able to demonstrate trustworthiness. The server is the portal for information, the front-line expert on your menu, the friend who can make great suggestions, the connection to others in the restaurant and the gatekeeper to your profitability.
Yes, the top line drives the bottom line and the server’s primary job is to sell, however, to accomplish this they must be able to provide exceptional value for the guest. Does you service staff known the menu, the ingredients, the source of those ingredients, the methods of preparation and the flavor profile of every item on the menu? Does your service staff have a working knowledge of wine and can they make great pairing suggestions for the novice wine consumer? Is your service staff comfortable communicating with the chef about special requests and can they offer those to a guest with confidence that the property can deliver? Is your service staff willing and able to sell the bookends: appetizers and desserts? If not, the fault lies with management and ownership.
The average restaurant in America spends less than 1% of its budget on training, yet it is training that will result in greater sales, higher check averages and return guests. The top line does not happen simply because your marketing efforts have led customers to walk through the door.
Are the tools in place to allow servers to up-sell with confidence? Is the dining room comfortable, is the menu attractive and user friendly, is the wine list understandable, do you offer on-going training to keep staff informed about the menu, do you require daily pre-meal information sessions, do you have a sommelier or a manager with a strong understanding of wine and the ability to build a list that works well with food, do you have the right glassware and china to complement the wine and food, do you take advantage of customer profile systems such as Open Table so that your server can track the preferences of return guests? The answer to each of these should be YES.
The top line drives the bottom line, but the process of setting the stage is the only thing that will allow this to become a reality.
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