guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

Using Guest Intelligence to Improve Your Restaurant Steps of Service

Learn the key elements of successful restaurant steps of service, from the crucial initial greeting to the perfect timing of delivering the check, ensuring a memorable and satisfying dining experience

If you own or run a restaurant, you’re familiar with restaurant steps of service.

The steps of service outline the important points in a customer’s time in your establishment, and most often are the game-changers in making sure a customer ends up returning. They are important for any restaurant manager or operator to know because they paint a holistic picture of a guest’s experience in a restaurant; they draw your attention to things that maybe you wouldn’t think of as cornerstones of the customer experience, but can have an impact on the rate of return and overall satisfaction when all is said and done. So without further adieu: The restaurant’s steps of service!

The Steps of Service

Greet Your Customer

Customers should always be greeted at the door. They need someone to immediately be there to guide them to their seats. Otherwise, you risk having confused customers bottlenecked at the front of the restaurant or milling about trying to figure out how to seat themselves.

However, when staff shortages occur, usually a host or a greeter is one of the first positions to be overlooked and understaffed, considering restaurants technically make their money during the guest’s actual dining experience. It is for this reason that sometimes this part of the steps of service is thought of as negligible. But that is not the case here; the greeter is one of the first impressions a guest has of your restaurant. Making it a good one will set the stage for the next steps of service.

Seat Them and Take Their Drink Order

After a guest has been seated by the greeter or host/hostess, they should immediately be met by their server. The server should have a smile on their face, maintain eye contact with the guests, and say a friendly greeting. These are all small things, but they make a big difference in how a customer feels in your restaurant.

Water should be on the table immediately, and servers should not be afraid to get a little friendly here. Ask your table what brought them into the restaurant, if they’re celebrating anything, or if they have anything planned for after. These insights will not only ease your table even more, but they will also give you information that can help you better serve that table.

Get Them Their Drinks Order Before the Appetizer

Getting your guests their first drink order (especially if it’s alcohol) before the appetizer may seem like a strange part of the steps of service, but it is crucial.This is because getting the initial drink order in before the appetizer arrives opens up the possibility of selling a second drink after your guests have eaten some or all of their appetizers, and before their main course gets there.

Take Their Food Order

There is an art to taking a table’s food order that involves more than just walking up to the table and writing down what they say. To shine in this part of the steps of service, servers should do everything from give suggestions of dishes they like and be familiar with the details of a dish if a customer asks about it. Both of these tactics open up the possibility of upselling a table on their orders. Furthermore, you can tell your servers that they can offer a sample of an odd item on the menu in an attempt to upsell them more.

For example, if you asked your guests earlier in the steps of service what they had planned after the dinner, and you know they are trying to leave relatively quickly, recommend dishes that get done more quickly. This shows that you care about your table. It is a very easy change that can speak volumes to your customers.

Deliver the Appetizers

This part of the steps of service is small, but the timing of it is incredibly important. Try to avoid making your customers feel rushed by delivering the appetizers five minutes before you deliver the main course. Allow them plenty of time to enjoy their first course, order another drink, and then start on their main course.

Ask Them About Dessert

The proper way to ask a table about dessert mostly depends on the type of establishment and the types of desserts offered by the establishment. Does your restaurant only offer two types of desserts? Try asking your table if they’ve saved for either, as listing them out front will put a picture in their head and make them more likely to purchase one.

It is also important to think about the time it takes to prepare your restaurant’s dessert. Let your table know if they’ve just ordered a dessert that is going to take 20 minutes to come out, to avoid possible irritation at waiting an unprecedented amount of time.

Bring Their Check at the Right Time

As aforementioned, some tables are going to want to get out of the restaurant a bit earlier than other patrons. If that’s the case, make sure to bring the check as soon as possible to leave it up to them to decide when to get up and go. Otherwise, try reading a table’s body language. You can almost always tell when a table is ready to leave, and if that’s the case, bring the check fast.

Enhancing Restaurant Steps of Service with BBI’s Guest Intelligence

Even when your restaurant knows all of the steps of service, it can still be difficult to know what areas you could improve, and what is working well. That’s where BBI’s Guest Intelligence tool comes in.

Our software tracks and reports guest intelligence by categorizing and analyzing sentiment and mentions in comments and reviews left by patrons on various sites and platforms. We track things such as:

  • Sentiment around certain restaurant roles, like host, server, and bartender, that have an impact on various stages of the steps of service. We can break down each position and see how sentiment around those roles is changing month over month.
  • We can also track sentiment around any interactions with managers your tables might have had
  • General, positive adjectives like Friendly, Kind, Polite, Nice
  • General, negative adjectives like Rude, Mean, Unkind
  • Adjectives related to guest experience, like Wonderful, Fantastic, Enjoyable; or Worst, Awful, or Terrible
  • Adjectives related to the attentiveness of your servers, like Ignored, or Forgot
  • Mentions of Understaffed
  • Adjectives that have to do with server appearance
  • Remarks on the knowledge of your servers; Knew a lot about cocktails, Couldn’t answer my questions
  • Anything specific to your steps of service; For example, we could track any mentions of Red Lobster’s cheddar cheese biscuits


With the restaurant steps of service so crucial to your restaurant’s success from beginning to end, it’s better to have all the information to continually improve this process rather than to make guesswork of it. Black Box Intelligence can help your restaurant see these areas of improvement and address them upfront.

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