The Top 10 Secrets to Making It as a Successful Server
It’s not rocket science, but it is an act of artful performance. Waiting tables is hard work, but it can reap great financial gains for those who do it right. Successful servers hold a high regard for the basics in hospitality and remain consistent in their job performance.
Here are 10 ways to keep your tip jar full:
- Maintain a clean appearance. Customers and employers will judge you by your appearance. Make sure your hair is clean and secure long hair back and out of your face. Keep fingernails neatly trimmed and never ever wear a dirty apron. Consider where the customer’s line of sight will be when you approach the table.
- Know the menu. And really know it, inside and out. Be able to answer questions about ingredients for picky eaters, vegetarians, food allergies; the list goes on. This goes for all menus: food, cocktail, wine and kids. If you don’t know the answer, promptly find out and respond with certainty.
- Use the customer’s time effectively. Greet guests immediately and never leave them waiting or wondering where you are. Remember, they chose to come in and spend money here so make it worth it. Offer a drink within the first two minutes, and watch for refills. Mention specials, happy hour menus or any other values you can offer. Check back after the food is delivered to ensure everyone is happy. Refrain from starting personal conversations about yourself and be quick with the bill when it is requested.
- Recognize seating order. Imagine each table as a clock and mentally assign a guest as sitting at 12 o’clock; moving clockwise, assign every other guest with a number on the clock face. Write down each order as 12:00 chicken dinner, 1:00 pasta, 2:00 BBQ sandwich and etcetera. This way you will avoid asking “who had the…” when the food is up.
- Remember regular customers. Repeat business is the main goal of most restaurants. If you recognize someone from a previous visit, make sure to write down their name (from the credit card or reservation) as well as what drink and menu preferences they have. This will go a long way during their next visit.
- Be a team player. During busy hours of service, bussing tables and food expediting can fall behind. If you have a free hand when walking from the dining room to the kitchen, grab a plate. Or, if you are walking past the line and notice an expo struggling with a large order of food, lend a hand. Do not rely on the support staff to do all your heavy lifting. This will keep your tables out of the weeds and camaraderie strong. If the support staff was stellar for your section, tip out generously and gain an ally for future busy nights.
- Be available. There is no doubt about it; weekends are the big money makers for restaurants. Success lies within your ability to have a positive attitude towards the busiest times.
- Smile and be friendly. This does not have to be cheesy, but it does need to be genuine. Smile every time you approach a table. There will be times when difficult guests will challenge your friendly persona. If a guest appears unhappy with any solution you provide, seek help from your manager immediately, but do not break character; remember your other tables can still see you.
- Be attentive to small children. When a party with small children has been sat in your section, bring them something instantly; a packet of crackers, a basket of dinner rolls, whatever your establishment offers. The child’s plunging blood sugar can ruin the experience for the parents and others sitting nearby. Be aware of where you set down sharp, hot or any other object that could cause harm if mishandled. Look for a nod of approval from parents when children order on their own. Let the parents know you are on their side without disappointing the child.
- Be present. Remain as visible and as attentive as possible to your tables. Empty glasses, long wait times and wondering when the check is going to come can kill an otherwise spotless performance. Communicate ahead of time if an item will have a long cook time, such as a well-done burger. If the kitchen is bogged down or prepared a dish incorrectly, let your table know right away. Recognize that the people at the table are paying customers and never leave them hanging.
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