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Greeting: Six Steps to Set the Stage for a Powerful Performance

Most of us size up our server in the first few minutes — even seconds. How well you manage the greeting, with its multitude of opportunities to express warmth and thoughtfulness, sets the stage for a great or lackluster customer experience.
1. Assist guests everywhere
Years ago, I observed a couple seated at the bar as they perused the menu of the Georgetown Seafood Grill. “I see you’re checking out the crab cakes. They’re the best in town, made with fresh jumbo lump crabmeat lightly bound with mayonnaise, Dijon, and Old Bay Seasoning. And, by the way, a bottle of our Robert Mondavi Chardonnay would be a perfect match,” I remarked. Minutes later, they were seated in my station and ordered exactly what I had suggested.
2. Help seat guests
Being at your table from the get-go is not only courteous but smart business. Are your guests dressed to kill? Are they toting gift wrapped packages? Did they bring their children? Do they want to be pampered or left alone? Remember, if you’re leaning up against the wall, you’re missing tons of cues that uncover opportunities to dazzle and delight. While you help guests with their chairs, eavesdrop with the intent to help. Overhearing, “Wow, I’m ready for a stiff drink,” provides an obvious lead in. “Our bartender Billy from Philly makes a great Patron margarita.”
3. Touch the table
Snapchatting and Instagramming guests glued to their iPhones have little appetite for listening. Move the salt and pepper shakers or adjust the petunias. It’s a simple yet powerful way to focus your audience.
4. Find the leader/buyer
Most tables have an in-charge person. She controls the conversation. She has the power. And, she influences the buying habits of the table. So, find your leader/buyer, then stand across from her and wax eloquent about wines, cocktails, and the menu. If she likes what she hears, she’ll become your partner salesperson.
5. Use icebreakers
Friendliness is defined as talking about non-business topics. To unlock the purpose and context of your guests’ visit, show genuine interest by asking questions or making thoughtful comments:
“Is this your first time with us?”
This opens the door in two ways. A “yes” provides an opportunity to give an overview of your menu, wine, and beverage lists. A “no” lets you inquire about their last experience. “What was your favorite appetizer?”
“What brings you to Georgetown?”
Guests will tell you if they’re tourists, live in the neighborhood, are attending a convention, visiting relatives, celebrating an anniversary, or closing a deal.
“Are you in town for business or pleasure?”
This question helps you customize your approach. “You’re here to celebrate your promotion? That calls for a three Tomahawk Ribeye and bottle of Veuve Clicquot.” Or, “Since you’re here sightseeing, don’t miss our crab cakes. They’re hard to find in Boise, Idaho.”
“I love your pin!”
This greeting provides insight into how people spend. “I bought this this at Nordstrom.” Now you know you have an educated buyer who’s interested in quality.
6. Make hello special
Avoid robotic greetings. A genuine, “Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, good evening and welcome to Jay’s Tavern. We’re delighted to have you,” is polite, warm, and gracious. This greeting is more than “Hi, I’m Bob. Can I get you a drink?”
A well-orchestrated welcome sets you apart, builds trust, boost sales, and creates a top-drawer experience for your guests.

About the Author

Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions (bobbrownss.com) pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program; worked with Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton; internationally with Burj Al Arab in Dubai; has appeared on the Food Network; authored The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success. Contact Bob at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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