Guess who just had a shitty server experience? If you guessed me, then you’d be correct. And if you guessed that it was on my birthday, you’d be some kind of psychic or something. Because it totally was.
My mom took my wife and I out for breakfast this morning for my birthday. I picked a new Bob Evans that opened up near us, only because I hadn’t been to a Bob Evans in a while and thought the change would be nice. I quickly remembered why I haven’t been to one in a while. Their food sucks. It all tastes fake to me.
Anyway, our waitress wasn’t horrible and she didn’t do anything outrageously bad, but she made some mistakes that I thought common sense would have prevented, but apparently not.
I was a waiter at a local pizza place for six months and then at an Applebee’s for six months. And while I learned some great pointers from both, mostly from Applebee’s, I learned most of what I know about being a server just by being served at restaurants. It’s not fucking hard people, so if you fail at being a server, you should end your life now because nothing in life is going to get any easier for you.
Here’s a quick how-to guide for being a server, no matter where you’re working. Do these things and you’ll be just fine.
First of all, you should have some sort of personality. You don’t want to overstay your welcome at the table, but you should have a good banter with your customers. Here’s an exchange I had with our waitress this morning.
Because my wife always takes forever to order, I made a joke about it to the waitress. She asked us if we were ready to order and I said my wife would need a few days before she would be ready. This, of course, pissed my wife off (even though it’s true) but the waitress said without missing a beat, “I’ll come back tomorrow.” And she left the table. Very nice.
You should also know that being an efficient server should be the top of your list. Don’t have excellent banter with your customers only to screw everything else up. That will just make you look like a douche.
Something I see not too very often (which is a shame) is the crouch move. I learned that from a server at Applebee’s and it works. When you get to the table, crouch if you can while talking to your customers. It makes them feel, subconsciously, that they are above you and it keeps them from having to look up at you. You’ll be more on their level and they’ll be more comfortable.
Make sure you get their order right the first time, when they order. When you leave the table there should be no questions or concerns with their order on your part. Get it right, and after they order ALWAYS repeat the entire order back to them and make sure they say that it is right. And don’t speed read through the order, make sure they can hear everything you say. This only saves your ass. Trust me.
Now, the first of two things our waitress fucked up. Always, ALWAYS go back to the table “2 bites or 2 minutes” after you give them their food to make sure everything is okay. This is so that if something is fucked up you can get it corrected right away instead of having your customer sit there with something wrong and not eating while everyone else around them eats. Our waitress gave us our food and we didn’t see her until we were all almost done eating. This lead to the second thing she screwed up.
Your customers should never go without something to drink. Personally, if I had to pick between either only eating or drinking for the rest of my life, I’d pick drinking. I love to drink. I’m always with something to drink, and if I’m not I panic. I love liquids of all kinds. This is what helped to make me a very heavy alcohol drinker back when I drank all the time, because I drink constantly. If I go to a restaurant to eat and I can’t get my refills myself, I expect to never have to wait very long, if at all, for a refill. I can’t eat without something to drink. Had I been the one paying and not my mom, she wouldn’t have gotten such a big tip just because of the drink situation. It’s that important to me. And I always tip well because I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I know what kind of work they do and for what money. But don’t give me a refill, you’re fucking with your own cash flow.
When our waitress finally came to check on us for the first time, I had gone ten minutes or longer without anything to drink. I stopped eating to wait on a refill. When she did come back to us, it was to greet the people who had been sat next to us and she asked if we were doing okay as she walked past us to their table. She didn’t even stop. My mom and wife said they were okay, which took up the amount of time I had to say I needed something. That’s how fast it all happened. That was my window of opportunity. I said I needed a refill, but I had to turn my head while saying it because she was walking past me as I said it, and she had already taken her mind off of us as I was saying it, so she didn’t hear me. After she took their drink orders, she was gone and I didn’t see her again until she brought them their drinks, and even then my mother had to yell to get her attention as she was damn near running away from their table after giving them their drinks. Only then did I get the one refill I got to have during breakfast, which wasn’t enough. Considering Bob Evans has thick glasses that appear to hold more than they actually do. Add the ice, and I got about two solid drinks from each glass before they were empty. Not cool.
Lastly, always offer desert before dropping off the check. This isn’t because people want you to do it, it’s because IT’S YOUR FUCKING JOB. Secret Shoppers look for that shit. I almost always got a perfect score on every “Shop” I’ve been through, because for one, I’m not an idiot, and two, I know how to be a good server.
You should always offer at least two of everything, just to be on the safe side. When you first visit a table, offer two appetizers and two drinks. Salad? Cheese sticks? Coke? Water? To have a little fun with it, like I did, offer Iced Tea and then Jack Daniels or something else completely off the wall. They can’t say you didn’t offer two drinks and you typically get a laugh out of them right from the start, which usually helps you have a good experience with them.
Then you want to offer two meals, which is a good time to tell them about specials or your favorite dish without sounding like a traveling salesman. At the end, offer those two deserts or even coffee. Some people like a cup of coffee at the end of a meal.
Now that you’ve had this helpful guide help you make it through another dinner service, here’s another tip. Don’t visit the table too much. I had a waitress once come to the table every other minute. It was ridiculous. People don’t want to flag you down for something, they also don’t want to shoo you away either. If you want to make frequent trips to your tables, don’t say anything. Walk by silently, look over the table and see if they need any dishes removed or any refills. If it looks as if they do, then ask if they’d like to have dishes taken away or drinks refilled. But if they need you, there you are. Let them say they need something without you asking. That keeps you looking like you’re not constantly checking on them and keeps them feeling as if they’re in control. Otherwise, a silent walk by is all that is needed. For extra pointers, if they look like they need a refill, just take them one. Don’t ask.
Oh, and pre-bussing your tables is definitely a must. I just mentioned it, removing dishes. Even if you have bus people working at your particular restaurant, that doesn’t mean the customers want to sit there with a bunch of unneeded dirty dishes taking up all of the table space. This also leads to dishwashers getting dishes done more effectively, bus people doing their jobs quicker and more effectively, and the restaurant running more smoothly.
If you have any questions on how to be a good server, or any questions over what I just wrote, ask. And if I forgot something or you have a suggestion, please say so. Serving food is not a hard job, seriously. It’s a shame servers don’t make more money in this country, but even still, it’s not a hard job to do. Just follow these steps and you’ll be just fine.
Now, go get me a refill.