Having just having completed a one-week business trip to Las Vegas, I’m coming off what any fellow hotelier may recognize as a ‘service high’ – that feeling of wonder and admiration for a job done far beyond what anyone would deem well done.
During the span of four full days on The Strip, I enjoyed fourteen different eating occasions, all in hotel-based establishments and all excellent. It is a remarkable credit to our F&B leadership and teams to deliver an incredible string of successes. When you think of the planning, costing, supply chain requirements and delivery that could have come up short, the mind boggles.
But what struck me the most is the value-add brought about by the servers. In most every dining experience, the server was an integral part of the overall impression. From welcoming and assisting with menu selection to serving dishes and invoice delivery for a total of six or seven guest interactions by the end of the meal, he or she was there with pure attentiveness and often anticipating needs.
From training to management for true success
Professional waitstaff is often taken for granted, yet even the most successful executive chefs rely upon an effective delivery system. Not just keeping the conveyor belt of dishes moving, a great wait team advises the chefs on the meal’s progress, ensuring that the tempo of the meal is perfected for each guest.
Being a server is not an easy task in the slightest. On a typical shift, one might be on his or her feet for seven hours or more, throughout which this person needs to be in top form. Many restaurants, especially those in Las Vegas, might turn their table three or four times each evening, requiring even longer stretches of hustling about.
So, in the labor shortage situation we currently find ourselves in, what can you do to protect your servers from being poached and to ensure that your restaurants have the frontline experience necessary to service delivery at its peak? Here is my five-point plan.
- Show respect. Recognize the importance of servers in your organization. Make sure that you treat them as professionals. They are the closest guest-facing staff members that you have on your team, and they can make a serious impact towards leaving a lasting positive impression with hotel guests.
- Communicate. Be open and listen. Accept and act upon your servers’ recommendations. Give feedback on the success of your property – not just the restaurant but your overall facility as well. This helps break down the silos such as rooms division versus F&B so that you can all push the needle forward together.
- Empathize. Servers have a life outside of your restaurant. Show some flexibility when scheduling. Think about the school year and associated events.
- Product knowledge. Servers need knowledge about your dishes, wine list and cocktails if they are to have the passion necessary to sell these items to patrons. Hence, ensure that servers are part of your education plan with tastings and samplings as part of the weekly ritual with your beverage vendors involved, too.
- Reward. This goes beyond salary and tips. Offer opportunities for servers’ families to participate in their success. Overnight stays are a great recognition tool that can be delivered at a nominal cost. Above all, express your gratitude in person and individually, making them fully aware of their integral role in the property’s success.