How to Handle Special Requests
If you have handled special requests before, you know that they can go one of two ways.really well or really poorly. To the operator, a special request is like an airplane landing.the only good result is that everyone walks away safely. Meeting a guest.s specific demands can be rewarding to the operator and can turn a dinner out into a special night for the guest. Unfortunately, special requests can also go poorly when they are unmet or improperly executed.
In the end, there is only one correct way to view special requests, and it.s not a popular one for operators or Executive Chefs. Special requests have to be viewed as an opportunity for your restaurant to win over customers. This is your chance to demonstrate how far your business will go to get a request correct.
In many cases, special requests are easy to execute. They often involve a specific table or a pre-order for dessert. However, they can also be very elaborate, including special menus, time itineraries, and specific instructions for servers. It should be understood that the restaurant that can successfully handle special requests is separating itself from the pack, and has likely won over the guest.
Menu special requests can be far more difficult to execute than they should be. For that reason, many operators and Executive Chefs avoid them at all costs, and simply tell guests no. They are especially difficult in the middle of a busy dinner service. Even minor requests can bottleneck a line far more than they should, in part because of the extra attention from the Chef or Sous.
Common menu requests can be streamlined by making common substitutions or suggestions available. Examples include:
- Substituting a side salad for a specific side dish.
- Training servers on what to suggest for dairy or sodium allergies.
- Preparing nut- and dairy-free desserts.
- Training servers to recommend butterflying steaks that are ordered well-done.
- Preparing special desserts or after-dinner drinks specifically for special occasions.
Special menu requests offer you a chance to personalize your service and kitchen. This is a great chance to win over guests by re-formulating an entréor offering something that nobody else in town is willing to offer.
To be sure, special requests are easier for some restaurants than others. The restaurant that does 40 covers per evening can handle them better than the one that does 400. Steakhouses that specialize in meat and potatoes typically have an easier time with allergies than, say, a Chinese restaurant.
Perhaps it.s an engagement or an anniversary celebration, and the guest wants you to sing the couple.s song. Or maybe it.s somebody.s golf tournament trip and they want to display their trophy on the mantle. Special requests can be tiring and even obnoxious. They may be tedious to you, but they.re special to the guest.
It.s important to remember that this is why most of us go into this business. You will forget the burden once it is over, but the guest may remember the special occasion for a lifetime. Creating lasting memories impacts guests in a way few other things you do as operator will.
So, you may have to hum .Oh, Canada. to a group of Canadians in town for a hockey game. Or your server might have to present dessert at the precise second that a guest turns 30. The enthusiasm you maintain while executing those requests will be reflected in the repeat business you have earned.
How to Get Them Right Every Time
Getting special requests right requires organization and training. The manager taking the request has to be able to take and place notes for quick reference during the course of a busy service. It is too easy to forget a special request when 100 other guests are being served simultaneously.
These strategies can hedge your ability to handle special requests.
- Special Events 3-ring Binder: This binder should have individual pages for large groups and special requests to be left at the hostess stand and manager.s office.
- Pre-shift Meetings: Preparing your staff for a special request taken in advance makes sure everyone is on the same page, while expressing how important it is to get them right.
- Adjust your POS System: For special requests from walk-in guests or minor order requests, a different font or color on printers or within POS systems alerts everyone to the change.
- Be On Top of It: If it.s special request of the kitchen, be in the window or watch the entrees as they.re delivered to ensure that you got it right.
Following these steps will ensure that your business is making memories that will impact your bottom line. Remember, guests are accustomed to being run around by the service industry. The service business that bends over backwards makes a large impression that ultimately affects the bottom line.