Knowledge: the key to confidence


Knowledge: the key to confidence

Knowledge: the key to confidence

Associate Director of Hospitality Culture, David Pepper, on how front of house staff can draw confidence from other team members to deliver a great guest experience.

For a front of house team, an important quality is confidence – the confidence that comes from knowing how to do their job well. Part of this comes down to talking their way around the menu, but there’s the more general knowledge too that comes from being fully on board with the concept, familiarised with the playbook and well-versed in the steps of service. Once on board with this, team members are able to develop the confidence which allows their personality to shine through as they interact with guests. When they are no longer preoccupied with forgetting information about the specials or the wine list, they can focus on the needs of the guest in front of them.

HGEM statistics show that guests are more likely to remember team members who appear knowledgeable and passionate. They are also more likely to be upsold to by a team member who tailors their suggestions to the individual guest. And 80% of guests say that when this happens, despite the fact they have ordered more than they intended, or spent more, the overall experience was enhanced as a result. Whether they’re recommending sides, extra dishes or particular wine, this should feel spontaneous and courteous, rather than pushy or automated.

Tactical upselling relies on the knowledge and confidence of the front of house team to feel convinced themselves that their suggestions will enhance guest experience. Such opportunities are missed more often than not, with 66% of HGEM mystery guests reporting that team members offer recommendations or menu advice “Infrequently” in casual dining restaurants. Clearly the opportunity is for the operators to empower their teams to have the confidence to provide the whole experience for their guests.

Any anxieties a front of house team member may have about their lack of knowledge: whether it’s feeling fazed when they’re asked to recommend a wine that will go with the risotto, or a request for a gluten-free sauce, should be assuaged by a confidence that the whole team has their back – they can always ask someone else.

Front of house team members who are confident in their knowledge and in the broader knowledge of their team, deliver better service to guests. It’s the foundation of a circuitous loop. Guests reward great service with tips, so the team feels their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated. This in turn bolsters the confidence of teams and makes them feel more valued. It’s a win-win.

With a high employee turnover and lots of part-time workers who perhaps work only one shift every week, it can be hard to foster the knowledge and confidence required to deliver excellent service. The key is to create a workplace culture where team members feel valued; and that they want to be part of long-term. With many years of operational experience in the hospitality sector, I know that high employee turnover often occurs because of the culture. Where team members feel valued and invested in as individuals, employee retention across a business improves.

There are plenty of creative ways to help bolster the confidence of team members and improve knowledge at the same time. HGEM’s Matthew Smith talked briefly about ‘gamifying selling’ in his recent blog post as a great way to incentivise sales. This can work as a motivator for improving knowledge, particularly if the sales targets focus on particular items on the menu that are neglected or lesser known. It can also be a great way of bolstering confidence as well. It’s incredible the way that a once-reticent team member who normally wouldn’t dream of upselling, suddenly gives themselves permission to offer prosecco on arrival, extra sides or coffees after a meal once they know that the rest of the team are doing the same.

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