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A Guide to Improving the Steps of Fine Dining Service

Elana Kroon
Elana Kroon

Nov 9, 2021 4:57:20 PM

Fine dining restaurants are very different from your casual restaurant next door. People walk into these upscale establishments with an expectation to be wowed by the luxurious ambiance, exquisite food, and an unmatchable level of service, which justifies their premium charges. Given the high expectations, a lackluster service with no attention to detail results in unsatisfied customers and loss of revenue for the restaurant.

No matter how delicious the food, people are unlikely to come back if they are not happy with the service provided by the restaurant. This is why it’s important to ensure that your front-of-house staff is well-trained to provide a top-notch customer experience.

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Why Well-Trained Servers are the Key to Fine-Dining Success

While the restaurant manager overlooks and manages the entire front-of-house, making sure everything is in order, the level of service that is required at a fine-dining restaurant cannot be executed well without well-trained servers.

There is only so much that the restaurant manager can control, the servers need to take ownership of the customer experience. They need to be well-educated and aware of each step of service, the etiquettes, terminology, etc. and use their own skills and intuition to provide the best customer service to diners instead of turning back to the manager for each request.

However, with growing competition, the expectations of diners are increasing vehemently. Now, guests are not just looking for good service, they are looking for a personalized dining experience that will make them feel special and important. In turn, it’s getting harder for servers to keep up.

Thankfully, many advanced restaurant technologies, like reservation and table management systems, are helping servers do their job well, in the most efficient and effective way.

Tips for Improving Service at a Fine Dining Restaurant

Given the growing expectations of diners, it’s important for servers to always be at their A-game. Below, we will discuss a few tips on improving the customer experience at your restaurant and how technology can assist servers through each step of service at a fine dining restaurant.

1. Taking Reservations

A diner’s first impression of a restaurant begins before they visit the restaurant - through reservations. Pre-booking a table is part of a good fine-dining experience as it reduces wait times and allows diners to be seated and served at their convenience.

As reservations act as the customer’s first touchpoint with the restaurant, it’s important to ensure that servers are well-trained on the required etiquettes - how to greet the guest on call, and what questions to ask, and also be able to record the reservations correctly so that there are no missed bookings.

How technology can help
Using advanced reservation systems, like Eat App, can help streamline the reservation process for both the diners and the restaurant staff. They allow guests to book a table at a restaurant through different digital platforms like the restaurant website, social media channels, etc, without having to call them up. The systems also collect all the reservations, online and inhouse, under one system, making it easier for restaurant staff to keep track and not overbook or underbook tables at any time.

2. Welcoming and greeting guests

Another very important step of service - the greeting sets the precedence of the service for the rest of the guest’s dining experience. A substandard welcome can put the diner off from the very beginning, which in turn will lead to an unsatisfactory meal.

First, make sure you are following the 30-second rule, i.e, the guest must be greeted within 30 seconds after entering the restaurant. Any longer will make them feel like they are not welcome. It’s important to welcome them with a smile and a polite greeting while giving them undivided attention and not making it sound like you are in a hurry. The goal is to make diners feel special from the moment they step foot into the restaurant.

How technology can help
Reservation systems like Eat App store historical guest data about returning customers that allows servers and hostesses to provide a more personalized guest experience by taking a quick glance at the guest’s profile in the system. For instance, instead of just saying “Welcome to our restaurant”, if the server looks at the system and finds that the diner is a returning customer and notes their name, they can greet them more personally with a statement like “Welcome back, Mr. John!”.

3. Seating Guests

Guests don’t like waiting for their table, especially if they have a reservation. Each server must be well aware of the restaurant layout and the current capacity situation i.e, which tables are currently filled so that there are no confusion or misunderstandings. The last thing you want is to lead a guest to a table and have people seated at it already.

It’s also a good idea to pre-allot tables to people with reservations so that the staff knows exactly where to direct them when they arrive. Allocate one member of your team to handle table allotment to avoid any miscommunications and mishaps in front of the guests.

How technology can help
Table management systems, like Eat App, can be very helpful in seating guests as they automatically allot tables to reservations based on the number of diners when the booking is made. Servers can also easily allot tables to walk-ins in the system and have a comprehensive view of the current situation of the floor to know exactly which tables are available. This reduces confusion in seating and also helps restaurants use their capacity to its maximum potential.

4. Presenting the menu and taking the order

Once the diners are seated, the next and most important phase of service begins. Similar to greeting, guests should not be made to wait for the menus. The menus should be presented to each diner at the table within 2 mins of them being seated. The server must also list down the specials for the day at the same time, and ask about dietary requirements and allergies

At this step, it’s important for servers to use their intuitiveness. Some diners prefer to be left alone to decide their order, while others prefer suggestions from the waiter. Either way, guests should not feel rushed to place their orders.

If the diners are open to suggestions, make sure to ask their preferences and keep their allergies and dietary restrictions in mind.

How technology can help
Table management systems keep a record of a guest’s dietary preferences, allergies, and previous orders, making it easier for the server to provide personalized suggestions without having to ask the diner any questions. This in turn will help the guest feel important and more comfortable with the server.

5. Serving and upselling dishes

After taking the order, the tables must be arranged for the guests with the right glassware and silverware according to the dishes they have ordered (for example, if a diner has ordered a steak, they should be provided with a special steak knife).

Apart from the obvious points, like the food being served quick and hot (and as per the order, of course), the servers must also bring the food out in the correct order, i.e., entrees, main course, then dessert, unless the guests specifically ask to be served everything together.

While the guests are enjoying their food, it’s a good idea to try to upsell more dishes from the menu. For instance, if it seems like they are enjoying a specific entree, ask them if they would like to order another plate. It’s also a good idea to bring them the dessert menu once they are done eating their main course. Make sure to just make suggestions and not sound forceful.

How technology can help
With the guests’ past preferences recorded into their profiles, table management systems allow servers to suggest upsells based on their previous orders. For instance, the server can mention “you ordered the chocolate brownie last time, would you like to have the same?”. This not only increases the likelihood of the guest accepting the upsell but also makes them feel like the server is paying attention.

6. Checking up with the guests

Regular check-ups with the diners throughout their meal are an important part of fine-dining service. Make sure they are enjoying their food and everything is as per their order. This is a good opportunity to find out if there are any errors and fix them immediately to avoid any future negative reviews.

While these check-ups are necessary, they are also a balancing act. Too many check-ups can make the diners irritated, while too little can make your restaurant’s service feel underwhelming. It’s up to the servers to find the best time to have a quick follow-up with their guests.

How technology can help
If using a table management system, servers can record any feedback received from the guests in the notes section of the guests’ profile, making it available for next time. This ensures that their feedback is taken into account when they visit the restaurant again. For instance, if a customer mentions that his chicken was under spiced, the server can make sure to increase the spice level of their order during their next visit without them having to mention it again. These little pointers may seem small, but can significantly improve your customer service and increase guest loyalty.

7. Presenting the cheque and taking payment

When it comes to presenting the cheque, fine dining restaurants differ significantly from casual ones. As guests are paying premium prices to enjoy the ambiance and service, they should not feel rushed to leave once they are done eating. Servers should present the bill only when asked by the guests, otherwise, it can be an indication that the restaurant wants them to leave.

Once they request the bill, make sure to ask about any final orders and confirm their payment preference.

How technology can help
With table management systems, servers can easily view the guest’s visiting and spending habits at the restaurant in their profile. If they are high-spenders, VIPs, or regular customers, the server can offer them a small discount or a free dessert on the house to increase their sense of loyalty and satisfaction.

8. Collecting feedback

The fine dining steps of service end with the most important task - collecting feedback. The only way to know if servers are performing well and guests are satisfied is by asking what they thought about their dining experience.

Be open to the feedback and suggestions provided by the guest and try to resolve any issues that took place during their meal. Remember, the customer is always right. It’s important not to start any arguments and apologize for any mishaps. An apologetic word is better than a negative review on a public platform.

How technology can help
Collecting feedback is not always easy. People tend to not share any negative feedback on the server’s face as they are not comfortable with it, even if they were unhappy with their meal. They also prefer not to waste time providing feedback right after the meal. To resolve this issue, table management systems, like Eat App, come with an automated post-dining survey feature that emails guests with a short private survey within 24 hours of their dining experience.

This gives guests the opportunity to openly share their feedback and not feel rushed while providing it, increasing the likelihood of receiving honest feedback.

Interested in improving the customer experience at your restaurant with the help of technology? Sign up for your free 14-day trial of Eat App or schedule a demo with our product specialist today.

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