Quick Recipes and Easy

Restaurant Dining Review – We Have Names

We’re your customers. That’s right, we pay your bills – so listen up. We have names, and they’re not: “Hi there.” “Hey, welcome,” “Excellent evening,” “Excellent to see you,” “Right this way,” “Please follow me,” “I’ll be right with you,” “I’ll be your waitperson tonight,” “Thanks for coming,” “Come back again,” or “Hey, you!”

A “chicken or egg” argument can be made for you guys calling us by our names and our becoming your restaurant regulars vs. our becoming restaurant regulars thereby forcing you to call us by our names. We vote for argument No. 1, because there is nothing we like hearing more than our own names – unless it’s the five o’clock whistle. We don’t have a resident psychologist to clarify it to you, but let’s have a try anyway. How about: it makes us feel welcome and vital.

Consider the sad day the corner drugstore closed, succumbing to the pressures of national chain and supermarket pharmacy competition. Frank, the owner/pharmacist who knew each family member’s name, would have a cup of coffee with us, time permitting.

With the closing, his customers were forced, mostly out of convenience, to switch to the supermarket pharmacy. It’s fascinating how small employee turnover this pharmacy has, but for twelve years, every time we pickup a prescription they still question for our names.

We know the difference between really knowing us as customers and calling us by name. But we’re telling you the best way to know us, is to call us by name. You will not be able to know everyone’s name if we show as a group. But hearing you call one of our groups’ name, makes us feel you might use our name when we come back on our own.

You say it’s too hard learning and using names when you’re running hot and heavy. You already have a seating chart and a customer waitlist and/or a reservation book, right? If you don’t, it takes about thirty minutes to make them. Why not buy a pad of 3 M Post-it Notes while you’re at it (get a color close to your table or tablecloth’s), and then you’re ready to go.

If you take reservations, you already know our name. Write it on a 3M Post-It along with the table number. If you don’t take reservations, question for our last name even if there is no waitlist. Again write our name and table number on the Post-it, and hand it to the seating person who then says, “Mr. Jones, right this way.” The seating person hands the Post-It to the waitperson who sticks it on their order pad and says, “Excellent evening, Mr. Jones, I’m Ralph, and I’m going to take excellent care of you tonight.” Pretty simple way to get us to tip better, huh?

There could be a lot of variations to this including just sticking the Post-It on the edge of the table (the reason for the Post-It color) if the waitperson is not easily found. This approach “flags” you or your floor manager that our table has not yet been greeted. Ever wonder why high-end restaurants are so excellent about using our name? They take reservations and seat us with a waitperson’s order ticket on which our name is written.

The sense of belonging that hearing our name engenders is very powerful medicine indeed. Question anyone (even those too young to have watched the original broadcasts) what the last phrase of the “Cheers” sitcom theme song is, and a majority will reel off, “Where everybody knows your name.”

Copy write 2006 Bill Stephens

Bill Stephens writes the syndicated column heyrestaurantguy.com heyrestaurantguy.com . His 35 year career in food service includes restaurateur, caterer, food and wine columnist for Harte-Hanks, Murdoch and Hearst Newspapers, food and wine magazine journalist, and he consults for restaurants with Bill Stephens Associates billstephensassociates.com billstephensassociates.com

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