Inspiring your front of house team

Operators such as Leon know the importance of inspiring their team

Good service is unobtrusive. Whether it’s the warm welcome you receive, or the relaxed but attentive care provided as you enjoy your meal and it's paramount to your business's success.

Good service is also paramount for most guests, and to deliver it you need an organised and enthusiastic front of house team.

David Hennigan, this year’s UK Restaurant Manager of the Year, oversees operations at The Crown at Whitbrook, a 30-cover restaurant with rooms, and The Crown at Celtic Manor Resort, which has a 50-cover restaurant. Hennigan is in little doubt about the necessity of being organised to inspire the best from your team.

“As a team we will always have a half hour meeting ahead of lunch and evening service to discuss who is doing what right down to who will be greeting the guests and who will be taking their drinks orders. It is the most important session we have on a daily basis,” he says.

Hennigan points out that if you don’t do this you invite inconsistent service, which reflects badly on the business and will harm repeat trade. When no one is sure exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, service will usually limp along until the busiest point where it will typically then break down for all tables, so get your team organised and avoid this outcome at all costs.

Hiding yourself away during service won’t inspire your team to a greater performance either. “I typically work the floor during service to understand where the shortages and problems are so that I can organise and plan around them,” says Hennigan.

Get the team involved

Boutique hotel operator Bespoke, which reopens the Ellington hotel in Leeds as the New Ellington next month (having slipped from June), has a fittingly personal approach to getting front of house staff involved and enthused.

Rather than pass down a decree from ‘on high’ managing director Robin Sheppard is a firm believer in bringing people with you. In the case of their Bermondsey Square property sat down with the team to brainstorm inexpensive ways of delighting guests during what remains a tough time for the industry.

The result is a host of playful, fun ideas to delight customers such as fresh apples and a welcoming drink in reception, complimentary water in children’s buggies, and a courtesy call ten minutes after check-in to make sure everything is to the guest’s liking. While it increases the chances that guests will recommend Bespoke or become repeat visitors, it also gets team members personally involved in putting into place the ideas they have thought up, while strengthening team spirit through the pursuit of a shared goal.

Hennigan also recommends getting buy-in from your staff via a bit of friendly rivalry. To this end he encourages customers to make an entry in the restaurants' comments books – hopefully praise – which encourages the team to try and out do one another and collect the most positive messages.

Read a good book

Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table is a touchstone for many restaurant and hospitality managers (Lee Cash, co-founder of Peach Pubs and a man who learnt his trade at Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc, is one of its many fans).

Meyer is the New York restaurateur behind The Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, two restaurants that with many of his others have haunted the influential dinning guide the Zagat Survey for many years, scoring exceptionally well for service.

Meyer, who these days oversees an empire of more than ten restaurants in the US, is seen as a bit of a guru on delivering excellent service, and is famous for introducing the concept that the best way to approach service as a manager or employee is to behave as if you were hosting a dinner party and the customers are your guests.

All this week BigHospitality will be taking a look at how you can inspire your employees within different operational areas of your business, be they front of house, kitchen or bar workers, in our Special feature on inspiring your team.

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Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer: Pearls of Wisdom

Comments (1)

National Skills Academy Hospitality - 05 Jul 2010 | 07:17

In an effort to motivate…

In an effort to motivate your staff and provide some friendly competition the National Skills Academy Hospitality have researched a number of  upselling motivational techniques created from industry leaders including Jim Sulivan that can be used not only in the hospitality industry but in other environments as well. Please visit These techniques include; Chase the Fiver, Ping Pong and Poker - Chek them out yourselves and discover easy ways to enthuse and motivate your staff. 

05-Jul-2010 at 19:17 GMT

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