La vista

A foreseen problem is a problem less

One of the targets in our work is to foresee problems at the moment that they aren’t there already. To do so, there are (at least) two techniques which you might already use and makes the difference between a bad waiter and a good waiter. I also teach them to trainees who are eager to learn. Instead of speaking of technique, try to see it as a game to make it more fun.

The first one is that you see in one single second if everything is all right at a table and in the restaurant.  This is called La Vista by John Vincke, a dutch maître-d’hôtel who died in 2007. In fact you take a global glance and you see what happens on a specific table, a station or in the room.

Related to this, the second game is that you have in your head in which phase the tables in the restaurant are, how many people they are, what they ordered etc. The guests at table 1 are eating main course, those at table 2 are waiting for the dessert, the german people at table 3 is have received the bill and are waiting to pay etc. Sometimes I ask the trainee backstage to close his eyes and tell me in which stadium the tables are. It’s difficult in the beginning but practice makes perfect!

The greatest kick of both ‘games’ is when you act in a way that the guests don’t have to ask for something. Not easy but a nice challenge!

(PS: The original quote is “Un problème prévu est un problème en moins”M. Dantec)

Remarkable CrazyWaiter… part 2

Also this year your CrazyWaiter is one the employees who are cited the most as remarkable. (I believe ca. 60 certificates out of >5.000 employees, 2 in every restaurant.) It’s always nice and inspiring to get some appreciation, even when it’s for the second time. It shows that you’re doing something well…

Although I hope there will be a hattick (also one of the most cited for the third time next year), I won’t be sad when another colleague will get this honour next year because there are so many nice, friendly and good waiters in my workplace. (no names… you know who you are 😉

Serving twice

The tables are seated twice in the restaurant where I work, some tables even three times. This is for me one of the hardest part of the job. In the time I learnt some tricks how to make it easier for myself thus improving the quality. Of course I’ll be happy to share these tricks with you:

  • Pre-bussing (taking empty glasses, bottles and cuttery away)  the table (without giving the feeling that the guest has to leave) is essential!
  • You spend most time in the chain emptying the table -> going to kitchen -> emptying your tray -> going back -> redressing the table with middle three steps. So I try to empty as many tables as possible at the same time to save time.
  • The hardest moment is when there are guests who leave and want to pay and new guests arrive and want to give their order. My manager and hotesse won’t be happy to read this but the easiest way to avoid is to wait with redressing the tables untill your station is completely empty (or the guests left don’t have to pay in the first couple of minutes). Of course you stay active and try to empty the tables and put the material on the table (so if they really need it, it’s easy for the hostess to redress it) but this secret method saves a lot of stress. In my opinion being flatseated is more efficient (you take all the orders at the same time) than doing 2 payments and 2 orders mixed. I realize that the guests have to wait longer for their table but I prefer that above confronting them with a freaked out CrazyWaiter!
  • Even if the table isn’t ready for the guests, I try to take care that there is already bread, spoons and glasses on the table. Our collegues seat the people as long as there are two knives, two forks and a napkin on the table but missing items as mentioned cause a lot of stress because the guest will ask for it. Pan and cuchara are the first Spanish words I learned for this reason!

Handling complaints for CrazyWaiters

This blogpost on the very interesting blog of Steve Curtin made me realize what I already knew secretly: Most people don’t complain because they like to complain, want reduction or to try make your life difficult. Instead of that 95% of the complaints are because the guest experiences something different than what (s)he expected on the basis of the price they pay, the image of the restaurant or what (s)he has heard or read on the internet. In fact this is the very basis of all ServQual models. A well know formula is Quality = Perceived Service – Expectations.

If you keep this in mind, it’s much easier to handle complaints and to solve them. Let me remind you of some basic (well-known) rules

  • Don’t take it personal and don’t be too defensive
  • Paraphrase (repeat in other words) to see whether you have a full understanding of the problem
  • Show comprehension:’I understand that you..‘. Use the I-form as much as possible to show that you feel responsibility to solve the problem. Apologize if applicable
  • Ask what the guests expected/expects or wants. Often this little question (what do you expect me to do) is the beginning of the guest’s satisfaction
  • Solve it yourself! If you receive the plaint, it’s yours and your responsibilty to solve it. Of course you can give the problem to another person (a collegue if you don’t have time or your manager if it’s beyond your limits) but it stays your responsibility and checkback if everything is allright at the end
  • Use the complaint as input for improvements in your service, food or procedures

Steakfrit

The CrazyWaiter spent his well-earned weekend in Brussels. He ate in three restaurants but was surprised by Steakfrit‘. There’s no need to do always fancy things in life, sometimes you have to keep it stupid simple but do it f#cking fabulous. The menu is with traditional belgian dishes for very reasonable prices especially in Brussel where the brasseries ask higher prices in general.

The most popular plate (ordered by 70% of the guests) is of course the steak:  Angus primebeef, specially imported from Ireland. The steak is a cut of the finest and tastiest part: the Sirloin and tasted very well. It’s accompanied with belgian frites, stoemp (mashed patatoes with vegetables) and a salade.

The service by Morgane and her coworkers of Steakfrit’ Grand Place was great (BTW I loved their shirts) and one of the many things that made this restaurant special was the unlimited refill (‘la repasse’) with the steak, frites and/or stoemp.  This is not usual and makes that you always eat warm food. (and let’s be honest, it costs a little seen the fact that only 20% takes something extra but it gives a great hospitality and ‘value for money’ feeling for your guests). Other remarkable choice of the restaurant is the fact that they only serve three wines to keep life simple: red, rosé and white for one price €18 for a bottle, also very reasonable. Also pretty unusual is the fact that kids up to 8 years dine for free and up to 12 for 50% of the price.

Last but not least : my former qualitymanager-heart started to beat a bit faster when I saw that they gave a questionnaire with the bill. Not too extensive (if I remember well only three questions: what was good, what wasn’t good, do you have suggestions) but it shows again the focus on quality by Steakfrit’ ! It looked like a make-easy-money-tourist trap, but it was GREAT!

If you understand Dutch it’s worth looking at the videos Foodinspiration.be has taken about Steakfrit. (page 3)

Hand Wash

A 14 year old boy died after eating two hamburgers at Quick (comparable to McDonalds) in the south of France. This was a big shock for me because people in this age aren’t that vulnerable compared to elderly, pregnant women and kids. They are still investigating how this could have happened, but it’ pretty sure that there’s a link between the hygiene in the restaurant and the death of the boy.

This made me aware of the fact that we as waiter are also responsible for e-ve-ry-thing the guest puts in his mouth. A lot of this is touched by us, thus it’s very important to wash our hands well regularly. In this video it’s shown how!

International Hospitality Words

We all know that speaking the guests language is THE way to get rapport with him or her. Especially to make contact with the children it’s good to speak some words of their mothertongue. That’s why I’m started to learn the basics of several languages. I love to share my knowledge, thus I’m proud to present the

International Crazywaiter’s (&friends) HospitalityWords

Thanks to my lovely friends who added translations and proofread what I had, I can present my readers words to use in your restaurant in 9 languages. More languages and functionalities are to come quick! (follow us at Twitter of Facebook).

Dream, design, deliver..

We want to be the best and to give the best to our clients. A way to do it is to use service design. You can talk and write a lot about it (the Wikipedia page will only be the beginning) but in fact it is very simple. You can also do it for your own job and tasks

  • Dream What do I want to give the client? Why? What are best practices possible, what do the guests really want. Use testimonials, films everything what is possible to take the maximum for the guest during the touchpoints or moments of interaction
  • Design How I’m going to do that? What do I need for it? Use brainstormsessions with guests, external consultants and ofcourse collegues and employees. Don’t do it linear but when you’re finished, go back to the start and think “how can i do it even better”
  • Deliver Do it! Minimize the gap between how it is and how it has to be. Because you did the process with your guests and employees they will be better involved and the new situation will be implemented more easily

I know that I might oversimplify it, but it’s a nice way to brainstorm about the things you’re doing!

(Via Molblog (dutch))

CrazyWaiter’s ServiceQuality Knowledgebase


It might not be a surprise that the CrazyWaiter is interested in Service Quality. So much that he collects scientific articles about this subject, which he has put in a database over the years. There are also articles about tipping and other hospitality related subjects.

Yesterday he read a discussion where somebody told that there is no research about hospitality. “One couldn’t be more wrong”, he thought and skipped a night sleep to build a webbased shell around the database and altough it’s still under construction it’s  ready enough  to proudly present…

CrazyWaiter’s Service Quality Knowledge base

Use the search function to find what you’re looking for or browse a bit. Features will be added in the future!

Eye contact

As a good waiter, you don’t just greet the table, you greet each person by making eye contact with them

via Waiting on celebrities « So You Want To Be A Waiter.

I tend to forget that when I’m in the weeds, but this is essential for making everybody comfortable. Just like talking to and making jokes with everybody and not only to those (kids) who talk (a lot) at a table. Also because you want to break the negative spiral (the waiter doesn’t talk to me -> You see, I’m not worth it / my sister is more interesting -> I don’t talk to the waiter ) because you won’t the only one who tends to talk to the cute little sister instead of the big timid boy.

Thanks SYWTBAW for the reminder! (even thought the subject of his original posts is totally different… about celebs I will post later ;))

Foto by OrangeAcid used under CC2.0

The CrazyWaiters pockets

Let’s dive today in CrazyWaiters pockets. Everything he carries has his sense.

  • Winekey To open winebottles of course. The knife is multifunctional. My preferred one is the Cellini of FarmItaly.
  • Pen To write the orders and sign the creditcard slips. Bic Cristal because they don’t leak inkt when it gets warm (read: in your pocket). Of course two because pens are there to loose.
  • POS card to have access to our POS computer. We use Micros
  • Crown cork opener It goes more quickly with a simple one like this than with the one on the winekey.
  • Matches To lighten the candles on the birthdaycake. In France it’s prohibited to smoke in the restaurant, so it hasn’t sense to give a light to the beautiful girl at table 501 🙂
  • Stickers To reward kids who have eaten everything. Or to put on the adhesive bandage to make an exclusive one.
  • Adhesive bandage For ourself, the colleagues or guests.
  • Needle and wire To fix buttons and perform other little reparations to our clothes or others. Also to adjust princess-dresses which are a bit too big. EDIT 24-11-2010 I ruined a dress today after I made it shorter with safetypins… ooops.. so I won’t do it again
  • Faceshield To protect yourself and the other when performing Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The one of Leardael is the best according to my CPR teacher. By the way, I strongly believe that knowledge of First Aid and CPR is a moral obligation of everybody working in public places as restaurants and hotels.
  • Gloves To protect yourself while cleaning vomit and stopping bleedings
  • Earplugs There is a lot of noise in the restaurant where I’m working. Now I have Alpine worksafe but I’m waiting for Clear EAR 20 who will filter more the hightones and less the lowtones (eg. the voicerange). This type of earplugs is very discrete, you don’t see them if guests are looking to the front of your face. The new ones will even be more discrete. (EDIT: view a review on the 3M Clear Ear here
  • Wallet To collect the creditcardslips, tips and the most of the stuff listed here. Fixed with an wire to my trouser because I’m too afraid to forget it somewhere or loose it.
  • Handwipes To give to the guests after eating shrimps. (To give them opened half torned is a nice gesture because the guests hands will be fatty) Also useful to clean tables, shoes and spots on the wall. (NB: Not on the picture)
  • Hotel- and parcinformation To answer all the questions about opening and closing times of shops, sauna’s and other nice things we have to offer.

And what do you have in your pockets what is not listed here?

Ready.. or not

Today I’m going to teach a very important lesson. As well for our beloved guests as for my collegues all over the world. How to indicate and see if the guest is ready or not (and want to take some more sidedishes or whatever).

This because I had some pissed of clients who almost scream:’I’m not finished yet’ (and almost slap your hand like teachers did 30 years ago) or complain about the slow service:’It took ages when you took my plate out’ while their fork and knives said otherwise. So print out and put it on the wall at the entrance!

P.S. It’s also possible that the guests puts his plate aside, which may be usual in the USA like this post says at point 2. That’s obvious ofcourse 🙂 Also a pile of plates indicates that somebody is doing something wrong. (and normally it’s not the guest)

Proactivity


I will tell you one of my secrets of being an above-average-waiter. The secret word is proactivity, anticipating on (un)expected situations. The biggest fun is when your guest doesn’t expect this.

Some time ago I had a family with a girl who had an allergy of gluten. It was her birthday so we woud celebrate it with some music and all the waiters clapping etc. In all the cakes we have there are gluten, so the family was thinking about cancelling the cake. However they ordered it because of the little ceremony we perform.

In the kitchen I got suddenly a image of everyone eating the cake but the birthdaygirl who was looking sad to everybody eating her cake. So I managed to bring the cake and a fruitsalad for the girl. Needless to say that the family was very happy with this!

Remarkable CrazyWaiter

Your CrazyWaiter is one of the 60 persons (out of >5.000 people with guest contacts) who are cited the most by guests as remarkable employee!

Guests of the hotels can leave a ticket with the name of a remarkable employee and apparently I deserved to be honoured. (little scret: the one with the biggest smile:)) Not bad of course for somebody without any official education in the hotellerie or whatever. I’m really content with it and hope to continue and improve at this way!

CrazyWaiter Tips and Tricks! (part 1)

Hospitality can’t be learnt with some tips and tricks. But of course they exist! I’ll share mine!

  • When somebody cries:  give him or her without asking a glass of water. For the simple reason that when you drink you’re not able to cry. Besides it removes the helpless feeling of the other guests. A crying kid can be get silent with a lolly.
  • Take always good care for elderly and children. When they are happy everybody is happy
  • Where people shake hands (weddings, condolences) : place a jug of water (and glasses of course) and little (wet) towels to clean the hands..
  • Give artists always water and glasses. They appreciate it a lot
  • Walking with the guests to show the way to for example the toilet is very kind. You’re not working in the supermarket!
  • If you bring empty glasses (for e.g. beer) turn them upside down on your tray to exit the little bit of water in the glasses.
  • When people order mineral water, ask if they want ice in it or serve it separate. Never in the glasses (you don’t mix pure water with tap-water)
  • Reading a lot of reviews on the internet and magazines.
  • The etiquette dictates the rules, the situation the exceptions
  • Even saying the word welcome make the guest feeling at ease

(Foto by Swamibu / CC BY NC 2.0)

Are Paris waiters rude… or is it you?

I’m not a Parisien waiter (I live in a kingdom on his own), butI hear a lot of people saying that French waiters are arrogant, rude etc. I don’t agree with it, because the way people act is always a reaction on you. Karma you know ! It helps also that I speak French. This is a very interesting article about this topic.

In matters of French culture and customs, the Paris waiter has, fairly or unfairly, often been singled out as the poster child for the rude-French stereotype. But what you may think of as rude may be nothing but poorly communicated cultural differences on both sides.

Read futher at French culture and customs: Are Paris waiters rude or is it you?.
Read also In Defense of the Notoriously Arrogant French Waiter

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