Conference centers, event facilities, and restaurants all know that the success to a banquet or reception is perfection. Ok so perfection seems unreachable and unthinkable and it should!
By definition – perfection is the state or quality of being or becoming perfect / the highest degree of proficiency, skill, or excellence. Making your large dining event perfect isn't about zero mistakes; it's about creating an atmosphere and an illusion of perfection to the guests.
Large scale dining events like banquets, receptions, and dinner parties are about making the guests feel welcomed, pampered, and that nothing has gone awry. This is even the attitude of restaurants, both fine and family. Things could be going horribly wrong in the kitchen, with management, or even in the personal life of a server but that never is revealed or eluded to in front of the guests or customers. All employees, workers, or volunteers are trained to keep the illusion of perfection to the guests; and the better they are at this then the happier the guests are, and for restaurants that means returning users.
Have you ever been to an event or restaurant where the service was great? How about not so great? Have you seen a server slip and start to share their problems with you? This probably makes you feel guilty or even bothered; 'Since when is it my responsibility or my problem that this server or kitchen is experiencing problems?!' You are paying the establishment for a 'getaway from life and enjoy a peaceful meal' experience! A server doesn't need to say this: "Hi, I'm Chris, Sorry I'm late getting to your table, I'm having a bad day and I'm tired." This type of conversation sets a sour tone for the rest of the day. A more suitable conversation would be: "Hi, I'm Chris, I apologize for being late getting to your table, and may I start you off with some drinks or an appetizer?" This sets the tone pleasant. The guests don't need to know that you had a bad day, or you just spilled a tray in the kitchen.
Recently I worked a Gala hosted by my college where the guests paid $125 per person for their dinner plate. It was a black tie affair and meant to be a fundraising event for the school and its programs. They hold this Gala annually and I've been able to work at it for the past 3 years. We prepare for the Gala all year and even go through 2 intense days of training so everyone is on the same page. As college students, most have not worked an event this large and upscale before so they really drill a few key ideas into everyone's thoughts.
1) How to properly act – they teach us how to act as if WE were attending this event. How we would dress, small-talk, table settings, eating manners, dinner party etiquette. If we know how to act then we know what to expect from our guests and this knowledge allows us to better serve them.
2) Never speak – unless it is 'excuse me', 'yes ma'am/sir', 'thank you'. We are not the entertainment and we are not invited guests. As the servers you are there to serve, the chattier you are with your guests the more likely you are to say something you shouldn't.
3) Everyone is important – even the dish washers! We are a team and everyone has their role on that team. If someone doesn't fulfill their role that affects the whole team. We learn to work together and to never argue or show disgruntled emotions in front of the guests.
The days leading up to any event are busy; food to order, tables to decorate, lighting to adjust, etc. The day of any big event you always make that last run through to make sure glasses are smudge free and the napkins are still folded. The guests start to arrive and it all begins, no going back now we are 'on stage' ready to sing our number loud! At the end of the event you feel three emotions; relief that it is over, happy that it was a success, and sad because all that prep for a two hour event.
I've also worked the past 2 years for the Assemblies of God Illinois District's annual state-wide council held at Lake Williamson Christian Center. This is a three day event that entails two banquets, three receptions, a Ladies Tea, and multiple snacks for meetings. A lot of the training ideas for this event are the same as the Gala event I worked at. One added detail for this event at Lake Williamson however deals both with the Never Speak rule from earlier and Lake Williamson's customer service values. You see Lake Williamson trains all employees to show great customer or guest service, because our tag line says, "exceeding expectations".
Never speak – unless it is 'excuse me', 'yes ma'am/sir', 'thank you'. We are not the entertainment and we are not invited guests. As the servers you are there to serve, the chattier you are with your guests the more likely you are to say something you shouldn't.
Lake Williamson's customer service policy says to never tell a guest 'I don't know' but instead 'I will find out for you' or 'Let me check on that for you'. We try our best to never tell a guest 'no' and if we must say 'no' then we do our best to give the reason along with a possible solution to their problem.
In the end, whether conference center or restaurant, you want your guests to go home and talk. You want them to talk with family, friends, and coworkers about their positive experience or how the event was way beyond anything they expected. WOM aka Word of Mouth is one of thee best ways to spread the word about your business both in a positive and negative way.