Defining the Manager's Role in Great Service

When it comes to great service in your restaurant, hotel, or retail store, you already know its the foundation for being able to survive in this industry. Great food has got to be paired with great service in order to create a following and build a brand. With your “service standards” and greeting specs thought out, what’s next? How do you as a leader foster great service? What’s your ongoing role to ensure you stay top of mind for your guests because of the great experience with your team?
Whether you are leading a food truck, a takeout counter, a QSR, a fast casual, or a white table cloth spot–there are some fundamental steps to take as a leader. Years ago I learned about the “training compact” that my friends at ZingTrain made to help clarify the responsibilities of the trainer and trainee. I’ve even adapted and adopted that model in a few of the organizations that I’ve lead over the years. The cool thing about this tool that my buddy, Maggie Bayless, designed is that it works equally well when thinking about the leader’s role in great service.

Manager’s Role in Great Restaurant Service:

Be Clear

The first thing that you as a leader need to do is get really clear and specific about what great service looks like in your organization. Our industry has no shortage of acronyms, “steps of service,” or other ways to systemize our approach to taking care of customers. And don’t get wrong–those things are important. But it is also important to get really focused and clear on exactly how you want customers to feel about your restaurant. Answer a few questions and then share this with your team:

  • When customers leave our restaurant, they say things like __________________________
  • The most common things we see in our online reviews from customers are ___________, ________________, and ______________.
  • The reason customers say those things about us is because we believe ______________________.
  • Because we believe that, we do these kinds of things differently ____________, _________________, and _____________.
  • We know that in order to succeed we have to always ______________, ________________, and _____________.
  • Which is why we ______________, ______________, and _____________.
  • In the year 2020, we are known for __________________ _______________.

Provide tools and resources

It is really important as a leader to focus on giving your team what they need to to do the job. This goes beyond pens, order pads, and drink trays (although those are all really important and helpful too). Take a deep look at what might cause service to slip a little low: do you have enough glasses to keep customers happy? are you running out of basic supplies like bags and napkins? what is your team struggling with that you could easily solve? And then do the most powerful thing: ask your team what they would need to 10X your customer service level? Read them the answers to the above and ask “So what do you need from me to get there?”

Another important thing to do here is to pay attention to all the “rules” you have for customers. These start out innocent but end up being a huge turn off for customers. It also sends the wrong signal to your team about how to value and treat your guests. I’m talking about things like:

  • “Next time, you should let us know ahead of time you want it that way”
  • “You’ll have to call ahead further for an order of this size.”
  • “Like I said…”

The other new one popping up is “No Cell Phone in line”–if you want people to not pay attention to their phone in line, then give them something else to pay attention to. Engage them earlier in the order process. These kinds of rules and procedures make your customers less likely to return and send the message to your team that the customer’s have to play by our rules. They don’t. They don’t even have to come to your restaurant.

Recognize Great Service

How often are you recognizing great service on your team? You have probably heard the old mantra “what gets measured, gets managed.” I think there is another one “what gets recognized, gets repeated.” We are so trained to recognize when something is wrong–I know that I can spot a poorly packaged togo order from a mile away. And we expect our people to get it right most of the time which is why it is easy to miss or ignore the good stuff. But if you want to see more of it, you need to call it out when you see it. Here are two easy tips:

  • During pre-shift, make it mandatory for their to be “3 Great Service Shout-outs” at the end of the pre-shift. Anyone can call out anyone else for something great–aim for 3, but let more be added on. In the beginning, be ready to offer up all 3 yourself as your team gets used to the new bit.
  • Before each person leaves each day, pull them aside to say thanks and to point out one awesome service thing they did that day.

Reward Great Service

Again, something so fundamental to our business needs your attention daily. What are the ways you can reward great service?

  • Gift cards for the “extra mile” stuff you see
  • Extra meal perk for a great occurrence
  • If you serve wine, ask your vendor for a bottle to use for a service award
  • Provide on-the-spot, in-the-moment smaller awards like a Starbucks gift card

Hope is not a strategy–and great service is the key to an enduring restaurant. So start getting serious about service. I know it’s easy to think “Wait–I am paying them to give great service.” Hey–if that’s working for you, keep it up. But if not, try to tips above to drastically increase the greatness in your restaurant’s service.