Ask TrueGuest: Tips on Making Menu Recommendations

Dear TrueGuest,Logo_Mark-Five_Diamond_Hospitality

We really need to increase our average check in our restaurant and the bar.  We have been working on making menu recommendations but have not seen any improvement.  What types of items should our employees recommend?

Great question, thank you!  Having restaurant servers and bartenders make menu recommendations is definitely the key to increasing your average check.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure that employees only recommend items that they have personally tried and love.  It sounds like a no brainer, but we have this conversation all of the time.  Server says, “our fish tacos are incredible and a must order”.  We ask, “do they have cilantro on them?”  Server says, “I have no idea”.  I guess they are not her favorite after all!  Make sure you are doing regular menu tastings with your team.
  2. Allow your employees to choose what they recommend, but have some limitations.  Here is where restaurants often run into trouble.  You start telling your servers that they must make recommendations but don’t provide any guidelines.  They tend to do one of two things, over or under recommend.  Half the servers immediately recommend the most of expensive item on your menu.  They think they will increase their sales and their tips.  Unfortunately, most guests do not fall for that and are turned off when you recommend the most expensive item.  The other half of the servers then under recommend.  When asked about entrees, they say something like, “you should get the chicken quesadilla appetizer, it is more than enough for an entree.”  Now, instead of increasing the check, they decreased it.  They took away an appetizer sale and sold the analyst a $9 entree instead of a $22 entree.  Ouch! Continue reading

Ask TrueGuest: When Should Employees Introduce Themselves by Name to Guests?

hello-my-name-isDear TrueGuest,

We are striving to become a TrueGuest Hotel but are struggling to get our team to introduce themselves to guests.  In what situations should we require our team to introduce themselves?  

Great question, thanks!  This is one area where hotels often have a difficult time teaching their employees to become comfortable with introductions.  Here are the situations that we like to see employees provide an introduction:

  1. When the guest first arrives at the hotel, the very first employee the guest sees should welcome the guest and introduce themselves.  In most cases, the first employee a guest encounters is the doorman or valet attendant who greets them at the car.  It is very critical for that employee to come over, open the door, and greet the guest with a welcoming smile.  Then it is easy to work an introduction into the conversation.  You can simply say ‘welcome to our resort, my name is John and I will help get you settled into the hotel’.  This introduction is important because John is going to need to obtain the guest’s name to pass along to the GSA.
  2. During any interaction that will last longer than a minute or two or where follow up may be required.  For instance, if you are a Concierge, you should introduce yourself and obtain the guest’s name immediately since you will most likely be working on a task that requires follow up.  Bellman who help upon arrival should always give a good introduction since they will be spending quite a bit of time telling the guest about the hotel amenities on the way to the room.  Restaurant servers and bartenders should also give an introduction during the start of their service. Continue reading

Ask TrueGuest: How to I Improve Our Handling of Housekeeping and Engineering Requests?

ignoreDear TrueGuest,

Our comment card scores have shown that we are really lacking in follow through on guest requests.  Do you have any tips to help us get back on top?

You have come to the right place for this question.  We actually have not really address guest requests in quite a long time, not since this post.  The handling of guest requests can be a simple procedure, but things can go horribly wrong if the proper procedures are not in place.  Here are our keys:

Tips for taking a guest request:

  1. Have a log system in place.  It doesn’t matter if you have an old fashioned paper log or are using a complicated computer tracking system.  Both can be very effective.  About 30 percent of guest requests are not handled due to lack of follow up.  GSAs take a request over the phone.  Next thing you know 3 guests arrive to check in before he writes the request down and the request is forgotten.  Get a good log!
  2. Find out exactly what the guest expects during the request.  The guest may be reporting that the shower in their room is not working properly.  Maybe they need the shower fixed right now so they can get ready for a meeting.  Maybe they already showered and would like it fixed after they check out so they are not disturbed.  Be sure to ask the right questions to find out exactly what is expected.
  3. Quote a time for handling the request.  A simple guest request should be no longer than 10 minutes.  If a guest is calling because their TV is not working or they are out of towels, they probably need assistance right away.  Make the guest feel at ease by saying ‘I will have someone up to your room to help within the next 10 minutes.’
  4. Repeat the request back to the guest before ending the call.  This one is often overlooked.  If they guest is requesting towels, let them know that you are sending 2 bath towels and 2 hand towels.  They can then correct you if you misunderstood their request.

Tips for handling the guest request:   Continue reading

Ask TrueGuest: How Does Using Table Numbers Improve Internal Controls and How Do I Assign Table Numbers?

Dear TrueGuest,

I read a couple of articles on your site about using table numbers to reduce employee theft.  How does that work?  Also, how do I assign table numbers in my restaurant?

Tables

Great question!  Using table numbers is not only a key tool for guest service, but a great tool for reducing internal theft.  However, judging by the receipts we see in hotel restaurants, very few hotels take advantage of using table numbers in restaurants or seat numbers in bars.  Why does using table numbers help reduce internal theft:

  1. Using table numbers makes it easy for a manager or supervisor to monitor an employee’s open checks.  As a manager, I used to stop in the restaurant often and pop open the floor plan on the point of sale system.  Anytime I would see an open check at a table without anyone sitting at, I knew there was a problem that needed to be investigated.  My policy was always that checks must be closed as soon as payment was made.
  2. Using table numbers and seat numbers makes it hard for servers and bartenders to reuse checks and steal the cash.  We’ve written quite a bit in the past about problems with servers and bartenders reusing checks.  See this article on check splitting and this section in our internal control guide for bars on reusing checks.  If your restaurant and bar have good table and seat number systems, it is more obvious when servers and bartenders reuse checks.  For instance, if a guest at table 22 pays cash for their buffet, the server cannot easily reuse that same check with table 34.
  3. Using table numbers and seat numbers also adds another layer of perceived controls.  It seems simple, but the more controls you have in place, the less employees will test them.  Experienced servers and bartenders know that restaurants who do not have simple controls like table numbers in place probably aren’t doing a very good watching out for internal theft.

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Ask TrueGuest: The Importance of Watching Every Ounce of Liquor in Your Hotel Bar

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Dear TrueGuest,

I just finished your online guide to ‘Getting Your Beverage Cost Under Budget‘ and I am working on getting all of the internal controls in place.  However, I really feel like I am now spending all of my time chasing pennies and trying to control every single drop of liquor we use.  Should I really care how much alcohol is wasted?  A little bit extra vodka here and there shouldn’t make a big difference, right? – Javier

Javier, thank you for such a great question!  We often hear this exact question when we are teaching our liquor control class in person or giving a lecture on liquor controls at a HFTP meeting.  You are absolutely right, even an ounce of a really good vodka only costs about 50 cents.  Why worry so much?  Surely, that can’t impact the bottom line that much, right?  Wrong!

First, we have to start looking at the potential of that ounce of vodka, not the cost.  In many cities such as Los Angeles and New York City, an ounce of premium vodka at a high end bar can easily sell for $15.  So, for every extra ounce of vodka your bartender over-pours, you could be out $15 in potential revenue.  Most guests have a pretty small limit of how much alcohol they can consume in one night.  Let’s pretend a customer orders a vodka cranberry but your bartender pours 2 ounces of vodka instead of 1 ounce.  That customer has now had twice as much as she expected to drink and may not come back for a second one.  If that customer typically likes to drink two drinks, your hotel will be out $15 in revenue and $14.50 in profit.  Over-pouring is definitely a profit killer in hotel bars.  If you have just 50 customers a night and just 10 of them have one less drink because of the over-pour, you could be out over $140 in profit.  If you serve a few hundred guests, you can easily see how quickly the numbers add up.

I hope that helps.  Once you get your liquor controls in line, be sure to check out our post on maximizing bar revenues.

Ask TrueGuest: Best Methods for Pouring Alcohol

Logo_Mark-Five_Diamond_HospitalityDear TrueGuest,

I can’t seem to get our liquor costs under budget.  What is the best control for measuring the bartender’s pours?

Good question!  There are a few different methods for pouring alcohol such as free pour, jigger, or measured spout.  Which one works best depends on your bar.

Typical lobby lounge – If your bar is typically slow, usually a measured jigger works best.  Just be sure to have plenty of jiggers on hand so the bartender always has one within reach.  We like the measured jigger because it is easy for your supervisors to monitor from across the bar.  Also, customers are accepting of a jigger in most cases.  Of course, the down side is that it is easy for the bartender to overpour using the jigger.  Most bartenders we see using a jigger like to run a tail with each pour.  Here is a good video on basic jigger techniques:

High volume bar – If your bar gets pretty busy and the bartenders need to crank out drinks fast, we like the measured spout.  The ball bearings in the spout automatically pour the exact amount and then stop.  The bartender would have to tilt the bottle back a second time to be able to overpour with these spouts.  Here is a good video of how the Precision Pours work:

Free Pouring Method – We really do not like any bars to use the free pour method.  It is both dangerous to your profits and to your customers.  Our mystery shoppers have reported time after time instances where they were poured a drink that had over 4 ounces of alcohol when a bartender free poured.  You can easily see how pouring 3 times the correct amount can be very dangerous.  But if you must free pour, at least have a good counting system in place and a system to test the bartender’s pouring skills.  Here is a good video:

Ask TrueGuest: Improving In Room Dining

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Dear TrueGuest,

I am the In Room Dining Manager of a large hotel.  Our In Room Dining sales have really dropped over the last year.  Our service scores are also suffering.  Where do a start?

room serviceGreat question!  Many hotels are reporting a drastic decrease in F&B sales per occupied room.  The In Room Dining sales have taken the biggest hit during these tough times.  Guests are really cutting back on the more expensive amenities of the hotels and room service is usually at the top.  Here are our recommendations:

1.  Revisit your menu and specifically your menu prices.  Many hotels dramatically increased their room service menu prices over the restaurant prices.  We recommend that the prices are similar, especially if your hotel is near many other restaurants…  especially if they are within walking distance.  Guests typically look at the room service prices and assume they are the same as in the restaurant.  If a guest feels they are too high, you have lost them as a customer in both room service and the restaurant.  Guests will grab breakfast from a quick mart and eat dinner at the restaurant next door.

2.  Review the basics of room service selling with your Room Service Operators.  Now more than ever, they need to maximize the revenue on every call they receive.  Check out this article on how to increase your room service sales by as much as 50 percent!

3.  For help on improving your service, check out this article on how to deliver room service orders the right way!

Have any tips of your own?  Post them below!  Have a question that you would like answered?  Post it below or send it to us via the contact page.

Ask TrueGuest: Bartender Selling Techniques

Dear TrueGuest,

I am a food and beverage manager at a hotel with two bars.  Can you tell me some ways that we can increase our revenues?  We are obviously a little bit slower lately, but is there anything that we can do to help?

mixed-drink1The selling area of a bartender’s service is always overlooked. These selling standards are extremely important to generating higher revenues. Bartenders can come across as uncaring and unfriendly if they just approach and ask guests, “What can I get for you?” They also will not sell much more than the minimum guest order. Most hotel bars are not like the bars or nightclubs that stand alone.People usually expect more from a hotel bar.The service of a bartender should be similar to that provided by servers to a table of guests that are eating.There are many selling standards that should be in place for each time a guest arrives at the bar.This includes practices such as offering your drink menu to guests whether they know what they want or not, providing a food menu, suggesting any specialty drinks, offering more beverages, and offering bar snacks.Each of these practices has its own effect and benefit on your bartender’s guest service as well as revenues.Here is a breakdown.

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Ask TrueGuest: PBX Basics

Dear TrueGuest,

I was recently promoted to PBX Manager at a 4 diamond hotel.  Our service scores in PBX have been awful.  Can you help?

Thanks,

April


phone

We can help.  Good phone skills are a lost art.  If you are experiencing poor scores when it comes to handling phone calls, focus on the basics.  The secret to PBX is consistency.  Here are some basic tips:

1.  Make it your goal to have every single phone call answered within 3 rings.  Test to make sure that it is happening.  Call the hotel during different times of the day and score each shift.  Don’t forget night audit.  We often call night audit and don’t get an answer even after 20 rings.

2.  Place a small mirror by every phone in the PBX office and teach every operator to answer every call with a smile in their voice.  If they have a smile in their voice, they also have a smile on their face…  hence the mirror.

Basics on answering external calls

All calls should be answered by using a greeting (good morning, good afternoon, good evening), announcing the name of the hotel, and announcing the name of the person answering the call, and an offer to help.  Example:  Good morning, thank you for calling the World’s Best Hotel, this is April, How may I help you?

The secret here is consistency.  The phone should be answered the same by every operator on every shift.

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