With the proper service, even a relatively modest banquet can be transformed into a sophisticated soirée. However, less than adequate service can often take the punch and pizazz out of even the most lavish events. The service at any event is one of the first things that people notice, and will affect their perception of the event as a whole. That means that you should spend some time on banquet server training, to make sure that your staff is truly a service instead of a hindrance.
When most people think about server training, they tend to think of complex tasks such as synchronized service and wine presentations, or else focus on intangibles like attitude. While there's no question that all of these things are important, one of the best ways to improve overall service is to start with simple things. Take a few minutes at the beginning of serving to go over things like the proper mechanics of serving food and drink. Go over things like serving food from the right and removing used items from the left, refilling water by picking up the glass rather than pouring over the table, and other similar basics. Even if 39 people are nodding in boredom, there are usually still one or two people who are learning valuable lessons.
From here, you can work up to more complicated tasks. When asking someone to do something they've not done before, make sure that you give them time to practice before the event. No matter what, during this learning process you have to be kind and supportive. This is not the military, and you are not a drill sergeant, so be sure to say 'please' and 'thank you,' and generally treat your employees with the same cordiality you expect them to extend to your guests.
The first thing everyone thinks about when it comes to server training is the one thing that's hardest to teach: attitude. The ideal server is attentive, polite, kind, but also invisible, quick and hard-working. Teaching many of these ideas is often easier said than done, but there are a few definite ways to work on this important aspect of service.
According to experienced restaurant manager Nick Tindell, staff should be told to consider their charges as guests rather than customers, and thus deserving of the same hospitality due an old friend. One tried and true training plan is not to try to teach the staff to be subservient or kind, but emphasizing empathy. Ask your employees to identify with their guests, and to give the kind of service they would most like to receive. Another idea is to foster the attitude you want your employees to have. That means that if you want them to smile, they need to be having fun, which means you need to make their job fun. Try playing music in the back, feeding them before or after their shift, and generally being a fun boss. If, on the other hand, you'd like your servers to act like professionals, you need to treat them like professionals. That means addressing them respectfully at all times, not losing your temper, and not screaming to get what you want.
Removing the Guesswork
Another great way to train your banquet server staff, and to make sure that your event goes as smoothly as possible, is to instruct them on all the most common contingencies. A large portion of server errors occur when the employee is forced to react to an unrecognized situation. It only takes a few brief seconds to go over things like angry guests, food complaints, drunk patrons, and other sticky but predictable situations. Like the boy scouts, doing this will mean that you're always prepared, and that your staff will be able to give your guests a night they'll remember for all the right reasons.
- Nicholas Tindell; Food Concepts International; Rogers, Arkansas