Food Beverage Service Working at 'Graduates' Restaurants Essay

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Food Beverage Service

Working at 'Graduates' Restaurants: What I learned

Customer needs and expectations

"The essence of fine dining -- as in any great experience -- is often the expectation of something special... Restaurateurs must encourage their staffs to outdo themselves in pleasing the customer and to equal or surpass expectations. [If they do this] the reward would be happy customers and repeat business rather than disillusioned customers not inclined to return" (Bernstein 1989:1). Customer needs and expectations regarding fine dining are very different from the expectations diners bring to fast or convenience food restaurants. Customers are not simply paying for fine food, they are also paying for a service. They desire expertise and assurance that the investment of time and money they are making in the restaurant is 'worth it.' Customers who do not often go to fine dining establishments hope the experience will be worth the risk of capital, and result in a memorable and an once-in-a-lifetime evening. Regular customers expect to be treated with extra deference, and regular fine dining customers want something out-of -- the ordinary, to contrast with their previous experiences at the restaurant and elsewhere.

Service standards

While all customers want 'good service,' what constitutes good service may vary from customer to customer. Some customers are extremely offended when seated in what they consider an undesirable location, such as by the kitchen or bathroom. Other customers are angry at slow service. Customers often blame servers when the food quality disappoints them, or even when they cannot find the foods they most desire on the menu.

Hiring high-quality and well-trained staff is often said to be the most critical component of succeeding in the restaurant industry. Danny Meyer, the legendary New York restaurateur places a premium on highly-trained staff. Meyer defines the ideal employee as a "51 percenter" or "as an employee who brings job skills that are 51% emotional and 49% technical" (Are you a fifty one percenter, 2010, Management Concepts). A good restaurant employee understands what is required of him or her, and possesses technical expertise (such as not becoming overwhelmed by the number of customers in the case of servers, or being able to handle multiple orders in fast succession as a cook). But the good employee also enjoys his or her job. The job is not 'just a job' for the employee, but is also a labor of love. Meyer calls such employees 'jazzed up' at the prospect of serving and by being 'jazzed up' themselves they communicate enthusiasm to the customer (Are you a fifty one percenter, 2010, Management Concepts).

In the restaurant, when a server is actually interested and invested with what is going on, and seems excited about the food that is being served, his or her attitude is infectious. An good employee is truly excited about a new cheese on the menu, and understands why it is so rare and such a good pairing with a particular kind of wine; he or she does not merely 'push' certain items because management tells him or her to do so, or even to get a good tip on a more expensive food item. A good server will try to "delight customers by anticipating and meeting needs they didn't even realize" and will "think three steps ahead of your customer" (Are you a fifty one percenter, 2010, Management Concepts). Good servers can anticipate employee needs as well as fulfill those that are articulated.

Types and forms of communications

Good service means good communication. On a very basic level, servers must be able to communicate customer orders to the cooking staff, and the cooking staff must be able to balance those orders so that the food gets to the table on time, at the correct temperature and in the correct order. This requires a great deal of verbal and nonverbal communication between the front-of-house and the back-of-house. All too often there is a war between the two sides, one of which represents the kitchen, the other of which represents the wait staff. But knowledge of food on both sides is required for optimal service. A waitperson must know about correct pacing of appetizers and entrees, and be aware if a customer orders an entree that may require more time to prepare than those of his dining companions. The customer must be warned of this, so he does not grow angry if the rest of the table is served before him.

While communicating basic needs regarding food timing and offerings is important on a verbal level, on a nonverbal level, good service also means interpreting customer 'moods.' A good server knows when to ask if the table needs additional service, based upon noting some empty water glasses and impatient glancing around but avoids breaking into an intimate moment to ask if a romantic couple needs anything else. Customers that want more elaborate foods vs. customers that are more price-sensitive may communicate their needs through signs of discomfort when looking at particular items on the menu or which entrees they react to positively when specials are read. The server should be sensitive to those needs and steer customers in the right directions accordingly.

Efficiency of service

Standard operating procedures are necessary for a restaurant to function effectively, spanning from what types of foods are offered on specific days, times, and in specific seasons, to how the service and cooking staff interact.

Staff skills and product knowledge

In low-end, convenience dining, management often carefully scripts what employees say, to ensure consistency of customer experiences. In fine dining, however, spontaneous interactions are essential, given that customers expect service from a staff that has a real appreciation of their needs based upon deeper levels of food knowledge. Staff members should be instructed on how to interact with customers in a positive fashion: "Customers sense the emptiness of scripted language, and the lack of substance renders the words ineffective. Because the quality of service interactions can increase pricing power or market share, the implementation of such protocols is a waste of time and resources" (Lapidus 2012).

Impact on the kitchen operations

Incompetence on the part of servers can negatively impact a customer's experience, but also that of the kitchen's experience. Kitchen staff appreciates when servers can 'help them out' -- for example, if the kitchen is overwhelmed, servers can slow down the pace of the dining room, encourage customers to linger over drinks, or, if quantities of specific menu items are scarce steer diners towards other entrees.

Menu types, service styles & food and wine matching

Customers are more knowledgeable than ever about fine foods, spanning from seafood to wine to cheeses. This requires that servers do not simply know how to pronounce entrees (although that is important) -- they must also know how to interact with customers in an informative fashion. A customer can easily spot a blank look in a server's eye when questioned about a particular product.

Essay B: Moments of truth

Customer needs and expectations

What a customer thinks he or she desires is not always what he or she actually desires. Some customers will say that they want food that is very spicy, but in reality they do not want a menu item that is too assertive; other customers may say they want a special occasion wine, but really want something moderately priced. Servers must learn to 'read between the lines' of articulated customer expectations and managers must encourage and instruct servers how to read nonverbal customer cues.

Service standards

Rather than scripting servers, managers in fine dining establishments must seek to inform them -- inform them about customer expectations. Servers should be knowledgeable about fine dining and passionate about fine dining -- however, what they lack in education can be compensated in a strong education program. Hospitality, in contrast, or passion about people cannot be taught (Meyer 2006).

Types and forms of communications

Every night, a good restaurant will have a 'family' meeting to educate members of the staff in the menu before service. However, certain aspects of staff performance, like the ability to read customers well in a manner that transcends the purely verbal, are intuitive. Hiring employees with a genuine interest in people and the industry is also essential.

Efficiency of service

Despite the slower pace of fine dining, customers still demand efficient service. The fast pace of modern life means that customers expect timely attention from wait staff and prompt meals from the kitchen. If there are delays, customers are more apt to be forgiving if they are informed about the problem: servers must be told that a few choice words from then reassuring the customer can be the difference between a repeat vs. A 'lost' customer.

Staff skills and product knowledge

Staff must be knowledgeable about the product. This improves the confidence of the service and the perceived customer experience. Moreover, good staff members are usually intellectually curious and want to know more about what they are serving. "At my restaurants, we have training drills before every…[continue]

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