In the restaurant industry, foodservice professionals often refer to both service and hospitality as “guest service” but there is a fundamental difference between the two.
Understanding the difference and embedding the principles of both in your team’s mindset can take your guest experience to new heights.
Service is a function while hospitality is a feeling. Let me explain – when a waiter brings dishes from the pass and places it on a guest’s table that is service, but how the server welcomes guests, smiles, remembers their names, their favourite food and making them feel valued; now that is hospitality.
You can get service from any service provider such as banks, supermarkets, clothing stores, car repair shops and even from ATM machines. However, experiencing hospitality is possible through friendliness, positive vibes, a cheerful/welcoming attitude, and good energy.
In the training that I provide to hotels and restaurants, I always separate both topics, when it comes to service. Some of the functions/topics that I focus on are:
- Pace of service – not rushed or slow
- Order accuracy
- Menu knowledge
- Remembering what was ordered by whom
- Key service steps
But when I am coaching the team on hospitality, I focus on behavioural elements, such as:
- A cheerful smile
- Going above and beyond
- Anticipating guests’ needs
- Personalizing the experience
- WOWing them
Some mistakenly think service is about having a servile attitude by treating the guest as superior to you. In reality, it is about leading your guests to a phenomenal experience and making suggestions and recommendations while remaining humble and kind. Feeling inferior to your guests because of income level, and/or their job title or because of their training makes food servers passive order takers and not experience makers. The latter is what creates loyalty, builds guest’s trust and drives repeat visits. Leading the guest to a great experience is about taking command of your table, making the best food and drinks recommendations, while remaining polite and genuinely friendly.
Excellent service and hospitality require both technical and social skills to recognize, anticipate, and meet guests’ needs. The shortest way to generate significant sales is to cultivate happy guests who come back often!
Here are some of the key contributors to great service and hospitality:
Team empowerment: No manager can lead alone; empowering your team to solve guests’ problems or accept certain requests is key. If, for example, a guest needs to change his/her table, a manager approval shouldn’t be required, just a simple coordination step with the reservation team, and if a guest says “my soup is cold” food servers should be able to communicate with the kitchen and replace the dish without having to wait for the manager’s approval yet again.
Menu knowledge: This is the cornerstone of great service. Food servers must know all the ingredients and the allergens in case guests have questions. Vast menu knowledge is critical be able to recommend the right dishes. Unfortunately, I find this lacking at many restaurants including well-respected celebrity chef restaurants. Knowledge builds confidence and confident food servers deliver superior experiences.
Remembering regulars and their previous requests: This is part of personalization and showing we care. If a guest visits your restaurant three times a week and always orders Caesar salad, no croutons, every food server on your team should know this and avoid asking the same questions again. Letting guests know that we are aware of their preferences is a perfect demonstration of “we care” attitude.
I would like to add to the points above, understanding your brand positioning is key. Band positioning in brief is your unique value, marketing strategy, the category you play in such as fine dining, casual dining or fast food and the image, look and feel you want your guests to experience and perceive. For example, we often find fresh graduates from hospitality schools trying to deliver classic French service at a casual dining restaurant, hence explaining your brand positioning must be part of the orientation and onboarding training.
And lastly, being a hospitality and service role-model – as an owner, manager, supervisor, or trainer, if you avoid welcoming guests, if you shy away from table visits, avoid handling guests’ complaints, and if you charge guests down to the nickel for every menu modifications and refuse to acknowledge service mistakes, discount late food or remove wrong orders from the guests bill; your team will pick up on these behaviours and act just like you. In other words, whatever you accept or reject when it comes to hospitality and service becomes the norm and the unspoken policy at your restaurant. So, leading by example, practicing what you preach, not just talking about it in shift briefings, is key.
I will end with this, how you make people feel will always be remembered. Build a DNA of personalised service and unparalleled hospitality and your restaurant will become unstoppable.