“Ten Theses” of fine dining
Martin Luther, a 16th century priest, broke off from the Roman Catholic Church and found the Lutheran sect of Christianity and the larger Protestant movement. He was eccentric and some historians have referred to him as an Adolf Hitler of 16th century Germany. You can learn more about him here. His great contribution to history was the 95 Theses. 95 Theses were his points of pain with the Roman Catholic Church. This was his statement to the Vatican on how he feels they lost their way on religion and church and became greedy. These were negative and caused outrage amongst the Vatican elite at the time. The first 10 theses today will not be negative, but rather informative focused on the goal of building a list of skills or knowledge that will help servers/captains be successful with guests while providing a great experience.
What does this have to do with guests and a restaurant?
We like to talk about the experience a guest has. It is one of the best ways to create a buzz about the business and get repeat business. A professor once said that people decide with their feet in hospitality, meaning they go where they want to be and feel comfortable. If the front-line team can make guests happy, a return visit is more likely in addition to the possibility of a larger guest spend. In the experience driven world of dining-out we live in today this could be what turns a guest into a regular, advocate or a member of the cherished 20% that does 80% of sales. If a guest does not qualify forthe 20% on the first memorable visit, it is possible on the second. The worst case scenario would be the guest recommends someone from that 20% group to the restaurant.
These are just a start and might not be relevant to every experience or restaurant in this niche. Fine-dining has quite a few segments and niches to it. Some restaurants have room for modifications while others do not, as a whole this segment will deconstruct dishes for guests, but would rather create a new one on the fly for allergies or dietary restrictions. This enhances the experience and shows flexibility for a category that traditionally has not been to flexible. With the recent spike in food allergies and lifestyle diets, it is possible to let the kitchen show creativity in these instances when it does happen by probing the guests’ needs or restrictions. In this case bending the rules is acceptable and a surefire way to win someone over, turning them into an advocate.
Keep in mind the overall goal is to own the experience and ensure a great (and profitable) visit by every guest. Will every guest have the same experience? Not at all, the theses are guidelines to ensure each guest has the right experience. In the future I will delve into the idea of customizing each experience to a guests needs. That is an epic post on its way soon.
Enough jabbering the ten theses of what a captain should be capable of in a fine-dining restaurant to maximize the guest experience and (guest) spend are as follows:
- I have the best 20 words to describe the restaurant “elevator pitch”: This is one the most important skills that will be needed throughout life. Being able to sell and present effectively, efficiently and quickly is invaluable in the restaurant business and any business.
- Be professional, not snooty: It is possible your guest is wearing jeans, Chuck Taylors and a t-shirt, but will be spending hundreds of dollars. Old school snootiness in fine-dining is so 1980’s. Be open and do not judge based on what a guest is wearing.
- Adjectives are a dishes’ best friends: Have those words ready when someone asks about a dish and make sure they make your mouth water, even if you are a vegetarian talking about steaks.
- The kitchen produces consumable art, it may take time: sometimes food cannot be rushed, most of the time it cannot. Rushing can ruin the experience and diminish quality, unless it is part of the brand, warn guests when it might be a while and offer them a drink in the meantime.
- Opening a soda can is louder than opening a bottle of bubbles: Many diners do not order bubbles at restaurants due to fear of what may happen when to bottle opens. This is due to their own inability to properly open a bottle of bubbles. Feel free to show them how to properly open the bubbles and not hurt people or unleash the 5+ atmospheres of pressure contained in the bottle upon unsuspecting and oblivious guests.
- For the best experience, the menu isn’t needed: You are the expert on the floor about this restaurant. Do not be afraid to “take the menu” out of diners hands and create a tasting menu on the fly by asking qualifying questions o create the best menu for them based on their tastes.
- This is not about you or your name, only the guest: Fine dining is different than working at a large chain. No name tags here and for a good reason, its not important unless the guest asks, this is their experience; keep it that way. Unless they ask, there is no need to share your name until they have at least had appetizers.
- Each guest is the only one in the restaurant, regardless of the 73 others: It might be crowded, but the goal should be give each guest the feeling they are the only person in the place, after all they are spending a considerable amount of money on their meal today.
- Telling a guest “NO” on certain modifiers ruins the chef’s vision is OK: The chef has a vision, respect it, ranch cannot be added to the Caesar Salad and no we cannot substitute chicken in the pasta for the veal. If you don’t like it don’t eat it, welcome to the big leagues of dining: Fine-Dining. In the chef-driven dining culture of today modifications are a thorn in the spine of the experience. If there are dietary needs that the menu does not fill, let us know and the chef will use creativity to make an extra special dish for the guest!
- First time spending this much on dinner, what is the occasion? (Welcome to the world of Fine-Dining, it gets expensive) It happens, people come in for that anniversary or dreaded Valentines Day dinner. They might be way out of their league and it shows. Take extra special time to ensure they are satisfied, as their expectations are usually higher than Mt. Everest.
The table is set and ready to go with our Ten Theses of Fine-Dining. Think of your own and let us know which you think are best!
Spread the word with the whole staff!