You know, most waiters and waitresses get a couple weeks of server training when they first start their job waiting tables; maybe a month at most. But aside from that initial training on how to work in a restaurant, you might get a food training or beverage training here and there, but most restaurants don’t go beyond that. So how do you get better at being a server?
Well, practice does make perfect. But sometimes we servers need a couple quick tips or tricks to help them be better servers. Not just to be better employees, although that is usually the outcome, but to also get better tips. If you’re making more money, you’ll be happier at your job. So in the next 5 minutes, here’s three quick tips on things you can do right now to be a better waiter tonight.
Topics Covered in this Guide
Know Your Product
As a waiter, have you ever been asked a question like, “What’s in this sauce?” Or how about, “What types of whiskey do you have?” Maybe something like, “Do you have any gluten-free dinner options at your restaurant?” Sure, you might be able to name all of the items on the menu, but knowing the finer points of a menu can mean the difference between a 15 percent tip and a 25 percent tip. Being able to cater to people’s needs gives them a better dining experience and makes them feel more taken care of.
But it’s not just about the customer. It’s about your success too. If you have questions about a sauce and you have to head back to the kitchen and ask the chef, you’re taking valuable time to go find that out, when you could be spending time staying on top of your tables. Knowing your menu, knowing your drink list, and the details therein will make you more efficient and give you a more comfortable and effective serving style.
Of course, everyone learns as they go. New waiters may not know everything right away, and that’s completely okay. But as time goes by, the more you know about your restaurant, your menu, and your beverage options, the better prepared you’ll be to go through your day to day serving experience.
So how do you go about knowing all you can about your restaurant? Studying the menu sounds corny, I know. But the truth is, it works. Same with your drink menu. Same with your wine list. Same with your sauces. Same with your table numbers. Most waiters aren’t extremely interested in spending their free time studying the five different options their restaurant offers, and I get that.
But what if it makes you more money? What if it saves your time? What if it makes your daily responsibilities easier? From experience, I can tell you it does. Ask your bartender, your chef, and your manager questions whenever you can, and try to learn everything your restaurant has to offer inside and out. You might be surprised with how much easier it makes your life and how much more money you might see in your pocket at the end of the night.
Be Nice With Your Guests and Colleagues
It’s not surprise to anyone who’s worked in the service industry that effective serving is always a team effort. You’ll need help running food, or you might need to ask someone to pick up a bill for you, or even cover your tables if you need to hit the restroom or take a quick break. Having a good relationship with the people you work with is essential to your success.
Are you excited to be helpful towards fellow servers who are rude to you or difficult to work with? Probably not. And it works both ways. If you’re ornery or crabby or rude, the chef won’t be quick to remake that dish, you accidentally rang in wrong, people won’t jump to run your food, and bussers won’t be excited to bus your tables.
Showing up to work with a good attitude, being friendly, and being helpful makes waiting tables better for you, but it also makes it better for everyone around you, including your tables. And when your tables get a better experience since you have welcomed, seated and served your guest properly you’re a better server, and you end up getting better tips. And at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about, right?
Waiters and waitresses know what it’s like to have a hectic schedule. You work unconventional hours, you work long hours, you work on your feet all day, and most often you have a lot more going on in your life. Whether it’s a family, a second job, school, or something else, you’re probably busy all the time. And when this happens, some things might slip through the cracks. You might throw on a wrinkled uniform shirt from your car, or your apron might have some dried milk from the espresso machine on it from last night, or your shoes might be a couple months too old.
It’s natural. It happens. To everyone. But if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Looking good, feeling good,” then you know what this tip is getting at. Taking an hour to clean house with your server related tools and uniform items can make you feel better at work, feel more comfortable at tables, appear more professional on the job, and yep, you guessed it: get better tips.
Wash and iron those uniform items, toss anything with a bad stain, clean out your server book of old receipts and papers, and consider maybe getting a new pair of waiter shoes if it’s been too long since you’d had a new pair. You might be surprised at how much more streamlined you feel. When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, people notice. Managers, fellow waiters and waitresses, and customers at your restaurant will see it in your outfit and in your personality.
These three things are relatively simple, and maybe some of you might find them to be common sense, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Learn that menu, be easy to work with and helpful, and tighten up your work tools, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel at work, and how your work as a waiter might improve by tonight.