SERVICE: Wise pizza operators know catering to kids isn't child's play

 
June 28, 2004

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 Waitersworld.com.

With summer comes a spike in family dining, which means more kids in your pizzeria.

That may set your servers' eyes rolling, but such an attitude toward children shouldn't happen at any restaurant—especially the pizza industry, whose core business is families.

If your servers ever get frustrated about serving kids, have them consider these points:

1. Kids never dine

Paul C. Paz

alone; someone has to bring them (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, their siblings, cousins, etc.) Since many operators make little to nothing on the sale of kid's meals, children's short-term revenue value for the house and the server is relative to the number of diners they bring with them.

And while adults are "in charge" of the table and always pay the bill, don't think for a moment they aren't watching how well or poorly the server treats their children—the most important things in their lives.

2. The surest way to lose control of a child at a dinner table is to treat them like one. Children of most any age appreciate honesty, respect and interest, just like adults. The minute a server becomes condescending, they sense it and respond defensively—just like adults.

Some of my coworkers who also are teachers, use these "classroom" techniques when serving children:

If a child is talking loudly, they say, "Please use your inside voice" instead of a brusque "Outside voice." They also say, "One-inch voice instead of six inch voice."

If a child interrupts, say gently, "You're walking over my words."

If a child's behavior is dangerous, emphasize with personal interest, "I'm concerned about your safety. Please stay at your table as the staff may not see you when they are carrying hot plates."

Make clear what you want them to do rather than what you don't want them to do by saying, "I'm concerned about your safety" instead of "You shouldn't do that."

Speak directly to the child quietly so as not to startle or create fear. Use their names whenever possible. Shift your height to their level for effective eye contact; it's a less-threatening posture. Compliment them for good manners and positive restaurant behavior, and thank them for smiles.

Anticipation appreciated

Anticipating the needs of your guests is a key factor in providing great service to families. Know the children's menu as well as you know the regular menu, and be prepared to "rush" orders for parents of hungry (possibly grumpy) children. Bring crackers to ward off hunger pangs. Also consider "holding" orders for parents tending to children away from the table.

Inform the parents of condiments or

start quoteAnticipation works for pizza delivery drivers, too. If you know children live at a particular home, think of things to bring the kids. They'll want the pizza from the place with the delivery driver who brings them stickers and coloring books. I've heard of drivers who even bring dog treats for family canines. That's extraordinary service that yields extraordinary tips.end quote

garnishes on children's orders that a child might call "icky stuff." I once saw a child object to an order of macaroni and cheese that was garnished with chopped parsley; he said somebody put "grass" on it.

Bring bibs and/or linen napkins moistened with warm water to help the kids can stay clean and tidy.

Should a child throw a tantrum, ask her parents if there's anything you can bring them. If parents are reprimanding their children, stay out of it!

Consider ways to distract or divert pint-size guests until the food arrives. Where possible, seat families at windows so the kids can see outside. Crayons, paper, stickers and puzzles are always good to have on hand. (I used a small hand puppet with a happy expression to engage restless or screaming little ones.)

Anticipation works for pizza delivery drivers, too. If you know children live at a particular home, think of things to bring the kids. They'll want the pizza from the place with the delivery driver who brings them stickers and coloring books. I've heard of drivers who even bring dog treats for family canines. That's extraordinary service that yields extraordinary tips.

I tell associates of mine who fear waiting on children and families to please send them to my station. It is my pleasure to serve them and their parents. If they return again and ask for my station, then I've doubled my sales and my income.

The greatest thing about this career of choice is we make a handsome living mostly by being nice to folks ... figuring out what they want and just giving it to them without making them feel awkward or uncomfortable.

One of the great pleasures (and profits) of this profession is that many of those "wet-nosed kids" whose bottles we warmed (not too hot) often become our regular clients! It might be their first high school prom, or their first business lunch, or they came to our stations so they could propose to their sweethearts ... and some have even come to our stations to show us their new babies and have dinner! They treat us with respect because we first gave it to them.

That's why our business is referred to as "hospitality."

You also were a baby once, and if you are lucky enough to grow old, you will be fussy, wandering and burping at dinner in a restaurant again one day!

In the meantime, Make It Fun ... Make It Easy ... Make Some Money!

Read other Paul Paz commentaries ...
* SERVICE: We're only as good as our last performance
* SERVICE: Separation anxiety
* SERVICE: 'Bad-apple' trainers will never bear good fruit
* SERVICE: Super Bowl, Valentine's and Mardi Gras present many promotional opportunities
* SERVICE: Boost beverage sales with these simple table-side tactics.
* SERVICE: Whether the holidays are happy depends on your attitude
* 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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