Hi, my name is Matt, and I’ll be your host for the evening. Today, we dive into the seedy underground life of the average server at your local sit down restaurant. Please join us, won’t you?
Look, it’s not that hard. I used to serve and I was a damn good server, though most of the time I was just average at best. Successfully being average at serving will make you a damn good server, because really, that’s all that is needed to be one. Just be average. Just do those things you’re supposed to do. That’s it.
If you’d like to add extra specialties to your performance to enhance your customer’s experiences, by all means, and way to go! You’re going above and beyond (and even that’s not that fucking difficult).
This morning my wife and I stopped at a local eatery chain called Frisch’s, or if you’re on the West Coast, Big Boy. Same crap, same tartar sauce. Our waitress wasn’t good enough to be average. Now, this little “tutorial” would be a great thing to read if you’re young and looking to get a part time serving job somewhere for some extra cash while you go to school. Unfortunately, the woman serving us was most likely in her 40s and should have known better.
You see, the very basics of serving that would make you just an average server, are almost all common sense. It’s not hard to figure out. Yet she failed to do any of them. With that said, here’s what she did and what she should have done.
Taking The Order – Listen to what your customers order and place the order for them like they said it. That way, if the order is made the way they said and they complain, they only have themselves to blame. If you notice anything about their order that might be a problem, or you think of an easier way to put it in for them, like simplifying what they said into something else, talk to them about it before placing the order.
What she did: My wife ordered a Buddy Boy, but replaced the ham for turkey. When it came out, my wife was surprised to see there wasn’t a lot of turkey on it, only a half a slice of cheese, and it wasn’t warm. Our server, instead of putting the order in the way my wife ordered it, put it in as a turkey sandwich instead. It was cheaper, but my wife didn’t get what she wanted, and it upset her.
Additionally: It would probably be best to always write down what your customers say. Don’t try to remember everything. In all my years of being served and serving, I have found that that is just the best way. Anything can happen. I had ordered the breakfast bar and really wanted some French toast. There were a few pieces when we got there, but when I was ready to get some it was all gone. I asked the waitress to see if they were going to make more and never heard back from her, so we just left. She hadn’t written it down. The whole time we were there she looked like she was in a hurry and extremely busy, but she only had us and one other table to deal with.
I always wrote things down, because if the customer ever said something like, “Hey, where’s this and that at? I asked for it six hours ago!” You can look at your notes and if it’s not there you know they’re lying, so then you can apologize and make it right. Or you can discover that you did write it down but you forgot, so then you can apologize and make it right.
After Bringing The Food Out – I learned this trick at Applebee’s. After you deliver the food, give them time for two minutes or two bites, then go to them and ask if everything is okay. This is the perfect time to make any corrections or fix any problems. After that, let them eat. Keep an eye on them to see if they need anything. Doing a walk by is great. Just because you walk by doesn’t mean you have to say anything. If they need a drink refill, ask them if they’d like one, or just refill it. They don’t have to drink it, but if they have to ask for it, they’ll probably count that against you. Remember, they’re eating. For almost everybody who eats, it sucks if there’s nothing to wash it down with.
What she did: She checked on us immediately after bringing my wife’s food out, which was okay because I had ordered the bar and was already eating. But she checked on us again shortly after, which would have been a great first check up had she not already done it. And then we barely saw her for the rest of the meal. That meant that I only got a refill when I asked for it. My wife’s cup was less than half full and she didn’t refill hers when she refilled mine.
Additionally: Realistically, you should always keep your eyes on your tables to make sure everything looks good, and you should do that while walking by. Again, you don’t have to ask or say anything, just walk by and glance. If everything looks good, keep going and if they need anything, hopefully they’ll ask. And since you’re walking by every so often, you’ll be easy to get a hold of and they won’t have to ask another server to go find you or worse, to get what they need. Basically, if you have no problems and have to get no refills, you should only be by their table four or five times, max. Once to take their order, once to bring their food, once or twice to check on them, and once to give them their check. If you’re bringing refills or anything extra they might need, that would be a good time to make sure everything else is okay and make that one of your checkups.
Prebussing – Each and every time you go by after they have their food, you should be prebussing. That means you remove any dishes that are no longer going to be used. Empty bowls, plates, glasses, whatever. Don’t let that stuff pile up, or when they leave, the mess is going to be overwhelming and it’s going to look terrible to everyone else. Also, your customers are probably going to hate having all those dishes in front of them in their way. Prebussing might sound like a lot of work, but it’s a lot easier than getting it all when they’re done, and it helps get a bigger tip too. It also helps your dishwasher out, and if you have a table busser working that night, they’ll be appreciative of it as well. If they’re also the host/hostess, they’ll probably help you out by giving you more and better customers to thank you.
What she did: Not that. A table of three guys got up to leave shortly after we were sat, and I noticed they had a ton of dishes on their table, mostly empty glasses. There were something like six or seven glasses for just the three of them. I said to Jen that they better tip her for leaving a big mess. Shortly after we had been eating she mentioned how she knew why all those glasses were there. She then lifted the stack of dirty dishes we had accumulated to show me how our waitress wasn’t good for prebussing. I looked over at that other table and their dishes were still there. Again, our waitress only had two tables including us. She had plenty of time to clean that table off.
And that’s it. How simple is that? You’re just doing the very basics and your customers will love you for it. Make sure you thank your customers and tell them to have a nice day. Usually that’s what you do when you bring the check, but in our case she brought it when she brought my refill and left my wife thirsty. She never thanked us, but I didn’t expect we’d ever see her again. That’s why we left.
Years ago I was at one of Jeff Ruby’s fancy schmancy restaurants and it was the worst experience I’ve ever had at a restaurant. We had a big party, sure, but we saw so many different servers that we had no idea who our actual server was. And we saw them so infrequently that in order to get another beer I had to go to the bar to get it. Every time.
Oh, one last thing. When she brought our drinks out, she only gave us one straw and wasn’t going to bring another until my wife asked for one. Do yourself a favor and carry extra ones in your apron. You never know when you’re going to need one.
I could give you more tips on how to be an even better server, but if you can’t get these easy ass basics down, don’t bother getting that job. There’s nothing worse than a server bitching at the end of his/her shift about having not made much money when they were the reason they didn’t get tipped well.