by David Rothschild
Because diners want to be served, not "sold" . . .
You’re trying your best to stick to your diet. At lunch, you order a small green salad, with lowfat dressing, on the side. Halfway through your meal, your young server sidles over and, with a gleam in his eye, recites the same rap you already heard him use at two other tables, “You did save room for a slice of our Devil’s Food Decadence Cake, didn’t
“You did save enough money for college already, didn’t you?,”you mentally retort as you slash his tip from your usual 20%.
You recall recent restaurant outings when the hostess perkily proffered “our absolutely fabulous Appletini” and the waiter was so dejected when he couldn’t talk you up to the special foie gras appetizer that you were sure he must have made it himself.
When did servers turn into salesmen? Well, in truth, they always have been. It’s part of a profession in which tips are typically a percentage of the guest check.
But diners are growing increasingly weary of being bombarded by the “sell, sell, sell” service approach. And, in many cases, it’s not the servers themselves who initiate the upsell.
“Often, especially in chain operations, servers are told that they must ‘pitch’ a particular item to every guest who dines in their station,” reveals David Rothschild, author of The Main Course on Table Service, a waitstaff training manual. “It’s usually an appetizer, dessert or a house specialty drink that management knows has a huge profit margin,” Rothschild explains. “Because this can potentially
benefit both the servers’ earnings and the restaurant’s bottom line, it makes sense from a business standpoint. But it curtails the personal interaction between server and guest; the opportunity for the server to ‘read’ the diners’ preferences.”
In The Main Course on Table Service, he suggests, as an alternative to high-pressure sales tactics,making “winning” suggestions to guests.
In the chapter on order-taking, Rothschild recommends,“Find out what the guest is in the mood for. Try to determine likes and dislikes...Is she an adventurous eater, or imore conservative in her dining habits? Does he have a good appetite, or is he looking for something light?
Suggest accordingly. It’s a great advantage to be familiar with the food and to have tasted most of the menu items. Suggest those items that you especially like.”
Not those items that are the most expensive but, instead, those items that you especially like.
It was his own aversion to blatant upselling, along with his experience and expertise in the industry and several decades of teaching table service, that led Rothschild to write The Main Course on Table Service.
“I want servers, particularly those just entering the field, to learn not only the proper techniques of waiting tables, but also to acquire the traits and attitudes of a professional, to gain a respect for service as a career and to understand that a good server truly cares that his guests have a pleasant dining experience,” Rothschild relates.
The book is currently available as an e-book and CD (both PDF format)at www.EATiQuette.com; as an e-book at www.booklocker.com; and will be available as a trade paperback in November 2001.
“You may be able to sell a $6 dessert and add 90-cents to your tip,” calculates Rothschild, “but when you provide personalized, polished, professional service to your guests, they may increase the tip percentage of their whole tab by 5% or more.”
If it’s a hundred dollar guest check . . . well, servers, you do the math.
“Ideally,” Rothschild adds, with a smile, “You’d be able to sell the dessert and still get the 20% tip.”
Date Posted: 30-Sep-2001
David Rothschild jokes that he was “born into the restaurant business.”
(His father was part-owner of a Catskill, NY resort at the time.)
He has devoted more than four decades to the hospitality industry, working as a server, manager and service trainer at privately-owned restaurants and clubs and corporate-run hotel and resort restaurants from New York to Arizona.
Since 1988, he has been a service instructor in the culinary arts program at MetroTech High School in Phoenix. There, he’s prepared thousands of teenagers for positions in food service. David is co-owner of EATiQuetteSM waitstaff training and dining etiquette seminars, and has presented to more than 400 groups (nearly 8,000 participants) including students, educators, businesses, culinary schools, restaurants and casinos.
EATiQuetteSM has been featured on television, radio and in print media across the U.S. and Canada. David is often consulted as an expert in the fields of restaurant service and dining etiquette and has written articles and columns for various publications on these subjects. The Main Course on Table Service is his first book.
David was a finalist in the Society of American Cuisine’s 1987 “Year of the Waiter” essay contest and has twice been nominated as the Arizona Vocational Teacher of the Year.
He lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and business partner, Barbara.