So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Tag Archives: four-walls marketing

Using Facebook

If your restaurant has a Facebook account, you might want to become a fan because sometimes you can find out what’s going on in your restaurant  quicker than you can find out through the grapevine or preshifts. This is possible especially with larger chains that might do regional promotions or test promotions that haven’t hit all of the stores. It can also give you a sense of the corporate culture. Are the powers-that-be dinosaurs that don’t understand social media and the internet and have just started a Facebook account because they’ve heard about this social media thing and don’t want to be left behind? Or are they überfreaky nerds who have decided that the operation can’t survive without social media? Perhaps they are “scientists” who decide to use Facebook as their own little chemistry lab, trying this and that little micro-promotion in order to see if they can get 50 people in their bar at 7:30 on a Monday night through the use of “shooters for a penny”.  

In any case, if you haven’t checked out your restaurant’s Facebook page, perhaps it’s time you started.

You might not want to become a fan though. First of all, it gives your corporate office a direct link to your own Facebook account. As I’ve written in the past, an impulsive status message after getting stiffed by a prominent actor could cost you your job. Plus, do you really want Corporate to know that you are a fan of The Dead Kennedys, that your political affiliation is anarcho-syndicalism and that the last book you read was  The Phantom Tollbooth? Do you really want them to know that you’ve linked to this blog as well as Waiter Rant, Crazy Waiter, and Serving Trash (What, you haven’t linked to us yet? What in the hell are you waiting for)?

There are plus sides to becoming a fan. One is that you get updates through your newsfeed. Perhaps you have nothing worrying on your profile – perhaps it might be a plus that you are proud enough of your restaurant to participate in its social media methods. You might even be able to draw attention to yourself to potential call parties my marketing yourself through notes or status updates. For instance, you might do some micro-micromarketing  by offering to buy a free appetizer for any guests that “mention this note” between June 1st and June 15th. This is a very sketchy sort of thing because first, you have to find a way to drive your potential guests to your own newsfeed. Of course, you need to make sure that this sort of offer is OK with your GM/corporate office and you also should be careful not to abuse this by surreptitiously having the restaurant buy those appetizers because, “They waited a long time for their entrees – can we buy their appetizer” sort of scam. Keep in mind that this sort of thing could cost you some money and only you can decide whether it’s generating more business for you personally.  While it seems unlikely to make a big impact right now, as the fanbase for your restaurant grows, the possibilities could increase geometrically. I have actually seen restaurants be successful in driving a “Facebook only” event. Perhaps you could find a way to do this for your own section. Think outside the box. However, you should always vet something like this through your GM (who can do the checking with Corporate to make sure that it’s allowed).

This idea of using the restaurant’s own Facebook page is a function of thinking outside the box because, unless you have authorization to use the restaurant’s Facebook account, you really have no way to identify yourself as a waiter. You’re just one of a thousand fans of a Facebook account. But I mention it because perhaps one of you is clever enough to figure out a way to make it happen. Obviously, the simple solution is simply to write on their wall…but this doesn’t give you the ability to write a more interesting “note”.

A more likely strategy is marketing through your own network. This is really no different from telling someone who you met at the bowling alley that “I work at Pedro’s Tex-Mex Emporium. You should check us out – our food is great and if you ask for me, I’ll take care of you”. Doing it through Facebook leverages this sort of personal networking. Once again, you should weigh carefully whether you want to out yourself as a waiter in a particular restaurant. First of all, it makes it more likely that your own restaurant could find out that you are on Facebook. Second of all, if you have a wacky stalker, it’s like giving them crack. You’ll never know if they might come in and stalk you in the restaurant.

Obviously, this all applies to other social media such as Twitter.

Just remember, posting on social sites is “forever”, even if you delete a particular posting.

Here’s an example of a posting that might or might not work for you:


Special offer for my friends!


If you come into Pedro’s this month, ask for me and mention this note, you will get a free upgrade from well to topshelf on up to 4 drinks per meal.

Pedro’s is also offering a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees and is also rolling out the new “Chef’s Specials” portion of the menu this month. One of the new highlights is our brand new Chicken Chocolate Chimmichanga with raspberry mole sauce. It’s delicious!

I look forward to serving you in June!

<insert cute photo here>

Note that you have to be careful offering any type of drink modification due to local regulations. In some places, it’s actually illegal to “give away alcohol” and the above posting could be interpreted as contravening said statute. You also obviously have to make sure that this is OK with your GM and that you can actually follow through with it (in other words, you have to make sure that the Assistant GM is in on it because if only the GM knows, other managers might not be prepared to do any discounts for you). You might even be able to get the restaurant to fund this if they are interested in seeing how much effect it might have to have an individual server drum up business on Facebook. But even if they aren’t willing to fund it, they might OK it for you to do as long as you pay for it out of your own pocket. You’ll need to make sure that they have a way to allow you to pay for the difference in price, which could be difficult.

I hope I’ve given you food for thought here. Better minds than mine are reading this post. Get your thinking caps on! This applies to managers as well as waiters, especially managers in restaurants that rely on four-walls marketing:

PS, I take no responsibility for any outcomes should you decide to use Facebook or any other social media outlet. All readers should do their own due dilligence and are responsible for their own actions.

Four-walls marketing

What is this odd sounding name and what does it have to do with me as a waiter?

Four-walls marketing is the use of the restaurant itself in lieu of employing outside advertising dollars to promote said restaurant. The restaurant still has an advertising budget, but they use it almost exclusively within its four walls. The idea is to get positive word-of-mouth promotion in the community and create a loyal customer base without the extensive use of outside advertising. Most of the “ad dollars” that would usually be spent on outside media are spent on things like cutomer loyalty programs, higher paid kitchen help and higher food costs (to assure consistency), better uniforms, local press releases when appropriate, more aggressive upkeep of physical plant appearance and support of targeted community groups and events. Yes, doing an outside event can be considered four-wall marketing – it’s the dollars that stay within the four walls, not necessarily the promotion.

The opposite of this approach is the “Olive Garden” approach. Heavy marketing campaigns and value-driven menus. There’s nothing wrong with that approach – it’s just a different way of doing business.

In order to be successful at this sort of marketing, the restaurant has to have a great appearance, consistent food and friendly and caring staff that make people feel like the restaurant is an extension of their home. And this, of course, is where we as waiters come in. We have to maintain a top-notch appearance, be consistent with our service, and make the guest feel like they’re part of something special.

All restaurants have facets of four-wall marketing. However, more and more restaurants are making it a concrete part of their business strategy. If your restaurant has adopted this approach, you should have already been brought in as a “partner”, because you’re a key component to the approach. You are the point of contact with the guest and it’s you who holds the key to making them want to return time and time again, all the while telling their friends about your joint.  However, you aren’t the only key, just the most visible, and the one that spends the most time with the guest.

If a restaurant actually uses the four-wall marketing approach, they might not verbalize it to you, which I think is a mistake. You should know that they are employing this approach so that you know the importance of your role. If your restaurant does little outside advertising, such as coupons and ads in the local paper or ad buys on local radio, they are relying on you and your co-workers to be their advertising and they are in essence doing this sort of marketing. Who knows, they might be doing it by accident or due to a lack of advertising dollars.

For a restaurant to really be successful with this approach, they have to consciously do it, because all of the key elements have to be followed. They can’t stumble around hoping that their in-store efforts pay off – they should work up a program and adhere to it. They almost need to make a contract with themselves and their employees the same way they would sign a contract for outside advertising. It doesn’t do any good to spend money on better food and snazzy uniforms if the restaurant looks shabby. It doesn’t do any good to have a glitzy interior if the guest never knows whether the food is going to be great or lousy. It doesn’t do any good to have beautifully plated food and a sparkling interior if your waitstaff isn’t sparkling (in both appearance and spirit) to go along with the decor and food. 

Hopefully, this blog will help you keep your edge and deepen your knowledge of what it takes to be successful in the restaurant world, whether you work at The Olive Garden or the Palm, or whether you are a rank beginner or grizzled veteran.