Taking Phone Reservations
Your job often will involve answering calls from potential customers. This may be a phone setup near the front of the establishment (where the host resides) or in the back. Regardless, you will need to take calls in order to (1) answer questions about the restaurant, (2) answer take-out orders and relay them to the staff, and (3) take reservations or add people to the wait list.
Below is a standard example of a take-out (aka, take-away or pick-up) order:
It is standard for the same line to be used to answer questions as it is to take reservations. Be ready for anything! Common questions include:
- “Does your food contain _______?” Common examples include allergens, vegetarian options, religious exceptions, and specific dishes. Be well-versed in your menu as these can be very important questions both from a customer service perspective as well as legal perspective.
- “When do you open/close?” Although it is easy to look this up online, many customers who call-in do not have access to the internet. Be especially aware of any holidays that may impact opening and closing times.
- “Are you open on ______?” Same as above, pay attention to holidays. Many restaurants are open on holidays but often with limited hours. Be sure to specify.
- “Do you deliver?” It is not common for a restaurant to deliver food, with a few exceptions (e.g. pizza, Chinese, etc). That said, your restaurant may have a partnership with a delivery company that offers a better deal. Check with your management for details.
The caller will often ask to order food for take-out. This is also known as carry-out, take-away, pick-up, and more, depending on regional dialect. In some cases, you may also be taking orders from a delivery service, however this is usually conducted through online automation.
Pay special attention to large orders, as this may cause delays in your workplace if not accounted for. For instance, many offices may order a large order for lunch and send one person to obtain several bags worth of food. During a rush lunch shift, this can easily become a burden for your cook staff. Be sure to mention this ASAP to your team so you can plan ahead for huge orders!
Lastly, keep in mind that you may also be the one providing the food at the front. You can sometimes earn a tip if you can remember voices and come across as familiar and friendly when they come to pick up the order. Small details can go a long way, so don’t be afraid to chit-chat a little if the customer seems sociable!
One very common call is for making reservations. A reservation may or may not be possible depending on your expected wait list at that given hour. If you do not have an automated system, or even if you do, you will want to keep a close eye on how long people will typically need to wait to be seated. Smart systems will account for party size, but sometimes your own experience will dictate a more accurate number. After all, you know your waitstaff better than Yelp’s system would.
Regardless, check with your management to see if they take reservations. If they do, see if there are important rules about when and how they will do it. Smaller restaurants can’t afford the room to do so, and particularly busy restaurants may not do reservations at all since their wait list is usually completely full and plenty of paying customers wait outside their door at all times. During rush hour times, it may be impossible to guarantee space as it uses up a table that could be going to someone who is already there in person. After all, many reservations end up becoming no-shows. There’s nothing worse than a table with the “reserved sign” up for several hours.