Thursday, June 2, 2011

Serving a Customer, the Needs Assessment Selling.

Approach the table and greet the customer…”Hello” … ask how they are and try to make some small talk regarding a common topic like the weather or a piece of clothing. Engage the customer with genuine feeling, a smile and eye contact.

Ask for a beverage. If you see that your customer is dinning , then offer choices like an aperitif. If they want time to make a decision or are not ready to give you his/her order then offer water to start. Try to up sell. The city water may be good but bottle water will push the check higher. Thus, you offer sparkling water or flat spring water. Channel the customer’s thinking towards choices which will inflate the bill and thus your tip.

Although, I must point out that what you offer your customer are not just high end items but offer them what they might like. You learn how to do this by asking questions. This is called needs assessment selling and this format is used in all professional sales jobs. Your customers will be happy with your service and the tip potential will go up. Remember you are working to provide the best your can and make the most of it.

This type of selling should be used for all types of items where there can be a comparison. Here is an example of what I am talking about.

You ask your customer for a beverage (and don’t assume they want alcohol). The use of the word “beverage” covers all drinks. Once you know what the customer wants in terms of type of beverage then you can apply your need assessment skills. Lets say the customer responds with a request for a glass of wine. Well this is ambiguous, since there are four major categories of wine. It is up to you to trim the options to what the customer wants. White or red and what grape varietals. Then there is the style of the wine for the same grape. You may have a chardonnay which is dry and un-oaked and another chardonnay which is heavily oaked and not that dry. The challenge to you as a server is to know the products you are offering and then be able to provide the customers with this knowledge to make an appropriate order.

If, your customer is not savvy to wine and not sure about what to order after all your explanations, then you should give him/her a sample taste of the wines which are most suitable to the customer’s tastes. I would not offer too many wines. Two sample glasses would do fine. This is a taste and less than an ounce of wine will suffice. This will either get you frustrated if you have other table on the go or build your potential tip. Try to think of the latter.

Food order taking is much the same. Customers want to be entertained. You as a server need to know the menu and what ingredients are used in the dishes. This knowledge will put your serving abilities to the top on the line. You need to pick some items to promote. Use descriptive words to wet the pallet of your customer. Pick items which are popular and you know sell. There is a reason for this. These items are just the best items on the menu.

If, you know items on the menu are not that good, then discreetly persuade your customer to pick something else. Be careful with this approach, because now you are on the spot. If the customer doesn’t like your recommendation then be prepared to take it off the bill. The management might not be happy with this and the chef will certainly be asking you about the void. Honesty is the best policy. It will gain you respect with the management and the customer.

When customer see that you are genuine and honest towards their questions and concerns they will invite you to serve them when ever they visit the establishment. This builds your regular’s customer list and appreciation (larger tips). The management will notice this and you gain job security if there is such a thing in the restaurant business.

The dinner is not over after the appetizers, main course, drinks and wine. Your opportunity to push the bill higher comes to desert, coffee, tea and after dinner drinks.


Always make recommendations for every course. Remember to use your need assessment skills by asking questions and communicating with your customers to give the proper service and a meal they will enjoy.

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