“A la Carte” Restaurant Communication

I recently attended a business lunch at a restaurant that I had not visited in several months. On arrival, I was greeted by the waiters and manager at the door and was then shown to my table. Once I was seated, the waiter handed me a menu and immediately asked me what I would like to drink. Seeing that I had just sat down, I decided to take a few minutes to make the decision. General greetings and exchanging of handshakes took place and within two minutes of having been seated, I was asked once again what it was that I wanted to drink.

The topic I would like to discuss concentrates on the communication norms and blunders that are often experienced within the restaurant industry.

The general etiquette and level of communication that I have experienced in certain restaurants is not of a  commendable, or even acceptable, level from a customer service and communication perspective. Of course, it is silly of anyone to expect perfection because nothing and no-one is ever perfect. However, when a restaurant is not exceedingly busy; there are waiters standing, gnawing on their fingernails and staring into space; and a manager is having a lengthy chat with a customer,  this creates cause for customers to complain.

Once receiving my beverage, within roughly two to five minutes of making the order, I was immediately asked what it was that I wanted to order for lunch rather than the waiter asking politely if I was ready to order and if i would like to have heard the specials for the day. The waiter also did not grasp the fact that a discussion had begun and that it should not have been interrupted. Nevertheless, we all placed our orders with the waiter and the discussion and meeting continued, thinking that we would be free from interruptions for at least 10 minutes until the food arrived. This was not the case. The waiter returned to our table five minutes later explaining that one of the orders was not available today and a different choice of food should be made. The new order was placed and the waiter finally allowed the meeting to continue.

I find it hard to believe that the chef did not know that there was a problem with the food before we made the order. This is one area where, from a communication perspective, a problem could have been avoided. What should have taken place was, once the chef knew that there was a problem with the food or that there was a shortage of the food, the waiter should have been notified. This would minimize the probability of customers getting annoyed, calling the manager, complaining about service and going so far as causing the restaurant to lose business.

General etiquette and people skills must always be improved on! Of course, if a business deal is being done around a restaurant table, there will be interruptions. However, the amount of interruptions and annoyances should be reduced to a minimum. This can only take place if the manager makes an effort to provide the waiters with the correct training. It is critical that the manager fosters exemplary teamwork between the “front-of-house” and kitchen staff.

Communication is a two way street. It does not work when both listen and when both speak at the same time. The idea is to have a listener, a speaker and the the final message should be reinforced.  In a restaurant, communication, both verbal and non-verbal is vital. These skills have to be mastered and this can only be achieved through effective training and active participation of ALL restaurant staff.

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