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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
 
Congratulations!
 
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 future ordering.
 
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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