Restaurant Server Tips and Tricks

What’s the difference between a good server and a great one? It’s easy to guess a bubbly personality that everyone gravitates toward, but the truth is far less sexy. The best restaurateurs know that their top servers are the ones who have been trained well and work hard. They know the ins and outs of the restaurant and make all of the guests feel special. Their skill and confidence set them apart.

But, where do you find these people? Good news, many probably already work for you, they just need a bit of extra training.

Here are a few of our favorite server tricks and tips that can make a big difference in the dining experience.

1- Remember customer’s faces and names.

You want customers to keep coming back to your restaurant and become those highly sought-after regulars. When your customers feel recognized, they feel more comfortable. Recognizing people’s faces is the easiest first step. And, as time goes by, servers can get to know regulars by name and establish a relationship with them.

2- Make valuable recommendations.

People are going out to eat as much for the experience as they are for the food. Train your servers to guide guests around the restaurant menu, answer any questions guests may have and guide them in their decisions. Make guests’ night out more than just a meal, but a memorable experience they’ll want to repeat.

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3- Maximize your steps while minimizing your trips.

Train your servers to make the most out of all their movements. One easy server trick? Rather than making multiple trips back and forth to the water pitcher, refill all the glasses in a section at once. Pick up multiple drink orders from the bar at once, or try and settle up more than one check at a time. An efficient staff makes your restaurant look like it’s operating seamlessly and effortlessly, even during a big rush.

4- Serve at the customer’s pace.

No one likes being rushed through their meal. Your customers came out to enjoy themselves and get a break from the bustle of their everyday lives. Let your customer set the pace and enjoy their meal. Obviously, you need to turn tables to make money and earn tips, but you also want customers enjoying themselves and wanting to return to your restaurant.

Restaurant server taking phone order

5- Share insight on regulars.

Regulars have a routine at your restaurant, and enjoying that routine is part of why they keep coming back. Encourage an atmosphere where your staff feels like a team and puts the customer ahead of any competitive spirit. Encourage them to share with each other any insights they may have about customers.

Remember, when you do get a server from good to great, nurture that relationship and keep them happy. Nothing is worse than training a server on how to be a good server only to lose them to another restaurant. Your servers are, after all, your best salespeople!

Why Your Servers Are Your Best Salespeople

You may not think of servers as salespeople in the traditional sense, but with the right training, they can help increase revenue, build loyalty and strengthen the restaurant brand.

Servers are the face of your restaurant. When it comes to deciding where to dine, customers have choices. No matter how great the location, the food or the ambiance, nothing ruins a meal faster than terrible service. Good service, however, can be a differentiator.

Good Service Matters

Just how important is good service? Take your online reviews as an example. There are many factors that play into a reviewer’s experience when rating a business; however, Yelp has found that customer service is one of the most important.

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Reviewers that mention “good” or “great” customer service are five times as likely to give a five-star rating than a one star. Better yet, an extra half-star rating overall causes restaurants to sell out 19 percentage points more frequently.

Restaurant staff management just got easier, employee turnover just became a thing of the past.

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How do you ensure servers are not only providing good service but are selling and upselling? The short answer is training those skills we discussed above! 

Often, restaurants focus only on product and process training. While it’s important servers have a deep knowledge of the menu and know how to operate the point-of-sale system, memorizing the menu isn’t enough. Train staff on different strategies that help them sell to a wide range of customers.

Here are three training tips to ensure servers are set up for success.

1- Encourage your servers to engage in meaningful conversation

Good service is not only about being attentive, and keeping water glasses full and empty plates cleared. The best servers are those that understand their customer’s underlying needs and make a personal connection. For example, if a customer asks, “What do you recommend?” and the server replies, “Everything,” the server eliminates further conversation.

dessert

How can you help? 

Instead, make sure servers describe two or three popular items in detail or have the recommend their personal favorites. Guests are frequently interested in the restaurant’s specials; however, many guests are not good at asking for them. Suggestive selling encourages customers to order more and increases the bottom line.

2- Make sure servers can speak intelligently about every dish on the menu

The more familiar servers are with the actual dishes, the more likely they are to sell them.

How can you help?

Make sure servers have tried multiple dishes on the menu and consider training them on which drinks pair best with which entrees. It’s important to have servers selling not just the highest margin menu items, but the items that actually bringing people back.

3- Train all your staff, not just the servers

kitchen staff

The waitstaff are not the only ones responsible for selling. Every staff member plays an important role in the customer experience, even if they’re not directly waiting on them. Take the hostess for instance. Small changes in their language can lead to big returns. For example, rather than saying, “Enjoy your dinner!” the hostess says, “We’ve got a great variety of draft beers, and an incredible pie selection for dessert. Enjoy your meal!”

By briefly pointing out specific food and drink items, the hostess creates a window of opportunity for the server to follow up with additional suggestions, increasing both the check and tip size.

Server Insights Are Valuable, Too

Knowing how to coach your servers to perform best is half the battle. Server observations are also incredibly valuable. After all, servers see firsthand what entrees customers devour and what items tend to go uneaten. It’s often hard to compile these observations into actionable insights.

  • Don’t know which items actually bring customers back?
  • Not sure which of your servers are best at upselling? 

The good news is that you no longer need to rely exclusively on passing observations and fragmented point-of-sale data to measure server and menu performance. Restaurant point of sale software can help you, and your staff, make the decisions that matter.

Not sure where to start with restaurant staff training when it comes to these server tips and tricks and training? How about here.

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Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.