SERVICE: Whether the holidays are happy depends on your attitude

Dec. 1, 2003

Paul Paz is a "career waiter" turned hospitality consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the author of "Service At Its Best: Waiter Waitress Training -- A Guide to Becoming a Successful Server" (Prentice-Hall), and operates the hospitality information Web site

The ghosts and goblins of Halloween just vanished; Thanksgiving is upon us leaving only one month until Christmas! These times announce the oncoming "holiday rush" into restaurants all over the country.

True, cash registers are ringing and sales are singing, but the stress is rising as the industry anticipates serving the hungry holiday throngs. You know they're coming: walk-in-parties of 25 for which you have no room because of all the office party groups that made a reservation; crabby shoppers upset by the crowds at the mall; customers who fought like gladiators in rush hour traffic to nail down a parking space; and everyone's favorite, families who just

Paul C. Paz

don't like each other--all gathered at your restaurant.

And who bears the brunt of all these edgy customers? The servers.

Happy holidays, right?

Read their minds

So how do you stay upbeat, fresh and friendly amid the holiday crush?

I think it helps to apply a little mind reading, meaning you should try to view the whole situation through your customers' eyes. Imagine what kind of day they've had before arriving to your table. They've dealt with rude sales clerks, impatient parking lot attendants, dangerous drivers and grouchy co-workers.

Who could experience that and be in a great mood?

Even before seeing you, they've spent a great deal of their day in customer service experiences dealing with folks who not only didn't care about their needs, they weren't willing to provide even reasonable service. So they're likely a little on edge.

Still, don't view that occasion negatively, rather see it as an opportunity to offer the customer the complete opposite of what they might expect from you. Considering the poor customer service they've received all day, chances are you're going to make them happy. But go a step further by doing this:

* Figure out whether they want you to slow the pace of their day or quicken it with the pace of the meal. Whichever it is, make sure to convey a "glad you're here" look rather than one of annoyance. A genuine willingness to serve is easily recognized and welcomed by even the grumpiest customers, and at times, it's even more important than the service itself.

* Consider printing this out and reading it when you're feeling less than positive as you start your shift.


"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes."

-- Charles Swindoll

The key to basic customer service is to figure out what they want and then just give it to them ... quickly, correctly and in a friendly way. Don't make them beg for it, don't give them that look of "Hmm. Let me think about it. Does this person deserve my service?" Provide the same service and attention you would expect for yourself as a dining customer.

Will this eliminate all the uncomfortable situations? Of course not! There are some folks out there that will never be satisfied no matter what you do.

The real pros, however, don't take it personally. Given the hundreds of people you will encounter during the holidays, keep in mind that dealing with sour pusses is an occupational hazard, and that on the whole, they make up a very small minority of the customers you serve. Those customers who are a pleasure to serve will have reasonable expectations for service, and they'll also provide your holiday BONU$!

Too all ... happy holidays for 2003!

More advice from Paul Paz ...

* SERVICE: It takes a desire to please the customer to deliver exceptional service
* SERVICE: Schedule flexibility is a benefit -- not an entitlement -- of this industry
* SERVICE: Promote the pizza industry as a career choice
* SERVICE: Cheaters never prosper, especially in restaurants
* SERVICE: Say hello or they'll say goodbye
* SERVICE: Treat coworkers as courteously as customers
* SERVICE: What's There to Smile About?

Topics: Service

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