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How to Greet Customers in a Restaurant in 2024 (Tips Included)

November 17, 2023 10 min
Author
Director of Marketing at Eat App
Reviewed by
Co-founder and CEO of Eat App

Greeting customers quickly and with care, using their names when you can, and showing respect are key to making a great first impression. As hosts and hostesses, you play an important role because your greeting shapes the whole dining experience.

However, sometimes your staff might not be well-trained and end up handling greetings on their own. This can result in impersonal greetings such as "Hi guys", "How many?" or "Just one?"

If this is happening at your restaurant, it’s time to change it. Especially considering a poor greeting can ruin your guest's entire experience.

But, not to worry, to help you I've put together a few tips and examples on how to greet customers in a restaurant correctly.

Download our free restaurant training manual template

Key Takeaways

  • Greeting customers promptly and attentively, using their names if possible, and addressing them with respect is essential for making a good first impression.

  • A good greeting also helps guests feel more welcome and at ease at your restaurant.

  • Some tips for properly greeting guests include:

    • Smile and keep eye contact.

    • Use polite and friendly language.

    • Adjust greetings based on the customer's mood.

    • Collect guest information before guests arrive.

  • Greet guests as people, not customers. Start by referring to them as guests and not customers. 

  • Make greetings more personal by using a CRM system, like Eat App or Quandoo.

  • Print mini-scripts to improve your greetings.

1. How to greet customers in a restaurant the right way

Restaurants spend hours of effort to train their servers to provide impeccable service, yet they forget that good customer service begins as soon the guest enters the door and is greeted by the host/hostess. Maintaining a calm and positive attitude during this initial interaction is important, as it significantly impacts the customer service experience.

Further reading: How to become a better restaurant server

Apart from your online presence and physical venue, the greeting is the first human aspect that forms a guest’s first impression of the restaurant in the hospitality industry. It builds the base, sets the guests’ expectations, and can make or break their entire visit.

A good greeting also helps guests feel more welcome and at ease at your restaurant, contributing to the success of a successful hospitality business. 

Here are a few tips on how to properly greet guests: 

Smile and keep eye contact

A genuine smile and eye contact can make first-time and returning customers feel valued and acknowledged.

Train your staff to smile warmly and make eye contact as they approach customers.

This simple gesture can instantly create a connection and set a positive tone for the interaction.

Use polite and friendly language

The language used during the greeting should be polite, friendly, and professional.

Encourage your own staff member to use phrases such as "Welcome," "Good evening," or "How may I assist you?" This helps customers feel acknowledged and sets a welcoming tone.

Adjusting greetings based on the customer's mood

It's essential to be attentive to the customer's mood and adjust the greeting accordingly.

Some customers may prefer a more formal greeting, while others may appreciate a casual and friendly approach.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues and adapt your greeting to make the customer feel comfortable.

Collect guest information before guests arrive 

Don't be afraid to leverage technology to streamline the guest greeting experience - whether that be through your restaurant management software or through a PMS integration at your hotel.

Having the right data at your fingertips when your guests arrive can make or break a first impression. 

2. Greet guests correctly on the phone

Greeting guests correctly over the phone is even more important. A rude or impersonal attitude makes you lose a potential guest before they even visit.

But, what is the best way to go about it? 

Here are tips for proper phone greetings:

  • Answer the phone promptly: This shows that you are professional and that the caller is important to you.
  • Use a friendly tone of voice: Smile when you are speaking, even though the caller cannot see you. This will help your voice sound more friendly and approachable.
  • State your name and the name of your company: This will help the caller identify you and your company.
  • Ask how you can help the caller: This shows that you are there to assist them.

Here are examples of greetings for different calls:

  • For a general inquiry: "Welcome to [restaurant name]. This is [your name]. How can I help you today?"
  • For a reservation call: "Thank you for calling [restaurant name]. This is [your name]. I'd be happy to assist you with your reservation."
  • For a takeout order call: "Hello, [customer's name]. This is [your name] from [restaurant name]. How can I help you with your takeout order today?"

 

Pro tip: Improve your greetings on a call with phone integration. 

Systems like Eat App, RingCentral, and 7Shifts’s phone integration allow you to connect your restaurant’s phone line to your table management system, providing hosts with important guest details like;

  • Name,
  • Number of visits,
  • Guest tags, etc. at a glimpse before they answer the call.

This enables them to know exactly who is calling and greet guests over the phone with a personal touch, improving their overall service experience.

It helps your staff provide better service, saves time, and streamlines workflow efficiency by transforming calls directly into reservations conveniently through the call screen.

This hassle-free feature is an absolute game-changer for your business.

Further reading: A guide to call center management for restaurants

3. Greet guests as people, not customers

This article will help you out with useful tips and scripts for greeting your guests better to improve the overall experience.

However, greeting the right way is deeply rooted in your staff’s attitude towards the people who walk in through the door. 

A great way to shape that attitude is to refer to your diners as guests, not customers. Here’s why.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a customer as:

  • A person who buys goods or services
  • A person whom one has to deal with

On the other hand, a guest is defined as:

One whom you would treat with respect and hospitality as if they were a visitor in your own home. 

Using the term "guest" is a much more welcoming way to think about and talk about those who frequent your restaurant.

This is especially important when learning how to greet customers in a restaurant.

So, we suggest that starting today, if you are not already doing so, think about and talk about those who frequent your restaurant as guests, not customers -  as if they were visitors at your own home.

Treat them the same way you would treat a close friend or loved one visiting you.

With a house guest, you would be warm and friendly, smile, and ask how they’ve been and what’s going on in their life.

You would genuinely compliment them and be enthusiastic and animated. You’d be happy they were in your home.

That is how you and your staff should be toward your restaurant guests.

4. Make greetings more personal

The key to an excellent greeting strategy is personalization.

Approaching guests with a personal touch instead of a generic greeting like “Welcome to the restaurant” shows them that you care.

  • "The ability to greet a guest by name and reference their previous visits can create a sense of familiarity and make them feel valued." - Emily McCoy, Restaurant Business

How can you make that happen? Through advanced CRM systems like Eat App, Quandoo or SugarCRM that help you take your guest experience to the next level.

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Further reading: 10 best restaurant CRM systems compared

These systems help you build rich guest profiles that contain a plethora of information about your diners - from their name and contact information to other details like seating preferences, order history, allergy information, and even their birthdays and anniversaries.

Armed with all this information, your hosts can greet diners with a personalized touch that would be impossible without a CRM system.

They can greet guests by their name, welcome them back if they are regulars, guide them to their preferred table without being asked where to seat guests, and specially treat them if they are VIP customers.

This level of attention to detail will delight your guests and make them feel special and important, and strengthen their loyalty towards your restaurant.Entryway-Restaurant-Doors-Branded-Group-jpg-1-1

5. Use mini-scripts to improve your greetings

Below are a few scripts for your host/hostess to greet your customers with.

Paired with the tips mentioned above, they will help your guests feel more welcome and start the dining experience off on the right foot. 

Restaurant greeting scripts

  • Good: Hello, welcome to {restaurant}, how many people will be dining today? 
  • Bad: "Table for two?"
  • Good: “Hello, may I have the name on the reservation?” 
  • Bad: “Do you have a reservation?”
  • Good: “I’ll take you to your table”
  • Bad: “Follow me”

Phone scripts

  • Good: “Hi, thank you for calling {restaurant name}. This is {receiver name} speaking. How may I help you today?”
  • Bad: “This is {restaurant name}”

If the guest’s name has been picked up by caller ID:

  • Good: “Good afternoon/ evening. Am I speaking with Mr/Ms {guest name}? This is {receiver name} speaking from {restaurant name}. How are you today?“
  • Bad: “Hi, this is {receiver name}”

Goodbye scripts

  • Good: “We hope you enjoyed your visit, Mr/Ms {guest name}, see you again soon!”
  • Bad: “Goodbye”
  • Good: “Thank you for visiting us, we hope you have a great rest of the day”
  • Bad: ”Thanks, bye”

If the customer is regular:

  • Good: “It was great having you over once again, we hope to see you soon!”
  • Bad: “See you again.”

Print out the mini-scripts and take a few minutes before your next pre-shift meeting and present them to your greeters.

Ask them to practice the one they like most and role-play them with you at the next pre-shift meeting.

Once they get used to using them to greet (and create small talk) your guests, you’ll find they’ll want to help create an even more memorable guest experience.Create Your Restaurant Training Manual With Our Free Template Download our easy-to-use template with step-by-step instructions to create  your own easily Download Now

6. Handle difficult situations like a pro

Okay, so you've doubled down on your greeting when guests arrived. But, it's also important to be prepared to greet guests in difficult situations. 

Here's a few examples and tips on how to deal with customers that might be a bit impossible: 

Dealing with late arrivals

In the case of late arrivals, it is essential to handle the situation tactfully. Greet late customers with a warm welcome and efficiently accommodate them.

Offer reassurance and provide alternatives if necessary, such as adjusting the reservation or offering a seat at the bar.

This flexibility demonstrates the restaurant's commitment to customer satisfaction, even in challenging situations.

Addressing customer complaints

Occasionally, customers may have complaints or concerns. Once again, it comes down to training your staff to handle these situations with empathy and professionalism.

Actively listen to the customer, apologize if necessary, and work towards finding a satisfactory resolution.

By addressing complaints promptly and effectively, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one and build customer loyalty.

Handling special requests

Some customers may have special requests or dietary restrictions. Handle these requests with attentiveness and care.

Ensure that the kitchen is informed of any special requirements and communicate the options available to the customer.

By accommodating special requests, you can create a positive and inclusive dining experience for all customers.

Use a system, like Eat App to help with guest preferences. Sign up is free. 

7. Welcome guests with special needs

Welcoming disabled guests to your restaurant is an essential part of providing excellent customer service and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and included.

Here are tips on how to greet a disabled guest at your restaurant:

  • Offer a warm and friendly greeting: Just as you would with any other guest, greet the disabled person with a smile and a friendly demeanor.
  • Introduce yourself and your role: Let the guest know your name and position at the restaurant, such as host, server, or manager.
  • Ask how you can assist: Before assuming anything, ask the guest if they require any assistance. This could involve helping them with their coat, providing a menu in an alternative format, or guiding them to the restroom.
  • Respect their preferences: If the guest has a disability that requires specific accommodations, respect their preferences and follow their instructions. For example, if they are deaf, use sign language or write notes. If they have low vision, provide a menu with large print or offer verbal descriptions of dishes.
  • Be patient and understanding: Some disabled guests may need more time to read menus, make decisions, or navigate the restaurant. Be patient and understanding, and avoid rushing them.
  • Maintain eye contact and speak directly to the guest: When interacting with the disabled person, maintain eye contact and speak directly to them, not to their companion or caregiver.
  • Offer assistance without being intrusive: While being helpful, avoid being overly intrusive or patronizing. Offer assistance when needed, but allow the guest to maintain their independence as much as possible.
  • Ensure the restaurant is accessible: Make sure your restaurant is accessible to disabled guests by providing ramps, wide doorways, accessible restrooms, and adequate signage.
  • Continuously improve: Regularly review your restaurant's accessibility and accommodations to ensure you are meeting the needs of all your guests. Be open to feedback from disabled guests and make adjustments as needed.

Further reading: How to understand your venue better from your reviews

Additional 12 tips for greeting guests 

  1. Don’t make them wait. Try to attend to the guest within 30 seconds of their arrival, or four rings if they're on the phone.
  2. Be polite. This goes without saying, be kind and sincere and greet them with a smile. Make sure to use a soft tone, half of the message is in the tone.
  3. Focus on the guest. Don’t be distracted by other things while greeting them, make sure they have your undivided attention so that they feel important.
  4. Don’t assume the party size. Even if only 2 guests have walked in, ask them what table size they are looking for. Especially if it’s a single guest, asking “Just one?” might make them feel insecure or uncomfortable.
  5. Avoid negative language. Instead of saying 'Unfortunately, I don't have any available table right now,' say 'I can have a table available in 30 minutes. Would that be ok?'
  6. Don’t use the same greeting every time. Following scripts can be helpful but can sound robotic. Make sure to use a few different greetings and add a personalized touch whenever possible.
  7. Personalize your greeting. Refer to your CRM system to keep track of your regular guests so that you can acknowledge them with their names and welcome them back to the restaurant. This will make diners feel special and improve their experience.
  8. Commenting on a guest’s outfit, jewelry, hairstyle, or some genuine compliment lets the guest know you are truly glad they are here. But be careful to not make it too personal.
  9. Don’t use their first names. Always stick to using a guest’s title + surname to refer to them instead of their first name, as this creates a more formal conversation.
  10. Use appropriate language. The tone of your greeting is dependent on the restaurant's style. The more sophisticated the restaurant, the more formal your greeting should be. However, it should never be too informal or chatty.
  11. Find the balance between efficiency and warmth. Even during busy shifts when you may not have free time, make sure to take a minute to give guests a warm welcome instead of just saying “Table for two?” and taking away from their entire dining experience.
  12. Say goodbye. Finishing the guest’s journey on the right note is equally as important as the initial greeting. Don’t disappear once the cheque is cleared, make sure to acknowledge them with a polite goodbye as they leave.

Download our guide on how to improve your guest experience today

Takeaways

Greeting customers in a restaurant is an art that requires warmth, attentiveness, and personalization.

By mastering the art of the initial greeting, you can create a memorable first impression, set the stage for a positive dining experience, and build customer loyalty.

Remember, a genuine smile, friendly language, and personalized gestures can go a long way in creating a welcoming atmosphere that keeps customers coming back for more.

Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ)

How do you greet customers in your restaurant?

  • Smile and Connect: Greet customers with a genuine smile and make eye contact.
  • Respectful Greetings: Address customers with appropriate titles like "sir," "ma'am," or "miss."
  • Prompt and Polite: Respond quickly and politely to their presence.
  • Active Listening: Engage in attentive listening to understand their needs.
  • Leverage Systems: Use existing systems to manage customer flow efficiently.

How do you politely greet a customer?

A warm smile, eye contact, and personalized service are the cornerstones of a memorable greeting. By addressing customers by name and actively assisting them in their search, you create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages repeat visits

Contents

Author

Director of Marketing at Eat App

For the past 7+ years Ryan has been focused on helping restaurants succeed with digital marketing and front-of-house operations. He is Director Marketing at Eat App.

Reviewed by

Nezar Kadhem

Nezar Kadhem

Co-founder and CEO of Eat App

He is a regular speaker and panelist at industry events, contributing on topics such as digital transformation in the hospitality industry, revenue channel optimization and dine-in experience.

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