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The Waiter's Lesson

The Waiter's Lesson

When dining out, the more experienced a waiter the greater the experience tends to be for the patron. Not always the case as with all service industries, but typically - a knowledgeable and experienced waitstaff can make all the difference.

What lessons could this offer to people in retail?

Well, it turns out, experienced waiters know a lot. That’s why they are there. Not because they cannot find another job, but precisely because being a professional waiter is actually a great one. Here’s the difference.

Your typical, transient wait-person learns the menu, recites it for the diners’ approval, and pushes the specials. This person brings the drinks, the food and the dessert and if all goes well, earns a 15% gratuity to supplement a restaurant paycheck. This person generally knows very little about the patrons. There will be a new set in those same seats 45 minutes from now. 

The older, professional waiter, though, usually works at higher-end restaurants. This person has learned the difference between being an order-taker and being an adviser. Well-schooled in the art of hospitality, a professional waiter seems to know what a customer will like, and seems to appear at the table at just the right moment. Never too soon, and certainly never too late. A professional waiter knows about wine, about pairings, pacing, and all of the other elements that help a meal transcend into an experience.

Regulars at these types of restaurants tend to return not only because of the food, but because of the service. A degree of highly personalized, knowledgeable attention that makes them feel special long before the reservation is made and long after the bill is paid. Often, patrons will request their favorite waiter, and might even schedule their reservation around that person’s availability. It is a true relationship of pleasure and business intimacy. 

Now, let’s switch over to the retail store, and carry this luxurious restaurant analogy across with us. In so many establishments, the sales associate is held to the same standard as the junior, transient wait-person, working with little knowledge of the customer, held back by time pressures, and unable to further the stores’ profitability due to a wall of nothingness that stands between associate and shopper.

When these same employees are mobile enabled, they become careful and knowledgeable advisers to their guests, pulling their wisdom not from decades of labor, but from a database, transmitted wirelessly to their tablet or phone – a device that helps them “know” the customer with that same intimacy and care as the high-end restaurant waiter.

Stores that resist the advent of mobile commerce technology out of fear of expense or bad optics face a lifetime of lunch-counter-type business, relying on fast turnover to balance out thin margins. If that is enough, then great. The world still needs stores and diners like that. But for those retailers wondering how they can enjoy the ongoing loyalty of free-spending customers, the lesson might be that shopping, like fine-dining, is an experience. The item purchased – whether merchandise or a meal – is the centerpiece, but the incentive to arrive, to spend, and to return repeatedly is woven into every action, word and feeling delivered by careful and knowledgeable staff. That is the waiter’s lesson.

Want to hear more? Download our previously recorded webinar, The Store Associate Dilemma: Mobile Enablement, So Close Yet So Far, which delivers more food for thought on the mobile-enabled store. To watch the webinar please click here>>

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Editor, The Mobile Retail Blog

Editor-in-Chief of The Mobile Retail Blog with NewStore.

Topics: Commerce

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