My question is about restaurants and hospitality etiquette. We are opening an up-market restaurant in the midst of well-established favorites and looking to be the new go-to place for fine dining.
From a customer’s point of view, what should we be aware of in preparing our staff?
–Name Withheld, Newport, RI
About hospitality etiquette from the point of view of the guest.
The more expensive the restaurant, the more personal the service. Think of fine dining as a theatrical experience.
You, the manager/owner, set the stage and provide the sets and props for a three act play. You are creating an experience that your staff orchestrates with confidence.
- The performance of excellent service goes beyond your customer’s needs and expectations.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, by making the adventure a signature that impresses your patrons. Some establishments offer children’s menus, others special senior meals. Make your specialty a pleasurable experience for your target audience.
- Focus on the quality of the dining experience.
The first act starts when the patron enters the restaurant. They should be greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the host, maître d’hôtel, head waiter, or whomever is the “front of the house.”
- Hats, coats, and umbrellas should be stored near the front door by a greeter.
- When the reservation is for eight o’clock, you shouldn’t have to wait longer than ten minutes, if at all: as in the theatre the curtain rises at an appointed time.
- If the customers arrive late, the meal may be pushed along to accommodate later diners who have reserved that table.
- Fresh bread or a canapé is offered along with a drink while the customers read the menu and the host is given the wine list.
- During this time questions are asked to the waiter. Whom by the way, should go to the customer’s side and not talk across the table intruding on the guests’ conversation.
- S/he describes any specialties that are not listed on the menu and adds, “Please, let me know if there are any allergy issues.”
- There is the option of whether or not you want your waitstaff to introduce themselves by saying, “My name is Jake, I’ll be your waiter tonight.” Or the “head of the house,” while leading the way to the table will say, “Your waiter tonight is James.”
- Again, set policy about how chummy you want your waiter to be with guests. Some won’t appreciate having to make small talk with waitstaff when they are on a date or conducting a business dinner.
- The order is taken guest-by-guest around the table until the last menu is back in the hands of the waiter.
Act two begins with the presentation of the first course. Everyone is served at the same time with ladies first.
- Plates of food are delivered from the right of the guest.
- The waiter only serves food to the guest from the left when the guest is helping her/himself from a platter held by the waiter.
- The waiter asks if everything is all right, and keeps an eye on his charges to make sure his table doesn’t want for anything.
- Should a diner temporarily leave the table, the waiter would assist with the chair and exchange a fresh napkin, placed to the left of the plate before his or her return.
- No course is cleared until all the diners are through eating.
- When clearing, plates should never be stacked.
- By first using his left hand to remove the first course dish from the diner’s left side, the waiter’s right hand places the the next course from the guest’s right.
- It’s a choreographed dance.
The third act begins after the dessert has been cleared and the coffee or tea have been placed.
- Traditionally, the check is not presented until someone, presumably the host, asks for it. However, when the waiter doesn’t know who is paying for whom, or if the cost is being shared, and nobody has asked for it, the check is laid on the table.
- At the front door, while coats are being fetched, the “head of the house” checks the guest’s pulse to make sure the experience was satisfying.
Important dos and don’ts for waitstaff:
- Shower before arriving to work and wear fresh clothing.
- Use subtle hygiene scents.
- Never reach or cross your arm in front of a seated diner.
- Don’t touch or fiddle with your hair, nose, ear, mouth, skin, nails or clothing.
- Don’t overpour or under pour wine or champagne.
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