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The Power of “Hello"

By Kate Edwards - Owner Kate Edwards Consulting LLC.

The Power of “Hello”

There is one word you do not have to teach your staff. It is “hello”. Hello has a power that is often overlooked. Imagine the last time you were in a restaurant, did they welcome you at the front door or did they just say “how many in your party?” or “did you reserve?”. While that may be perfectly direct, to greet someone with a proper salutation is one step up. It is a true welcoming moment and it sets us up for a civilized, pleasant, warm experience. How about at the table? Are you welcomed with “good afternoon?” or is it “do you want some tap water?”. Again the moment is direct but the aspect of hospitality has been lost.

I always share this moment with my classes. One evening I walked into my neighborhood Staples. It was about 5pm so was not yet the ‘after work rush’ part of the day. I followed 2 women through the door and as we entered I heard the cashier say “hello!” to the women ahead of me. They were taken by surprise and looked warily at one another. As we progressed into the store and past the line of cashiers we heard a chorus of “good evening!”, “welcome to Staples” and “hello” from every cashier on duty. The women ahead of me were clearly confused and almost unsettled. They were in Staples….not exactly a bastion of warm and welcoming service. Or was it? As we turned the corner a manager greeted me with “good evening Ma’am, may I help you find something?” I declined and took to the stairs. At the top of the stairs was another employee and again another “hello, may I help you?”

Now while the women in front of me were clearly put off by this effusion I had to say that part of the confusion was that none of us expected this friendliness in Staples. It was enthusiastic, warm, helpful customer service….not the usual experience when buying office supplies. And when I went to the checkout the response was equally enthusiastic and my experience ended with the last cashier nearest the door calling out as I left, “have a great night!”. Wow. I was blown away by the customer service at….Staples? And not only do I share this story with my classes but with other friends and colleagues. I thought to myself, “was this a fluke?” but no, the next time I went into the store it was the same and even in different outlets, the same customer attention. Wow.

So what did they provide for me? Was it free stuff? No. Was it more variety? No. Was it a fantasy-land of office supplies? No! It was acknowledgement. You are the customer. You are in our store. You might have questions. I am here for you. And how did they let me know that? By graciously saying “hello”! Wow, that was easy.

So why doesn’t every restaurant, store and airline do this? Many folks in the business call this “common sense”. But is common sense common? Nope, it is not. You have to create a language of common sense by working on each and every moment of the customer experience. One of the first things we must train our staff on is the greeting. In the training materials I write for my clients I always include a section on “Greeting” and one on “Good Bye” with an overview of the style of the language used as well as practical examples. Many restaurants do this and some of the big chains have a recognizable greeting that is issued to every guest. “Welcome to Chili’s” is a familiar byline and a major component of their advertising campaign. “Welcome to McDonald’s” is their credo and addresses both their guests and staff in their on-line materials.

What is important is that the greeting is authentic to you and your business. What is your brand? What do you represent to your guests and your peers? Your greeting is a big part of your brand identity and can represent verbally and hospitably your mission and core values. But what is great about establishing a greeting is that part of your mission will be lived out each and every moment of the day each time a staff member greets a guest. You have set the expectation and now ask that everyone meet it. But the truth is they won’t meet it if they are not sure what the expectation is, they simply cannot. So it is your duty to create and uphold your expectations each and every moment of every day. If you are diligent about living the mission and you insist that your staff do as well then you will have the opportunity to achieve your mission. And yes, it is that easy.


About Kate Edwards


Kate Edwards is the owner of a full-service restaurant consulting business that is a result of her more than 20 years of experience working in NYC.

Her focus is opening new properties, revitalizing existing businesses, optimizing and improving existing systems as well as improving customer service. She also works with restaurateurs to help focus their vision, align their goals and amplify their philosophy and values. Kate has worked with clients in New York, New Jersey, and Seattle in the US and Anguilla in the BWI.

Kate is also an Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education where she teaches Restaurant Management classes to students of both the Restaurant Management and Career Culinary Arts programs.

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By Kate Edwards