[Handout] Cultivating premium service: the do’s & don’ts of preparing your staff

Some qualities of great customer service are universal — whether you’re at a fast food restaurant or a five-star resort, front-line staff should be friendly, helpful, and patient. But in certain settings, the expectations are premium, and polish is a must-have. The bar is higher for staff at a country club, nice hotel, or formal event venue, for example, than it is for staff at a casual establishment. And to make your clients happy, you need to meet, or even surpass, that bar.

While you’re probably already well-familiar with what it takes to wow clients with service, new hires or those re-entering the hospitality industry after a long break might not be. With staff like this, it’s essential to reiterate the basics. Read below for our guide on catching staff up to speed on premium service, and feel free to share this handout with them, or use it as a starting point to draft your own staff guidelines.

Do: Maintain good hygiene

It might seem like a given, but it never hurts to emphasize the importance of good hygiene. Let your team know that they’ll be expected to shower regularly, wear deodorant/antiperspirant, and wash their hands when necessary (you can point them to these guidelines if they have any questions). Nails should be clean and short, facial hair trimmed, and long hair pulled back. And because some guests can be sensitive to fragrances, staff should wear light perfume or cologne if any.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be additional restrictions like mask or vaccine mandates, so make sure all of your staff members are in the know ahead of time. If you’re booking staff through Instawork, you can share these details with them through the platform — just add information on your health and safety measures when prompted after posting your shift.

Don’t: Stray from the dress code

Whether you provide your team with an official uniform or just issue general requirements — black pants with a white button-up top, for example — explaining the dress code in detail will help your staff achieve a consistent, professional look. Stress how important it is to show up with clothes that are clean, ironed, free of tears or holes, and well-fitting. You’ll want to cover the details, too, such as reminding your staff to keep their shirts tucked in and their name tag in clear view.

If you don’t issue a uniform yourself, you should get a bit more specific about what kind of clothes are and aren’t acceptable. Let staffers know about any restrictions on fabric, like denim or spandex, or length for items like shorts and skirts. You’ll probably want to address accessories, too, like whether hats and/or jewelry are allowed, and if so, which kinds.

Do: Look professional

Eccentric appearances usually don’t fly in more conservative settings — if any of your team shows up with bright green hair or dramatic makeup, you’ll probably hear a client complaint or two. Let your staff know that when it comes to personal appearance, less is more. Tattoos should be covered up, and piercings (other than earrings) removed. Similarly, any hair that’s dyed should be a natural color, and makeup should be conservative.

Don’t: Take too long

One of the easiest ways to upset a client is with slow service, so make sure your team knows how important timeliness is. This starts by showing up on time — if staffers clock in late, setup and service will be slow right off the bat, and it will be difficult to catch up to speed. Once they actually begin serving guests, your team members must move fast and be efficient. Advise your staff to wear comfortable shoes that they can walk in quickly, avoid getting drawn into long conversations, and check in/follow up with all guests at a table at once to minimize running back and forth.

Do: Be a team player

Hospitality is truly a team sport. No matter how great a particular staff member is, if their coworkers are struggling, your clients will feel the impact. Communicate how critical it is for your staff to help each other out, and give them ideas for how they can do so — if they see that one server is totally swamped, for example, they might help out by clearing some of that person’s tables.

Don’t: Get too familiar

Even if your staff members get along great with their guests, they need to know they can’t treat them the same way they’d treat their friends, or even coworkers. Staff should always treat guests with a certain level of formality, avoiding things like overly-familiar language (such as “you guys” or “honey”), personal conversations with or near guests, and eating or drinking in plain sight.

Body language is also important — instruct your team to smile, make eye contact, stand up straight, avoid crossing their arms or putting their hands in their pockets, and be respectful of guests’ personal space.

Do: Go above & beyond

When it comes to your standards for event service, we know that “good enough” doesn’t cut it. If you really want to impress your clients, and maybe even have them refer you to their networks, your staff will need to go the extra mile. Encourage your team to bring their A-game, and highlight some specific things that they can do to ensure a great experience, whether that's accommodating a special request or offering recommendations.

Hospitality — especially in a premium setting — is a fast-moving field filled with high expectations, and often, you’ll have to roll with the punches on the front line. But the more prepared your team is, the better your chance of delighting your clients — so give your staff all of the information and advice you can ahead of time. Who knows? It might be just the extra push you need to create an unforgettable experience.