Restaurant jobs involve more than just carrying plates and taking people’s orders. A server will have to juggle various responsibilities and remain calm and approachable. It can be a stressful and challenging first job, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best training grounds for young and inexperienced workers. Here are a few tips to help you become a better server.
One of the first things you must do is learn how to balance multiple plates, bowls, and glass tumblers on a tray. At home, try carrying different combinations of china or glassware and cutlery, and also practice setting them down and picking them up. Don’t worry if you’re slow to do these things at first—it is something you can master in the long run. You can also practice by watching how-to videos.
The most common question customers ask servers is, “what would you recommend on the menu?” People like getting recommendations, and most customers rely on others’ tips when choosing restaurants to visit or items to get off a menu. So, it’s good to know your restaurant’s menu like the back of your hand.
Having ready answers to customers’ questions makes you look like a more confident and professional server. Be aware of the restaurant’s specials, signature dishes, sides, and how much each one costs. Also, be aware of how the kitchen prepares the dishes and whether your restaurant has options for people with dietary restrictions. Finally, it won’t hurt to know wine pairings that go along with your mains!
Customers never forget excellent service. They appreciate it when you know who ordered which dish or can anticipate their needs. While it’s alright to write down customers’ orders, training your memory will help you become a more attentive server in the long run. You can use techniques like repeating the order to yourself silently or visualizing the plate.
Get to know your guests, especially the regulars; people feel appreciated when their favorite café knows their usual order. Many customers also like chatting with servers. A simple question like “how’s your day going?” could mean a lot to some guests.
Go beyond asking them about their day, too—if they mention something interesting, follow up on it when they come in again. Also, pay attention to families with kids. It is easier to entertain children, and happy kids mean grateful parents, translating to a bigger tip for you.
Good communication is a vital skill to have in a restaurant job. Some people are natural talkers, while others struggle to come up with something witty or endearing. Improving your communication skills will benefit you even if you decide to join other industries in the future, and the restaurant floor is a great training ground for interpersonal communication.
Take comfort in the fact that you aren’t expected to have entire conversations with guests—your goal is to make them feel comfortable. You can do this by being positive. Compliment them (if appropriate), make light conversation, remember your guests’ orders, and you’re all set.
You can also mirror what you see in veteran servers. If you have workmates you admire because of their ability to speak with customers, listen in—they probably have a “bag of tricks” and prompts they rely on that you can adapt!
A restaurant job is a nice first step into the world of work. It trains you in various skills, from customer service and conflict resolution to teamwork, persuasion, and active listening. Being a server is a great way to prepare for other industries, especially ones where you have to face clients or be the “face” of the company.
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