An extremely important concept that should be taught in every waiter training program is presence at the table and availability for all of the customers needs. Woody Allen once said that "95% of success is just showing up." And, I shall apply this type of logic to improve dining room customer service. When a waiter is not readily accessible for the tables at his/her waitstation, then the overall perception will be a lack of restaurant customer care. This, in turn, will have a "domino effect" of pulling down sales, hurting dining room service reputation and unfortunately losing repeat business. Poor management, low staff morale, lax cell phone policies, allowing waitstaff to take cigarette breaks all contribute to a reduction in restaurant customer care. Presence is such a simple concept to teach in waiter training programs or to reinforce at pre-shift meetings. A food and beverage server must be present for the customers at all times for proper table maintenance. Presence must occur whether it is very busy and especially when it is very slow. Often times, waiters may not be present during the slow periods because they think there is less monetary incentive--but the opposite holds true. During the slow period of a shift, a smart waiter will give extra attention to their tables in order to build up the check. Additional food and beverage options can be offered because of the extra time spent at the table resulting in a higher check average. A waiter can also use this extra time to "wow" the customers offering much greater personal attention than if the restaurant was at full capacity. If top notch techniques and personality are utilized, the customers will then receive a truly awesome dining experience. It won't even seem like work for the waiter because of the reciprocal back and forth synergy. The final result will be repeat business for the restaurant, free word-of-mouth advertising as family and friends are told, not to mention increased revenue because of bigger tips. And many times, a waiter will not always have to hawk over a table, but just simply be seen by customers to let them know there is presence for anything needed. Anticipation and good judgment must be used in all of these restaurant examples. The concept of presence also holds true for management as they must be available for customers just like the staff. I have discreetly reviewed many restaurants where managers were either on the telephone unnecessarily or elsewhere unavailable. All kinds of problems sprouted in the restaurant dining room leaving the waitstaff to completely fend for themselves resulting in small issues ballooning into large issues.
An example would be waiters desperately needing to get into the computer system to perform certain functions only allowed by a manager such as adjusting a check for a returned order. The manager was the only person in the restaurant who possessed the keys to the computer to make the adjustment. Since the manager was not readily available at the time, there was a much longer wait for the check. Therefore, the customer's mood had ballooned from being somewhat impatient to complaining heavily to the owner.
These types of mishaps and lack of communication quickly translate into lost revenue that just flies out the door. It is all unnecessary and can easily be prevented. So, please impress the concept of "presence" in all pre-shift meetings, every waiter training program and every restaurant management training program for your restaurant's reputation and bottom line.