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Holiday Stress
By Paul C. Paz

Thanksgiving announces the annual launch of the "holiday rush" for restaurant staff all over the country. While "cash registers are ringing and sales are singing", there is the anticipated mounting stress of serving the hungry holiday throngs.

There will be the crabby shoppers who are upset because of the crowds in the mall! Stressed customers who fought like gladiators in rush hour traffic to nail down a parking space. Families riddled with dislike for each other will gather at your restaurant. They won't talk to each other because they're mad they have to be there so they take it out on the waiter instead. Harried walk-in parties of 25 who don't understand that you have neither room for nor can you properly serve them. Office party holiday banquets that prefer an open bar over civilized behavior. So how does one stay upbeat and fresh with the holiday crush?

I try to look at my customers through their eyes and what kind of day they've had before arriving to my table. They've dealt with rude sales clerks, parking lot attendants, drivers, and grouchy co-workers all day so they may not be in the best of moods. You see they have spent a great deal of their day with customer service experiences dealing with folks who didn't care about their needs nor willing to provide them even reasonable service. The powder's there and all that's needed is a spark to set it off.

But here's an opportunity to offer them the complete opposite of what they expect in lieu of their earlier customer service experiences. A slower pace or faster service depending upon what they want. A friendly face with that "glad you're here" sense of hospitality instead of the "what the hell you doin' here" darting look. A tone of voice that conveys "welcome" instead of "your presence is annoying". An enthusiastic willingness to serve which at times is even more important than the service itself.

The key to basic customer service is to figure out what they want and then just give it to them. quickly, correctly, friendly. Don't make them beg for it, don't give them that look of "Hhhmmm. Let me think about it. Does this person deserve my service?" Provide the same service and attention you would expect for yourself as a dining customer.

Will this eliminate all the uncomfortable situations? Of course not! There are some folks out there that will never be satisfied no matter what you do. Don't take it personal. It's an occupational hazard. Given the hundreds of people you will encounter during the holidays keep this in mind. The vast majority of them do not come in to intentionally have a bad time or to make your shift tough. They are a pleasure to serve, have reasonable expectations for service, and provide our holiday BONU$.

Too all. Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year for 2005! In the meantime, Make It Fun... Make It Easy... Make Some Money !!! (TM)

Paul C. Paz is a Hospitality Consultant & Author of the book Service At Its Best: Waiter-Waitress Training. First and foremost, however, Paul is a professional waiter. Paul can be found online at WaitersWorld, a site dedicated exclusively to those aspiring to gain personal, professional, and financial success plying the craft of Professional Waiter!

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