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Fri 16 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Train staff and boost customer spend

Staff training is not only a vital tool to boost customer satisfaction levels, but when done properly it can also increase spend per head. The Restaurant Ingredient director Guy Holmes offers advice on the matter.

Staff training is not only a vital tool to boost customer satisfaction levels, but when done properly it can also increase spend per head. The Restaurant Ingredient director Guy Holmes offers advice on the matter.

'Supermarkets sell food, restaurants sell service.'

This old restaurant maxim has never been more true than today, with customers demanding incredibly high levels of service - and, thanks to huge competition in the region, if they don't get it they will simply frequent your competitors' restaurants instead.

It's always worth checking references; it’s amazing how many restaurants don't.

The secret of good service

Good service starts with recruiting good staff.

Some people are naturally good at working in the service industry and some are not. The key attributes that you are looking for in a potential employee is that they are friendly, confident and reasonably fast-working - you don't want someone so laid back that they just stroll slowly round the restaurant during busy periods.

When interviewing staff you should be able to gauge if they have these three attributes within the first minute or two. But it's always worth checking references; it's amazing how many restaurants don't!

All new staff should be employed on the understanding that they are on one month's probation and that during that time they can be fired without notice. Likewise, if they don't want to work at your restaurant they too can simply leave without a notice period.

Training tips

Once you have found good staff, the next step is to ensure that they are correctly trained.

I find it helps to write a training manual for each restaurant, complete with all relevant service steps and scripts, as this ensures all staff are trained to the same high standards.

Service steps are essentially all the stages from when a customer makes a booking to them having their meal, paying and leaving. The script is essentially about that whole process - it should offer hints and suggestions about how to phrase questions to the customer and also tips on up-selling.

The staff also need to be trained regarding the menu. I would recommend that the chef does this and that the staff are given tasting sessions, where they are encouraged to write their own tasting notes. This helps to personalise the service that they give.

Food preparation times should also be covered - dishes that take a particularly long time to cook need to be memorised, so customers can be warned in case they are in a hurry.

Increasing spend per head

The benefit of training staff properly isn't just about giving good service; it's also about achieving a better spend per head from your customers.

This can be accomplished by the waiting and bar staff through various selling techniques.There are three basic methods for staff to increase spend per head. These are:

1) Positive selling

Positive selling means keeping the customer supplied with enough food and drink to be perfectly satisfied. For example, you should ask a customer if they would like another glass of wine before they have finished the one they are drinking.

A good general rule to follow is that when there is a third or less liquid in a customer's glass, you should ask if you can get them another drink.

It's always best to nod your head slightly to reinforce the positive nature of what you have just asked.

2) Up-selling

This is where you suggest a higher priced and better-quality product to the one the customer has ordered.

For example, if they ask for the house white wine you could ask if they have tried the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, adding something like: "It's definitely my favourite".

Again, this where good product knowledge will be a big help, as you will have your own knowledge of - and opinions about - the products and will consequently be able to make the up-selling as personal as possible. 3) Suggestive selling

By suggesting additional products that the customer has not ordered or even necessarily thought of, you make it a lot more likely that they will order them.

For example, suggesting items such as a bottle of water, bread, or desserts can often encourage an ‘impulse buy' - and don't forget the positive nod of the head!

Some examples of suggestive selling include: "Would you like some water?...Still or sparkling?" And: "Would you like one of our delicious deserts or some coffee?"

Staff training should be seen as an ongoing job to be carried out by the managers - and it is their duty to ensure that such training is successful.

It is beneficial for outlets to use ‘mystery diners' to gain accurate feedback on how effective their training has been. These are people that get a free meal in return for filling out a detailed report on their restaurant experience. The staff don't know who the mystery diners are, so they give an accurate reflection of what service is really like; some restaurants will even base a manager's bonus on the results of regular mystery diner reports.

Weekly staff meetings are anotehr way to help motivate and train staff.

And at the end of the day, this is what is important: if you make sure that you have a motivated, well tutored team, they will certainly give your outlet a boost in the crowded Middle Eastern market place.

Guy Holmes is one of the directors of The Restaurant Ingredient, a UK-based restaurant marketing consultancy.

The Restaurant Ingredient provides a range of services that boost profits for restaurants, bars and hotels, including branding, website design, graphic design, staff training, media relations and local marketing.

For more details visit www.tri.eu.com or email guy@tri.eu.com.

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