How to Be a Good Server

Server tips and tricks for improving performance

Being a server at a restaurant is hard, don’t let anyone tell you different. If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know this all too well. The best servers must be excellent multi-taskers, friendly, great communicators, and part mind-readers. Additionally, your job performance can have a huge effect on your tips and the restaurant’s bottom-line.

A server’s personality is part of who you are and a big part of your job, however, things like how well you know the menu, wine pairings and how you interact with customers can be learned.

What does a server need to do to take their service from ordinary to extraordinary?

Continue reading to learn tips and tricks to be a good server.

What are a restaurant server’s responsibilities?

Your server responsibilities will vary depending on the type of restaurant you work at, but your primary duties are to take customer orders and deliver food and drinks. Your main priority is the customer experience. You must be performing at your best all the time and ready to build relationships with guests.

Although you don’t need any formal education to be a restaurant server, job training is required at most every restaurant.

Typical restaurant server responsibilities
  1. 1. Know the menu well enough to help diners make an informed decision and to upsell when possible.
  2. 2. Be well-organized. Being well presented, keeping track of tables, and remembering orders requires focus and concentration.
  3. 3. Inform the kitchen and bar of customer’s choices, as well as of any special dietary needs or special requests.
  4. 4. Greet customers and build a positive customer experience from when they sit down until the bill is paid.
  5. 5. Front of house tasks like setting tables, removing dinnerware, replenishing utensils and refilling glasses.
  6. 6. Clean up tables and dining areas, as well as tidy up any spills.
  7. 7. Process sales and bring the check to customers at appropriate times.
  8. 8. Be trustworthy as you determine total charges, issue the check, take payment, give the check and payment to the host or manager, and return a customer’s credit card, signature slip, and any change.
  9. 9. Know all of a restaurant’s sanitation, safety, and alcohol policies to make sure you aren’t committing any violations that would affect a health inspection.
  10. 10. Communicate between servers to chefs and hosts on meal progression time to help keep the restaurant running efficiently.
Tips for getting more tips as a server

As a server, you are in control of how much you get tipped to a certain extent. There will always be those who tip the same no matter what, but many patrons tip based on quality of service. This is where you can shine. Follow these suggestions for the best chance to improve your tip.

Greet your tables ASAP

Greet your table within a few minutes of them sitting down, even if it’s a brief acknowledgment to let them know you’ll be right with them. This goes a long way in calming your customers down when you are busy.

Connect with your customers

You shouldn’t just go through the motions and rehearse the same spiel with each customer. Great servers connect with each guest in their own way and those of you who can do this are likely to generate more tips, repeat customers and higher sales. Don’t forget to always introduce yourself and greet regulars by name, even offer up a joke for a laugh when appropriate.

Upsell customers on the experience

Upselling is part of the job and great for the restaurant’s bottom line, but you must do it in a way they isn’t pushy. Ask questions about your customers preferences and then make suggestions that fit their needs. If they like seafood, share with them your favorite seafood dish and a good white wine pairing. Giving context on how it will complement the guest’s meal and enhance their eating experience works better than just a recommendation based on taste.

Never make assumptions

A great server never assumes what a guest is going to order. You are your guests’ source of information. Answer any questions about your specials, new menu items, your personal favorite dishes and appetizers, as well as your wine list and let them decide.

Be efficient

Turning tables efficiently is key to a restaurant making more money, but there’s a fine line between turning tables and rushing guests. Follow the steps of service to help you stay within your restaurant’s average table turn time and keep a steady flow of customers and profits. Additionally, move around the restaurant efficiently so you are not wasting time doubling back to grab something you could have the last time. And, while taking orders, repeat the order to your customers to confirm accuracy and prevent mistakes later that will prove more timely later in service.

Handle campers diplomatically

Inevitably, you will have campers and as a server this is not good for your ability to earn more tips and the restaurant’s bottom line. As a server, you cannot be rude and make guests feel unwelcome. Sometimes, the best way to handle a camper is honestly. An example would be “sorry folks, I loved serving you but we have another table who made a reservation that needs this table.” Including a host/hostess or manager in the conversation may help too.

What makes a good server?

Be adaptable - The best restaurant waiters understand how to read their customers and tweak their approach to their needs. Adaptability also extends to lending a helping hand to your team when it’s needed, from helping bussers clear tables to running drinks for the bartender.

Be likable - A positive, can-do attitude is essential to winning over patrons and coworkers. A good server knows how to maintain their composure in front of customers, diffuse the situation and use that feedback to get better.

Know your menu - Thorough knowledge of the menu can impress customers. In case you get asked about a beer or other menu item you don’t know about, be willing to find out.

More server tips and tricks

Here’s a list of time-tested serving tips that all good waiters have used at some point shared by experts.

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