Leonardo Gonzalez Dellan is a former banker and now a restauranteur, here he offers his five rules for perfect service, learned serving the highly demanding customers of Latin America.
1. FACE: The key to being a great waiter is to save your customers face and not your own — it is there dignity that matters to the business now ours.
2. MOVEMENT: Know your staff and keep them moving constantly — never allow your staff to gossip, take breaks or sit idle in the service space where customers can see them
3. REWARD: Share the tips, but go beyond that and motivate your team when they are excellent with bonuses
4. TALK: Begin each with a team talk, communicating with your team is key praise what is going well but call out what is not working and review it
5. ROUTINE: Always know the clear roles and responsibilities of your team for every stage in service — from the moment the customer walks in, until they walk out.
In Latin America, eating out is often a family or formal occasion so the demand for excellent service is always 100 percent.
The first rule is the most important. Face is a quality of dignity and respect that customers deserve. So, if the head of a family comes in and demands fast service or pretends to understand and know about wine or cannot read the menu, your job is to teach your teams to maintain and not destroy the fantasy. All wine choices are excellent, but would he like to taste it first and then bring him the sweet dessert wine he ordered along with a mid-price alternative. Tell your teams, if the customer keeps face, then the will tip will be better.
It is important to try and understand your customers — and, the dynamics between them. If it is a business lunch, make sure your staff know how to maintain professionalism at all times. If it is a family birthday party, a bit of playfulness can add to the experience but know when to back off. The best waiters are those that can read a room.
Secondly, you need a highly motivated team. Dedicate sufficient time to hiring the right people and assessing their progress consistently. Whether there are customers in the restaurant or not, all your staff must treat one another with respect and bring a positive level of enthusiasm to their work. That means constant movement and activity: there is always something to do!
Thirdly, to keep a motivated team motivated, you need to regularly reward those who deserve it. Tips should always be shared with all staff, but those who are going the extra mile should be rewarded as such.
Fourthly, as with any healthy relationship — communication is key. Shifts should be started with group discussions, and the floor should be open to actively address areas for improvement, as well as highlighting successes.
Fifthly, every service must have a routine against check list. Every customer will then have the same experience of service. A drink on arrival with bread or other snacks, buys time for other covers to be looked after. Ensure that all waiters write down every order then check it back with the customers that it is correct. Waiters who think they can memorise a table of five people ordering three courses usually make mistakes.
Five rules, learned the hard way, but apply them and they will make all the difference.