Regular Customers: 7 Ways to Keep Them Coming Back For More

SPYNEST RESTAURANT-BRASSERIE
Taken by Renato Spinazzola 2006

Something that gets me through my double shifts over the weekend is seeing the faces of the regular customers that come out to eat on a weekly basis.  Every restaurant has those regulars and if you’re lucky enough, they’ll often ask to be served by you.

Personally, I find that it helps me get through the day to spend a couple of minutes chatting with the woman who dines out on Sundays at lunch with a only a good book to keep her company or the family with four boys who come to eat after every soccer practice.  It makes me happy to know these regulars and seeing them leave feeling content with the quality of the food and satisfied with the service leaves me with a  great sense of accomplishment.  I know for a fact that they’ll be coming back.

Restaurants don’t always train their servers how to treat their guests so that they keep coming back, even though it’s a very important part of being a server. They’ll tell you to up-sell, to take care of your customers, and to make sure your timings are right, and of course owners and managers want people to revisit the restaurant, but they don’t always give their servers the actual tools they need in order to keep reeling them back in. So, whether they’re already regular customers or new diners, here are a few tips on how to keep the customers coming back for more.

#1.  Remember their faces

This is a pretty standard point, but important nonetheless.  If you’re a new server, remembering guests’ faces will help you to notice which customers keep coming back time and time again.  You may never end up serving them since they may already have a waiter or waitress that they prefer to be served by, but on the off chance that their server isn’t working one day you may want to remember them in case they’re seated in your section.

#2. Greet them – even if they aren’t in your section

Even if they aren’t seated at one of your tables, stop by and say hello.  If you’re walking by their table with your hands full then give them a polite nod or a dazzling smile.  Just the fact that you’re recognizing them as loyal customers makes them feel like special guests, which is one of the reasons why they’ll be returning to the restaurant.

#3.  Learn their names

Once you start to really know the customers who dine frequently at your restaurant, they may start to address you by your first name.  This is an incredible step forward for you.  It means that they trust you and know that you are an excellent server.  Once you’re comfortable enough with each other on a professional or even personal level, you may want to consider addressing them by name.  Whether you’re on a first name or last name basis with them, it creates a bond between the two of you that reassures them as customers that you will be treating them with the utmost respect while serving them.  A good way to get to know them by name without having to ask is to take a look at the name on their credit card.  When you’re handing them back the bill, take a chance by saying “Thank you so much, Mr. Smith!  I’ll see you next time.”  Also, if they often make reservations, ask the hostess for their name so that you can take a look at the reservation list before you start your shifts to see if they’ve reserved for that day.

#4. Memorize their food and drink orders

If you have the type of memory as I have, this will be a piece of cake for you.  Personally, I think it’s a challenge to remember customer’s specific demands while ordering and I treat it like a game of how many specific orders can I remember.  Which wine did they really enjoy their last visit?  She didn’t eat any of the croutons when she ordered her salad, maybe she doesn’t like them? He’s allergic to gluten, I’ll have to notify the kitchen.  Noticing the little nuances about their preferences will set you apart from all the other waiters and waitresses you work with.  Some customers ask for exactly the same meal each time they come, so take a mental note every time you take their order.  The quicker you are at memorizing it, the faster you’ll be able to say “The usual?” They’ll be extremely impressed and you’ll see a certain smile creep up on their face that shows that they think “This is why I keep coming back here”.

#5. Teach other servers how to serve them

Don’t be greedy with regular customers.  Once you’ve served new customers and you see that they’ve returned and are seated in another server’s section, share the knowledge that you have about them with their waiter or waitress.  The point here is to keep them coming back to the restaurant.  I understand, it’s a bit annoying that you did all the hard work to bring them back and now they are being served by someone else, but the whole idea is to bring in customers to the restaurant.  If they ask to be served by you then it’s definitely a bonus, but if not…don’t sweat it.  The last thing you want is for the guests to feel like the servers are fighting over them.  They may get the impression that you’re all only in it for the tips and that is definitely not the way to go about making them feel special.  So, let their server know how they prefer to be served, their favorite drinks, and any specifications about their order.  Feel free to pass by the table, tell them you’re happy to see them again, and let them know that you’ve informed their server of their preferences.  They’ll be touched that you went the extra mile, even if you aren’t their server.  Who knows, they may ask for you the next time they dine out!

#6. Make recommendations, suggestions, and exceptions

A lot of people dine out not because of the food specifically, but for the experience. They want to be wined and dined.  They take pleasure in trying new dishes, they live to savor different wines, and relish in the thought that their server is giving them an experience they’ll never forget. These customers will keep coming back if you are able to make them aware that you are genuinely concerned about their evening out. Depending on the restaurant, some things on the menu can be changed or modified on demand, special wines are sometimes kept in the back for V.I.P. customers, and exceptions can be made on prices.  It often takes an experienced waiter or waitress to know the rules of the restaurant for exceptions, so it’s often best to approach a manager or a more experienced server about these things.  For example, there is a regular customer who comes every Friday to be served by the same waiter.  In a conversation one day, they told the waiter that they have a favorite bottle of wine (a very expensive bottle, might I add) and that they were disappointed that we didn’t have it on our menu. The waiter then informed the manager that he’d like to surprise them with that bottle the following week, so the manager ordered that specific bottle of wine especially for them.  To say they were ecstatic is an understatement. Ever since then, the restaurant orders that one bottle for the Fridays that they come to eat, which keeps them coming back every week.  Now that, my friends, is the way to wine and dine your customers.  Know what you are able to suggest, recommend, and make exceptions for.

#7. Invite them to come back to see you

It’s a wonderful feeling when customers rave about the excellent service they received.  When getting compliments such as “Thank you for the great service!” or “This is the best service we’ve had at a restaurant!” accept them graciously and inform them that they may always ask to be served by you.  Make sure to give them your name so that they can ask for you before being seated, or better yet, write your name on the restaurant’s business card and let them know that they can reserve a table in your section the next time they come (if your restaurant allows that). Tell them that you’d be pleased to serve them and that you’ll see them at their next visit.  By inviting them back to see you, you may get those few extra tables, making it a very rewarding day.  Other servers will be wondering what makes customers keep coming back and asking for your section and the reason that they do is because you are doing your job perfectly.  You are an exceptional server!  An added bonus is if guests are frequently asking to be served specifically by you, the owners and mangers will notice and may start giving you better shifts and bigger sections.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone.  The customers are happy, the restaurant is happy, and you’re happy.

A Note to Managers and Owners

It’s important to provide your wait staff with the tips and tools they need in order to keep your customers coming back for more.  If you do regular meetings with your staff, please take a moment to encourage them to follow certain steps of service and focus on how to get and to keep regular customers.

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MUST HAVE: For Waiters and Waitresses

Portable Coin Dispenser

I, for one, hate it when change is loose in my apron.  I do carry a little change purse, but it quickly overfills and takes me forever to find the right change.

coin dispenser

So, I thought that this change dispenser would solve all my problems, and to tell you the truth it has.  Especially during a rush when a party of 10 all wants their complete change, this helps me out in so many ways.  Sometimes as a waiter/waitress, you just need to keep organized.

It does have a clip in the back if you want, but I just keep it in my apron as is.  I know this is full of Canadian money, but I’m sure they have the same thing all around the world.  Look out for it.  It’s a useful little tool.

Cheers!

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Serving Tables: Top 5 Signs That You Need To Pick Up the Pace

When customers are eating out at a restaurant, they expect a certain level of speedy service (depending on the restaurant they are dining at, of course.) When the service is too slow for their liking, there are ways that they will let you know – some more obvious than others.

During your shift, sometimes things just aren’t going your way.  As great as a server as you may be, there are times when things around you just seem to get out of hand.  It may take you longer to get to your tables when you’re in a rush, but there are key things to look out for while you’re running around to get to all your tables on time.

If you see any customers doing any of the following things, you know that you should be improving the speed of your service, so here are the Top 5 Signs That You Need To Pick Up the Pace.

#1. Your customers go up to the hostess stand to pay when they should be paying at the table

#2. Your customers have empty plates and empty water glasses in front of them and are just staring at you…waiting for you to clear everything.

#3. Your customers have enough time to stack up their dirty dishes on the table for you to pick up.

#4. Your customers leave because they waited too long to be greeted.

#5. Your customers get up to refill their own water glass with your water pitcher.

Some of this may seem like common sense to most of you, but to others they don’t realize the reason behind why customers may do these things.  As servers, we have to be aware of why our guests are acting the way they do.  Yes, sometimes people are just impatient and there is nothing we can do about it as servers, but other times we have to take a good look at ourselves and wonder if we are at the heart of the problem.  Were we neglecting them?  Were we spending too much time chatting with our coworkers that we put the service of our customers on the back burner? There is nothing wrong with accepting that you were in the wrong and then trying to improve on that.  Next time you’ll know to be more attentive to your customer’s needs and to pick up the pace.

 

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To Write or Not to Write? The Pros and Cons of Memorizing Orders

fan4228379043Some servers have the amazing ability of listening to a table’s order and remembering every small detail without ever touching a paper and pen.  Some can take orders of up to at least 10 people without even batting an eye.  No matter how many exceptions, replacements, or changes the customers make these waiters will somehow manage to get the order rung up .Personally, that just boggles my mind.

As a waitress (and a person for that matter) who’s afraid to forget the simplest little thing, I am constantly writing everything down.  My fear is that I’ll carelessly make a mistake and forget to order a glass of wine or order a steak well-done instead of medium-well.  So, with that fear deep-rooted in my system, I make it a point to write down all my orders even if I’m taking the order for a table of one.

Every waiter and waitress has their own system of taking down orders whether it be just doodling on your order sheet while memorizing every point or penning every single word the customer says.  If you have a great memory and are just starting out as a waiter/waitress in training, you may want to consider the pros and cons of memorizing orders.

PRO

The eye contact that you keep with a customer while taking their order is extremely important.  Some waiters just stare at their order sheet the whole time while writing down orders which leaves the customers feeling short-changed on the “service with a smile”.  Some are capable of writing without looking down too many times, which is an improvement at least, but memorizing your orders can give you complete control over your eye contact with your guests, creating a very friendly and open service for them.

CON

If you’re planning on memorizing orders, keep in mind that you are more likely to make mistakes.  The amount of times I’ve seen a server run up to the kitchen and say something around the lines of “My bad, guys. It was supposed to be the salmon, not the tuna” is staggering.  It could end up happening more often than you’d probably like to admit and can maintain a certain amount of hostility between you and your coworkers.  Not to mention the managers will be wondering how all these mistakes are affecting their food costs.

PRO

With no pen and paper glued to your hands at every moment of service, your free hands allow you to do other things while taking drink and dessert orders.  You could be tidying up your tables of any clutter, picking up empty beer glasses, or picking up menus.  The ability to multitask in the restaurant business is a big bonus on your side if you are able to do many things at once.  Plus, the length of the service with diminish slightly by just having the free hands to clear the table and memorize coffee orders at the same time, making it easier to turn your tables and serve more customers.

CON

Sometimes, as you’re leaving a table to enter the order into the computer system, someone may stop you along the way preventing you from getting to the computer while the order is still fresh in your mind.  Maybe a customer will have a complaint and stop you for a whole 5 minutes before giving you a chance to ring up the order.  What happens then?  Your mind gets completely distracted by the complaint that you stand at the computer holding your head thinking “What did she order? What appetizer did he want?  Did he want fries or rice with his steak?”.  Sometimes you’ll remember…sometimes you’ll just forget.  Forgetting an order can be extremely embarrassing and seems pretty unprofessional if you need to go up to the guests a second time to ask that they ordered.

PRO

Memorizing your orders can save a lot of time when it comes to ringing up your order.  Instead of constantly referring to your order sheet, you’re simply punching in your orders without missing a beat to glance down at what you’ve written.  This can save time on your service and once again allows for a quicker service, which means your customers are receiving their orders sooner than other therefore satisfied with the fact that they aren’t waiting longer for their food to arrive.  Every second or minute saved counts for a lot in the restaurant business.

CON

Not writing down an order can make your customers nervous.  One night I went out to eat at a restaurant.  We were a table of 6 people and the waitress just took our order by memory.  I asked for a few things on the side since it was my first experience at that particular establishment and wasn’t sure about the sauces offered with my plate.  I felt worried that may order may be wrong, but decided to give her the benefit of of the doubt.  When it came time to the appetizers, I received a salad instead of the soup and my steak came turned out medium-well instead of medium-rare.  In my mind, if you aren’t going to write anything down then you’d better make sure that you’ve remembered everything 100%.  Sure, people make mistakes and I understand that more than anyone, but other guests may not be so forgiving.  When customers see that you’re relying solely on your memory for taking orders, they have that knowledge to use against you when things go wrong and may even approach a manager about it, suggesting that you write everyone down from that moment on.

CON

When taking orders, servers know that it’s best to repeat orders back to the customers as they go along to avoid any mistakes or misunderstandings.  When an order comes out wrong, your manager may ask you something around the lines of “Well, what did the customer order?”.  Your answer may be “She definitely said she wanted the mashed potatoes, but when the plate got there she said she asked for a baked potato.”  The manager might then proceed to ask what you had written down on your order sheet in order to see if you either a) punched it in wrong or b) wrote it down wrong.  When you’ve done everything by memory, the manager is then just taking your word for it and may jump to the conclusion that you’re the one who made the mistake.  If you’re repeating the order back to the customer and writing it down properly, he may then assume that it’s just the customer creating a problem for nothing and will be more inclined to believe you when you say you got the order right.

Remember…

Everybody makes mistakes, even if you’re the type of server to write each order down on paper.  The thing to keep in mind is that you’re only human, so do the best that you can no matter which order-taking process you choose to use as a server.  Think about what kind of waiter you want to be and go from there.

Good Luck!

The Waitress Confessions

 

 

8 Tips on How to Train a New Waiter/Waitress

Waitstaff Portrait
Photo Credit: DWinton 2005

There’s a certain sense of pride you should have if your boss has assigned a server-in-training to you.  It means that you’re doing your job well and are capable of showing someone else the ropes.   So take a moment to congratulate yourself: you are a great server!

But what happens when you’re unsure of how exactly to train someone?  You may have been doing the job for so long that you know everything as if second nature, so teaching someone else without forgetting something can be a little nerve wracking.  Some restaurants have a strict training policy, but others kind of just throw you into it, so be prepared no matter which category your job falls into.

Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind when training:  does the person you’re training have experience…or not? At first, I would suggest treating each new employee as if they’re learning for the first time and work from there.  The more experience you see, the less you’ll be teaching about how to be an actual server and the more you’ll be teaching about the working system of your particular restaurant.

Either way, here are a few 8 tips on how to train a new waiter/waitress.   If you’re a server-in-training and need a few tips, you may want to read our article titled 9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress In Training

TIP #1:  Get organized

There are so many things that need to be taught that some of us don’t even know where to begin.  If you have enough notice from your boss on when the first day of training is, take some time before then to make a list of everything that needs to be shown to the newcomer.  What’s the first thing you want to show them?  What are the most important things that the trainee should memorize?  What do they need to learn first in order to learn the way the restaurant is run?

Here’s an example of a list of priorities, starting with the first day of training:

  • Menu Knowledge
  • Wine List Knowledge (if applicable)
  • Floor Plan Knowledge (table numbers, bar area, sections, etc.)
  • Tour of the restaurant (so the trainee knows where everything is: bathrooms, stock rooms, fridges, stations, etc)
  • How to clock in and clock out
  • Cleaning tasks and side works
  • Tables (presentation, cleaning, preparations, etc)
  • The “running” system of the restaurants (how to run drinks from the bar, salads, soups, hot food, etc)
  • How to greet customers
  • How to take orders
  • How to ring up the orders (POS System)
  • Any steps of service (check backs, recooks, how to handle any complaints, etc)
  • Serving coffee and dessert
  • Presenting the check
  • Closing duties
  • Closing cleaning tasks and restocking
  • Sales report at the end of the shift
  • Rules of the restaurant

Make sure you follow a certain schedule so that they training makes sense.  You don’t want to start showing them how to take orders if they haven’t even begun to memorize the menu (although, in my opinion, the trainee should have at least 85% of the menu memorized by their first day of training. Tip of the Day: Learn Your Menu.)  Following your list of priorities will help you make sure you didn’t skip a step.

TIP #2:  Shadowing

A very important step.  Have your trainee “shadow” your every move.  Before they even take an order, have them watch every step you take.  Tell them to note how you speak with the customers, your tone of voice, your facial features, your posture, etc.  Every little thing is important and if your restaurant has a way of presenting specials, up-selling promotions, or even describing the catch of the day make sure that your trainee knows the proper way to do these things.  Consistency is very important in the restaurant business.

Also, when it comes time to picking up the speed and running drinks and food, it’s important that your trainee recognizes the pace of your particular restaurant and learns how to keep up with it.  At a quickly paced restaurant, the last thing you want is for your trainee to get stuck in 2nd gear when they should be shifting it up a few notches.  Tell them to keep up with you and that you want then 2 steps behind at all times.

TIP #3: Answer their questions

No matter how naive the question may seem, just answer it in a polite way.    It may seem like common sense to you, but remember that every restaurant is different and they just want to know how things run at their new place of work.  The more questions they ask, the better.  Take note, however, if they are asking the same questions over and over.  They are there to learn and soak up as much knowledge as they can, but if they can’t retain any of the things you are teaching them, it may be a red flag.

TIP #4 : Ask questions

This is the best way for new servers to learn, especially when it comes to learning the menu.  Ask them to describe certain dishes for you.  If they stumble or come out with a wishy-washy description, show them the correct way of describing the restaurants meals and tell them to practice.  Ask them to name all the beers the restaurant offers on tap.  They may respond, for example, like this “Uh…Heineken…um, Guinness….” so be prepared to show off a little and show them how you list off all the beers.  Asking questions before customers get a chance to ask them is the best way for them to prepared when it comes time for them to take orders.  Feel free to ask questions out of the blue and don’t be afraid to put them on the spot.  During a rush, they’ll need to be prepared so catch them off guard so when the time comes they aren’t flailing for answers.

TIP #5: Role play

Pretend you are a customer and go through a dry run of taking a table’s order.  Have them come up to you (pretending to be a customer) and act out a service.  If you think it’s silly…well it is a little.  But it’s the best way for you to get an idea of how they will be once faced with real customers.  Remember, they will be practicing on your tables, so you want them to make as little mistakes as possible.  A dry run will help you to correct any bad habits, mistakes, and allow you to make suggestions.  Also, it will give the trainee a chance to get out their nerves before heading over to their first table.

TIP #6: Shadow them

Once the training has been done and you are ready to see them in action,  let them take the reigns for a while.  Inform them that they will be handling everything from A to Z and you’ll be following them to make sure that they are serving the guests properly.  Be ready to jump in when they aren’t sure and take mental notes on anything that they are doing that doesn’t meet your restaurant’s standards.  At the end of the day, go over what they need to work on, point out any strong points or things that they did perfectly, and ask if they have any questions or comments about how they believe their service was.

TIP #7: Give them space

If your trainee is catching on quickly and is starting to really get a feel for the job, give them a bit of space.  Back off and let them take the wheel for a bit.  See how they do on their own.  Let them make a few minor mistakes so that they will learn (while making sure it doesn’t affect your customer’s dining experience of course). Make a few comments here and there such as “Hurry it up a bit” or “You forgot to order their drinks” and ask a few questions to help guide them such as “What are you forgetting on that table?” or “What’s your priority right now?”.  But other than that, pretend that they are working alone.  It’s the best way for you to see if they are capable of handling the job and the best way for them to get a real sense of what is expected of them.

TIP #8: Teach them how to Spoil Their Customers

Every restaurant has a different way of spoiling their customers.  Whether it be offering a drink on the house for a regular customer or going above and beyond the steps of service, there are always ways that you can teach someone how the restaurants customers prefer to be served.  Your trainee may have worked at a previous restaurant that wasn’t as keen about giving good service as you, so make sure they live up to the standards of the restaurant.

Now you’re all set for the basics of training a new waiter/waitress.  Of course, there are so many other little details, but this will help give you an overview of what to do and tricks on how to get the best out of your trainee.

Good luck!

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Waitstaff Portrait

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Dining Etiquette: 5 Tips on Placing Your Order

2013-04-24 15.34.30 (1)“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”
– Will Cuppy 

Before heading out to your favorite restaurant for a lovely evening out, there are a few things that you may want to consider in order to have a better dining experience. Before a server comes to the table, keep in mind these simple tips in order to make your life easier…and your server’s as well.

1. Do not order unless you are ready to order.

This unfortunately happens very often in restaurants.  A server goes to a table and asks “Are we ready to order?” and the guests reply with an enthusiastic “Yes!”.  The problem with this is sometimes you actually…well, aren’t ready.  The server then prepares themselves to write down your order and stands there while you desperately glance through the menu, trying to find something that suits your fancy.  Feeling pressured to make a decision? Don’t.  Ask the server to come back in a few minutes, giving you enough time to make your choice and giving them time to server their other customers as well.

2. Know and remember what you are ordering.

Sometimes menus can be overwhelming, especially if you are dining out at a restaurant you’ve never eaten at before.  Make sure you take a good look at the name of the plate you wish to have, along with the description.  That way when your plate arrives there are no mishaps.  As servers, sometimes we witness diners who exclaim “This isn’t what I ordered!”, to which we reply something along the lines of “Did you order the barbecue chicken?” and their reply is usually “Yes.”  The waiter or waitress then has to explain that this is the plate you ordered.  It wastes a bit of time, plus makes you nervous thinking that the server got your order wrong.

Also, it sometimes happens with larger groups that a server will say “Caesar salad to start?”, glancing around at all the diners looking for a hand raise or look of recognition and gets none.  Customers sometimes forget that they had a salad to start, forcing the server to take the plate back to the kitchen as a mistake.  What happens then? You may miss out on your starter salad.

Be aware of what you have ordered (the same goes for bottles of wine – check that the server has brought you the correct bottle).  It makes things easier for everyone.

3.  Place your orders one at a time.

As servers, we want to be sure you have your complete order, knowing 100% what you ordered (including all exceptions and specific demands).  Our priority is to make sure we understand and know what you as a diner are ordering.  Problems arise when diners all speak at once to place their order.  Speaking out of turn will draw the server’s attention to you, in which case they may miss what the other person is saying.  If you have any changes to make after placing your order, please wait patiently until the server is finishes writing down the order and then ask if you can make a change.  You want your order to be taken correctly, right?  Then speak one at a time, letting the waiter as the correct questions per order, and make changes later.

4. Be patient and understanding.

There are some demands that are physically impossible to ask of a waiter.  Be patient and understanding of their limitations.  For example, if the server has not yet left the table after taking the order of a large group, think twice before asking the server if the plates are arriving soon.  If they haven’t had the chance to leave the table yet, then no order has been placed with the kitchen or bar.  A great example of this is in our post titled True Story: An Impossible Demand.

5.  Try to stay seated at the same place.

The way some restaurants work is with a certain system that allows them to know and remember which customer ordered which item.  Some restaurants call it “Seats” or “Pivots” or “Clients”.  Not only do restaurants have specific table numbers, but also numbers designated per seat/customer.  If you get up and constantly change seats, it will confuse the wait staff, especially when you are in a large group.  It will be hard for everyone to know where you are sitting when it comes time for the food arrive, drinks, appetizers, and most of all the bill.  If you know you will be moving around a lot, inform your waiter of which seat or chair is actually yours and when your drinks, food, or bill arrive, always go back to your seat.  It will help the waiter stay organized.  Also, if you are changing seats for the entirety of the evening, inform your waiter so they will be up to date with the seating arrangements.

Sometimes, it’s the little things…

We all have to keep in mind that sometimes the littlest things can make a big difference in our experiences.  Following these steps will not only improve your dining experience, but there will be less mistakes and mishaps.  Remember, if you are ever unsure of anything, the waitstaff is there to help you with anything you may need.  Feel free to ask questions :)

Enjoy your meal!

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Work Ethic: Minimize Your Trips and Maximize Your Steps

blurry restoWaiters and waitresses are constantly being thrown all around the restaurant.  Fetch this, pick up that, take orders, run plates, etc.  It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle and can wind up looking like a chicken with its head cut off.  The key to being a productive and organized server is learning to Minimize Your Trips and Maximize your steps.

What does it mean to “Minimize Your Trips”?

Well, let’s say your Table #1 needs more water and Table #2 needs the debit machine to pay.  There are two ways you could possible go about this.

You could:

  • Get the water pitcher
  • Walk to Table #1 to fill up the glasses
  • Go back and put the water pitcher away
  • Pick up the debit machine
  • Walk to Table #2 and have them pay
  • Put back the debit machine and continue on your way

Or you could:

  • Pick up the water pitcher and debit machine
  • Fill the water on Table #1
  • Have Table #2 pay
  • Bring the water pitcher and debit machine back where they belong and continue on your way.

The second way is most obviously the better route to take. Going back and forth for things can end up wasting your time (and your customer’s time) which leads to a slower service, less sittings, therefore fewer tips in your pocket.

Take a good look at your section and your tables from afar, see what needs to be done, and plan accordingly.  You will always find yourself at one point or another going back and forth for things, but sometimes that’s out of your control (ex: a customer asks for another beer at the last second).

What does it mean to “Maximize Your Steps”?

Make every step you take count!  Walking by a table that is finished eating? Clear as much as you can.  Bringing water to a table? Walk by all your tables to refill water glasses before you put the pitcher away.  Do everything you can possible do while walking through your section before walking off to the bar or the back of the house.

this also applies to running drinks and plates.  Don’t just take one table’s beverage from the bar.  Take the initiative and bring several drink orders at once.  It clears the bar faster, the customers get their drinks quicker, and you don’t have to keep going back and forth for things.  Maximizing your steps helps minimize your trips.  Is there only one drink order at the bar?  You should be checking if there are any plates to run from the kitchen.  Keeping that “hands full” attitude will grab your managers attention, letting them know you can handle many different things at once. Remember, maximizing your steps helps minimize your trips.

Different restaurants, different rules…

Of course, these things vary from each restaurant you may work at.  In general, you do want to organize the priorities in your section without feeling like you keep going back and forth..back and forth.  Sometimes you just need to take a second and take in all the things you need to do, put them in order, and find the most effective way to get each task done.

Good luck!

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Tip of the Day : Learn Your Menu

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” ~ Albert Einstein

Are you training to be a waiter or waitress?  Before you start, make sure that you know your menu inside out.  It will help speed up the process and you’ll have an easy time taking the guests’ orders.

Didn’t get a menu to study?  Sometimes restaurants have their complete menu online so you can get an idea of the meals that they have. Get a head start and stand out and shine among the other servers!

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For more tips as a training waiter or waitress, see “9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress in Training”.

True Story: The Grand Marnier Mishap

As a waitress, I know when a waitress serving me is trying to fuck me over.

Last night, I ordered a Grand Marnier, no ice. The waitress looked at me with a dumb look on her face and said “A what?!”. I repeated it patiently to her, asked again for no ice and she walked off. I waited 15 minutes…no drink. I saw her walking by and I asked her nicely if the drink was coming. “Oh yeah!” she said, and ran off. Okay…she forgot about it. It happens.

She came back with a Grand Marnier that had obviously been sitting at the bar too long because the ice I asked her NOT to put in had pretty much melted all the way, making it a very light orangish color. Gross.

“Uh—I asked for no ice.”

“Oh…sorry” she said and placed the drink in front of me.

I was shocked. I asked her to get me one with no ice, she rolled her eyes and walked away. She came back 5 minutes later with the same drink. She had obviously just scooped the ice out with a spoon. Gee thanks…that makes it a lot better. So I said to her “Did you just go and scoop out the ice?” “Yeah.” she said. *sigh*….Well at least she was honest. I told her to take it off my bill and went to get a Grand Marnier (no ice) at the bar. They seem to actually know how to listen to an order.

The Waitress Confessions

The Importance of Getting to Work On Time

Resto Red ChairsIt seems simple, doesn’t it?  Getting to work on time.  Although, for some people it just never seems to happen.  That coworker who strolls in 15 minutes late without a care in the world or the vet waiter who’s been there for 16 years and feels they can do whatever they want whenever they want.  We see it all the time and sometimes we even notice it in ourselves.

Tardiness drives me absolutely insane.  You know why? Because it’s one of the easiest things you can do to gain the respect of your boss and coworkers without them even realizing it.  Plus, it also has advantages for yourself.  Sometimes employees don’t really seem to grasp the importance of being on time and what they don’t realize is the benefits that come along with it.

First, you have more time to prepare for the day ahead.  That’s the real reason why the managers want to see you there on time (or even early).  In the restaurant business, you never know what can happen.  A group of 25 people can walk in at any minute and at all times you want to be ready for whatever rush is thrown at you.  When you get into work early and all systems are a go, you’ll look more professional when that unexpected rush comes in.  Your boss will be impressed.  Who knows, you may even score a bigger (or better) section next time.

Another reason to be on time is for those odd days where tables start coming in early.  This is mostly for shifts where you’re getting on the floor and there is already a waiter.  If he’s buried or in the weeds then hostesses will start seating people in your section giving you a couple extra tables for the night.  It helps out your coworker, plus puts a bit of extra cash in your pocket.

Last, it just shows a certain amount of respect for you job.  Your bosses want to see that you care about the restaurant and actually want to be there.  If they see an employee slacking off, coming in late, it shows them that they’d probably be better of hiring someone else.  If you value your job and want to keep it then make a point of getting to work on time for every shift.

If you are going to be late for important reasons, pick up the phone and call.  It’s the least you can do, but don’t make a habit out of it.  For emergencies only.

Do you think it’s important to be on time for your shift?  Leave a comment or tweet us!

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True Story: An Impossible Demand

This past Sunday, I went in for the lunch shift at the Hot Spot and got a table of 4 people.  They seemed nice enough as I approached them for their drink order, but as time passed I realized that these would be difficult customers to satisfy.  As nice as they were, they were extremely specific (and altogether picky like crazy) about their order and I worried that they may complain about everything from the timing of the service to the quality of the food.

First of all, they wanted their Brazilian Coffees to be hot.  “Put the coffee in the microwave if you have to,” they said.  So that’s what I did.  As much as I hate to nuke things in the microwave, I did what they asked.  The coffee seemed hot enough as I took it out and poured it into a sugar rimmed glass mug.  They didn’t want whipped cream, so I filled it to the top and took it to the table.

I set the coffee down in front of the two people who ordered it.  One of them took a sip right away and said it wasn’t hot enough, so I brought it back to heat it up for a minute and a half.  The coffee was boiling and bubbling, so I told the gentleman to be careful.  He touched the mug and seemed happy with how hot it was.

Then, the woman with the other coffee said (in a very disgusted voice, might I add) “Is there even any alcohol in here?”.  I was a little stunned and told her that I had put the correct amount, but if she wasn’t pleased with it i could get her some more.  “Well, yeah. I mean, there’s no alcohol in here at all.”

I sighed to myself.  Of course there was alcohol.  I’m not going to cheap out on that, but I also can’t make it half alcohol and half coffee (like some people may make at home).  “I’ll get you some more, ma’am.  It won’t be a problem at all,” I reassured her.

Before I could leave and get the alcohol for her, another man at the table told me they were ready to order, so I set down the tray I used to bring the drinks and took out my pad of paper and pen.  Their order was complicated and they were changing things around on the menu to suit their preferences, but I didn’t mind as much since they were the only table in the restaurant.  I also didn’t feel like arguing with them that normally we don’t put ketchup on our burgers.

As soon as I was taking the menus from them and about to walk away from the table, the woman with the coffee said “Excuse me, but is that alcohol coming?”

Cue the crickets.

I didn’t speak for a moment because I was shocked at her question.  I could not believe what she was asking.  How could the alcohol possibly get to the table without me leaving to go order it, let alone get it from the bar.  Did she think I could have sent out a discreet signal to someone to get it right away?  Did she think I could somehow communicate with the bar that she wanted more? How could she possibly think that it could get there if I never even left the table?  It seemed like such a ridiculous question to me.  I guess some people don’t have much common sense in how things work.  It is impossible for me to get something if I haven’t even left the table.  If I could use The Force, I would.  But I can’t.

So I said “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I haven’t even had a chance to leave the table yet, but I’ll get it for you right away.”

“Well, don’t forget it.” She replied.

All I could do was repeat “I’ll get it right away ma’am”.

So I pretty much ran to the bar and prepared it for her and took it to the table.

“How is it?” I asked as she added it to her mug.

“It’s good enough, I guess.” She said.

The rest of the service was pretty much the same way.  Complaints about the soup not being hot enough, the fact that I didn’t bring bread to the table (we only bring bread if the customers ask), asking what we give for free for birthdays and saying a chocolate cake wasn’t good enough, etc.

Every waiter has had customers like this.  And sometimes it’s a little infuriating.  People need to realize that we are only human, we only have two hands, and we are not mind readers.  I really tried my best, and it still didn’t seem good enough.

TIPS FOR CUSTOMERS

Think about what you are asking from a server.  Is your demand physically impossible? If so…then take a moment to maybe rephrase your request.

TIP FOR SERVERS

Try to keep your cool.

The Waitress Confessions

9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress In Training

The Italian Wine and Food Advocates Alfresco DinnerSo, you’re getting ready for your first day of training at a new restaurant, huh?  Whether you’ve been working as a server for years or just starting out, there are a couple of things that you should always take into consideration before starting your first day of training.

If you need tips on HOW to train a waiter or waitress, read more in our article “8 Tips on How to Train a New Waiter/Waitress”.

If you’re a new server, don’t forget, be prepared to work…and to work hard! Training is all about seeing what you’re made of and testing your limits.  Serving tables is in a league all on its own!

Here are 9 tips that might just help you land the job.

TIP #1  Be on time.

Better yet, show up early.  Yes, I know it’s incredibly obvious and trust me, it feels completely ridiculous saying it, but I cannot stress this enough.  Punctuality is essential when starting a new job.  It’s one of the first impressions your employers and coworkers will get of you.  Show up late and they’ll all think that a) you’re disrespectful and b) don’t really care about the job.  If anything happens and you can’t make it on time or can’t show up at all then pick up the phone and call them.

TIP#2  Listen to your trainer.

Even if you’ve seen it all and you are highly qualified for the position, listen to what your trainer has to say.  Different restaurants work with different systems and you really need to pay attention to the differences between this job and your previous ones.  The whole “Yeah, yeah. I know.” attitude should be left at the door.  Let your trainer explain things first and then ask questions later.

TIP #3   Pick up the pace.

When starting at a new restaurant, some servers have a hard time picking up the rhythm of the restaurant and the speed of the service.  When changing to a busier restaurant, it’s time to get your ass into gear and pick up the pace. Walking around the restaurant like you’re taking a nice stroll in the park is not going to work.  Keep in mind – your trainer will push you, and rightfully so.  Keep up with their pace and don’t waste time.  If you find your trainer moving quicker than you then you’re the one who needs to adjust your rhythm.

TIP #4  Be ready for grunt work.  

You’re new, right?  So you’ll have to a do a lot of the crappy jobs that people hate doing like preparing linens, silverware and glassware, filling condiments, restocking napkins, etc.  Your trainer will make you clean their section, run their plates, and do any other cleaning duties or tasks they may have in store.  You’ll have to really prove yourself, so don’t ever slack off or sneak off in back for a cigarette.  Get rid of that cellphone and concentrate on working and working hard.  Don’t even think about complaining.  Your trainer and employers may be testing your limits to see how much you want the job and how much you can take.  Also, you may get all the crummy shifts and hours that nobody wants.  Be ready to take whatever shifts/sections/tables they give you.

TIP#5  Remember: Staff members will be hard on you.

Because you’re working in an industry where your coworkers rely on tips as their income, other waiters and waitresses will be hard on you if you make mistakes at their tables or if you’re in their way.  It’s very possible that you’ll get snide comments or brushed off so be prepared for that.  If you’re doing something wrong, chances are someone is going to tell you.  Whether you’re garnishing a beverage with a lime instead of a lemon or bringing plates to the wrong table, someone will voice their disapproval and it may not be in the nicest way possible.  Be ready to have a thick hide and learn from your mistakes.

TIP#6  Avoid asking questions that make you look bad.

I don’t mean don’t ask questions.  You should be asking a lot of questions to show a genuine interest in learning the job and the correct way of doing things.  What I mean is you should avoid asking questions that make it seem like you don’t care about the job or don’t even want to be there.  Questions like:

  • “What time do I finish?”  This is my most hated question.  You’ve barely been working 5 minutes and you’re already thinking about when you’re leaving.  If you need to know for important reasons, that’s different, but find a way to make it seem like you don’t want to get out of there as soon as possible.
  • “Do I really have to do that?”  Your trainer is telling you that you need to do something. Just do it!  They wouldn’t be telling you “You have to clean the chair legs before every shift” if you didn’t need to be done.
  • “Can I eat something?”  Um, you’re at work.  You’re supposed to be working, not eating.  Eat before or after your shift, not in the middle of training.
  • “What kind of discount does the staff get?”  This one isn’t as bad, but don’t ask it in the middle of training.  You have more important things to learn other than the bonuses of working at that restaurant.
  • “Can I take next weekend off?”  The answer is no.  Never ask for time off when you’re starting at a new place. If it’s something of importance, ask your employer and explain the situation to them.  If it’s for your friend’s birthday party, keep that to yourself and do the hours they need from you.

TIP #7  Know your schedule.

Not showing up for a training because you didn’t know you were working is unacceptable.  It’s not only frustrating for the restaurant, but for you as well.  They will  most likely not have you back.  When getting your schedule for training, make sure you double check that you have the correct days and hours.  Get the phone number to contact the person giving you your hours so that you can call in case you’re unsure.  Be prepared.  There are no excuses.

TIP#8  Focus on your job

The worst thing you can do is start yapping away with coworkers about what you did that weekend or telling your life story to your trainer while you should be paying attention to your customers and what you should be learning.  Talking and telling stories will distract you from ordering food on time, seeing new tables being seated in your section, and remembering customer’s requests.  Stay focused.  Be friendly, but your priority is work, not socializing.

TIP#9  Smile.

It’s really important to show that you’re happy to be there and working so smile!  Also, it shows everyone that you are capable of having a good relationships with the customers, that you’re friendly, and easy to work with.  A smile can go such a long way so don’t forget to let it shine.

Remember…

Getting trained to be a server at a restaurant doesn’t necessarily mean you got the job, so make sure you’re constantly doing your best.  Hopefully these tips will help give you a bit of perspective before starting your first day.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or if you have any tips of your own you can contact us  or tweet a tip to @WConfessions

The Waitress Confessions

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Dear Customers: Taking Pens is Stealing

One thing that you should really know as a customer is that the pens that waiters leave you to sign credit card slips or lend you to write something down belong to the waiter.  They buy them with their own money.  Just because they leave them on the table for you, unfortunately does not mean that they are yours to take if you want.

I need to mention this because a lot of times I leave work with 4 pens missing and end up having to buy a whole new pack at the end of the week.  I have to admit, it’s a bit annoying because those pens belong to me and people feel that they can just keep them for themselves.  The restaurant does not provide the pens for their staff, so the money comes out of our pockets.

So please, on behalf of all wait staff…please do not steal our pens. And if you absolutely need a pen to keep, just ask.

Thank you!

The Waitress Confessions

Dining Etiquette: How to Get Your Waiter’s Attention

There’s nothing more frustrating during your night out to eat than a waiter who is never around when you need them most.  Either you get the walk-by with no eye contact, the waiter who pretends they don’t see you, or a server that tells you “Sorry, I’m not your waiter.”

First of all, those sorts of things should never happen in a professional restaurant.  If you find yourself constantly being neglected, it may be time to find another restaurant to dine at.  But for all other regular circumstances, there’s are some key things you can do to make it easier to grab your server attention when you need something.

1.  Raising your hand

This is one of the simplest and basic ways to grab your server’s attention.  In order for this to work, however, your server must be on top of their game and circulating within their section, readily available for any sign you may be trying to give them.  But, you have to keep in mind that they are not mind readers and sometimes need a clear sign to know that you actually want something.  Be obvious with your hand raising.  Especially while dining out at a busy, rush filled restaurant.  Otherwise, the waiters may think you’re just tapping your hand on the table or talking with your hands.

2.  Learn your waiter’s name.

I’ve mentioned this before in another post called “Remember to Tip Your Waitress”.  As stated before, it’s actually encouraging for servers to be called by their name instead of something as rude as a finger snap.  Imagine your in a busy, loud restaurant and you need another beer.  You call out “Excuse me, Miss” but the waitress doesn’t catch what you said.  If you raise your hand and say “Excuse me, Ashley “, the chances are much better that they’ll notice you.

3.  Speak with a manager.

Of course, servers should be doing their utmost best to make sure your experience at the restaurant is a pleasant one.  If you’re a regular at a restaurant and sense that a server is disrespecting you or purposely ignoring you : ask to speak with the manager.  They may be able to switch your waiter or waitress and may even speak to the server who was ignoring you in the first place. If you find that you enjoy being served by a specific waiter, ask if it’s alright that you be put in their section each time you come.  Management loves to get feedback on the good…and the bad and will most probably do their best to try to give you the service you need as a guest.

4.  Treat your server with respect.

I can guarantee you right now that if you disrespect your server by snapping your fingers, yelling, making fun of them, or calling them names you will not receive the service you were expecting. I’ve seen waiters purposely ignore customers that were rudely snapping their fingers, so the solution is quite simple.  Don’t do it.  Period. If you are constantly getting bad service everywhere you go, take a step back and take a look at you table manners..  Are you making inappropriate jokes?  Do you find yourself swearing at them?  It may be time for a change in your dining etiquette.

There are always exceptions…

Servers are mostly responsible for being available for their guests.  The things, they aren’t machines.  They are responsible sometimes for quite a few tables and sometimes if one thing goes wrong, everything else gets dragged down with it.  If you see you server trying to take care of a problem with another guest, be patient and remember that they are doing their best in sometimes a crummy situation.  If you can help them out some of the time by making it obvious when you need something, it will make their jobs a lot easier and in return you’ll get the service you expect.

The Waitress Confessions

Forgot to Send a Table’s Order? My Bad…

A lot of servers go through this at one point in their career as a server.  It’s dreaded occurrence that will happen at one time or another, whether working as a server for your first time or if you’ve been doing it for years.

You will forget to send an order.

It mostly happens either when the restaurant is booming or when it’s disastrously quiet.  Is it your fault as a server when this happens?  Why yes, yes it is.  But we can come to realize is that we are people,plain and simple.  And what do people do?  Well they make mistakes.  It happens.  The best we can do is try to learn from our mistakes so as not to repeat them (hopefully) in the future.

I’ve seen a few different approaches as to solving this problem when it happens. There are a few that I find to be sneaky and deceiving and another approach I find is the best way to resolve the problem of forgetting to send an order to the kitchen.

So, imagine you’ve just realized that you never sent out a table’s order.  You scramble around to ring it up as fast as you can.  After the order is sent and you know it will be another while before the food comes out, so you need to decide what to do next.

Here are some different possible scenarios with different types of servers and let’s see which one seems like the right way to handle the situation.

1.  Skittish Steve – Avoiding the table until their food is served.

Skittish Steve is a waiter that will notice the customers waiting impatiently, looking around for their food and even stopping other waiters for information about when their meals will be arriving.  Skittish Steve knows that avoiding the table means not having to answer to the “We’ve been waiting half an hour for our food” spiel.  Of course, this type of waiter doesn’t want to confront that uncomfortable conversation, so even though they know it’s understandable that the customers will be furious, they’ll leave the plates on the table giving some half-assed apology of “Sorry, it was longer than usual tonight ” or even worse of pretending like nothing is wrong.  The customers now have their food and can hardly believe how long it took.  They’ll leave, reminding themselves never to return because the service was terrible and the kitchen was too slow at getting the food out.

2. Blamer Barbie – Blaming it on the kitchen.

Blamer Barbie, once realizing that she forgot to send the order, will proceed to approach the table in an apologetic fashion, informing the guests that the kitchen has somehow”lost” their order, so it will be another little while before their meals are served.  The customers will be slightly irritated at the kitchen staff for their lack of professionalism, but but Blamer Barbie knows that they guys in the kitchen will be none the wiser that she’s placed the blame on them and since they have no interaction with the guest and the diners won’t get up to voice their disapproval, no one will know that she forgot to order their food.  This leaves Blamer Barbie off the hook as long as no one finds out.  The customers finally eat, pay the bill with a decent tip (since they figure it wasn’t Blamer Barbie’s fault that the food arrived later than usual) and leave, perhaps only coming back to the restaurant when they know they’ll have a lot of time to kill.

3. Humble Helen – Explaining the situation to the customers

waitressOnce they realize that they forgot to place the order, Humble Helen will approach the table and excuse themselves for interrupting.  She’ll then explain that she accidentally forgot to order their food and promise that they are doing their best to rectify the error.  She’ll go to the Expeditor and tell them that she fucked up (and talk to the kitchen if need be) in order to try and get the order out as soon as possible.  Humble Helen will then offer to bring them some more bread while they wait and ask if they need a refill of their drinks in the meantime.  Sure, the guests will be a little put off, but they’ll appreciate the fact that their waitress is being honest.  Once they receive their food, they’ll realize that Humble Helen did the best she could in a crappy situation and they’ll appreciate the fact that everything was prepared as fast as possible to compensate for the error. Humble Helen will ask the manager what they can do for the guests (whether it be free coffee and/or dessert) and be overly nice to show the customers that it was not for lack of caring that they forgot to order their food.  The customers will leave feeling like they were not forgotten about and will return because of the honesty of the staff of the restaurant.

There are, of course, exceptions…

Waiters and waitresses will of course react differently in certain situations.  Mistakes will happen where the kitchen somehow loses orders, or technology fails and orders are erased.  That happens, in case you didn’t know.  But you can tell a lot by how servers approach you!  If they seem sincere and they really care about what’s happening, chances are that they are telling the truth.  If ever you’re unsure about what’s going on: ask to speak with a manager.  They should be able to tell you what’s what.

As a server…

You should do your best to treat your customers with the respect they deserve.  The best way to approach this situation is to tell your customers the truth. The honest truth.  If you’re a decent human being and an honest server you’ll feel much better to do the right thing.  Try it out and see what happens.

Think about it…

The Waitress Confessions