Never Ask . . . "Is this your first time?" Saying This is MUCH Better
Good hosts and servers look for clues to identify first-time guests. Knowing someone is new gives the opportunity to express a special welcome, take a moment to explain the menu, and let them know "what we're famous for."
While asking someone if this is their first time can be helpful, it can backfire. For example, not recognizing a regular and asking, "Is this your first time?", could cause a long-time patron to feel slighted or even offended.
Here's a much better, "safer" question to ask – "When was the last time you were here?" Asking this is not only a good way to identify first-timers but it's a great way to "welcome back" regulars and let them know what's new or has changed since they were last there.
If you're not already training this, bring it up in your next pre-shift. Also, review ways to respond appropriately to "first-timers" and "regulars" to build rapport, and personal connection, and drive hospitality to a higher level.
In subsequent pre-shifts, ask your team how their guests responded, what they learned, and if it helped them provide a better, more personalized experience for new guests and regulars alike.
Anything your team can do to make all your guests feel welcome, special, and well-served, will likely lead to more loyalty, positive word of mouth, and higher review scores.