When a guest enters a restaurant they are generally happy to be there. They chose the restaurant for a reason and they are expecting to have an enjoyable meal. All that can change in an instant. Within as little as two minutes a guest can assess a restaurant and a situation and could easily turn around and walk out.
Many restaurants strive to create an energetic atmosphere to appear busy, trendy, and fun. After all, energy is contagious. High energy brings people up, low energy is a buzz kill. The problem is the same energy that looks energized to one guest will appear stressed out to another. Once stress starts, like a virus, it can spread.
Sales and service industry people know the rule — leave your problems at the door. It's important that staff know and understand that whatever problems they are having at home or at work, the customer must not be allowed to notice it via service.
In our post First Impressions Start at the Host Stand, we talk about making sure those first two minutes in the door create a favorable impression for the guest. But what about the rest of the stay?
Encourage calm. Employees can be friendly and have a smile on their face and still exude a frazzled vibe. If at all possible, allow employees to remove themselves from the room or the situation and take a minute or two to take some deep breaths and relax. Just like counting to 10, this little trick can prevent a situation from developing or adding to other people's stress levels.
Watch the pacing and flow of energy. While you want a restaurant to be energized, servers rushing too quickly can evoke a stressful atmosphere as well as create dangerous situations such as collisions and breakage. A restaurant's energy flow is most often influenced by the pacing and turn times of tables. Restaurants want quick turnover of tables so that they get more customers in and out, thus more sales. But forcing fast pacing and turn times can induce stress and rushing. Find a happy equilibrium where the pace and flow allow staff not to get overwhelmed, therefore keeping the vibe energetic, not stressful. Front-of-house software is the best solution to handling pacing and turn times. By using automation, you are able to keep a constant flow versus overbooking and overloading staff via pen/paper method.
Work on efficiencies. Efficiencies can work twofold: they make work processes smoother and faster and they can also reduce stress. Efficiencies can be as simple as finding a way to save steps to a process or combine like tasks together. They can also be achieved through technology. Many software solutions today combine multiple tasks and processes together to help simplify the work.
Recognition works wonders. Pay attention to staff and recognize them for their efforts. Programs such as Employee of the Month or an occasional gift card can make an employee feel valued and want to put their best effort forward. While official recognition is always nice, even daily compliments versus criticisms can go a long way.
An energetic yet calm restaurant will encourage customers to come in, relax, and stay for a good meal.