You And Your Trainer
Trainers are usually servers who are great at their jobs, this does not mean
they are professional trainers and sometimes they will miss important
points. After all, they are training you while serving tables and must
perform both duties at the same time, all while trying to make bill money
for themselves. With all that going on guess which is least important to
them. Assist your trainer to the best of your ability, allowing them more
time to give you the inside scoop of how to do it yourself.
Your trainer should have told you how to properly course out your guest's
meal when they trained you. If you have any questions about how things are
done in this particular restaurant, ask. If you are unsure about anything,
ask. Now is the time to figure things out, not when you are serving your
first few tables.
Trainers are invaluable assets, make friends with them if at all possible.
Often they will be able to answer questions as they come up after you are on
the floor serving tables alone.
Time To Serve The Guests
Your training is over and you are ready for your first solo day on the
floor. You know the menu, the ingredients of items, what they look like,
taste like and how long they take to prepare. You know the routine of the
restaurant and how things are done. You memorized what liquor is available
to you to up sell your guests and which wine goes with which meals. You know
how to use the computer and are relatively competent entering orders.
Now it’s time to start waiting tables, you’ve done your homework, you can at
least fake being confident for your guests. After all, you want them to know
they are in good hands with you. The more you know, the more you stand to
make. Your confidence will allow them to be at ease, to feel assured you
will make their dining experience a good one. After all, that’s why they
came to your restaurant. Making their experience memorable, in a good way,
is one way you can assure their return. Without repeat business any
restaurant, even in the busiest of markets, is doomed to fail!
Your First Table
You are aware of what’s going on in your station so you know immediately
when you get a new seating, right? Right! Greet your guests promptly. By
promptly I mean within thirty seconds. Keep in mind a greeting doesn’t mean
taking a drink order, simply letting them know you are aware of their
presence and will be with them as quickly as possible is all that’s
required. If it’s going to be a few minutes before you can greet them
properly, dropping off a glass of water goes a long way to make them happy.
At least they have something to drink and you are putting forth effort to
make them comfortable at your table.
When you make your first “real” approach to the table use the restaurant
guidelines. If they have not made it clear to you what greeting they want
you to use, use your own. An example might be, “Hello welcome to Restaurant
X, I’m Server Y and I’ll be serving you this X. Is this your first visit to
Restaurant X? Welcome back/short explanation of Restaurant X’s objective or
theme. Could I offer you a Specific Drink or Another Specific Drink?”
When I say specific I mean specific. Saying, “What would you like to drink?”
is very different than saying, “Could I offer you an Ice Cold Beer, maybe
you’d like one of our signature Margaritas mixed with Hornitos. We also have
a wide selection of wines; Wine X goes with almost everything on the menu.”
If they are interested in wine now’s the time to sell them a bottle instead
of a glass each. You might explain the bottle is more economical and if they
don’t finish it (in Tucson, AZ – know your own location’s liquor laws) they
can re-cork the bottle and take it home. Selling the bottle allows you a
chance to open it table side which will let them to see you are a
professional server as well as make it quicker and easier to refill their
glass. No trip to the bar and you can top off their glass as you go by their
table. Not having to pour their own wine keeps them from realizing they are
having two glasses and makes the sale of another bottle a good possibility.
Keep in mind I’m in no way telling you to over sell them alcohol, however, a
reasonable amount will make for a larger tip due to them being happier with
a bit of a buzz going on.
If the alcohol doesn’t interest them many restaurants have various other,
higher priced, non-alcoholic offerings. Smoothies, maybe a fruity lemonade
or bottled root beer are just a few examples.
If none of the above is appealing to them, offer the “standard fare”. “Would
you like a soda, some tea or maybe a cup of coffee? We offer Coke products,
black, green or raspberry iced tea.” Be quick to list which sodas are
available, by quick to list I do not mean list them quickly. I mean don’t
force them to ask what you have. Please don’t “rattle them off”. Say them as
if the guest has no idea what is available.
CokeDietCokeRootBeerDrPepperSpriteandLemonade is not the goal. We have Coke,
Diet Coke, Root Beer, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Lemonade is better. Best would
be: We have Coke; Diet Coke; Root Beer; Dr Pepper; Sprite; and Lemonade.
Give them time to consider each option
as you say it. It may take a couple extra seconds but often they will
interrupt you at the one they want and in effect save you time in the long
run. In addition to the time savings they won’t feel rushed! Double Bonus!
If they want water, offer bottled water. It’s better and they will enjoy it
more than tap water. In fact it’s one of the requirements for an
establishment to offer bottled water if they want a five star rating. Be
careful here though, you don’t want to insult. “Would you rather have Fiji
or just a glass of tap water?” – Dangerous! “Would you like Fiji, Voss;
sparkling or still, or would a glass of water be fine?” – Better but still
flirting with disaster. “Could I offer you a bottle of Fiji, Voss or
Pellegrino?” – allowing the guest to put “plain old tap water” into their
own terms or simply say no thank you thus letting you know tap water will be
fine. This is your best bet. It’s always better to allow the guest to lead
you into their comfort zone, let them dictate what they feel is proper to
them. This will also give you a feel for how to interact with them during
Once you have their drink order, take a moment to offer your favorite or a
specific appetizer (if applicable to your restaurant). “Would you like to
start off with an X or maybe a Y? X is a great X with its crisp… Y is one of
our house favorites.” If it’s easy to do, open one of their menus to the
appetizer section and highlight it with your hand before you go off to get
the drinks. Often this will result in an appetizer order upon your return
when none would have been ordered if they had not seen you have their
favorite, cheese sticks, on the menu.
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