Profiling Your Guests – Why You Shouldn’t

I have a great story about today’s topic. While in high school a mate of mine (Chris) who was a car fanatic, repeatedly harassed a local Ford dealership to give him a job. Over and over again he was rejected until one day the manager of the lot told him that he could come for 4 hours (unpaid) on Saturday, and if he could make a sale then he would give him a part-time job.

Saturday rolls around and Chris shows up at the dealership dressed up and super excited. Every time anyone would walk into the lot, one of the sales reps would leap on them before Chris could get even close.

A few hours of him being there a guy in his mid 50’s walks in wearing jeans with the ass torn out of them, an old school faded Iron Maiden t-shirt, and a pair of flip-flops (In Australia we call them thongs but that could get misinterpreted so I’m sticking with flip flops :)). Chris told me that every sales rep that looked at him just turned away without a second thought.

To cut the already long story short this guy ended up buying a $48,000 car with all the extras without much convincing, why? Because this guy turned out to be a supreme court judge.

So Chris got his dream part-time job and we laughed about the other salespeople who “judged the judge”.

This translates to restaurants too. I’ll say straight from the beginning that I definitely prejudged my guests early on in my serving career, even after Chris told me his story. Yes, you can prejudge me here for being a bad person :), but this should be the last time you prejudge or profile anyone.

Yes, people will have an attitude.

Yes, people will have different personalities.

Yes, people will come across as cheap.

Yes, people will come across as rich.

Yes, people will complain.

Yes, people will compliment.

However, these traits and actions do not necessarily translate into how much they will tip. I always get profiled here in Canada because I’m Australian and servers/bartenders here think that I will leave a lousy tip, so they don’t give me the service I deserve (I believe I deserve the royal treatment :)) But in the same sense I can understand because I’m sure they have been screwed over by us foreigners before (I apologize on behalf of non-tipping foreigners).

This presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity. We interact with people in a way that most jobs never allow, and with that, we can make a difference with them. We must use our time to the best we can to provide a great experience for our guests.

In the list I mention above you might find that the people we think are cheap will tip us well, and the people we think are rich won’t tip as well. The people who complain might get what they want in the end, and tip great, or the people who compliment everything will tip mediocre.

We may know our guests for an hour or more and will get a general idea of who they are but in the end but we don’t know them intimately, which is why prejudging or profiling people should have no part in the way we serve tables.

I will tell you from personal experience in the many years I have served, every guest is different and I strive to give each and every table the best service I can because the beauty of this industry is that you can make phenomenal money if you can get past profiling your guests. I see it as I’m at my job which is serving people, so why would I not give every table my best? Yes, I have tables that I have given exceptional service to and have ended up with 8% or close to nothing but in saying that I have received 30% and more from tables which in my prejudging phase I would have neglected and focused on other tables which I thought would give me more money.

Focusing on your guests and providing them with everything they need or want will get you into a habit of doing the same for every table you serve. If it develops into a habit then it becomes second nature, and after it becomes second nature then it doesn’t feel like work. Yes, your job as a server will contain stress and the occasional overwhelming sensation during busy peak times, but that’s the job. The best part is that it doesn’t carry over to the next day like other jobs. You get a clean slate with new people and an opportunity to better yourself in your service standards.

Just try committing yourself to doing the best you can and the result will be more money in your pocket and a more pleasurable working experience.