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5 ways servers can bring home some more green and give better service

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Photo: California Labor Law

As with any job, just coasting through a shift won’t make you more money.

For many, being a server only pays off if the tips are right; if the waiter is just coasting through a shift, he/she won’t make much of a payoff day. Unlike salaried jobs or sales positions with a longer sales cycle, servers see immediate financial benefit on every shift. If you are hiring people that are genuinely interested in providing great experiences and in making more money, or if you’re a server that wants to make the most of your time at work, use the following tips to help bring home the dough:

1. Suggestive Selling: aka upsell an experience, not an item.

Many use the term “upsell,” but I like to use the term “suggestive selling” as upselling sounds a bit like a car salesman trying to sell you the extra lifetime gel coat for you paint. Suggestive selling also helps guests that are unsure of items or hesitate to order because they may be guests of others at the table.

For example, instead of saying, “would you like any drinks with your meal,” how about, “we have a fantastic Malbec that would pair well with your ribeye steak; we have by the glass or bottle to share with the table.”

Instead of “would you like to start with any appetizers,” try, “the chef makes an amazing fresh crispy calamari with house made spicy tartar sauce.”

2. Always offer a full meal: Appetizer, Entree, Dessert, Drinks.

Never start with, “what entree would you like?" Never assume they are here for just an entrée. Offer appetizers and always suggest courses, building a relationship with your table. This is key for a great dining experience and, ultimately, a better tip.

3. Make sure your support staff is aware they are a part of the team and always be a team player.

Yes, we all know there is no “I” in team, but really think about it. Work hard but smart, is the way to ensure you will be able to take on a 4-top and birthday dinner party of 15 with never ending soda refills on demand. Build a relationship with bussers, runners, hosts, servers and your manager so they understand when you will need their assistance. Never be the one man/woman team. Always help other servers and staff when you are able to do so; this will let them know you are a team player which will pay off in the future.

4. Add a personal touch by reading your guests.

No, they don’t want to know what you do on your day off, but read the table. Is it a birthday, family, couple, business person or tourist? Some guests don’t want to be bothered by small talk, such as the business type or first dates, but a birthday, family or tourist will more likely appreciate some small talk with you about the restaurant, city or even a question such as, “are you a red or white wine drinker?” – providing you with a good opportunity to make a bottle recommendation, while building rapport with your guests at the same time.

Business or dating couples might not enjoy you chatting it up at the table, but being quick and keeping the table clean and organized will show your persistence to offering great service. Fine dining servers may address the guest by their last name (e.g., “Mr. Smith”) when known from a reservation.

5. Be an on-point server who is not in a rush to “turn and burn.”

I have seen too many servers lose out on a great tip right at the end of the meal just because of one wrong, untimely move. Make sure your guests have completed their meal and wait for them to ask for the check. DON’T rush them, as all your hard work will be unseen when they feel the push. Make sure you are working the table till the end and buss any dessert and coffee before you drop the check.

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