While ensuring every guest receives personalized attention is a critical step of fine dining service, delivering this level of hospitality can be difficult to scale.
In a traditional fine dining experience, the maitre d’ greets guests and takes reservations, recording preferences and requests that guests share during the booking process. While the maitre d’ will prioritize honoring these requests, it’s up to the servers to provide each guest with a personalized dining experience based on their preferences.
However, the busy maitre d’ realistically won’t be able to brief every server about every party they’ll be serving. This means servers may not have access to all the information they need to anticipate each guest’s needs.
Fortunately, technology is making it easier than ever to make every guest feel like a VIP. With the right tools, guest information isn’t stuck with a gatekeeper, but is accessible to everyone on the team. That means you can provide more guests with memorable experiences, even with fewer employees on deck – which is especially important in light of ongoing labor shortages.
The 10 Steps of Fine Dining Service & How Technology Can Enhance the Guest Experience
Here’s how to use technology to reimagine the steps of fine dining service to ensure every diner has a personalized experience that makes them feel special and keeps them coming back.
1. Managing Reservations
The first step of fine dining service begins before guests step foot in the door. Technology is changing how restaurants manage bookings.
Instead of relying only on phones for reservations, implement an online restaurant reservation platform. Guests can easily provide important details about what they’re celebrating or dietary restrictions, so you’ll know what kind of dining experience they want as soon as they walk through the door. Online reservations help your restaurant automatically collect better, more actionable guest data.
What’s more, you can use your reservations platform to automatically send guests an SMS to ask them to confirm the booking. Your staff will be free to focus on creating memorable guest experiences, instead of spending precious time on repetitive, operational tasks.
Looking for a reservation management tool? Check out the guide below to understand the importance of owning your guest data through a direct reservation system.
2. Offering upgrades and exclusive experiences
Diners tend to opt for fine dining restaurants when they have something to celebrate. Make these occasions even more special by pre-selling beverages, upgrades and experiences through the reservations process.
You could let customers pre-order a birthday cake, purchase a bottle of champagne and roses to be waiting at the table for a Valentine’s Day meal.
3. Greeting guests
One of the most important steps of fine dining service is creating a great first impression, starting with how the host greets the guest. With a tool like SevenRooms’ guest experience and retention platform, when a guest checks in at the host stand, the host can instantly know if they are a VIP, a first time visitor, or celebrating something important based on guest tags that the system gathers from reservations and past visits.
Pro tip: The host isn’t the only person who will know when an important guest arrives. SevenRooms lets you enable alerts on various devices — even an Apple Watch — so that key staff members, like the general manager, know when a VIP walks in.
4. Seating guests
Making guests wait for their table at a fine dining restaurant is a no no! With an all-in-one reservation, seating and guest management platform, the host will know exactly which table to assign guests because of preferences noted on their reservation or guest profile.
For first time visitors or walk-ins, this tool’s seating algorithm tests more than ten thousand combinations per second to help you optimize seating assignments and maximize covers.
5. Presenting menus
While digital menus became popular out of necessity because of the pandemic, 88% of restaurateurs plan to continue using them, according to Square’s Future of Restaurants 2021 report.
Online menus, facilitated by QR codes, continue to be a great option for fine dining restaurants, since many change their menus often. Updating one menu online is more efficient than reprinting dozens of menus every time a dish changes.
Give digital menus a fine dining twist by spending time with guests to ensure they know how to use them. You can always offer paper menus to guests who would prefer them or don’t have smartphones.
And if you want to wow guests while increasing efficiency, introduce a mobile order and pay option that lets diners order meals and pay for them via card directly on their smartphones, at their convenience.
6. Taking orders
Armed with customer data from a guest engagement platform, servers can meet every guest expectation and elevate the dining experience from their first interaction with diners.
With easily accessible reservation notes and guest profiles, servers can personalize their greetings by wishing guests a happy anniversary or happy birthday. And, when reviewing the food and beverage menu with diners, they can make personalized recommendations.
If, for example, a diner has a dairy allergy noted in their guest profile, the server assigned to that table can brush up on which dishes contain dairy before the party is seated. That way, the server can immediately – and knowledgeably – make recommendations, rather than checking with the kitchen after the guest asks about dairy-free options.
7. Conducting satisfaction checks
One of the most important steps of fine dining service is asking guests how they’re enjoying their meals. If something isn’t right, correct it immediately and record the guest’s feedback in their profile. Then, use this information to create a better experience when the guest comes back.
For example, if a guest complains that your restaurant’s béchamel sauce is too salty for their liking, you can make a note in their guest profile to halve the salt whenever that customer orders a dish with béchamel sauce.
When your POS integrates with your table management software, your entire team will know where every table is on their journey at any given time. This insight helps with the pacing of service and satisfaction checks.
And, when your table management platform tracks table spend in real time, management will know who the biggest spenders are, and can give them the extra attention they deserve.
8. Offering dessert
When guests are finished with entrees, it’s time to offer the dessert and coffee menu. Personalize this interaction by making recommendations based on reservation notes, guest profile tags, or, for first-time walk-in guests, recommending dessert that complements the entrees they just had.
If a cake wasn’t ordered in advance but you know the guest is celebrating a special occasion, you can offer a complimentary dessert or unique takeaway, like a printed menu with the date and occasion or a treat from your pastry chef, to enhance the dining experience.
9. Collecting payment
Technology is changing the final step of fine dining service: settling the check. While fine dining establishments traditionally opt to present the check in a checkholder and manually process cash or card payments, many are offering pre-payment options and continuing pandemic-era contactless payments.
By enabling meal pre-payment for prix fixe meals and other experiences through your reservations platform, your restaurant reduces the risk of no-shows. Plus, guests can focus entirely on enjoying themselves, instead of figuring out who is going to get the bill and how.
Contactless payments are also convenient for guests because they don’t have to wait for their server to present the check, come back to pick up the payment, run the card through the POS, and bring the card back. With contactless payments, diners pay and leave at their own pace.
10. Gathering guest feedback
The fine dining experience isn’t over after guests have left your restaurant. One of the most important steps of the fine dining service experience is collecting feedback after the meal. Guests may say they’re enjoying themselves during a satisfaction check, but may actually be unhappy with something and find it easier to anonymously air their grievances on Yelp instead of dealing with confrontation in person.
Use guest feedback software to automatically send customers surveys after a meal. Email surveys let you collect feedback privately and address it before it gets to a public review site, or before you lose a customer for good.
Technology can also automate responses to survey results. For example, you can create a thank you email that gets sent to anyone who leaves a positive rating, and create an automated response for those who had bad experiences to buy you time before you respond personally.
Guests will inevitably also write reviews on third-party platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor. With a review aggregator you can see all guest feedback from review sites on one dashboard to better understand trends and adjust your menu and service to please customers. If, for example, multiple guests complain that they can’t hear their friends over the music, you’ll know to turn it down a notch.
You can even associate third-party reviews with guest profiles. When a guest who’s left a gushing review returns, you’ll know immediately and can give them special treatment, such as by offering a glass of champagne on the house.
Technology is Elevating the Steps of Fine Dining Service
While the steps of fine dining service aren’t changing, restaurateurs now have access to technology that’s making it easier than ever to not only meet guest expectations, but surpass them.
With a restaurant guest experience and retention platform like SevenRooms, you can provide personalized fine dining experiences at scale. Request a demo today.