I recently had the opportunity to request bids for printing my book. I am spending a fairly significant (to me) amount of money on this project and wanted to make sure I was getting the best deal possible. I requested bids from seven local companies. One got back to me within 48 hours. I received other responses between a week and three weeks later. I had already committed to the first company (which also had the best price) before the last companies even submitted their bids. Two still have not even responded. I know my book isn’t the largest printing job in town, but when someone comes looking to spend money with your company you should at least give them a price in a timely manner.
This started me thinking about how restaurants might deter guests from giving them money. I think as an industry we are exceptional at making it easy for guests to spend money with us. We run extended hours, accept most forms of payment, and even process the payment for them without asking them to even stand up. This is a necessity in our business. None of us would leave a guest sitting in the lobby for a week waiting for a menu. Still there are some ways that we make it more difficult. We all know that the time when the guest pays the check is one of the most critical times for restaurants. There are still potential shortfalls in allowing them to do so.
Here are five ways that you can prevent making it unnecessarily difficult for guests to pay you.
Google yourself: A guest walked into the restaurant I work at the other day and said that our phone was disconnected. Having taken a few reservations, I was certain it was not. It turns out he had googled the name of the previous restaurant to get the number. I do not know how many reservations we had lost out on, but a quick visit to Google corrected this problem in minutes. Think of ways the internet might be giving your guests bad information and fix them. Google yourself and make sure that every listing is providing accurate information about your restaurant.
Set your hours: This follows up on the previous topic. You need to make sure that all sites carrying information about your restaurant are accurate. It is also best to list the hours of operations with these sites. Posting them on the door does remove some of your flexibility, but it gives your guests the assurance that when they show up you will be open. On my last birthday, I directed my friends to a nearby restaurant after work. They decided to close early since it had been a slow night. What they did not know was that approximately 25 servers were heading to their door with pockets full of tips. Something tells me the $800 we spent at a neighboring restaurant would have made an impact in their sales for the evening.
Accept all forms of payment: In this day and age, there is no excuse for not accepting all four major credit cards and cash. I understand that vendor fees can be aggressive, but it is a convenience that guests expect you to have. A local landmark restaurant not far from my house has accepted only cash for years. Every time I go in there at least one guest in front of me is infuriated by this fact. They are instructed to use an ATM that charges an above average fee and return to the line to re-order. The owner sees this as a savvy business move. Angering your guests is about as far as you can get from a savvy business move.
Inform when taking reservations: You need to inform your guests when they make their reservation of any special policies for large parties. This includes any automatic gratuities or limitations on separate checks. Both of these things may seem out of place in an article about making it simple for guests to pay. I would argue that they actually fit this topic extremely well. Allowing for separate checks for large parties often times leads to a far greater wait for the guests to pay than if they sort it out amongst themselves in advance. Processing multiple cards at once, making sure that everyone’s ticket is accurate, pairing the correct guests on each check, and a myriad of other problems can make paying for the check needlessly difficult. Letting them know the policies in advance will allow them to compensate for this by knowing that it is their responsibility.
Check for banks and pens: At your pre-shift meetings most of you will check certain uniform standards. One of the standards that are often forgotten is the server’s bank and pens. When a server cannot return change to a guest because they are waiting on a busy bartender to provide them change, service suffers. Servers needing to borrow pens from other servers to process separate checks can begin a slippery slope of pen shortages. Checking for this randomly at your meetings will reinforce the standard and help eliminate the problem.
In the second part of this series, I will discuss four more areas where you need to make sure your policies make it easy on your guests to pay you. We focus on hospitality and service a great deal in this industry, but we must also be honest. The goal of the meal is to receive payment from the guest. That is the part of the transaction that keeps the lights turned on and the paychecks from bouncing. This is the time when we ask the guest to do something for us. We need to make sure it is as painless as possible.