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Restaurant Service: Set Yourself Apart from the Others: Ideas from one successful model

By David Scott Peters

My wife Susan and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. You might think we're crazy, but we normally just get each other a card. We don't make a lot of fuss about the day.

Well, this year we treated ourselves to a night out without the kids and went to a high-end steakhouse called The Capital Grille. Let me share with you our experience from start to finish. You might be able to take some of the things they do successfully to make their customers' experiences something to remember and make them your very own. And don't be surprised if you hear me talking about these again.

Making our reservations

My wife called to make our reservation. The phone was answered within two rings. You could tell the woman on the phone had a smile on her face by her tone (unlike many restaurants you call and the person on the phone makes you feel like you just interrupted them).

The woman on the phone asked my wife if it was our first time dining with them, and if we were celebrating a special occasion. She took down our information, including our telephone number, and repeated it back to make sure the reservation was accurate.

Confirming our reservation

Our reservation was set for 5 p.m. on a Saturday. On that day before lunch, our phone rang. It was a woman from the restaurant calling to confirm that we would be arriving at 5 p.m. and were celebrating our anniversary.

Nice touch

For anyone who knows me, I hate being late for anything because I think it shows a lack of respect for the other person's time. In fact, my old partner at Famous Sam's used to joke that I spent half my life in parking lots because I was always so early for meetings.

True to form, I got us there 40 minutes early. Sue and I walked the shops for about 30 minutes and then decided to enter the restaurant. When we did, the hostess asked if we had a reservation. When we gave her our name, she looked up and said, "We would like to thank you for celebrating your anniversary with us. Happy anniversary." And again, she asked if it was our first time dining with them.

Our table was in a semi-private room. Scattered about the table was metallic confetti in the form of the words "Happy Anniversary." Also, there was a card on the table. Upon opening the envelope it revealed a card with the restaurant's logo and a picture of two wine glasses on the front and inside it said "Happy Anniversary and Best Wishes from all of us at the Capital Grille!" with what seemed to be all of the front-of-house signatures.

The Server

Let's just say service was impeccable. Our server knew the menu and specials inside and out. She had her steps of service down to a "T." I even joked with Sue that our server should be coming around the corner about ... NOW to check on us (and sure enough she did).

I couldn't help myself. I had to find out about their training process, so I asked. Our server's name was Jennifer. She explained that she has worked in a lot of independent restaurants in the past and often was just thrown on the floor. She said the training program here was so complete that when you hit the floor you knew everything about everything.

She finished, stating that we would be back and handed me her business card. That's right ... she not only had the confidence that we would be back, but that she would be there. I thought the business card was a nice touch.

A doggie bag like no other

Our meal was wonderful. So wonderful we couldn't finish everything. Jennifer asked if we wanted to take the rest home with us. We said sure.

She came back with a large paper bag, one that you might get from a specialty shop, with their logo on it and twine handles. Tied to one of the handles was a card. The card had their logo and Web site address on it and the following words, "We are glad you enjoyed your meal enough to take some home with you. Thank you for dining with us, we appreciate your business." And it was signed, "Chef Dan."

Another really nice touch.


I've always preached that customers remember the first and the last thing about your restaurant the most and that having great desserts are important.

While Sue and I proclaimed we didn't have any room for another thing, Jennifer described a chocolate cake that was "to die for." She also said it was so large she would bring two forks for us to share. She wasn't kidding ... this thing was the size of a small cake! And it was outrageously good! I dare say, "to die for."

The close

The moment of truth ... it was time to drop the check. As our server dropped the check she said that dessert was on the house and again thanked us for choosing to celebrate our anniversary with them and that she looked forward to seeing us again very soon.

Sue and I certainly appreciated the effort The Capital Grille put in to making sure we had a truly celebratory anniversary, enough so that they can count on our repeat business.

Things to make your very own

Are you doing any of these things in your restaurant? Can you see how the little things they do different from their competition wins them repeat business?

Let me review some of the things they did that, if you adopted the same tactics, can have a dramatic impact on your business:

  1. Answer the phone within two rings and do so with a smile on your face.
  2. When making reservations, ask if it is the caller's first time dining with you and if they are celebrating a special occasion.
  3. Repeat reservation details back to confirm they are accurate.
  4. Call to confirm each reservation the day of or day before.
  5. Alert staff of your guests' special occasion so they may be greeted appropriately.
  6. Decorate their table with confetti and a card signed by the front of house.
  7. Train, train, train your serving staff.
  8. Make business cards for your service staff.
  9. Make a doggie back a branding opportunity and add a card signed by the chef or kitchen manager.
  10. Make your desserts something to remember.
  11. Comp dessert on special occasions.
  12. Always invite your customers back!

There are only three ways to increase your sales.

1) Find new customers.
2) Increase their visits.
3) Increase their ticket size.

The most expensive and slowest way to increase your sales is to focus on finding new customers. The easiest and fastest way to increase your sales is to increase visits and ticket size.

Modeling the 12 steps above will virtually guarantee you'll have repeat business and that they will spend a lot more when they come back.

Nationally acclaimed restaurant coach David Scott Peters' unique "SMART Systems" approach to boosting profits has earned him the title of, "The man who can walk into any restaurant in America and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door - Guaranteed!" Learn more tips, tricks and secrets in his free five-part e-course, "How to Explode Your Restaurant Profits NOW!" Simply go to

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