The Art of Listening
By Susie Ross Founder, Waiter Training | August 03, 2010
Some might sum up the "art of listening" in two simple words: SHUT UP! While I think that is definitely a major part of listening, I think it is only part of the art when serving guests in a restaurant. Servers must listen not only to what guests are saying, they must also listen to what guests are not saying. Servers have to know what questions to ask in order to find out how to best serve their guests.
Guests will usually tell you everything you need to know without ever saying a word. Before they ever go to greet their guests, servers should be reading their body language and gauging who they are and why they're in our restaurant.
Typically, it's not a good idea to make assumptions about someone, or, as the saying goes, judge the book by its cover. In the restaurant business, that's one of the most important parts of our jobs! For absolute certainty, we can safely assume two things:
We have to assume those things; why else are we in business? So it's been established that we have to make some assumptions about our guests. Servers have to also read further into their "reading" of the guests.
How they are dressed and how they behave, for example, will tell the server 85% of what he needs to know. Attire can tell him if people are on a date, on a business meeting or out to have a good time with friends. The other 15% will be verbal.
People will tell you when they are in a hurry. If it's lunchtime, they may have to get back to work within an hour or less. If it's dinner, they may be trying to get to a movie at a certain time. Sometimes people won't tell you and that is why, especially at dinner, a server should ask if guests are pressed for time or if they want to relax and take their time. Servers who know how to read their tables will learn quickly how to determine if someone is in a rush. It's safe to assume that most lunch-goers need to get in and out faster than dinner guests.