One size does NOT fit all

Did you know that of the total guests who will not return to your restaurant, approximately 14% is due to poor food quality and 68% is because of poor service? With statistics like that, doesn’t it make sense to train your team to deliver top notch service in order to win guests back every time? 

To gain a competitive edge today, restaurant operators have to do a lot more to get their restaurant on a customer’s “favorites” list. One way is through personalizing service for each type of guest that comes into your restaurant. For example, the selling and service techniques required for a family with children are different from those for elderly guests. The same holds true for regular guests versus vacationers. It’s never safe to think that your restaurant staff will inherently understand these differences. Unless trained, they’re likely to deliver one-size-fits-all service.

Teach your team to be observant and follow the tips below to help evaluate the needs of your guests.




• Time limitation (leisurely or time restricted)

• Mood (celebratory, romantic, stressed)

• Age group (children, teenagers, baby boomers, seniors, geriatrics)

• Purpose (social, private/intimate, or business)

• Gender

Since most communication is conveyed through verbal language, nonverbal body language and facial gestures, teach your team to focus on the following:

• Verbal Language (voice tone, rate, inflection, speech, pronunciation, and grammar)

• Body Language (eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and movement)

Look for the telltale signs of a guest who is in a rush (looking at their watch, rubber necking, talking quickly, or tapping their fingers). Also, solid observation of your guests’ image (e.g. clothing, accessories, hair, makeup, etc.) can also provide you with many clues about their dining mode.

On the following page, you’ll find an exercise to share with your team. It lists various types of guests and ways to customize service for each category. During a pre-shift meeting or company training session, review this exercise with your team. The Customized Service Tips section remains blank for the last five types of guests. Assess your team’s knowledge by having them think of ways to customize service for these five guest types.

Please Note: When serving alcohol, train your staff to be aware of the signs of intoxication and avoid overselling alcohol. Teach your staff to refuse alcohol sales to any minors. 

These service guidelines are meant as recommendations and are not set in stone. Be sure to fully assess each and every dining guest by observing verbal and body language to determine how to positively interact with every guest. Mike Owens, General Manager of Brick Oven LLC, located in Topeka, Kansas, says, “Using the above examples in role play scenarios is a highly effective method to properly train teams…it helps them fully understand the importance of tailoring their service versus delivering the same canned service to everyone.” 

“Service” is not just about delivering food and drinks to the table—it is giving the guest much more than he/she expects. Implementing a solid training program that focuses on personalizing service will set you apart from your competitors. Exceeding the needs of each guest with customized service takes a little extra time. However, it is worth the eff ort. When the guest wins, everyone wins and it’s a triple play—more money for you, increased tips for your staff, and happy guests that become loyal patrons and refer their friends.

Pam Simos, keynote speaker and founder of Five Star Training, has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry and a B.S. degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management. Her company specializes in reducing costs and driving profits through training. She off ers a full line of 20 training services for executives, managers, and staff including 15 seminars, management coaching/mentoring, train-the-trainer programs, training for new restaurant openings, business solutions, keynote speaking, and management, employee, and operational manuals on CD. Five Star Training is based in St. Petersburg, Florida.