How to make (and keep) regular, big-tipping guests
Working as a server in a restaurant is a job like no other – interesting, fast-paced and different every single day. Not only are servers required to SERVE their guests, they are oftentimes tasked with making drinks or salads back-of-the-house, all with a bright smile. In order to maximize tips, and grow your regular clientele, servers should follow the below guidelines, whether you are a server in your first week on-the-job, or if you have decades of serving under your belt.
Know the menu
Spend some time with the menu, and get to know the ingredients. Be prepared to tell your guest which are your favorite items, and popular menu items for the restaurant. “Be honest to a fault and be REAL about your favorite dishes, as guests want the inside scoop,” says Susan Cole, a server at the Angry Crabshack (Mesa, AZ). Know which items are new to the menu, and if there are any items that have been removed recently. In analyzing the menu, keep in mind the allergens that are common in today’s world – such as gluten and peanuts. If there are daily specials, be sure to know if they contain the common allergens.
Whether you are working at a big chain or an independent restaurant, your appearance is important to the business overall and to your customers. So be sure that your clothes are clean, whether you wear a uniform or street clothes. “If you wear street clothes, stay within the vibe of the restaurant – we have a ‘backyard cool’ vibe and I wear trendy jeans with my work shirt”, says Cole. In addition, keep your hands and nails clean, as customers will notice dirty nails, which will detract from the food and the overall experience. Lastly, shoes are an important part of being a server, as this job involves being on your feet for long periods of time. Make sure that your shoes are comfortable as well as professional, and that the laces are tied tightly. Untied laces look unkempt, and can be a tripping hazard.
Engage with your guests immediately
Once guests are seated at your table, be sure that you interact with them as soon as possible. If you are in the process of serving another table, try to make eye-contact with a smile, so they know that they are important to you, and that their needs will be met shortly. Once at the new guest table, be sure to introduce yourself, and check to see that they have appropriate silverware and napkins, along with the menu.
As soon as you have greeted the guests, ask them if they would like water. Even if they are ordering other drinks, from colas to alcoholic beverages, guests appreciate the offer. Once the beverage order is complete, ask the group if they would like items to accompany the beverages, such a lemon or sugar. “It’s all about attention to detail”, claims Chris Conlan, a server at Ledo’s Pizza (Countryside, IL). “With the lemon, be sure to ask if they want it on the side or in the glass”, continued Conlan. Once the food orders have been given to the kitchen, bring out all of the accompaniments before the food is served. For example, if the guest orders pancakes, bring syrup and butter to the table beforehand, so the guest is not waiting for syrup with their hot pancakes.
Be vigilant with small children
When you are serving a table with small children, be sure to remove silverware, especially knives, from their area. Also, be very careful with hot beverages, and place those types of beverages far out of reach. Conlan suggests to “put drink lids on toddler beverages” as parents will appreciate the effort to avoid a spill.
Check the order!
Before you deliver the food out to your guests, be sure everything is correct. Don’t just make sure that the items are correct – but look to see that they are cooked correctly. If a guest ordered a well done steak, be sure it does not appear medium rare.
Check in after the food is delivered
Once your guests have had their first few bites, stop by and ask how everything tastes, and inquire if they need anything else for the meal. Take this time to check glasses, and see if they need refills or another beverage. Once the guest finishes their food, ask if you can remove their plate. Never start removing dishes with food on them, unless the guest specifically asks for it to be taken away. Once the guests have finished their food, be sure to suggest dessert, and provide a few details on a dessert favorite.
Once the guests are getting ready to leave, be sure to thank them, and invite them to come back again soon. “Show them your appreciation for spending their time and money at your restaurant,” Cole stated. “And if you don’t have a poker face, don’t look at the tip while the guests are still in the restaurant!”, says Cole as one final tip.
Following these steps day in and day out will increase your tips and your overall ability at your job. Have fun making more money, and developing regulars. In addition to the starting your career as a server, there are other entry-level jobs within the foodservice industry to explore, such as a host or a hostess or a line cook back-of-house.