Skill Focus: Don’t Be “The Server”


Several years ago, when I was starting my previous serving job, I had a moment of server panic.  My new restaurant had just been voted the best restaurant in town.  It was busy most every night.  My sales were significantly higher than at my previous job.  The problem was that my tips were virtually the same.  I was hitting all of my service marks and still making just average tips.  I was frustrated and questioning whether or not I had made the right decision in changing restaurants.  One night, I decided to relax and treat my tables the way I had at my previous job.  My tips were much better.  During the drive home I reached an important conclusion.  I had been acting like I perceived a server at this restaurant would behave rather than acting naturally.

The fundamental mistake that too many servers make is trying to hide their personality.  This is not to say that you need to be in your guests’ faces with it, but you do need to let a little bit of you shine through.  Guests can smell a phony a mile away.  They can tell when you are being robotic or overly chipper.  You must be yourself, but you should also put forth the best version of yourself you can.

This week’s skill focus is taken from Chapter 14 of my book Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips:

Chapter 14: Don’t Be “The Server”

A few additional thoughts on this topic:

Be A Professional With Personality:  When I say to be yourself, this does not mean that anything goes.  The guest came in for a great service experience.  If you wish to make a tip, you must deliver that.  It is still a professional transaction.  If you want to make more than an average tip, you must deliver more than the generic interaction.  Being professional while adding a bit of your personality will earn you the results you want.

You Must Be Consistent:   One of the most common mistakes I see with servers is that their attitude will change during the course of the meal.  If you go from chipper to melancholy during the course of the meal, the guest will often wonder what happened.  This creates an awkward feeling that detracts from their experience.  Being yourself will help prevent this change because you are not trying to play a role and “breaking character.”

Be Your “First Date” Self:  I dedicate another chapter in the book to this concept.  You don’t have to be completely honest with your tables about everything.  When you are on a first date with someone you want to impress, you will often phrase things differently than you normally would.  You should want to impress your guests in the same way.  Use an optimistic spin when answering their questions about you and they will reward you with a nice “Goodnight tip” at the end of the meal.

My third rule of serving is dedicated to this very concept.  Generic servers receive generic tips.  If you want to earn more than the tip your guests generally leave for adequate service, you must bring a little bit of your personality to their dining experience.  Learning how to do this well is a key to dramatically improving your income.  If you want to be an exceptional server, the first step is being more than the generic server.

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