The rapport you build with the Person in Charge (PIC) of a banquet or large party is critical to the outcome of the evening. This is true for both the party and the employees, who must find a balance between upselling and exceeding expectations with excellent service. The first step when providing service for a large party or banquet upon their arrival is to identify the PIC. This can only happen once the table or room is flawlessly prepared and servers are helping guests by offering drinks, appetizers, etc.
In upscale dining environments, the servers (or the lead server) must address the PIC. In other restaurants, either a server or a manager can reach out to the PIC. The goals of this dialogue are as follows:
- Develop rapport
- Ask if there are any special needs
- Assure PIC that everything will be excellent
Typical elements of this conversation might include scheduling needs, the dietary concerns of specific guests, or details about the guest of honor. The PIC should know who exactly in the room to contact if there are concerns or suggestions about the evening.
At the same time, speaking with the PIC at the beginning of the evening is often the single best occasion for selling food or beverages. For this reason, the lead server or the server who address the PIC <em>must</em> be an adept salesperson, with extensive knowledge and enthusiasm about the menu and wine lists.
This individual must accurately and quickly gauge the temperature of the PIC. A large party is much more likely to order top-shelf items once the guests have arrived than they are over the phone, days or weeks in advance of the occasion. The server may do so by offering great options for:
Basically, anything regarding the selections for the evening that hasn’t been worked out in advance should represent an opportunity for upselling. However, this can only occur if the PIC is open to making the evening great. Accurately gauging the temperature of the room is a critical skill for a server or manager for this reason.
While servers should be sure that every guest is having a great experience, it is very important that the PIC and the guest of honor are well taken care of. The PIC is the person most likely to pay the bill and spread word-of-mouth about the party experience. While guest expectations should be exceeded throughout the room – even for the one complainer sitting in the corner who nobody wants to sit near – it is critical that the PIC have a great experience.
For this reason, it is a good idea for the manager to pop in before and after entrees have been served to ask the PIC how everything is. The question should always be phrased so that the PIC can respond with a superlative ( “How is everything this evening?”) rather than with a yes/no question (“Is everything okay?”). It is important to strike a balance – assuring the PIC that extra attention is being paid to his experience without smothering with concern.
As with any part of the restaurant business, good communication is key. Each large reservation (usually any party over 8-10 guests) should be documented on paper. The details of the party should be kept on file, with the following information communicated to the on-duty manager and the servers taking care of the party:
- Name of PIC
- Type of occasion
- Menu specifications
- Any scheduling details
- Pre-ordered items
- Budget restrictions
The server and manager will ideally address the PIC with warmth and familiarity, as though they are treasured guests in the restaurant. The communication of background information helps facilitate this, building rapport upon the initial greeting. This goes a long way toward building sales and ensuring that everyone involved will have a great evening.