What servers should actually ask first-time diners

Posted By: Nick Adams Restaurant Operations,

Picture this: After a long, hard day, you want to treat yourself to dinner at a nice restaurant. Rather than visiting an old standby, you decide to try a new-to-you place that always gets good reviews. You're seated at a table, just about to crack open the menu, when the server chimes in with, "And is this your first time dining with us?"

Is it that obvious? Are you wearing the wrong thing, or holding the menu upside down? Is there some quirky way of ordering that you don't know about? Does this restaurant operate so differently from the dozens of others you've visited before?

Or worse yet: Same situation, but you've been a weekly regular for the past decade. In fact, you're there so often that the chef thought about naming his kid after you. And yet, the server asked if it was your first time.

The problem with the "first time" question

No one likes to be the new kid. By asking guests if they're first-timers, your server runs the risk of alienating them. At the very least, it's a missed opportunity to treat every customer like an old friend.

Plus, in an ideal world, you'd already know if that guest was a fresh face or a repeat visitor.

What your servers should ask diners

How about this instead: "Do you have our mobile app?"

If the answer is yes, great! Your server can then ask them to open the app so their visit can be tracked in a virtual "punch card" system. Maybe they even have a reward ready to be redeemed that they had forgotten about.

If they don't have your app, your server can encourage them to give it a try. Train your waitstaff to give clear, simple instructions for finding and installing the app. Better yet, offer a printed instructions right at the table. Whether the diners are truly new to your restaurant or just new to the app, they'll be delighted to get a special offer for installing. Asking this also opens the door for true newcomers to self-identify (if they wish) and ask questions or request recommendations.

This simple step in the customer service script boosts your app downloads. That means more people receiving your marketing right on their phones, just a notification away. Pretty soon those newcomers will turn into regular customers. And it all started with one question.

Don't have a mobile app for your restaurant? Work with Boelter Blue to create a custom app that supports rewards systems, birthday offers, drip marketing and more.