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5 ways to become more emotionally connected to your guests

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5 ways to become more emotionally connected to your guests

5 ways to become more emotionally connected to your guests

I like to think that, generally speaking, we’re living in more emotionally-connected times than ever before.

Fantastic campaigns by charities such as Mind and Time to Change have done a brilliant job of opening our eyes to the internal struggles that many people wrangle with. It’s now time to take that awareness into the dining room.

As important as things like knowing the menu and remembering table numbers are, the most vital element of any service is being able to read guests’ emotions. Guests will (usually) forgive a server if they don’t know the menu inside out – but they’ll find it harder to look past a misstep in emotional judgement.

But just how easy is it to take that new-found emotional awareness – some people naturally have it, I might add – and apply it to the hospitality setting? It depends on the person, of course, but you don’t need any particular qualifications, just a willingness to observe... and an element of empathy.


With that in mind, here are five ways to make sure your waiting staff are providing an emotionally-aware service:

1. Empower staff to use their intuition

Waiting staff need to be empowered to adjust their approach as they see fit, rather than be expected to roll out a hard-and-fast service every time.

So, when training your people in the way you want them to behave and converse with guests, leave room for them to act in the way they think is best, based on their intuition.

Some people will naturally judge the ‘mood’ of the table, while others find it more difficult – recruitment is key to ensure you end up with a team made up of the former.

2. Don’t go into autopilot

Waiting staff should be discouraged from going into autopilot, which can sound like they’re just reading off a script and are disengaged from guests.

However, it’s not enough to just say to them that they should be engaged at all times – it’s up to you to keep their eyes and ears open to guests’ individual wants and needs. That might mean regular top-up training, or you using your imagination to keep staff engaged.

3. Observe the behavioural cues

There’s often no ‘science’ to tuning into guests’ emotions – it can be as simple as observing their behavioural cues and reacting accordingly. For example, if two guests are having a rather heated discussion, it’s probably not the best time for their server to go over to the table to ask if they want to see the dessert menu…

This might sound a lot like common sense – and it is – but for waiting staff who have a checklist to tick off, sometimes the behavioural cues are ignored in favour of keeping things moving.

4. Look out for eye contact

Sometimes it’s best to wait for guests to initiate the contact. I’m not saying that guests should have to raise their eyebrows every time they want something, but if they look like they’re immersed in conversation, waiting staff should take a back seat and pick their moments.

It’s much better that way than asking a table “Is everything OK with your meals?” just as a guest is about to deliver the punchline in a story. They won’t forgive you if you ruin a good anecdote or joke with a question that is largely superfluous – and rightly so…

5. Treat staff as you want them to treat guests

The best way of ensuring that staff are emotionally aware as they carry out their service is to treat them as you want them to treat guests.

If you are kind and caring to your staff, they’re more likely to ‘pay it forward’ to guests. It’s in keeping with the old business adage of “Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow” – which now extends to showing that you’re mindful of their mental health.


So, there you have it. Becoming a more emotionally-connected operator shouldn’t be difficult. But it’s still proving elusive for quite a few operators.

HGEM’s guest surveys and mystery visits can assess how emotionally connected your team is to your guests, allowing you to measure, monitor and improve your guest experience s a whole. For more information, get in touch today on 01225 470999 or email enquiries@hgem.com.

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