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The worst question your restaurant manager can ask

Restaurant managers around the world ask this question a million times every day, in every language: “How is everything?” And yet it is the wrong question, for three reasons:

1. It sends the wrong message about confidence in your restaurant

2. It puts you, the manager, in an adverse position

3. It almost never reveals anything interesting

Confidence in your restaurant

On the surface, “how is everything?” seems like an ordinary, polite question. But it really implies that you have little confidence in your staff. It’s primarily the role of the server to observe and interpret their guest’s satisfaction (or lack thereof). Any good server will notice if the guest isn’t finishing their meals enthusiastically or sense the service has been sluggish, or if they are too hot or too cold or disturbed by some other factor. And the server has probably already asked the “How is everything?” question.

The truth is that 90% of guest responses to this question are positive. So it gives an impression that the manager is wandering around the dining room searching for compliments and validation.

Your position as a manager

Let’s say the answer is, “Everything is fine.” Now you are standing there without a really useful response. So perhaps you say, “Oh, glad to hear that.” And maybe you add, “We hope to see you again.”

On the other hand, if the guest is not happy and they complain about some aspect of their dinner, you look foolish because, well, why didn’t you already know there was a problem? The guests might think you are so out of touch with your restaurant that you must depend upon them for quality control.

So, at best, the question is trite… a brief, rather pointless interlude for both manager and guest. At worst it is redundant and could possibly make you seem inept.

Gathering interesting intelligence

But the main reason this isn’t a good question is that it rarely reveals anything interesting. This is the most valuable moment for a manager to learn something important. So, do some real research!

First you must rely on your staff and their training to deliver the products and services you’ve promised. Then you are free to do important, manager-like things. You are free to learn something that will improve your restaurant’s overall strategy. How about asking one of these questions instead?

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith, thank you so much for visiting us this evening, we’re pleased to have you. May I ask how you chose our restaurant this evening?” Now you are doing some real consumer market research!

“I see you selected our seasonal truffle special menu. We tried some unique pairings with the truffle this year, like the sea bass.” “Do you often choose truffles?” “Which of the pairings did you enjoy most?” Now you are doing some real product research!

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith, next week we’re beginning a new pre-theater menu. It features several of our most popular menu items with a three-course fixed price menu. We’d love to see you next time you’re attending an event in the city.” Now you are doing real promotion!

To add power to these questions, it’s important that you do your own research before you even greet the guests. Who is the customer you’re talking to? Are they repeat visitors? Are they local or tourists? Who referred them? How was the booking made?

So managers, go out there and learn something that will maximize your business opportunities! An added bonus is that you’ll find the conversations to be much more fun.

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