As we recover from the pandemic, restaurants of all kinds are paying special attention to keeping their patrons safe and healthy. Of course, they should be doing everything they can.
But at the same time, those businesses cannot overlook the need to provide excellent customer service. If anything, providing top-notch service has become even more important in a time when clients are feeling insecure about returning to restaurants, even coffee bars and food concessions of all kinds.
Why do your food-service employees need good customer service skills? It is because there is wisdom in the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Unfortunately, the opposite is also true – where food is concerned, you never get a second chance to correct a bad first impression. Customers who have had negative experiences will not come back, will say negative things about you to potential customers, and will post negative reviews online. The damage can be hard to undo.
Food service workers are a critical, front-line point of contact between your business and your customers and clients. And that is true if your employees are waiters in your restaurant, attendants who oversee a breakfast room in your hotel, staffers who whip up specialty blender drinks in a juice bar in your health club, or drivers who deliver food to your customers’ homes.
It takes exceptional food service workers to make a great impression on your clients and customers. And because few people are born with great natural customer-service skills, your training program should cover these essentials:
- A positive and energetic attitude. Some individuals naturally possess great personalities, but such people are rare. And even if you are lucky enough to be training people who do, their skills can still be improved through training. Your trainers should be energetic presenters who model the kind of attitude that you want your trainees to project. And your training materials – no matter if they are delivered in a classroom, in a computerized training room, or on tablets or smartphones – should be engaging, positive, and upbeat. Bright graphics, interactive quizzes, and embedded videos can go a long way toward cultivating the right attitude in your trainees.
- Specific skills to greet customers. All your food service workers should be trained to make eye contact with arriving customers and to welcome them enthusiastically with the right words (“good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good evening,” or just an energetic “hello!”). They might also need to learn to deliver standardized company-specific greetings (“Good evening and welcome to John’s Pub”) in an assured and polished way.
- All people who work with or around food need to hit this target. Clean hair, hands, and clothing are essential, and your training should reinforce your specific expectations and required cleanliness routines. We will explore this topic in greater depth in the later chapters of this special report.
- An appropriate appearance. Your requirements will vary according to the nature of your foodservice or restaurant and of the job. If you operate an upscale restaurant, the hosts and hostesses who greet patrons need to dress fashionably – and possibly elegantly. If you are training workers for the food concession in a health club or spa, they can dress in a way that is similar to your patrons or in branded apparel. If you operate a restaurant that has a bar on its premises, your bar staff should understand exactly what you consider appropriate to wear and what you do not. Training is the place to spell out all the specifics.
- Multitasking skills. Foodservice workers often face the challenge of serving multiple clients and, at the same time, making each of them feel that they are experiencing excellent personal service. This is true in a restaurant where waiters and waitresses serve three, four, five tables or more at the same time, but equally true in more foodservice settings than you might expect. If you are training baristas for a coffee bar, for example, they should understand how to make multiple patrons feel well served while they are placing orders, waiting for their orders to be delivered, and while other patrons’ orders are being taken and filled. Dealing with customers in such settings requires specific people skills that can be taught in training.
- Stress management. Let’s face it – virtually all restaurant and foodservice jobs are stressful. You need workers who know how to stay composed when they are multitasking, handling the complex tasks of preparing and serving food and sometimes dealing with displeased customers. That is why your training programs should teach specific skills for coping with stress on the job.