Business diners are (for me at least) some of the best tipping guests that I serve today. You will have business guests that will come in for a quick-lunch, for business meetings, interviews, parties, and sometimes to escape the office to get some work done. First and foremost it’s important to find out their agenda (do they need to be back at the office as soon as possible? are they in a meeting or interview? etc) knowing this is key to how you will serve these tables.
If they’re in a meeting or an interview it’s best to do as they do, make it all business, the last thing you want to do is start-up conversations or interrupt them for anything less than taking an order or dropping off food and drinks. Even though they are eating out at a restaurant, doesn’t mean that they are not working. An easy indicator is to look for paperwork, laptop, and you can get an idea from their body language.
If you’re serving a table of business people that start to order alcoholic drinks, then you might find they are celebrating something (someone’s promotion, a retirement, sales record, or it’s Friday and it’s time for them to get their drink on) Be wary though because on occasion some business lunches will allow the workers a single alcoholic beverage while they are in their “meeting” or “business deal”. After a round of booze has been ordered I just slide in a quick:
“What’s the occasion today/tonight?”
This way it allows me to find out whether they are in fact in party mode, or that they ordered it because they are allowed to have one during their lunch/dinner.
If a single host is paying for everything then this is the person you want to talk with first to find out how things will flow. The host can allow for the entire party to order whatever they want, or on the other hand there can be restrictions (house wine only, rail liquor, domestic beer, meals under $25 etc). It’s not uncommon for a host to order a bunch of appetizers for the table and basically take some control over what is being ordered for everyone (I love this, because I can then up-sell to this person and this person only, business people appreciate a good salesperson, and half the time it’s all going on the business credit card anyway so it can be easy to bend their rubber arms) this is not to say that the focus just stays on this person, check out “Treating everyone the same” to see what I mean.
At some stage in your serving career you may encounter a certain type of business guest, although at times it seems they are rare in the wild, they can sneak up on you and make serving them unpleasant. It’s the business diner who wants to show off in front of their colleagues, the one who thinks they know everything, the one who is rude for absolutely no reason whatsoever because it makes them feel good to be on top, meet the bully business guest.
Don’t get defensive, in fact it’s better to turn things around and make them look like a superstar. I have come across my fair share of these bullying guests and I understand the mentality behind their behavior. I’m not going to complain and be miserable towards this person or behind their back, instead I take the “kill them with kindness” approach. They may talk down to you, and on many occasions you will see the other guests who have that “we’re sorry, we aren’t friends, we just work with this person” look on their face, but you can be the bigger person and just be as pleasant as you possibly can, until that time when they leave the restaurant and you don’t have to think about them anymore.
Business people vary in how they like to be served, just like any other guest you serve. The difference with business diners is that you can get a read on them by simply looking at what they have brought with them to the table (as mentioned earlier there’s paperwork, a laptop etc). If you can find a way to impress them and give them great service then these tables can make your shift a profitable one (remember, some of them have the business credit cards to pay with).
It’s a good feeling knowing that you have served a table of business professionals well enough that they offer you their business card for a potential job. I always feel flattered but I’m great where I am.
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