Top 4 Mistakes Servers Make that Drive Customers Away

By Brett Doyle August 30, 2021 Categories: , , ,

Good customer service is the lifeblood of food service, and your servers are a crucial part of it. Here’s the worst mistakes servers make and how to avoid them.

Top 4 Common Server Mistakes and their Solutions

If you’ve ever gone for a meal, only to wait over an hour for your food, then you probably judged the customer service poorly at that particular restaurant and decided you won’t be coming back.

First impressions are everything in the restaurant industry—and you don’t want to waste them. If you can wow your diners and provide top tier service, they’ll more likely to become repeat customers. Not only that, they’ll become fans who rave about it to their friends.

From a diner’s perspective, their primary means of interaction with restaurants is with the servers. So, it’s no surprise then that how your servers treat your customers has more impact on their experience at your restaurant than even the food you serve.

With this in mind (and knowing that we’ll be at 100% dine-in capacity one day), it’s essential to train and hire staff who’ll give your patrons 5-star service, turning your first time customers into regulars. And so, we’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that you should train your staff to avoid if you want to have satisfied customers.

 

1. Poor Greeting Practices

Even before they sit down, new customers are judging your restaurant. In fact, a survey by Grass Roots shows that 74% of diners say that customer service is the most important factor in deciding where to eat out, whereas only 46% say that it’s the food quality. 

So, what’s the first thing customers notice when they walk in? Hopefully, it’s a warm and welcoming greeting from a waiter or host! Greetings set the stage for the customer experience. They can either make your diners feel taken care of or completely forgotten about. 

What makes a good greeting? Back in 1971, famed psychology professor Albert Mehrabian described what is now known as the 7-38-55” rule of personal communication, which breaks down like this:

  • 7% of meaning in communication deals with the specific words used.
  • 38% of meaning comes from tone of voice.
  • 55% of meaning is in nonverbal cues, like body language and facial expressions.

While Prof. Mehrabian’s research is based on very specific contexts, this research still tells us just how important it is to be aware of tonality and body language. You can apply this knowledge to your restaurant by telling your servers to always greet people with a smile and friendly posture. Remind them to use a warm tone of voice so that customers will trust them and your restaurant.

This isn’t to say that what your servers actually say isn’t important. A superficial greeting like “Table for how many?” is very common in Filipino restaurants, after all. While many diners have grown accustomed to this casual opening, it’s not the best practice. 

Even changing this greeting to a simple template like “Welcome to [Restaurant]! I’m [Name], how many people are you dining with today?” can make a diner feel more welcome right off the bat.

 

2. Lack of Menu Knowledge

Customers expect their servers to know menu items by heart when they ask about them. And this isn’t just choosing a random bestseller when asked, “What’s good?” Your server needs to have tasted your menu items so they can make tailored recommendations to each guest. 

Servers should also know the different ingredients in each menu item. This isn’t just important for picky diners—some customers have dietary restrictions. If your server doesn’t know the specific ingredients in  each dish, you’re putting diners' health at risk.

If your servers struggle with this, there’s a good chance that it’s rooted in your onboarding practices. So, take the time to train your servers on your menu from the start. Have them observe the kitchen and walk through the ingredients in each menu item. We also suggest providing your waitstaff with regular tasting sessions so that they can make recommendations with up-to-date knowledge about the latest menu changes.

 

3. Weak Customer Management

Not reading the room—or better put, not reading the table—is all too common. Every group of diners will have different personalities and preferences. Servers need to know how to read the dynamics to determine the best approach. Customer management can be tricky, but there are some tips your servers can use to navigate these situations. 

For example, tables with plenty of tension (e.g., bickering couples, breakups, unruly children) are extremely sensitive and require a gentle hand. Servers need to be extra careful when tending to these tables, or they could escalate the situation, putting them and your patrons at risk. 

Another group to be wary of are raucous coworkers or loud groups of friends enjoying themselves at the expense of your other customers. It may be hard to grab their attention, so in this case, a manager or upper-level staff member may be needed to assist.

These are techniques that can only truly be learned through experience. One way to help develop this experience in new servers is to have them shadow more experienced servers. That way, they can mentor them and demonstrate how to handle different scenarios.

 

4. Taking Orders Incorrectly

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There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a waiter carrying your food to the table, only to find out they got your order wrong. This can happen for a few reasons. Sometimes it’s the server writing it down wrong; sometimes it’s the kitchen sending out the incorrect dish. 

What’s important to know is that asking for clarification, note-taking, and double-checking your chits are the best practices to prevent staff from serving the wrong order to a customer. That said, there are also other ways to reduce these obvious mistakes. 

Take human error out of the equation by implementing a cloud-based POS system like Mosaic. A good POS system allows you to offer options like tableside ordering, where customers input their orders directly without going through a server. They also reduce confusion by allowing waiters to input orders into the system as they receive them, instead of scribbling notes while they listen to customers’ orders (which also saves your team a lot of time).

 

The Right Tools for the Best Customer Experience

Servers play the biggest role in customer satisfaction, so you need to give them the right training to avoid these mistakes—but the customer experience doesn’t stop with your servers. Every aspect of your restaurant should be geared towards giving every diner a seamless experience from start to finish.

With Mosaic Solutions, you get a full suite of cloud-based services that ensure your kitchen and logistics operations are running smoothly so that your diners get their food on time and while it’s still warm.

We also offer analytics tools to help you identify what menu items are doing well. This way, your servers can have a database of top items to recommend, and you can engineer your menu effectively to serve the best-performing dishes.

If you’re looking to elevate your restaurant’s operations through technology, contact us now! We’re ready to help you provide the best dining experience for your customers.