This episode is a guest post.
Anyone who has worked as a server will know that it can be taxing but lucrative work. Whether you are working within fast food outlets, cafes, swanky restaurants or hotel catering, the tips you receive can often eclipse your hourly wage. But it is important to remember that customers will only reward you generously when the service you provide is of a high standard. There is etiquette to serving and waiting so here are some tips on how to do it well and ensure that at the end of the week your tip jar is overflowing:
Being accurate and well informed is the best way to put customers at ease and convey a professional image of yourself and your establishment. Learn the menu so that if customers ask questions you can have a quick and definite answer. Also take the time to clarify any orders or requests that you take – messing up an order is a sure fire way to ruin a customers dining experience. If you aren’t sure about something, don’t lie or bluff. And if asked to recommend any dishes then give accurate and truthful descriptions rather than simply picking the most expensive thing on the menu – you don’t want your customers to be underwhelmed by your suggestions.
Be Friendly (but not overbearing)
Knowing your boundaries is important in serving, although the level of your friendliness and style of serving will depend greatly on the type of establishment that you work in. Sometimes it is best to let the customer define the boundaries of their contact with you. Some people will want to chat with you whereas others prefer to be left alone. Similarly, some will want speedy service where others will want a slower, more relaxed service and ask you to explain everything. Either way, one of the greatest faux pas within serving is being invasive so you should try and maintain a professional relationship with the customer by avoiding physical contact, over familiar conversation and pestering them – a quick check on their table is important but after that let them signal if they need you.
Using your peripheral vision is key in serving. Sometimes customers will want to attract your attention with a simple nod or wave of the hand. Scanning the room regularly will help you pick up on these signals and avoid the irritation of customers having you rush by when they need your service. You should also make regular circuits of the room to give customers the opportunity to stop you should they need to. Being focused and alert will also avoid any mistakes with orders so in short, do not turn up for work overly tired or hungover!
Knowing the etiquette of dining is important. You should remove used plates, glasses and cutlery after they are finished with as it is unpleasant for customers to be surrounded by dirty dishes for long periods of time. But be aware that you should wait until everyone on the table has finished before removing these. It is considered bad etiquette to remove them sooner as the remaining diners may feel pressured to hurry their meals. If there is food left on the plate but the person looks like they have finished, always ask before attempting to take their dishes away. At the end of the meal always ask if there is anything else you can get for the table before offering the check; you don’t want to look like you are rushing the customers out so that you can get the next party in. Remember, never ask the customer is they want change – just give them it and let them choose if/how much they want to tip you.
Even if you don’t feel it, maintaining a happy, positive attitude and smart appearance is important in serving. Nobody wants to be served by a surly faced waiter/waitress with a bad attitude. If you look like you’re having a great time then there’s a higher chance they will too. Never fight over tables with other waiting staff and leave any bad moods or personal issues at the door. If you find that business is slow and you don’t have many people to wait on then find something else to do – there are always dishes to clean! Being productive will not only make your shift go quickly but will show your employer that you can use your initiative and are eager to work.