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The Open Hand Service Method: Creating an Unforgettable Dining Experience

In the competitive world of restaurants, it is crucial to distinguish yourself from others to achieve success. One way to achieve this is by providing exceptional customer service, such as the open-hand service method. This approach aims to leave a lasting impression on your customers and make their dining experience truly memorable.

This article will delve into what open-hand service entails, its underlying principles, and how you can incorporate it into your service strategy.


What is the Open-Hand Service Method?

In its truest definition, the open-hand service method is a technique where a server places items on the table in such a way that avoids ever reaching across a guest. If you’ve ever been to a proper fine dining establishment, you may already be familiar with this method. The purpose is to create an efficient dining experience that gives your guests a deep sense of respect. There are rules for what servers should do when serving food, like always using your right hand to serve or avoiding having their elbows point at a guest.

Further Understanding the Open-Hand Service Method

Arm placements aren’t the point of the open-hand service method, however. The mindset of the open-hand service method is one that should facilitate an overall positive and unique experience you can’t find just anywhere. Other aspects of the open-hand service method include:

  • Warm welcomes. Welcoming guests with more than just a blank “hi, welcome!” goes a long way. An introduction and menu rundown is important, as well as being patient while guests take their time to order.
  • Active listening. Give your guests your undivided attention. Your servers should be learning more about guests as they go, taking mental note of their preferences and choices as well.
  • Anticipating needs. Make sure guests always have water without asking, etc.
  • Personalized recommendations. Wine recommendations based on the food a guest has ordered or a dessert recommendation can be an excellent way to enhance the dining experience. 
  • Building connections. Small talk isn’t just pleasant or polite, your servers have an opportunity to build connections with the people they’re meeting. This is a great way to create a repeat customer.
  • Go the extra mile. Complimentary dessert, personalized seating cards for reservations, and any extra unexpected thing can make all the difference.

Open-hand service should be an experience and not limited to basic rules. The entire purpose of implementing these ideas is to create an unforgettable experience after all.

Way of the Open-Hand: Implementing Great Service

Even if you’re not a fine dining establishment, you can still implement the open-hand method to improve your service overall. This can help you stand out compared to other restaurants, giving you the upper hand in customer service.

Implementing the Open-Hand Service Method

Making the switch to an open-hand service method from a regular service method can feel a little overwhelming for your staff at first. Let’s look at some of the things you can do to get the ball rolling:

Training and development.

Training and development is the foundation for the open-hand service method. You should spend time considering all of the aspects of your service and craft detailed training materials. While this might seem initially overwhelming, having those details take out a lot of the guesswork for your staff when it comes to what they should do in a given situation. Try to seek a balance between details and giving some space for your staff to let their personality show, however. Your standards should be clear, but guests don’t want to feel like they’re being served by robots either.

Lead by example.

Many people are visual learners. It would be beneficial to block out some training time where you show your team how they should be doing the service. You can have your staff take turns practicing being guests and staff, going over the flow of the service, and giving hands-on training. This is a great way for your staff to tell you about situations you might’ve missed and get feedback on the training material.

Ongoing feedback and recognition.

Learning is a continuing process so following up with productive feedback is essential. At the same time, it’s important to recognize the efforts of your staff as well. Not having that balance can make your staff fall apart, leading to low morale or little improvement.

Continuous improvement.

Take note of what your guests are saying about your service and adjust accordingly. Your restaurant will likely shift as time goes on, and so should your service. Making small, steady changes every so often keeps your service fresh. This is a great way to keep old customers coming in and have new customers trying you out.

Final Thoughts on the Open Hand Service Method

Food is the first thing we think of when we think about a great restaurant, but many forget about how important the service can be. Service takes a delicious meal to another level, allowing guests the unique opportunity to have a memorable experience. You’ll be able to facilitate a restaurant that becomes an important piece of your community and a successful, sustainable business for years to come.

Ryan Philemon


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