Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to Be a Good Server in a Restaurant

Some servers don't seem to have common sense these days. Sure there are many fantastic servers out there, but some just are either too lazy or just don't get what earning a tip means. Some obvious mistakes sometimes happen. A wrong entree from the same server that took the order is brought to the customer. Think about that. Doesn't that show how little the server is trying to please the customer? My husband got handed a shrimp entree instead of an augratin entree. I got handed quesadillas instead of bbq chicken nachos. I mean, this is ridiculous that a server can't REREAD the order they wrote down BEFORE they hand it to the customer. I feel a lot of times it's about laziness. It's too much trouble to reread that order it seems. I've also gotten many of times missing condiments I specifically ordered or condiments that were supposed to come with an item that was listed on the menu. That's pretty bad when a server doesn't NOTICE things are missing. It's truly the lack of caring and effort. When a wrong entree is brought out by the same server that wrote down the order truly makes me not understand why they didn't notice something so VERY OBVIOUS. It's just like DUH, but some of these servers today don't seem to be all there. I know if you rush, you may hand the wrong thing to someone, but to not make sure it's even the correct item is just plain STUPID. These servers are just doing what I call "serve-n-run." They aren't double checking the cook's work or even their own. The bbq chicken nacho incident happened due to the SERVER pressing a wrong button. The augratin incident was the server handing a bunch of entrees for our table and other tables. He told us he grabbed the wrong one. See, that server truly just "served and ran." Not LOOKING at what you are handing someone is just STUPID. That also goes for checks. We've also had a wrong check handed to us for another table. Again, another server not even paying attention to what he was doing. I call those types of servers "Print-n-run." Printed the ticket and ran is what he did.

These are the steps on how to be a good server in a restaurant:

1. Try to greet your table within 3-5 minutes. Try not to end up taking 8-10 minutes to greet a table, because that's when customers start to get irritated. If you do take longer than 5 minutes, do apologize.

2. Make sure customers have utensils. I can't count the times I've either had to get up to get my own utensils or had to asks my server for some. I've also have seen other customers and even my husband was brought food(which I didn't order any food that time) without any utensils. What kind of service is that, you know? Treat others as you would want to be treated. Would you want to be served food without anything to eat with or even a napkin?

3. Bring extra napkins always. MOST people, especially kids or if a person orders messy foods such as ribs, will more than likely need extra napkins.

4. Do ANY up selling BEFORE the customer orders, NOT AFTER the customer just placed their order. A couple of times I ordered a specific margarita they had on the menus at 2 different restaurants and those servers decided to try to sell me a different margarita AFTER I told them already what I actually wanted. That not only wasted their time, but irritated me. I feel how dare they try to CHANGE MY MIND! It's MY decision, NOT THEIRS! If the server wants to up sell me something, it's much nicer to do it BEFORE I've made up my mind, NOT AFTER. I am NOT going to change my order because they want to sell me something more expensive.

5. Never bring ANY FOOD OR DRINKS to the table without knowing if the customer wants it, even if it's just water. Also, the server should ask if the customer wants lemon with their water. Some people may not want a slice of lemon. The server should ask or let the customer ask if they want a refill or anything for that matter. Some people like automatic refills, but I feel that a server can waste time at times getting things that the server isn't 100% sure that the customer actually wants a refill. I've declined refills before at times as well as changed the soft drinks I have ordered even. I am glad when servers ASK me instead of bringing something to the table that I didn’t order. I don't care if it's free bread or chips & salsa, NOTHING should be ordered for the customer and that even includes a glass of water. The customer is the person that is ordering, NOT the server. There’s no reason for a server to order for their customers unless the customer tells them to. Some things to consider like maybe they don't want water or maybe they don't want free bread, because they are on a diet.

6. Bring drinks that aren't from the bar out first if there are any. For instance, if a customer at the table orders a drink from the bar and everyone else at the table orders soft drinks or tea or water, don't make everyone at the table suffer by waiting until the drink from the bar is ready.

7. Always give straws with drinks that normally get straws such as soft drinks or tea. If the customer doesn't use it, it's at least avaiable if they do.

8. Don't make small talk or jokes unless you have the time. MOST people in general DON'T want chit-chat in their dining experience. A good server doesn't usually have TIME to WASTE like that. It's also INCONSIDERATE to customers that are WAITING for things they have asked for to play around. Servers, think about if you were the customer, would you want to wait longer for what you've asked for so your server could chit-chat?

9. When customers are placing their order, WRITE their order down. Write down EVERY detail and repeat the order to the customer. Make sure you understand every detail like if they said "no tomatoes" and you may have thought they said "only tomatoes."

10. Don't EVER come back to the table after you have left to ask the customer to repeat their order! That's an interuption that's truly not necessary. Now if they are out of something or there's a problem with what someone ordered, that's completely different. I am talking about servers who don't write down orders or servers who didn't fully write down the order or get the entire order written correctly the FIRST TIME AROUND as they should have. For instance, I ordered a margarita with salt one time and the waiter came back to my table to ask if I wanted salt. He should have gotten it correct the FIRST time around. I also had a waitress one time ask "Did you say mudslide or a white russian?" I ordered a white russian, not a mudslide. My point is, points off the tip when I have to be interrupted for a server not getting all the details right the FIRST TIME AROUND. I understand if I have to repeat my order while they are intially taking my order, but to come to ask me AFTER they have already left the table is just not good service. As I said before, if they are out of something or there's no way to make a certain thing the way the customer wants it, that's understandable to have to come back to the table, but don't just come back to the table because you didn't get the ALL the details the first time around.

11. Know the menu. If I ask what comes in a side salad because of the fact that usually for some reason, a lot of menus don't list what comes in, don't tell me you don't know or need to ask someone UNLESS it is like your first day or something.

12. When a customer places their order, if they aren't asking for your help, DON'T try to help them, meaning, don't put your opinion about what you think they want to order. I already had 2 servers tell me "You know it's not a big salad" when I ordered 4 sides of ranch for a side salad. What happened was, I also was ordering other items that I wanted to dip the ranch in as well, so I just decided to order all the ranch at once not to make it confusing. I find that to be RUDE to tell someone that. It's not my server's business to tell me what their opinion is about "HOW MUCH" I am ordering. I ended up having to waste my time telling one server that I was going to use it also for the cheese sticks I ordered and the other server I decided to make it simple by telling that server I just like a lot of ranch so I wouldn't waste my own time.

13. Don't be NOSY. I had a server at Denny's ask "What do you need all of that for" when I ordered several condiments. I was nice and told her what all the condiments were for not to be rude, but I really felt that was NONE of her business. It was VERY RUDE to ask that in my opinion. It also made her look lazy by acting as if she wouldn't have wanted to bring all of that by asking me such a question.

14. Don't make comments about what a person orders. I had a waiter one time make fun of me by saying "You want some more ranch" just because I asked for a lot of ranch after we had already paid and were getting ready to get up from the table to leave as he was bussing another table. That's just MEAN. Keep your comments to yourself. It won't help your tip any and I can report that to your manager if you are rude to me.

15. NEVER "ASSUME" ANYTHING, EVER! For example: My husband and I ordered 2 appetizers as well as 2 entrees at a restaurant. I didn't want what he wanted and he didn't want what I wanted, so that's why we ordered 2. We figured we could take the food home if we had too much. The waiter ASSUMED I wanted the appetizer with my meal. For starters, I NEVER ONCE said that. Also, I should assume that since the menu states it's an appetizer, that I would get it as an appetizer unless I state otherwise. We were waiting quite a while when the waiter came around and we asked where my chili cheese fries were. Our waiter replied "I thought you wanted it with your meal." I told him "I never said that." I was SOME PISSED that he "ASSUMED" we were going to "share" the first appetizer. Anyway, I received it 2 minutes literally before our entrees came out.

I also recently had a waiter assume my husband and I were going to share an appetizer. I didn't want the appetizer he wanted, but I did want a salad added to my entree. The appetizer came out, still no salad. I asked the person that ran the food about the salad, which he replied that I would have had to tell my server I wanted it as an appetizer. I think that's so ridiculous. The side salad needs no cooking, so I thought I'd get it like I normally always did within 5 minutes or so after I ordered my entree. I thought at the very least, I would have gotten it along with my husband's appetizer, which I received it way after he was almost finished it. I feel the SERVER is the one at fault here, NOT ME. I SHOULDN'T have to tell him I want my salad at the normal time it comes out if someone else at the table wouldn't have ordered an appetizer. That's ridiculous. I don't understand why he couldn't have ASKED me instead of ASSUMING I would have wanted it after the appetizer came out. I would have wanted it BEFORE the appetizer came out. I would think MOST people want things as quickly as possible for the most part(not talking about getting appetizers and entrees at the same time, because that's different). I am talking about the first course of the meal should be the fastest thing that can come out. I guess they do this, because they figure they'll bring out the salad after the appetizer incase if the person is still eating the salad when the appetizer arrives. I still feel the SERVER is at fault for assuming I wanted to share my husband's appetizer with him.

16. If a customer specially requests for something, DON'T LIE TO THEM. I've asked a waitress one time if she could bring the condiments I ordered before the meal came out. My food arrived just as I thought from another server without the condiments I ordered. She LIED to me, so her tip was 10%. I was trying to prevent the situation from happening, because I know usually when someone else takes the food to my table, I usually don't get my condiments as I've ordered them.

17. If someone wants a 2 for 1 drink "ONE at a time" respect that and only bring out one at a time. Also, ASK if the customer would like the drinks one at a time, which you might be surpised they MIGHT just want it one at a time due to ice making the drink watered down or maybe they might not want the second one.

18. Immediately put the order into the computer RIGHT AFTER you take the order unless there are food or drink orders that were ordered before the customers that you just got the order from that are ready, then obviously, bring those customers their food and/or drinks they ordered first, then put the order into the computer.

19. Servers should bring ALL condiments BEFORE the food is arrived. There is NEVER a reason to trust another server that ends up bringing out the food. If you want a good tip, make sure what that the things that are truly IN YOUR CONTROL will be correct at the very least. I have had 5 servers VOLUNTEER(meaning I didn't ask them to do that) to bring my condiments BEFORE my meal arrived whether or not they actually took my food to me. If someone orders a side of ranch, there's NO REAL REASON to wait all the way until the food is ready to bring it out which is usually around 25mins or so, when ranch doesn't need ANY cooking. Same thing with other condiments like mayo or mustard.

20. Make sure you are bringing enough of what the customer has asked for. My husband asked for ketchup and the waitress brought out an almost empty bottle, not enough for him to even get much out. Also, if someone asks for a "SIDE" of something, bring a "FULL" side, NOT "a HALF side." It's ridiculous that now I am having to tell my server, "Fill it all the way." I think that's just ridiculous. If I ask for a "side", I want a FULL SIDE. Especially if I asks for 2 sides of mayo, don't bring me 2 "half-sides" of mayo, because then it's like only having ONE side of mayo, so then you have to make another trip to get another side of mayo as I specifically ordered it. It's not like the server can't SEE that it's not full. Bring customers enough condiments so you WON'T have to make extra trips. Do you honestly care about the pennies it cost the restaurant to maybe give too much or do you care about your tips? I think a customer would rather have more than enough, than not enough, wouldn't you?

21. When the food is ready, if the same server takes the food to the customer that took the order, that server should be comparing the plate of food with the written order to see obvious mistakes such as a wrong side dish, a wrong entree, missing things, or anything that's obvious like a grilled chicken dish that's supposed to have swiss cheese(yellow) has bright orange cheddar cheese.

22. Make sure when you bring out someone's food that the item has the condiments that are listed on the menu unless told by the customer that they didn't want the condiments that come with the meal. I have had servers assume just because I ordered a side of ranch, I didn't want the marinara as well with cheese sticks. I don't get that, because they didn't even consider that since usually appetizers are shared, that just maybe the other person at the table might like the sauce that COMES with the item and the other person wants the other sauce. We both happen to like both sauces and dip them in both.

Also, I've had times when the condiments that were supposed to come with the food according to the MENU, weren't on the plate, meaning the server didn't verify the food they were taking to me with the menu. Like at Denny's, my husband ordered cheese fries as his appetizer and the ranch that was listed it came with and even had a picture of it, wasn't on the plate from our server when it arrived. I feel, how STUPID is it not to even realize something is MISSING and still take it to the customer like that considering they have it in a PICTURE as well as listed in the menu description. I feel if you don't know the menu, at least take a menu and verify the food BEFORE taking it to the customer.

23. If you run someone else's food and get a request for something such as a refill, please tell their server or even go get the refill. I have had some good and bad luck when I've done this. If my server is not around and if I want a refill, I will ask whomever comes to the table, considering they ARE a "SOME PART" of MY service. Sometimes those other servers worked as a TEAM by actually getting the refill for me, one time a server lied to me, and another one said something about that my server will get it, which she DIDN'T relay the message. The point of this one, WORK AS A TEAM, because it will come back to you. If you help out this other customer's table you don't have, but then another server helps you out with a customer's table you DO have, it truly all works out. No one seems to want to work as a team anymore these days. The people that do, are hard to find.

Also if there is a mistake that can be caught by this other server such as a missing item or wrong food, this other server should be the one to fix the situation to make it right, NOT make the customer wait longer to get our server to fix it. I don't get why MY server usually is the one that gets the forgotten condiments when another server brings out my food without the condiments I ordered. I feel WHY have another server run the food if they aren't going to verify the ticket with the plate of food? It's useless to have a food runner system if the other server doesn't verify what they are taking to the table is correct even. I am ONLY talking about things that are obvious that are wrong. Sure my server could be at fault for not putting in the order correctly to begin with, but I am willing to bet more than likely, it's the other server that's too lazy to read the ticket.

24. Check back with your customers once ANY food has arrived if someone else ran your food, because they may have a mistake that was not noticed at the time the food was ran, so no one was told about the mistake. It's important to check back with your customers to make sure the customers are happy with their food. It's not just mistakes that could be a problem, it could also be the food is cold or some type of other problem. If you don't check back with your customers, you won't know if something is wrong or not. Also, ask if they need anything. They might need something they didn't think of such as A-1 steak sauce or a refill.

25. If a mistake is made of any kind, apologize. I can't count HOW MANY TIMES I NEVER get an apology. I am not mean, I just tell them "I ordered such-n-such. At the VERY LEAST, say you are sorry. It's the RIGHT THING to do. It may even boost your tip such as when I have had apologies, that I tipped higher all because they were NICE about it.

26. If a mistake is made that's major such as a wrong entree or an overcharge, have the decency to TELL YOUR MANAGER! I can't count the times I didn't get a visit from a manager when MAJOR mess ups have happened. Also, if it's YOU who made the mess up, YOU try to make-up for it by asking the manager if he or she could comp something. Also, a major mess up should come with a PROFUSE apology such as "I am SO sorry." Not just a lousy "sorry" when the mistake is huge.

27. If you are server running someone else's food and there's a mistake of some sort, APOLOGIZE, even if it's might not be "YOUR" fault. Customers do usually want to hear an apology when something goes wrong. It IS the NICE thing to do.

28. Don't EVER ARGUE with a customer, even if you know they are wrong. Let the MANAGER handle it. Like if they claim they ordered a certain item and that is truly what they didn't order, arguing will not do anyone any good. Your tip will suffer more than likely. Just take the food back and tell the manager what happened. What is the point of fighting what a customer that thinks they are always right? You will NEVER get through to them, so WHY BOTHER wasting time?

29. Don't take things off the table without making sure the customer is truly finished with the item. I, one time, put a side of remoulade sauce on the side of the table that had the salt shakers at the booth we were sitting at. The waitress for some weird reason didn't get the hint I still wanted it considering I didn't put it at the end other end of the table. She should have just asked me instead of just grabbing it, which I told her I still wanted it. Another time I was still drinking a margarita and the waiter kept trying to take my glass before I was finished with it. That's just irritating. NEVER take something off the table if it's not finished with unless you have permission to do so!

30. If you see my glass almost empty, it would be nice if you offered me a refill instead of just picking up appetizer dishes for instance. I shouldn't have to ask for a refill if you are at the table and see my glass almost empty, I may want more drink possibly. Especially if I haven't received my entree yet. When I see a server not be OBSERVANT like that, it just boggles my mind that they couldn't ask me and I ended up having to ask them as they were ready to walk off with the dishes.

31. Wait until everyone is finished to ask about a dessert. If everyone isn't finished eating their entrees yet, just ask if they need anything. I find it rude in the middle of me eating my entree, for a server to ask about a dessert, because it makes me feel rushed.

32. If you ask the customer if they want something and they say "NO", DO NOT try to change their mind. I can't tell you how aggrevating it is to have to almost argue with the server to get them to understand I don't want a dessert this time or whatever it is. If they say "NO", they MEAN IT!

33. Make sure there are NO overcharges or undercharges on the check and that it is indeed THAT customer's check. I have had prices that didn't match the menu. I have also had a server charge me for a salad without an entree, even though I got an entree. So make sure you press the correct button. My husband and I have had our credit cards rung up on the wrong table. We have been given the wrong check before. We have had extra items as well as missing items on the check. I also had substituted a cheddar cheese on a sandwich that came with swiss cheese, but was charged extra as if I was adding cheese to the sandwich. That time I also didn't get charged for a margarita that was almost $7. So not only did I have an overcharge, but also an undercharge in the same check. That just shows how some servers don't look over their work.

34. NEVER, EVER, bring the check without either being asked or asking. I have ordered a mixed drink AFTER a dessert at times. I truly HATE when servers bring the check along with the dessert as if they can read my mind or something. It's NOT their call to make if I am ready for the check or not, it's MINE. You NEVER KNOW, maybe the customer wants to order something else. I just had a waitress last night bring us the check just because we asked for boxes. She didn't even offer us dessert, which I actually wanted to order another mixed drink, but at the time I asked for the boxes, I still was drinking my margarita I had ordered beforehand, so I wasn't quite ready for the next drink yet, nor did I even decide what drink I wanted.

35. Do not waste your time writing "thank you" or draw smiley faces or even circle the amount on the check. If it's really busy, WHY make the customers wait to leave that much LONGER to write that? Even though some say it boosts tips, it truly doesn't for most people. Think about it. If someone has a bad experience, the server writing "thank you" is NOT going to help, because they STILL will be pissed off. If someone has a great experience, they are still going to tip what they are going to tip. They aren't going to just change their mind and give more. If they would, that would be rare. It wastes other customers that you serve time as well as those customers.

36. Don't tell the customer about a survey. Customers can READ FOR THEMSELVES! Don't waste their time telling them about it or circling it. The more the servers pressure me to take the survey, the more I WON'T do it. Just let customers decide for THEMSELVES if they would like to take the survey.

37. Do things in the order of arrival. If I just asked for the check, get the check unless someone's food or drink is ready that had ordered BEFORE I did. Don't go to 2 other customer's tables to find out if they need anything. That's just RUDE! People usually want to leave when they ask for the check, so be CONSIDERATE not to WASTE ANY of their time by getting the check as soon as possible unless someone's food or drink is ready that had asked for their stuff BEFORE I did.

38. Ring up the check within a 3 minute range at the MOST. Don't make the customers wait 5 minutes or more to be able to leave.

39. When giving back change or the credit card receipts, give back the check. I don't understand why some servers decide to keep the check? I happen to like to keep it remember what I got last time or if I do pay with cash or a gift certificate, I can remember the server's name.

40. Give ALL change back, even if it's just a penny unless the customer TELLS you to keep the change. NEVER just not return someone's change or ask if they want change. Always give back change unless the customer tells you to keep the change, because they haven't tipped you yet. One waiter one time kept 31 cents change and only gave me back a 5 dollar bill from a check that was $34.69 that I paid with (2) 20 dollar gift certificates. I found that to be presumsious of him. It WASN'T "HIS" money YET, it was my money. Instead of $4.50 we were going to leave, because his service wasn't so great, he got stiffed all because he STOLE from us. He had NO RIGHTS to that money YET! GIVE BACK ALL CHANGE UNLESS THE CUSTOMER SAYS YOU CAN HAVE IT!

41. Servers should wait until the customer has left to pick up their tips. I feel servers will find out soon enough and I feel if they take it when I am finishing my drink or dessert, if I didn't tip well due to not-so-great service, it makes me uncomfortable that they are probably giving me the evil eye. I feel just take the tips when the customers have left.