Best Ways for Restaurant Servers to Earn More Money

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One of the biggest challenges a food and beverage manager faces is maintaining the quality of service.  Although the product a kitchen produces may be top-tier, it is sadly undermined by poor or inconsistent service.  Food is only part of a guest’s experience – beverage and service make up the other two-thirds.  By not delivering a full experience, we fail to give our patrons what they are paying for, especially in a gratuity-based service culture.   So I offer the following resources as training tools for new servers and as a reference or reminder for the experienced.  Feedback and suggestions regarding tips and tools that may have helped others out in the service industry are welcome in the comments below.


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Server Steps of Service

  • Welcome guests with warmth and appreciation and break the ice with some pre-business banter (ie. Have you been here before? Are you a guest of the hotel? What plans do you have today?). Make them feel special and important!
  • Give the guests your name in a genuine way. Avoid clichés like “Hi my name is ………., I will be your server today.”  Waiting until the end of the introduction and saying something like,  “… my name is ………………, if there is anything you need, please let me know”,  makes it something that they will remember!
  • Pour water immediately and talk about menus, along with drink and food specials. If they haven’t visited the establishment before, talk to them about the menu layout, feature dishes and your recommendations.  If they have been here before, talk about trying something new on the menu.
  • Be well informed about the wines beer and cocktail menus, in order to assist with drink selection. Do not ask “What can I get you to drink?”  Instead, offer them a pint of beer, cocktail or a glass of wine.  This way, a guest is likely to choose from one of the three options as opposed to make a quick decision for a pop or water.
  • Recommend personal favorites and listen to the likes, dislikes and dietary restrictions of your guests. Remember, you are the expert on the menu.  By asking them what they are in the mood for and how hungry they are, you should have a pretty good idea about what they want.  Guests do not want to make decision about what they want to eat, really they want you to.
  • Inform guests about food preparation details when necessary, while answering questions about menu items – what it tastes like, why it’s special. Create anticipation of what is coming so they are excited and they don’t get any negative surprises.
  • Treat every allergy as if it was your own, and communicate with the Manager or Chef before ringing in special requests. This will allow the guest to see how serious you take allergies/requests and allow them to be at ease.
  • Order food carefully and accurately, being sure to include all modifiers, taking the time to review before sending the order. Be sure to use accurate seat numbers so that others can run your food.
  • Set up the table with everything needed for the food that was ordered. This should be done as soon as possible to assure it is for sure done .  Items like extra cutlery, side bowls, condiments and extra napkins will ensure guests can start eating as soon as the food arrives and don’t have to wait until they can ask someone for the item they need.
  • Ensure water glasses are refilled regularly and additional drinks are ordered before the drink they have is empty.
  • Double-check the food as it comes up, and wait until the entire order is ready before removing plates from the line. Never run food before the kitchen has put up your bill. Food should not get cold while sitting on the table in front of the guest as they wait for everyone else to get their food.
  • Deliver food, ensuring that you are always open to the guest – always aware of your elbows and armpits. Always use the right hand to serve from the right side of the guest and left hand to serve from the left side of the guests.
  • Return to the table after guests have had time to enjoy two bites. A quality check should be specific and focused. Not, “How is everything tasting?” But rather, “Is your steak cooked the way you like it?” or “Is that chicken as delicious as it looks?”  Avoid the guest saying everything is good as it is a conditioned response that doesn’t give us proper feedback.  This eliminates any issues the guest will have later on.
  • Clear plates as they are finished with at the table – this can be identified with the fork and knife placed together in the 5 o’clock position. Avoid stacking plates on top of each other at the table as it looks too casual.
  • Remove anything from the table that is no longer needed, being sure to wipe away fallen food. Giving the guest room on the table allows them to be comfortable.
  • Never offer dessert as it gives the guest a chance to say no.  Instead, bring the dessert menu to the table and let them know your favorite or a “must have”.  Remind your guests of our selection of digestifs, such as scotch, liqueurs, dessert wines or specialty coffees.
  • Review the guest’s bill before presenting it, and process payment as quickly as possible. Do not make a guest feel rushed, but if they do want to leave quickly, this allow them to do so.
  • Always bring change, never ask if they need it.
  • Always take the time to warmly thank guests and invite them to come again. Let them know,  “It was a pleasure to serve you tonight, my name is …………., I hope to see you again soon.”

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