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How Listening to a Waiter can Jack your Profits up 33%

waiter.pngImage by marie-ll

Guest Post by Michael Alex Wasylik from perpetualbeta.com.

A Persuasive Profession

When you think of people who know you to use words to persuade, you might think of salesmen, writers, lawyers, or politicians. Few people realize that good waiters (and of course, waitresses) also know how to use the power of words to influence the buying behavior of their customers. After all, the bigger the check and the happier the customer, the larger the tip. So take a look at some of the things this waiter did to juice up his persuasiveness and boost his bottom line.

Invocation of a Higher Power

Our waiter did not, of course, come out and try to convert us to any particular faith. But he did invoke a higher power than himself before rolling out the list of lunch specials. Remember the last time you heard about the daily specials? Odds are, it started something like this: “And today’s specials are…”

Flat. Boring. Weak. Not working, unless the specials themselves are made to sounds tantalizing with vivid language. But our server did something different – he opened up with:

Our chef recommends…

See why that’s different? These aren’t just specials… these are entrées the chef himself would eat if he were at our table. Before he’s even finished his sentence, he’s opened us up psychologically to whatever follows – because what he’s about to say doesn’t come from him, but from an authority. And research shows, humans respond more frequently to requests from a figure of authority. Your readers will, too.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

So let’s say you didn’t want to get the special. Or were torn between two. If you asked this waiter for his suggestion, what’s he likely to say? Another waiter might say, “The fried scallops are my favorite.” Again, weak. Who cares what the waiter thinks? My waiter would have said:

Everyone who orders the glazed grouper loves it.

Why is this better? It invokes the power of “social proof” – the deep-down human need to be part of the herd, to seek safety in numbers. After all, if “everyone” else liked it, odds are pretty good you’ll like it too. Sold!

The Feel-Good Event of the Year

Everyone who’s ever waited table or been waited on knows that the server will check on the table a couple of times to make sure everyone at the table has what they need. When they do, they’ll often use the language of deprivation: “Can I get anything else for you?” In other words… what’s missing? What did I forget?

A better approach, but still not the best one, is the server who comes up to you and says, “How is everything?” The hope is, of course, that you’ll respond positively. But why hope? Why not just come right out and demand a positive response? Here’s what our waiter asked:

So, gentlemen… is everything delicious?

Well, heck yes! Most people, unless specifically unhappy about some aspect of their meal, will answer that question with one word: “Yes!” There are two main reasons for this, and two main effects. First, the reasons.

We want to be liked and likable. Most of us don’t like to go stirring up conflict. So was it delicious? If it’s even close, we’re prone to agree rather than disagree, and then have to explain why – that would be a huge hassle. (Especially if we ordered the “chef’s recommendation!”) But also, if we picked the restaurant, and picked the menu item, and it was delicious, well, that makes us geniuses, right? We pick delicious food at outstanding restaurants with chefs who give the best recommendations. And our friend across the table can go out and say, “Hey, you should go to lunch with Mike! He picks the best lunch places.”

So we’re inclined to agree that our meal was not just edible, not merely good, but delicious. And by extension, so are we. Now that we’re geniuses of selecting lunch cuisine, what impact does that have on this waiter’s bottom line?

When we get the check, and we’re calculating the tip, we’re more likely to tip 20% instead of just 15% because, hey, the meal was delicious. That’s a 33% jump in pure profit.

And before we ask for the check, maybe we want to look over a dessert menu, because that cheesecake is almost certainly going to be even more delicious than the grouper. (Much to the chagrin of my waistline – cheesecake almost always beats out grouper in the “delicious” category.) So the total bill, the one we use to start calculating a tip, will be bigger as well. And that means the tip is bigger.

But there’s one other important effect. We’ve committed ourselves, in public, and in front of our friends, that the meal was delicious. They probably did the same. And when we feel good about the dining experience, we’re more likely to come back, and bring our friends. And our friends are more likely to do that, too. And for restaurants as well as most businesses, repeat customers are the best kind of customers to have… just like repeat vistors are the ones that will sustain your blog over time. Everyone prospers.

What’s In the Doggy Bag?

“Well, Mike…” you’re thinking “That’s all great, but I’m not a waiter. How do I bring this home to my site?”

Simple. Next time you’re trying to persuade your audience to do something – subscribe to your feed, download a report, even buy a product, try at least one of these three things:

1. Invoke the power of a higher authority to influence decisions. Get a testimonial from someone famous. Quote a rating from an industry watchdog. Earn and use the Better Business Bureau logo on your website. Partner with someone well-known in your niche. Or become the authority yourself: write a book, set a record, win a contest. Get creative and you’ll see opportunities to invoke authority in every post.

2. Promote safety in numbers. What’s your best-read article? Your most popular post? Your most-downloaded report? Get specific – offer numbers, names, references, or testimonials. If someone else likes what you do, then the next reader is more willing to take the chance on you.

3. Make your readers feel fantastic about their decision tospend their time with you. If you’ve provided legitimate value to your readers, they should feel fantastic. Gently remind them of this in your follow up: “Thanks for subscribing to my email feed! I hope you find every post as exciting as the one that madeyou subscribe.”

Our chef recommends that you try all three, and watch how they impact your bottom line.

About the Author

Michael Alex Wasylik is a Florida lawyer who first started blogging in 1999. He currently writes for the Florida Foreclosure Fraud weblog and his personal site, perpetualbeta.com – which he’s sure you’ll find absolutely delicious.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. enjoygame says:

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  2. çiçekçi says:

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  3. Interesting post, and I am totally sold on the first two points. The third is harder for me to accept, though. “Delicious” is putting an awful lot of pressure on the quality of the food – unless it’s outstanding, I’d be tempted to respond “it’s ok” which seems far less positive than a “yes” response to “is everything good?”. “Is everything delicious” would tend, especially in the UK, I think, to come over as smarmy or arrogant.

    BTW, it took me quite a while (i.e. a few seconds – everything’s relative on the internet!) to begin reading this article due to the mistake in the first sentence:

    “… who know you to use …”

    You mean:

    “… who know how to use …”

  4. This is really a great methaphore and really good explained. I think it will work if I will see myself as the waiter, but a lot of times I find them persuing and just too much. I think you have to beware of that and don’t become that annoying waiter, but the friendly, know-when-it’s-enough waiter!

    Thanks,

    Stefan,
    http://StudySuccessful.com

  5. waitress says:

    very intersting about your waiter

  6. Five Minute Argument: I agree – not everyone is going to agree that the meal blew them away. They’ll respond noncommittally, or even with an expressly negative comment.

    That’s your opportunity. How you handle that feedback determines your future success, and the happiness of your target audience. Find out what’s wrong – and overdeliver on the fix. Is the 12-ounce sirloin undercooked? Bring back a perfectly cooked 14-ouncer. Typo in the first line? Fix it right away and thank the commenter who helped point it out. (On my blog, I would do so – if Darren’s reading this, I hope he’ll be so kind as to change that to “people you know who use words to persaude”)

    So if something’s wrong, use the opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into an ecstatic one. And if they’re already happy, lock it in.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  7. This is really a great methaphore and really good explained. I think it will work if I will see myself as the waiter, but a lot of times I find them persuing and just too much

  8. Tada says:

    Very nice post.I like your examples you use. It is nice to see someone confident enough to use their own sites to help others. Thanks again for sharing……

  9. Anna says:

    Some very nice ideas here. I enjoyed the article and thanks for the wonderful information.