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Friday, September 21, 2012

What Makes a Good Server? (Guest Blogger)

In my absence while I am on vacation, I have assembled some wonderful guest bloggers to fill in for me. Please comment and share. Also remember, these are guest bloggers. Visit their websites and show them some love. 

This blog comes from Nathan Partyka who writes at How To Be A Good Server Blog.  He also has the word "party" in his last name, so you know he must be cool.


I used to work for a big franchised restaurant chain and we were doing some market research to improve guest satisfaction. This got me excited because I personally had an idea of what makes a good server but this was an opportunity to find out what the market research results would reveal from the following question:

What makes a good server?

Over a 2 month period of using comment cards and surveys we got back approximately 11,500 total responses from 31 of our locations to this question and the top 10 answers are as follows (in no particular order).

Outgoing personality
Recommends items
Makes us feel comfortable
Makes us feel special

So let me do a quick break down as to why I personally think these were the top 10 answers to the question "What makes a good server?"

The simplest gesture and most common form of politeness, when eye contact is made this is when you pull this guy out and wait for the returning smile. Hostesses normally get told to smile just before they pick up the phone because you can hear the smile come through their voice. One smile normally leads to another one :D.

It comes in many forms whether you pull a chair out for a guest, ask how someones day is, open a door for someone, smile (two birds with one stone) the list could go on. It's these small acts of kindness that can leave a happy feeling with your guest.

Outgoing personality
You don't need to be the center of the social scene, if you can have a conversation with a stranger comfortably then this is an advantage to you. You just need to be yourself and relax when talking with your tables. Engaging with your tables can help build rapport which in return will increase your tips.

Guests love it when you anticipate their needs before they even ask you. For example if you noticed a guests coffee or pop getting low swing on by with another one without them having to ask you. (note that standards and procedures would vary venue to venue).

If someone is walking around the restaurant looking lost simply point them in the right direction, if a guests hands are full when they are leaving then open the door for them. This one has benefits much the same as the ones from kindness.

Knowing the food and drinks menu is one thing, but knowing the region of a wine that a guest has just ordered and telling them a quick story or fact about it is going to show your tables that they are in good hands. You don't need to overdo it but being prepared with answers to questions which may not be a normally asked is good for both you and your guests.

Recommends items
Everyone has different taste so if a guest asks you what you would recommend or what your favorite dish is there is no wrong answer. This is a question directed at your opinion so if you answer with confidence and let them know why it is you chose that particular item then you can win some brownie points when the dish you recommended was a hit.

Makes us feel comfortable
People are in a better mood when they feel secure and comfortable. If you treat every person that walks in the door as if they were a guest in your home then you will make a lot more money than someone who treats their guests like strangers who are eating at a restaurant they work in.

Makes us feel special
When people think they are getting better treatment than those around them it makes them feel great. If you can master the art of making each and every table you serve feel special you can increase your average tips and the general mood of your section will be uplifting for you.

Don't lie, be honest and genuine with your tables. People prefer to hear you say "Sorry i dropped your meal while I was bringing it out" rather than "It shouldn't be too much longer, they're working on it now". We are human and we make mistakes and people are understanding of that. It shows respect when you are being genuine and put yourself in their shoes, wouldn't you want someone to be honest with you?

So there's something for you to think about when deciding what it is you need to do for others to see you as a good and competent server.

Have a super day everyone.

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Nathan Partyka said...

Thanks for letting me guest post BW. My apologies go out to all those who were expecting a post about some horrible guest that I purely hate, my style is to make them feel like scum by killing them with kindness.

I usually come home, get a run up to the boxing bag and beat the living snot out of it. I also have the therapeutic dart board which I can stick pictures up and unleash a volley of sharp pointy things at.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Janara said...

Well written Nathan! If only more people followed these guidelines, then customer service would be everywhere! Not just here and there as it seems to be these days :)

Noelle said...

Nice! I'm sharing with my great staff. Thanks for shift meeting!

Anonymous said...

Let me offer two pieces of advice that were not mentioned, and are hardly ever recognized of completing the great restaurant experience.

1. Always cater to the right hand. 70% of the population is right-handed, so take that risk. Salad-fork, drink, soup-spoon... everything needs to be on the right-handed side of the plate. The guest will never acknowledge what is happening, but it will make their experience that much more enjoyable.

2. Attentiveness of the "non-servers"... Just because I am not your server, doesn't mean I am incapable of bringing you a ramekin of Bleu Cheese. When a guest asks: "Can you get my server please?" The response should be: "No need, is there something I can get you?"

Nathan, your blog was a great reminder of things servers sometimes forget... (except the smile part). However, what really makes the guest remember their experience are things they rarely ever think to write on a comment card.

Debbie Morella said...

Nathan: No apologies needed - your post was refreshing! As much as we love listening to BW "tell it like it is", we also love knowing how to better serve our customers and posts like yours help with that :)

Anonymous: I love #2 - teamwork at it's best!

Nathan Partyka said...

Thank you Janara, I appreciate it.

Thanks for sharing Noelle, Gotta love shift meetings hey?

Anonymous: Great points, thanks for sharing. I really don't like when someone responds with "I'll get your server" or "it's not my job".

I'm glad that my post isn't going to waste Debbie, Thanks for reading.

Side of Bullshite said...

hah springs1 should read this one!

Anonymous said...

This reads like BWs article on Mandatory Restaurant Meetings re-conceived by either 1) the manager giving the pep talk, or 2) a very very high or drunk waiter who currently *loves everyone* [possibly 3) the easter bunny].

I'm sure it's very inspiring but I logged on to a blog called 'the bitchy waiter' not 'the really really nice waiter'.

Anonymous said...

That would start a brand-new 150 comment off-meds spree for that "one who shall not be named" lady ..

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good common sense advice. Useful to a first day on the job waiter ..
..but "2) a very very high or drunk waiter who currently *loves everyone*" sounds accurate.
Waitressing would drive me to drink.

Nathan Partyka said...

I know what you mean Anonymous and that's why I apologized at the beginning because I know people come here to hear the rants of BW (that's why I come here).

I know I sound like a nauseatingly nice waiter and I am because I really enjoy working in restaurants (insert puking here).

The intention of my blog is to give a helping hand to new people in the industry, however I do send people from my blog over here to BW so they can get a perspective from someone who tells it as it is.

Thanks for the feedback :)

Sallybean said...

You do sound a little "too" nice Nathan but im not saying thats a bad thing. I like very pleasant waiters but I also like sassy and slightly rude waiters also. Thanks for the article I can agree with quite a few points that are listed.

Confessions from the Hairdresser said...

I miss bitchy.

how to be a good server said...

Nathan knows his stuff and has a great website himself on serving. Also if you'd like to watch some videos on how to be a good waiter check out my YouTube channel. Thanks for your great blog!