Customer Care? Service? Oh, My!

 In Operations

Authored by Linda Peters-Getchell

For the past couple of weeks I have found myself planning for the next Elite Meeting, the next Champion Meeting as well as the Vegas Workshop. I made up separate calendars for each event to keep dates, meetings and restaurant planning straight in my head. After hotel rooms and meeting space reservations were completed, I compiled a list of restaurants for lunches and dinners, making reservations for meals for each group. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

In this economy one might think that customer service would be primary and each restaurant would be delighted to have a group planning ahead to dine in their restaurant, wouldn’t you? Each person with whom I speak I am sure to tell that this is a group of independent restaurant owners from across the United States and Canada. You would think they would want to stand on their heads for such a group, honored to host these folks, right?

Some restaurants have a message machine no matter when you call, one even does this with all reservations. I have had better than three attempts to contact them in the past week, and I am still waiting for a return call. Do you think I want to plan anything with them about now?
Other restaurants answered, but the person I needed to speak with wasn’t in right then, but if I would leave my name and number, I was told, they would return my call as soon as possible. Glad I wasn’t holding my breath. I am still waiting for several of them to return that call.

Now this is my favorite: separate checks. I know, I know, they can be a pain, but considering you stand to make $1,500 or more with one table, might you consider separate checks? I can understand that you might want to add your banquet gratuity so a large group didn’t go off stiffing the server/servers waiting on the group, but how much extra effort goes into separate checks?
I have heard, it is not our policy, our computer system cannot handle it, we do not do separate checks for more than 10 people. This one simple request has been a monumental challenge.

Last Champion Meeting I was feeling really discouraged. I was out to lunch with a friend at McCormick & Schmick’s. We had a marvelous lunch and a server that was a rare find. I decided to ask if they would take a large group and almost whispered “separate checks.” She smiled and told us when we were ready she would show us the rest of their facilities. She did a quick walk through with us (they were very busy) and had arranged for their manager to speak with us. The manager was quick to tell us that they do not do separate checks over parties of, I believe it was 8, having something to do with getting it to and through the kitchen.

Our server grinned, and said to the manager, “I would be happy to come in and do their party and do separate checks for them.”

The manager told us she would make an exception if we would bear with them, understanding it made it hard on the kitchen and might make things a little slower.

I assured her we understood, that would work.

Tracy, the server did come into wait on the group and I don’t know how they liked their food but they all loved Tracy and would like to have stolen her for their restaurant. They will all remember their experience. So will I.

What would your restaurant do if I called asking to bring a group of 15 to 25 and needed separate checks? How would your staff handle it? Would someone call back immediately if I left a message? Even if separate checks were not your policy would you be flexible enough to make exceptions and create a way?

Life is full of rules. Life is full of exceptions to those rules. Rules are guidelines, Exceptions are what puts a little magic into service making is EXCEPTIONAL!

Linda Peters-Getchell has 20 years in restaurant management and food and beverage customer service. She has owned her own restaurant and catering service, developed unique training programs and won two Key Player Awards for her customer service programs at Showboat Casino Hotel. She is currently a powerful creative force for restaurant expert David Scott Peters and his company, Smile Button Enterprises, serving as Fairy Godmother.

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