The Results Are In!

Last week’s server poll brought in a lot of people from Twitter wanting to give their opinion and so a big thank you to Server Problems ( @itsaserverslife ) who re-tweeted the post bringing in many viewers! You rock!

So, in today’s news…the results are in to the question “What Do You Do When…A Customer Thanks You For Your Great Service”

Results Sept 11

A whopping 56% of the votes went towards “Thank them and say ‘I hope to see you again soon”.  I’m guessing the reason for this is that it actually is the most standard reply.  There may be another hidden reason behind it.  Either the servers are generally worried about giving their name to their guests or they don’t want to invite most customers back to see them (specifically).  Sometimes getting a different rush of customers can be rewarding.

I’m a little surprised by the 11% of voters who feel awkward about compliments.  I feel awkward when I first started as a waitress and realized that people actually do go out of their way to compliment servers who are good.  Most people won’t say anything at all, feeling too shy or wonder what it’s going to accomplish.  So, when a customer raves about your service, don’t feel awkward.  Feel proud that you did an amazing job!

15% of the voters believed that when people thank you for the good service, what they’re really doing is skimping out on the tip.  Actually, it happens a lot.  I’ve served tables that the timing was perfect, we laughed and made jokes together, the bill got higher and higher and I thought for sure I was going to get above the standard tipping percent.  Everything was excellent.  Then, when the check is handed back to me, everyone thanks me for the amazing service, “You’re one of the best waitresses we’ve had in a while”, and then …..BOOM! You open the check presenter only to find that they left you $20 on a $300 bill.  Great…..get my hopes up why don’t you?

19% of voters are just like me.  I’m really the kind of waitress to invite people back to see me.  Something that I’ve noticed is on Saturday and Sunday nights I sometimes get more tables than the rest of the waitstaff.  I remember clearly one Saturday night, there were 12 servers working.  It was the beginning of our shifts and I got the first table.  Then, all of a sudden, I’m getting a second one.  Apparently they asked for my section because they loved my service last time and remembered my name.  So I had two tables while everyone else had none.  The next people who walked in? You guessed it! Also asked for my section.  The other servers were furious, asking “Why are you getting all the tables?”.  I told them because I do my job properly.  They went off to complain to the manager. He just laughed at them. “What do you want me to do?” he said, “Tell the customers they can’t be served by her because it’s unfair to everyone else? I don’t think so.”

Everyone has a different way of serving, so I say…to each their own! Do what you feel is comfortable and what feels right to you as a server.

Why do you reply the way that you do?  Do you find it benefits you in any way?

The Waitress Confessions signature JPEG

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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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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Waiters: Spoil Your Customers

Simon Pierce restaurant
Photo by sfadden

Whenever I go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it seems as if a good amount of  servers  don’t really care about taking care of their tables.  I often see other guests being ignored when lifting their hand to get the waiter’s attention and scanning the dining room impatiently waiting to pay.  It really surprises me because taking care of your tables should be easy – like second nature.

There are many little things that you can do to spoil your customers:

1.  Make eye contact

It seems silly really, but if you’re walking around the restaurant with blinders on, you won’t notice when one of your guests is trying to grab your attention.  As a customer, it must be extremely annoying when a waiter doesn’t acknowledge you.  Even if you’re in the middle of bringing plates to another table, scan your section.  If someone raises their hand, the least you can do is nod to let them know you’ll be going around to see them.

2. Refill water glasses / Ask if they would like another drink

Don’t wait for their water glass to be completely empty before refilling it.  Of course, you don’t want to top it off after only a couple of sips, but if the glass is half empty, top it off with some fresh water before they have a chance to finish it all.  Some people drink a lot of water, so try your best to accommodate them.

When drinks/beverages are down to 1/4 of the glass, ask if they’d like another.  I’m not saying offer it on the house or anything of the sorts, but if a customer stops eating and is looking everywhere for you to order another drink, it’s a waste of time.  Think of it, you’ll be satisfying your customers needs before they even realize it and up selling.

3. Learn regular customer’s likes and dislikes

If you have a good memory, this tip will really come in handy.  If you’ve been in a certain restaurant long enough, you start to get to know the regular customers that come in and out of the restaurant on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  Learn what they like and dislike.  If you notice that they always pick out the mushrooms from their pasta and you know it’s possible to make the dish without the mushrooms, suggest to the customer that next time they can order it without mushrooms.  Better yet, then next time you serve them try to remember to order the pasta without it.  It will surprise them.

For example, I served a couple once and they ordered the chicken.  I remembered them saying they loved it, so the next time they came, I remembered and asked “Will we be having the chicken this evening?”.  They smiled and said “How did you remember that?”.  I just smiled and made a lame joke, but they laughed and looked impressed.  Then I noticed that they ordered the same bottle of wine as last time.  I added that to my memory so that when they next time they came, I asked them right away if they’d like to start with that bottle of wine.  They were speechless and said that from now on they were going to ask to be served by me.  Honestly, it’s a win-win situation.  Learn your customer’s likes and dislikes.

4. Serve at the customer’s pace

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone out to a restaurant only to have the waitress run up to me and ask if I want anything to drink before I even have a chance to sit down.  That’s just annoying (“Can I at least sit down and look at the menu first?”).  Timing can be difficult, especially since there are some people who know right away that they want a beer immediately (you know – it’s been a hard day).  But at least give people a chance to sit.  You’ll notice that guests who want a drink asap will settle in much faster than a couple dining in your restaurant for the first time.

Do not rush customers who are taking their time eating.  Especially in a group, people will eat slowly while talking and enjoying their night out, so go at their pace.  Instead of rushing appetizers, give your customers a chance to sip at their wine a bit or enjoy those few first sips of an ice cold beer.

When it comes to the bill, invite them to take their time so they don’t feel like you’re trying to rush them out the door.  I understand needing to turn over your tables and that’s how you make your money, but most people won’t stay that long after receiving the bill unless they’re really chatting up a storm.  That can be a problem when it comes to making money, but there’s nothing you can do to change that without obviously trying to kick them out (which is inappropriate).  It’s annoying, but it happens.  Don’t rush your guests.

5. Think of the little things

All the little things you can do to make your customer’s experience even better than they expected is a bonus.  For example, let’s say you have a salad and the guest has 3 salad dressings to choose from.  They seem unsure of which one to choose, worried that they may not like it, so why not try suggesting putting it on the side of the salad so that in case they don’t like it, they can change it.  It’s a simple solution really and the guest will really appreciate the effort.  All the little things like that add up and make for a happy customer.

Waiters, really make an effort to spoil your customers rotten.  Give them the service they deserve and treat them with respect.  They’ll definitely come back wanting more…and even ask to be served by you.

The Waitress Confessions

Tip Accordingly: Paying the Bill With a Gift Card

Throughout the year, and especially around Christmas time, people receive Gift Cards to either their favorite Italian restaurant or to a new Sushi Shop in town and are delighted by the fact that can use the Gift Card to either pay the entire bill – or part of it.

We all know that the standard tip a diner should leave the server is 15%.  Now, there seems to be a lot of people out there who believe that if they have a Gift Card it means either

  1. They get a free meal because of the Gift Card – in which case they don’t need to leave a tip   or
  2. Half of their meal has been  paid – which means they only have to leave a tip only on the amount after the Gift Card amount was deducted

This is a big problem between Gift Cards, Servers, and Diners.

What is the protocol here?

1. Paying the whole bill with the gift card

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that your bill is $50 and you  have a gift card for $100.  You think “Wow, this is great! I don’t have to pay a cent for my meal plus I get to keep another $50 on my Gift Card for the next time I come to eat”.  I know it sounds great, and it is, but you have to keep in mind that the waiter/waitress who served you is (in a sense) not working for free.   S/he took your order, served your drinks,  made sure everything was to your liking, cleared the table, brought you coffee and dessert, etc.  Getting a “free meal” never means skimping out on the tip.

2. Paying part of the bill with a gift card

Let’s say that your bill is $50 and you have a $25 dollar gift card.  You think “Wow! I only have to pay $25 for a $50 meal.  This is great!”.  And you’re right, it is.  The thing is, when the waiter/waitress who served you takes your credit card and passes it at the remaining amount ($25) it doesn’t mean that your bill is suddenly only $25. The server doesn’t cancel half of your bill, they just declare at the end of the day that the bill was paid for by credit card and gift card.   You must tip according to the full amount of the bill before the Gift Card amount is deducted.

3. Paying with a bank card and gift card

When using a gift card and a bank card to pay your bill, a problem can arise when using the hand held machine to complete the purchase.  Let’s say that your bill is $50 and you have a $25 dollar gift card.  The server brings the machine to pass your bank card and puts the amount at $25 (the remaining amount after the deduction of the gift card).  The problem with this is that it will ask you what kind of tip you’d like to add (15%?  20%?  Other?).  If you choose the option of adding 15%, then it will add 15% of the amount put into the machine – which was $25.  Now you’re leaving a lower than 15% tip on a $50 bill.  Be careful to choose the “Other” option in order to add in the exact amount you want, or better yet you can always pay the tip in cash to avoid confusion.

A Note to  Waiters: Be Kind

It is considered to be inappropriate to approach guests about the amount of tip that was left.  Some mistakes are obvious and sometimes it’s easy to see when someone doesn’t understand how the system works, but please be kind.  Don’t lose your cool and make a fuss about it, that won’t help anyone and is extremely disrespectful.  Find a way to inform your customers of the original cost of the bill, or consult with the floor manager with the best way to deal with this kind of situation.

Have Any Questions?

Unsure of what to do when paying with a gift card?  Feel free to ask a server (or manager).  They should be happy to tell you the correct way to pay.  If anything, feel free to ask by leaving a comment below.

The Waitress Confessions

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