Problem Customers: How To Handle Them So That Your Boss Takes Notice

Problem Customers: How To Handle Them So That Your Boss Takes Notice

Customer service is a huge part of the restaurant business, and front-of-house restaurant employees need to keep their people skills sharp to stay ahead in this business. Particularly, you will want to practice dealing with problematic customers. Your shift manager will appreciate your ability to deal with these folks and diffuse tense situations because they can focus on other things. Here are a few tips for dealing with problem customers.

1. Graceful Conversation Enders

Some customers don’t mean to be in the way, but they are overly friendly. They think the waiter is a captive audience or that ‘waitress’ is another word for ‘date.’ Since you are actually working and can’t spend all day listening, you will have to come up with a polite sentence or two that lets you leave the chatterbox.

Some good ones: “That’s great, I’ll have to tell my co-workers. Excuse me.” And, “You know, that is fascinating, but I had better get you your drinks now.”

What are some of your best conversation enders? Let us know on twitter @gosirvo

2. Resolving Customer Complaints

I should clarify: a customer who brings a problem to your attention isn’t immediately problematic. It’s best to take the attitude that any complaint is genuine and serious. Always respond to a complaint with an apology and an offer of a solution to their complaint.

It’s best to give them the impression that you are taking it seriously. Ideally, you are taking it seriously, even if it seems trivial to you. Practice letting them finish their complaints and paraphrasing what you heard them say before giving your own reply. This ensures that you know the problem they want to fix, and it lets them know that you really understood their position. Sometimes just allowing someone to vent and feel heard can solve whatever their complaint was!

Practice looking attentive and not crossing your arms while you listen. Body language can speak volumes to an annoyed customer.

3. Practice Keeping Calm

Develop a mantra for when you are faced with an angry customer that reminds you that everyone sometimes has a bad day and that the complaint isn’t an attack on you. Practice keeping your voice low and calm while talking people through solutions. Your keeping your cool will keep things from escalating.

Additionally, people who are ornery by nature get off on seeing others flustered. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

4. Have A List Of Potential Solutions Handy

Customers who are having a bad time tend to collect complaints until their minor irritation snowballs into general hatred. To the extent that is possible, have a list of potential solutions to potential complaints in your apron pocket so that you can head off the snowball. Typically a free drink or discount coupon will suffice.

There will be times when you won’t be able to do something to head off a complaint. In those situations, it is helpful to have a script that you memorize to explain the situation. Practice calmly saying something such as, “I’m sorry, but we are out of…” and you will be able to clearly communicate your position. This can sometimes be enough to calm a customer.

5. Follow Up On Complaints

Customers want to be treated as individuals, and they want to feel like you personally care about whether they are having a good time. Take a few moments to check in on the especially grouchy to make sure that the solution you offered worked and that they are now in a happier frame of mind.

6. Know When To Call In The Big Guns

All these steps are ways to avoid having to pull in the manager to deal with a customer, but it is sometimes unavoidable. Your manager would rather step in before things get out of hand.

  • If you spilled something on a customer (we’ve all been there) and have potentially ruined not only their clothing but also their night… it’s best to call in a manager.
  • If a customer is insisting that you break a restaurant policy, get a manager. If he or she decides to bend the rules, you aren’t in trouble.
  • If a customer seems to be threatening or is clearly inebriated, the restaurant would prefer that you call for help in getting him or her out of there before the other customers get annoyed.

Knowing how to handle the particularly difficult FOH situations will help you stand out for your boss and further you in your restaurant career. Follow these tips to really impress with your people skills.


5 Key Reasons Not to Pocket Tips When You Should Be Splitting Them

5 Key Reasons Not to Pocket Tips When You Should Be Splitting Them

When you work in a bar or restaurant where tips are split, it’s critical to the entire functionality of the restaurant environment that you continue to split your tips fairly. Sure, it’s frustrating. You could be having a great night, completely on, while your coworker is struggling to get the simplest drink order right. You could be carrying a heavier load than your coworkers, and therefore receiving more tips as a result. Those are your tips, and you’ve earned them. If the policy at your establishment is that tips are split, however, it’s critical that you split them as required. Pocketing tips, no matter how well-deserved you think they are, is unacceptable behavior–and there are some very good reasons why.

1. Your workplace environment is built on trust. Check out this reddit thread about a bartender who chose to pocket tips instead of sharing them evenly with her coworkers. Even a suspicion that you’re pocketing tips can lead to distrust among your coworkers. Get caught doing it, and you’ll find yourself ostracized and distrusted–or worse.

2. Tip sharing builds teamwork. Everyone has a bad night occasionally. Maybe you’ve had the longest day on record, you haven’t been feeling your best, or family drama hit just before you came into work. Perhaps it’s just one of those shifts when you feel as though you can’t get anything right: just remembering drink orders is a huge challenge, much less anything more complicated. When those days happen, you desperately want you coworkers to pick up the slack for you–and may even need it in order to keep your establishment running as smoothly as it needs to run. Tip sharing encourages an atmosphere of camaraderie: all of you work together to keep the customers as happy as possible because each table has an influence on the tips you take home at the end of the night.

3. You don’t always get a choice in your customers. Some customers are naturally great tippers. Perhaps they’ve worked in a service job themselves, or maybe they just have a great sense of empathy for people who work in the industry. Whatever the case, even if they receive sub-par service, they’re still likely to leave a decent tip. Others, on the other hand, cling tightly to every dollar and won’t leave a great tip even if they receive the best service of the night. You can’t control which customers come your way, but a section full of poor tippers can completely ruin your night! On the other hand, across the course of the night, good and bad tippers tend to even out, so sharing your tips helps keep your income steadier.

4. It’s unethical. You want to have a reputation for integrity, especially if you commonly work with money. One of the fastest ways to destroy that reputation is to fail to put your contribution into the tip jar. Keep in mind that when you leave at the end of the night, you’re getting a percentage of your coworkers’ tips. As a result, you owe them the same percentage of yours.

5. It could cost you your job. If you’re pocketing your tips instead of putting them in the communal tip jar as company policy dictates, you’re stealing from your coworkers. In most restaurants and bars, stealing from the company is grounds for immediate termination. There’s no way around it: pocketing tips is stealing. It could quickly result in you not having a job to pocket tips from. All things considered, at the end of the night, it’s probably not worth it for the little bit of extra money you’re able to get from it.

Seeing your hard-earned tips make their way into a communal jar can be disheartening. It’s less disheartening, however, to realize that when great tips come in, it doesn’t matter who was in charge of the table. Everyone in the bar or restaurant benefits! Don’t give into the temptation to slide your tips into your own pocket instead of adding them to the communal jar. In the end, it’s not worth it.

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6 Ways to Come Back from a Suspension Like a Boss

6 Ways to Come Back from a Suspension Like a Boss

Getting suspended from your job is incredibly stressful. Regardless of whether you were incriminated for something beyond your control or you deliberately did something that got you in trouble later, you don’t really want to lose your job–especially if you don’t have another one waiting in the wings. Coming back from suspension like a boss is a great way to convince your employer of exactly how valuable you are and ensure that your standing with the company remains intact.

1. Communicate professionally and responsibly with your employer throughout your suspension. You should know going in whether or not you will be paid, how long the suspension will be for, and when you can expect to return to work. Keep communications relevant and professional, and resist the urge to contact them too often in case they’ve “forgotten” about you, but do make sure that you know exactly what will be expected of you in order to return.

2. Clearly define expectations with your employer before your return to work. This is particularly important if you were suspended for something that you didn’t realize would get you in trouble–for example, derogatory comments on social media regarding a colleague. If you have been suspended for behavior that is covered in the employee handbook, make sure that you review it so that you know exactly how to behave when returning to work.

3. Avoid even a suggestion of misconduct. If you have been accused of negative behavior against a colleague–harassment, romantic entanglement, or violence–make sure that you are never alone with that colleague. If possible, avoid being alone with that colleague and close friends of theirs, which could cause a misrepresentation of the facts.

4. Know your rights. If you live in a right to work state, your employment can easily be terminated–and in some cases, you may feel as though you’re in danger of termination soon after returning. If this is the case, make sure that you know your rights and what is considered an acceptable reason to terminate your employment.

5. Be apologetic where appropriate. If you were guilty of misconduct, be apologetic and assure your managers that you’re going to do better in the future. Have a real, actionable plan in place to improve your work behavior so that the misconduct doesn’t occur again. You want to present a capable, competent appearance to your managers to assure them that you’re going to come back and give your best to the company.

6. Abide by any restrictions placed on you. These restrictions may be inconvenient for you. They may be equally inconvenient for your colleagues. Dedication to abiding by these restrictions, however, will assure your managers that you’re committed to doing what’s necessary in order to restore your place within the company and go forward with a much better view of what is expected of you. Whether the restriction is that you’re unable to be alone with a specific individual or that you’re unable to enter certain areas unsupervised, be gracious and stick to the restrictions. The better you are about adhering to the rules, the sooner your position will return to normal.

Returning to work after suspension can be awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult to manage. You can’t know what’s been said about you while you were gone or how your colleagues are going to react to your return. You can, however, move forward professionally with confidence: your employer likes your work enough that they were willing to have you come back in spite of an indiscretion, and that says something!

By putting on your most professional attitude and committing to a solid work ethic from the day of your return, you can put your suspension behind you and improve your employer’s vision of you in the future.

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What Is TIPS Training, And Should You Get It?

What Is TIPS Training, And Should You Get It?

Restaurants often make the most profit from serving alcohol, but it’s a high risk/ high reward sort of situation. You don’t want your establishment to get into trouble for serving alcohol to minors or causing car accidents. You also don’t want to deal with the downside of intoxicated guests. Knowing this, a company called Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, set up a certification program to teach employees of most liquor license holders to deal with those risks.

The 35-year old program covers the legal responsibilities of establishments, the effects of alcohol on people, and various customer-friendly ways to provide alcohol service in a responsible manner. It covers identifying IDs and intoxication. It also gives you a chance to practice some ways of dealing with real-life scenarios.

There are quite a few states, such as Maryland and New Mexico, that require liquor licensees have someone associated with that license trained in responsible alcohol serving and have a certificate from that training. That said, not all municipalities have this requirement, and some places, such as Texas and Maine, have voluntary programs. It can come down to the personal preference of an owner in other municipalities, such as much of California.

Keeping customers from getting intoxicated keeps your place of business comfortable for all your guests and shows that you care about their safety.

There are a couple of benefits of taking the TIPS or similar training programs. Your employees will gain confidence in dealing with intoxicated guests. They will have some ideas about how to control the environment so that the drinking doesn’t get out of hand. Keeping customers from getting intoxicated keeps your place of business comfortable for all your guests and shows that you care about their safety.

It is always good to have refreshers about the rules involved in serving alcohol. There are a few kinds of liabilities that could apply to your establishment, and they vary from location to location. Does your city have social host laws, where you can be held liable for injury to an intoxicated guest if the alcohol is served improperly? Is there criminal charges you could be liable to? You want to keep track of these types of rules. They change sometimes, and the people evading the rules evolve their techniques. Having employees at least occasionally take courses in responsible alcohol service can keep you on the safe side of the law. Should something untoward happen to an intoxicated customer or a minor trying to get drinks, you can point to the program as a sign that you had done your due diligence, as well.

Having employees at least occasionally take courses in responsible alcohol service can keep you on the safe side of the law.

There are also insurance companies that give you discounts for having such a training program in place, and having a nationally-recognized certificate is an easy way to prove that your restaurant has an acceptably trained staff. Insurance companies like to know that at least one threat to the property is being controlled for.

All that said, TIPS charges $40 a person for online training, and they charge varying amounts for on site and off site classes, depending on location and trainer. Other programs will also charge you. You don’t want to be accused of cutting corners here, but at the same time, it’s a cost you have to weigh up.

Additionally, some places, such as Washington, have requirements for trainers and for responsible alcohol service training. Always check ahead of time to see if your municipality requires training and what type of certification they will accept. Many places let cities or counties decide on what they want, and they can be pretty restrictive. You don’t want to download the eTIPS program and later discover that your state doesn’t accept online certifications.

As you can see, whether you need to get someone TIPS certified will depend on your jurisdiction and your establishment’s needs. Keep the foregoing in mind, and you will be able to make an informed decision.

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The Importance of Teamwork in the Restaurant Industry

The Importance of Teamwork in the Restaurant Industry

From the moment the first restaurant opened, there’s been a divide between the front of the house and back of the house staff. Some restaurant owners choose to ignore the tension, refusing to believe it exists. Some accept it as the way things will always be. The rest strive to end the eternal struggle. For the sake of your restaurant, we hope you’re in the third category!

Why the struggle

Many things can cause a rift between your FOH and BOH staff.

When a customer complains, someone’s to blame and employees begin to point fingers. This is especially the case during your rush when etiquette and/or procedures seem to be thrown out the window. This causes mistakes, service bottlenecks, long ticket times, unsafe conditions, and overall dissent from those trying to do the right thing. No matter what, it’s a breakdown in your restaurant’s teamwork that causes a trickle-down effect: if the customer is unhappy the staff will be, too.

No matter what, it’s a breakdown in your restaurant’s teamwork that causes a trickle-down effect: if the customer is unhappy the staff will be, too.

Sometimes, especially with newer team members, people are simply not aware of the troubles they’re burdening the other departments with. Servers who don’t break down their dishes when delivering to the dish pit cause the Plongeur unwanted (and nasty) extra work. Line cooks, expos, or sous chefs who send out unfinished, unattractive, or wrong plates cause servers an undue earful and embarrassment.

Because of the perceived separation and lack of communication, team members may not even be aware they’re causing a problem until it’s too late.

Why teamwork between departments is important

Two words: Customer Service.

“The main objective for teamwork is for the organization to realize its full potential despite any possible differences individuals might have.” – Hospitality Concepts

In a restaurant, bar or hotel, no matter the concept or price-point, the one thing that sets you apart from the others will be your quality of service. If every cylinder of your business is not firing on point at all times, the guest will notice…and they won’t hesitate to let you (and the world) know.

If your team is humming along like a well-oiled machine, you may not always hear about it, but you’ll certainly notice your growing bank account.

How to promote teamwork between FOH and BOH

First, don’t make a distinction between the two at all. Tear down that figurative (or literal) wall between the kitchen and dining area by educating your staff on the flow of a customer’s order. From the moment a customer sets foot in the establishment every single employee affects that customer’s experience, whether directly or indirectly.

Regarding training, an extremely beneficial tactic is to cross-train your employees in the FOH and BOH. After working a week in the dish pit, servers will never forget to break down their dirty plates again. And kitchen staff will get to see first hand how their efforts in the back are received by guests, whether positively or negatively. No chef likes to face an unhappy guest or hear a bad review of their dish, all while having to keep their composure. One week of that and the kitchen team will empathize with the FOH.

Having a few relaxing moments to get to know each other outside of the working relationship can do wonders for team building.

Pre-shift meetings attended by the full shift’s team always work well. Issues with either side can be addressed, announcements can be made, and anything affecting the upcoming shift can be worked out as a team. Having a few relaxing moments to get to know each other outside of the working relationship can do wonders for team building. Friendships are always made in those calm moments before the storm.

Bear in mind, your staff is like a sports team. Everyone has a position to play but in the end, they’re all striving for the same goal. Teach your team that crossing the barrier between the front of the house and back of the house is beneficial to everyone. Avoid creating a separation and other trouble by fostering a team environment, by treating all staff equally, and by encouraging staff to interact with each other frequently. And, as always, if you’re staffing up, Sirvo is here to help!

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