Monday, April 18, 2011

A Great Server Creates an Equally Great Experience

Don’t you just love it when everything seems to come together in perfect harmony to create an exceptional experience?

It’s what we strive for, certainly, with every guest that walks through our doors, and I had just such an experience recently, thanks to a truly exceptional server.

A very good friend of mine contacted me a few weeks ago.  Told me she would be coming to town for a quick business trip – did I have time for dinner?

First of all, I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity for anything, she’s become one of my very best friends over the last several years, and her visits are a highlight for me, whenever I am fortunate enough that she pops into town.

We have had great meals and service in the past at a place called Joe Forte’s Seafood & Chop House, here in Vancouver, and, they happen to have the best Cobb Salad that either of us have ever had in our lives, as well as specializing in providing a good and diverse selection of raw oysters, which we also both enjoy, so there was no discussion about where we would go – we were destined for Joe Forte’s.

I won’t bore you with all the particulars of what we ordered, because that really isn’t the point here, although I will say that, as always, the oysters were exceptional, but what really made the difference in our experience, from the moment that we were first approached at our table, was our server, Cheryl.

If you looked up “perfect server” in the dictionary, Cheryl’s picture would be there, or it certainly should be, and as we went through the evening, I was struck by what an exceptional job she was doing, at every moment, and I might add, while managing a very busy section in what was, as always, a full restaurant.  We were certainly not her only table, although we were made to feel like we were.

Cheryl was knowledgeable of the menu, in every sense, and she was equally well versed on the wine list, and the all-important selection of raw oysters available that evening, and while those attributes certainly contributed to a successful dining experience, it was, more than anything, the way in which she adapted her service to perfectly suit what we wanted, from what I’ll call a time, attention and timing perspective, and if you’ve ever experienced this, you know exactly what I mean.

That seemingly uncanny ability to know when to approach the table, how often and when, to recognize that we were engaged in great conversation and not in a hurry, at which point she offered to delay our main courses after our oysters, to give us some additional time to chat and catch up, but again checking back with us enough to let us know that she had certainly not forgotten us, but without being annoying by checking in too often or at the wrong time.

I could say a lot more about what Cheryl did to make our evening enjoyable, but the point is this – it was apparent that she was a dedicated, engaged and empowered professional server.  Someone who takes pride in being of service and does not see serving in a restaurant as “something to do until I find a real job,” but rather the opportunity that it is – to provide exceptional service that creates an equally exceptional experience, time and time again, and I have no doubt that Cheryl leaves all of her guests with this impression.  Joe Forte’s is lucky to have her.

And I would be remiss if I did not extend credit to the owners and/or managers at Joe Forte’s because they have obviously created an environment where Cheryl can do what she does best.  She could not have done everything that she did for us that evening, both in the way of her service, and, the modifications that she managed for both of our entrées if she was not fully supported to do so.

A great leader empowers and enables his staff, provides them with the tools and support necessary to do their job, and then, once they have everything that they need, gets out of the way so that they can harness their own greatness, and pass that on to our guests, creating consistently exceptional guest experiences. 

Need an experienced hospitality professional to help your property reach its full potential?  Contact me.

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