Service in Restaurants

Don´t lose yourself in conversation

Today a group of talkative and happy travelers came to us. There wasn’t much going on so we had time to chat with them. We told them about the area and asked them questions such as: “What would you most like to do? Have you seen …?” It was interesting to hear what they had to say and how they were happy to get suggestions about ways to make their stay as enjoyable as possible. We told them about events in the vicinity, what was on our menu and how here in Iceland we bake rye bread in the naturally hot ground. One enquired about Skálholt Church; another, an outdoors enthusiast, we recommended should go horsetrekking. For some reason we had forgotten to take the drinks order for the group that I thought had just arrived. The group leader was far from pleased and gave me an earful. He actually was quite personal! I thought of asking him to discuss the matter privately as he was making a scene in front of the other guests. However I was careful to use appropriate body language, count up to ten, use a controlled tone of voice and focus on the issue rather than the individual. I gave him my deepest apology and told him the drinks were on the house.


How do staff feel when they are knowledgeable about their surroundings and can inform and help guests? How do guests feel when staff are knowledgeable and can inform and assist them? What problems could there have been for the second group due to the delay in being served? Come up with some suggestions as to how management can best train staff to effectively handle different groups under different circumstances. In this particular instance, how could the problem have been avoided? What’s the best way to keep a cool head and think logically and sensibly in stressful situations? Why was it important that the waiter didn’t respond in a similarly aggressive manner towards the guide? Why can negativity be so highly contagious?

Customer satisfaction is everybody´s responsibility

A group of friends and myself decided to have a break and stay three nights at the same accommodation in a small country town. We knew little about the place except that there was an excellent museum. The first night we went to a nearby restaurant. We were immediately welcomed and offered a table. The waiter quickly realised we were visitors who knew little about the town or the area. He asked whether we had decided what we wanted to see in the town. When he heard that we as yet had no plans he told us what the most popular attractions were. One had to admire how he easily managed to impart the information without interrupting our dinner. Also noteworthy was how he explained what products on the menu were local. The only downside to the evening experience was to notice the frustrated guests at the next table trying to attract the waiter’s attention; and the toilet had no towels or paper napkins and the wash basin was dirty.


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! Why is it important for the waiter to first find out what it is that brought the people to the town? What effect does it have if the waiter simply tells people what they already know? What should one keep in mind when telling people about places of interest? Is everyone capable of doing this? What negative consequences can it have if staff give one customer more time and attention than another?

A thoughtful employee made the trip a memorable one

A satisfied guest sent an email to the owner of a guesthouse praising a member of staff. The guesthouse owner sends the guest a reply and the employee receives a copy. Dear Selma, My daughter and I stayed one night at your guesthouse on 15 August last. Our room was lovely and it was well equipped. However what exceeded our expectations was to experience the wonderfully warm and helpful manner of the lady who saw to serving breakfast. For example, she told us about various interesting places worth visiting and I also overheard her giving advice to other guests. It’s staff like her who make staying at a place enjoyable and memorable. Dear Margrét, Thank you for your kind compliment and I´m delighted to hear that your stay with us was enjoyable. We count ourselves very lucky to have staff like Sigrún, who sees to serving breakfast and of course she enjoys nothing more than making people feel at home and offering helpful advice. It´s invaluable for us in the business to get such feedback and realise just what it is that makes our guests happy. Sincerely, Selma


Remember, there is more than one right answer! What effect does praise such as that in the email have on Sigrún? What effect does such praise have on staff morale? Put yourself in the position of Selma and Sigrún and consider what effect it would have had if the email was one of complaint and dissatisfaction. How important is Selma´s response to the email?

The guest– the Centre of our attention!

The supervisor took one of the waiters aside in the dining hall and spoke to him privately: “It’s very important that you give your fullest attention to the table you’re responsible for. I noticed just now that your guests had empty glasses in front of them. You didn’t refill their wine and beer glasses and you didn’t ask if they’d like to order another bottle of wine when they’d finished the one served. You need to ensure that guests have something to drink and always offer more if needs be. I’m confident that from now on you’ll follow these instructions.” The following day the supervisor spoke yet again to the waiter: “I’m very pleased how you now give your full attention to the table you’re responsible for. You’re careful to refill glasses when almost empty and offered to bring another bottle of wine when the first was finished.” The waiter was really pleased with this feedback. However he wondered whether the supervisor had also spoken to a fellow waiter nearby who was bent over tediously wrapping cutlery in napkins.


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! What effect does it have on staff to know that the quality and timing of their work is being monitored? What effect do empty glasses on the table in the middle of a meal have on guests´ experience? How do you think staff feel when they get constructive criticism? Why do you think the waiter started to wonder about the task his fellow waiter was doing? What effect does regular constructive criticism have on staff and staff morale?

Respect for special needs

A family planned to stay at a particular hotel for seven days with half board included, i.e. breakfast and dinner. Since the daughter in the family is vegetarian, the parents sent an e-mail to the hotel informing them so that kitchen staff could offer a vegetarian option. Here below is the mail sent by the parents and the hotel´s response: Dear Sir/Madam, We have booked a table at your restaurant the 10th of February. My daughter is a vegetarian. We would highly appreciate if you could make sure that the chef has vegetarian optioms for dinner. Will that be possible? Thank you in beforehand for your prompt response.Eva McKenna Dear Madam Thank you for your request, our restaurant is not specialized in vegetarian food but we can adapt to your special request, as we always have done similar cases. Our chef ill be happy to adapt the dinner to your special needs. The reality was that the daughter, who’s 16, received a far poorer quality dinner than the other non-vegetarian guests. During the stay she rarely finished her dinner and almost daily went to a nearby supermarket to buy nuts and fruit to have both before and after her dinner.


Remember, there´s more than one correct answer! Who is responsible for customer satisfaction? What does this example tell us about teamwork in this workplace? How could the employee who received the email ensure that the information was passed onto the appropriate person? What can be done when guests have special needs? How can waiters and front desk staff regularly check to see if everybody is happy with the service provided?

A quick-thinking employee exceeds expectations

When a group of guests had left a restaurant one of the waiters noticed an expensive mobile phone lying on the floor beside a chair. He took the phone and placed it in a locked drawer. He remembered that the guests at that particular table had had a reservation so he decided to check the bookings and see if there was a phone number along with the reservation. When he called the number provided the mobile in the drawer started ringing. The waiter saw that his boss was giving him disapproving glances as other customers were waiting to be served. He returned to his tasks, but it annoyed him that he couldn’t inform the guest about the lost phone. Suddenly he remembered that since the guest had two first names he could easily find his friends on Facebook and tell them. Once he got the opportunity he took his phone and began checking on Facebook. He found the individual under whose name the table had been reserved and sent him, and also his wife, a text message. After a few seconds he received a response from the wife with lots of smileys. The owner of the phone had been searching high and low for the phone, both in his rental car and hotel room. Understandably he was over the moon on finding his phone. And the waiter of course was pretty happy with his achievement too.


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! What can generally be done when situations such as this arise? What is your opinion of the waiter´s response? What consequences can there be for other guests if considerable time is spent providing such a service? How could the waiter see that other guests were waiting? Act out how you can give somebody a “disapproving look”. Explain what effect the initiative taken by the waiter in this instance can have on customer satisfaction, recommendations and loyalty. Can you mention any other examples where a problem can be solved in a similar way?

A shining example of an organised workplace – or not?

I had eaten twice at this restaurant over a short period of time. The food was worth every penny. However the service appeared to be in the hands of one individual who was run off his feet all evening. Other staff seemed quite stressed and under pressure, but nevertheless didn’t seem to get much done. The second time I was there one guest became pretty agitated over the long wait and started to complain in a loud voice. This man´s dissatisfaction seemed to ignite a moblike response among other guests who began calling out to staff about when they would be served.


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! How would you define organization and cooperation in this workplace? Who is monitoring quality and the timing of tasks? What can be done when such a mob mentality occurs? What impact does such a situation have on guests? How do you think staff working under such conditions feel? What sort of response can staff come up with so as to effectively cope with such heavy stress/pressure.

Consideration for those with special needs

I just wanted to ensure that the owners got to know about how helpful their staff were and so I ´ve put this little story on Tripadvisor. We were a group of thirty travelling around Iceland. We were so fortunate to get seated in a nice restaurant at short notice. The staff welcomed us with a smile and were very considerate to ensure that we could all sit together. Our son is allergic to fish. The staff were uncertain whether the deep fried fish had been cooked in the same oil as the French fries. To be completely certain they changed the oil in the deep fry pot and did a special batch of fries for my son. This is the first time someone has put themselves out to such a degree for him. When I thanked the waitress, she was at first a little bit uncomfortable but then replied with a broad smile, “The pleasure is ours.” I could see the compliment was very much appreciated.


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! What impact does such a story have on staff morale in this restaurant? How much work was involved in providing this additional service? What can staff do to quickly find out if customers have special needs? How could the customer see that the compliment paid had an immediate effect on the waiter?

Delays due to mistakes can prove costly

A group of friends went to a popular steak house one Saturday night. On the restaurants website it boasts that guests can expect a warm welcome, personal service and delicious food. One of the group described the experience as follows to his work colleagues. When we arrived we had to wait for a table. We were invited to take a seat in the lounge and they took our order for drinks. There was no music and the atmosphere was uncomfortable due to the strong lighting. Where we were sitting was close to the entrance and we could see that for whatever reason others were being seated before us. We were finally shown to a nice table. A friendly waiter brought the menu, followed by an equally friendly one who went through the menu and took our order for drinks. All the drinks were brought except one. After a long wait we enquired about the missing drink. We were informed that there had been a mixup but that it would be immediately sorted out. The waiter apologised sincerely and told us it would be on the house. In the meantime we placed our menu orders. The starters were delicious but there was a long wait until the main course because the chef had got the orders wrong. To make amends we were served an additional starter which was even more delicious than the one we had just eaten. After a considerable wait the excellent main course was served. There was also a mixup when it came to dessert. Unfortunately we were caught for time as we were going to a concert so we simply asked for the bill. On our way out we saw there were quite a few guests still waiting to be seated.


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! What was the reason behind the drinks order being forgotten? What can be done to avoid such a thing happening? What do you think the evening’s mistakes cost the restaurant? What does this example tell us about team work at this restaurant? How can one priorities and organise time more effectively so as to successfully finish tasks?

Be warned about this place!

The following comment appeared on Tripadvisor under the heading: Be warned about this place! My wife and I planned on celebrating our silver wedding anniversary with some friends. We reserved a table at a reputable restaurant well in advance. However it didn’t quite turn out as we expected. To make a long story short, the food was excellent, but we were very disappointed with the service. The waiter came with the menu soon after we were seated and muttered something incomprehensible. When I said I hadn’t caught what he said and asked him to repeat it he appeared insulted. He repeated what he had muttered with a sulky expression and hurried off. Fifteen minutes later another waiter came and we ordered our food and cocktails. We pointed out that we like to have our drinks before the food was served. We at once got water but no cocktails to toast our anniversary with. After waiting yet another fifteen minutes our patience gave out and we asked the waiter when we could expect our drinks. His expression was one of complete surprise and he told us he had no idea. A short time afterwards he came with both our food and drinks almost at the same time. We ended up drinking really sweet and strong tasting cocktails with our steak!


Remember, there can be more than one right answer! How could the guests see that the waiter was insulted? What memories of their silver wedding anniversary are the couple likely to have from the evening at this restaurant? What could explain the behavior of the waiter who came with the menu? Whats interesting about the reply given by the waiter who is asked why there’s a delay serving the cocktails?

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