“The Art of Reading the Guest” by MDC

There is a true art to waiting tables here in NYC. Every guest that comes in to the restaurant is different and every guest is wearing an imaginary sign on their chest. This sign is a reflection  of that guest’s expectations of the service team and how they would like to be treated during the dining experience. Because every guest has a different sign and due to the fact that those signs are not always easy to read, it is my job as the server to figure out exactly what the guests  are saying to me. After I’ve gathered this information, then I can provide the type of service that will meet the guest’s needs and hopefully exceed them along the way.

“We are not Health Care Providers. Our main responsibility is to serve our guests the most enjoyable meal we can and hopefully increase the likelihood of them getting laid after dinner.”, says Anthony Bourdain when he was asked what his views were on the general guest who comes in to his restaurant. For me the bottom line is that everyone uses restaurants in a variety of ways, like first dates, get away from the kids, business meeting, or a celebration of some kind.

And so, after I’ve read the guest and tried to give them what they wanted, I must check back in my mind putting myself in their shoes. That’s what I do constantly throughout the meal, I’m trying to mentally write the story of their experience by recalling the specific details and asking myself if those details were memorable? If they weren’t and I’ve just gone through the motions providing mediocre service, then I’ve failed. But if I’ve done something extra or made them feel special or just simply given them what they wanted, then I know that they will most likely return again. Repeat and regular customers are the only way for a restaurants to survive in this city!

It’s not easy to exceed the guest’s expectations, but I feel that the secret lies in the initial reading of the guest. This is where I try to figure out what they expect me to do and then I go the extra mile to provide them with something more. I call this a +1, which is that special unexpected something that I was able to  provide to a guest during their dining experience that made it unique. It could be anything, but usually comes in the form of a wine suggestion, a complimentary glass of Cava or a birthday candle in the dessert.

It really doesn’t take much! After 16 years in the business, I know how to surpass the expectations of my guests with consistency and grace. I know that all that I must do is my best for each and every guest. Thankfully while I’m in the restaurant my best is easy to give and that’s what it takes to earn the respect of the guest, who is truly the only reason why I am there. Without the guest there is no restaurant!


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