• Mike Hughes

Is everything "OK" this evening?

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Everything’s ok…

So I have written a little about customer complaints and table visits…I have talked about how turning a negative guest experience into a positive one can be a powerful tactic.

So what happens when a customer DOESN’T complain so much, but still isn’t very happy?

How can you identify and repair an experience when a guest doesn’t just come out and say, everything here sucks?

Body language, facial expressions and certain words or phrases are a way to, for us as Managers, to dig a little deeper into a guest experience.

It is an important skill to master.

So you are on shift, and doing your figure 8’s, and you are cruising by tables on a busy night…Things are going pretty well and you feel good about your shift, your team and your choice of careers.

As you are zipping by a table of 2, you ask, “how’s everything folks”?

“OK”, the guest proclaims with a half hearted response.

Do you continue your drive by, half hearted table visits?

Before we go any further, with of course the answer being NO, lets briefly discuss what you just asked; “how’s everything” falls into a very general area here! Everything, in and of itself, describes the whole visit and experience, and there may be times where that is appropriate. I however like to hone in on specifics. “How are your steaks tonight”? “Is your food prepared to your liking”? “Is Mary or John taking great care of you this evening”?

These questions can sometimes offer the guest a chance to discuss a specific part of their visit, and in my opinion are a much better way to open a dialogue. Getting them to actually talk and say more than one word, can usually open up another part of their visit…”The steaks are great, but the host was a little rude and your bathrooms are disgusting”…ok then…

Words and phrases like; Ok, fine, or even good are red flags, and if you EVER hear a member of your team, or even yourself saying, “Is everything ok tonight”, you need to nip that sentence of mediocrity in the bud. Last time I checked, “OK”, should not be the goal of anyone in food service who cares. Ever.

So you ask a specific question about the food…You receive an answer of OK…You know that OK, isn’t listed on your restaurants mission statement or values and you dig deeper…“May I ask what is wrong, and what I can do to make it “great”? You now get the specifics of why their food is in customer service purgatory. You now get to build some respect with the guest who just told you that things aren’t that great with something in your restaurant…and more important is that you get to offer a solution to a flaw in your game they may not have told you otherwise. Ok, is not great…Ok is the equivalent of, “I’ve had MUCH better elsewhere, and I am beginning to regret my decision of choosing you”.

I go back sometimes to an old but true theory, that a guest who has a mediocre experience and doesn’t say anything is more damaging than a guest who sees that you have identified and made efforts to fix a so, so experience. Yeah, getting the answer of FANTASTIC, or GREAT, or BEST FOOD EVER is the goal, but if we can’t avoid the OK’s and fines, we are not doing our best. Worse is this; the guest who gives you that lame answer to your food or service, most likely will never return. There are too many restaurants who DO dig in to those guests who aren’t mad, but aren’t happy either. If I am recovered in spectacular fashion, then I am going back again.

That’s how “Raving fans” are made!

Also it is important to make sure your entire team can spot these types of responses. Sometimes when I am out and a server asks me if everything’s OK, I will respond with, yeah it’s ok…If it truly is an average experience that is…I will be honest however and respond with, it’s awesome, even if I get the lame ass question of, is everything ok…It’s far from my job to coach or council someone else’s staff…If all servers, bartenders and hosts saw these answers as a cue to dig deeper and grab the MOD, then we would turn these average experiences into a wow experience. The good ones do this, and the good ones ALWAYS ask things like, “isn’t the food awesome”? If the guest doesn’t agree, than no, the food is just “fine”…Fine sucks by the way…Sort of like when you ask your significant other, “How are you”? And the answer is “fine”…That means you screwed up.

Next time you are out dining (if that even happens), and it is a busy restaurant will a pretty large FOH staff, pay attention to the 2 bite check back and listen for the staff AND management ask “IS EVERYTHNG OK”? You will find that you will hear this almost every time you are listening. In fact, if you really buy in to the message of this story, it will be all you hear…try it in your own restaurant, as if we as managers are not actively listening to our staff, we are missing opportunities.

A few quick points on body language and facial expressions, and it seems like some of these should be a no brainier to those of us that service the public for a living. Is everyone in a certain section, just looking around your restaurant, with a bewildered expression on their faces? Not talking to each other? You know what they may be doing? They might be looking at the happy tables in another section wondering, how they can be that way too…Do some people in the dining room have their hands in the air, like a 3rd grader needing to pee? Of course this is annoying, but most likely WE are the reason for this. I wrote a story recently about a series of disasters in a dining experience. That kind of experience leads to body languages that should tip you off to go into crisis mode. If you haven’t done proactive techniques on your shift, for god’s sake, then being reactive is better than just hoping these people go away. Because they eventually will, and tell people, and write crappy yelp and trip advisor reviews and the shit storm will continue as your career spirals into the land of below average.

So really pay attention to those statements from your visitors that are neither terrible nor amazing. Because in our world, an average dining experience falls in the same category as a poor dining experience.

Lastly, while this is a bit off topic, we recently had dinner at a VERY high end restaurant…It was pretty sub standard and in fact they over cooked my wife’s Filet, twice, before finally giving up…However the most annoying part of this visit or any others, is waiting for the check in order to pay and go. There is very little else more frustrating than being “done” with eating out, than having to wait 15 minutes for a check after asking for it…It turns a great experience into an average experience and an average experience into a poor experience…You don’t even have to ask what it does to a poor experience…

Thanks for tuning in and I hope everything is ok.


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