Knowing how to be a good server requires understanding server etiquette. If you can master the manners of the dining room, you’ll get more done, be more effective, and earn more tips.
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The following server tips and tricks for waiters and waitresses will have you on the right foot, server etiquette wise.
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- Be pleasant. Greet everyone who enters warmly.
- Don’t refuse to seat three guests just because the fourth isn’t there yet.
- Be attentive, but not intrusive. Constantly scan the dining room, and if a guest needs attention—even if they’re not at your table—either help them or say you’ll send their server immediately.
- Your job is to help. Never say “I don’t know” to a guest’s question without immediately following up with “… but I’ll find out.”
- Be patient, and choose your moments. Never interrupt a conversation; wait for a lull to list the specials—and always include the prices. Don’t clear any plates until everyone is finished.
- Inform guests if the restaurant is out of something before they read the menu and order a dish you don’t have.
- Always bring all appetizers, entrees, and desserts at the same time. Never leave one guest hungry while everyone else is enjoying their food.
- Serve from a guest’s left, using your left hand, and clear from their right, using your right hand.
- Cutlery crossed in an X means a person isn’t finished with their plate. If the knife and fork are parallel, the guest is finished and you may remove their plate (assuming everyone else is also finished).
- Never touch a customer for any reason—especially if you’ve spilled something on them.
- If you ask a patron how their meal was and they say something isn’t right, fix it.
- Never blame a co-worker for something that goes wrong, whether the hostess, the chef, the busboy, or the weather is at fault. Just fix it.
- Don’t draw attention to the fact that a newly arrived guest may be dining alone. Ask if they have a reservation and if not, whether they would like to sit at the bar.
- Be discreet. Don’t have audible conversations with coworkers in customer earshot, or eat or drink where customers can see it. Don’t gossip about guests or co-workers within guest earshot.
- Never touch the rim of any glass. This means handling wine glasses by their stems (and silverware by the handles).
- Don’t let a wine, beer, or spirits bottle touch the glass you’re pouring into. Bottle dust and dirt is not a flavor enhancer.
- If someone orders a drink “straight up,” that could mean one of two things. Find out if they mean “neat”—served from the bottle at room temperature—or served chilled. This is because “straight” can mean a neat pour of dark spirits, while “up” and “straight up” typically describe a white spirit that is chilled with ice (shaken or stirred) and strained into a glass (typically a cocktail glass) e.g. a martini. ?
- Never reach across a guest to serve another guest.
- Avoid bumping into tables or chairs.
- Never clear a plate full of food without asking what was wrong. Something clearly was wrong.
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