Congratulations. You are entering the world of the restaurant service industry. As a server you will endure long shifts on your feet, end up cleaning all parts of the restaurant, and take home well-earned cash tips. The money is good and you can average more than twice minimum wage or more in one shift depending on the business your restaurant receives. You will get to interact with lots of people the stories you will hear and some of the people you will meet will remain in your memory forever. Here are some basic, yet extremely useful, tips for a server that will help you excel at your new job.
Know Your Menu
Study your menu. Be sure to know the ingredients in each dish, how each plate looks when it is served, and what sides are served with it. This one little trick will not only show your guests that you are knowledgeable about the food and care about their experience, but it will also save you time. When you are in the middle of a rush there isn’t time to ask a co-worker if the salmon dish has tomatoes or not. When a guest asks “does this have mushrooms?” you can confidently respond with the correct answer. Also, you will find that there are many special requests due to dietary needs. When a guests tells you they are allergic to dairy or are gluten free, it is very helpful to know if the guacamole has dairy in it or if your kitchen has a separate fryer for gluten free foods. Knowing your menu will help you make quick and helpful suggestions to those who are unsure what they would like to order or are unaware of what sides are served with certain dishes. Your guests will appreciate not waiting for you find out the answers to your questions and this will reflect in your tip.
Memorize the Walk-In
The walk-in and dry storage areas of your restaurant can be a maze. It is helpful to know where everything is, even if you don’t think you will ever need to get it. When the ranch dressing at the salad bar station runs out or is dangerously low, it is time consuming enough to refill it while other guests are waiting for you at their table. It is even more frustrating and time consuming if you have to look for it or ask where it is. Not knowing where the crackers are stored or where kid’s cups are kept can frustrate you and easily put you in the weeds.
Hot Food First!
Every restaurant I have ever worked at has a policy that states that hot food in the window is the first priority. Your guests are paying for their meal, and your service, and expect their food to be hot and fresh when it gets to the table. If an order is ready to be taken to a table, drop what you are doing and take the food out. It doesn’t matter if it is your table or not. Hot food always goes out first. This not only ensures that every guests enjoys a hot meal, it helps the kitchen staff keep organized and makes room for them to place more food in the window for subsequent orders. Knowing your menu is helpful so that you can ensure you are taking out the correct dishes to the correct table. If you are a little rushed and really need to get a juice refill to the screaming little girl at your table, place the juice on the tray with the food you are taking out (if your particular establishment allows this.)
Some People are Just Grumpy
You are not going to be able to make everyone happy. No matter how much you smile or how many questions you answer or condiments you bring to the table, some people are just not going to leave in the best mood. They are going to come in with their bad attitude and whether they mean to or not, they are going to take it out on you. The best way to deal with these people is simply the way you deal with everyone else. Keep the smile on your face and remember that they are going to leave when they are finished. Do not take it home with you. Sure, you can tell your husband that some grumpy old lady came in and made you take a steak back three times to have it recooked only ti find out she really doesn’t like steak, but don’t let it ruin your day. Just do the best you can to help her while still helping your other tables and go about your business. You don’t make enough money to make their problems your own.
Avoid the Drama
You will soon learn that restaurants are a cesspool of drama. Imagine high school drama mixed with whatever popular soap opera is on the air and you have most restaurant environments. There is always a server mad at a hostess, a cook mad at a server, or someone mad at the manager. There is bound to be a relationship between co-workers and friendships that create alliances. As important as it is to maintain healthy relationships with co-workers and have a friendly work environment, it is more important to stay away from negativity and keep your job. If a co-worker wants to gossip with you about another co-worker, excuse yourself from the conversation or plainly state that you don’t gossip. If you are having trouble getting away, simply listen to the other person and then keep it to yourself. Don’t gossip or engage with them. It will come back to you and won’t be a pleasant experience.