Rule Three: Generic Servers Receive Generic Tips.
We all have seen it before. The server who walks up to a table and lifelessly repeats the corporate approved script when greeting a table. They seem as if they are only about three more repetitions from developing a facial tick from irritation. No inflection or signs of life. Reading between the lines is not difficult and roughly translates to “what do I have to bring you to get you to leave?”
Then there is the other kind. They walk up to the table and give you a more enthusiastic greeting than you got on your last birthday. They ramble on through the generic script punctuating it with adjectives like “awesome” and “incredible.” They suggest 37 specific drinks to start you off with before looking at the table to see you got your first round at the bar. As they turn away from the table their posture immediately changes in a way that translates to, “thank goodness that is over.”
There are many types of generic servers. They all share one fundamental trait. They are putting on a performance that has little or nothing to do with the guests at that particular table. As a result they are viewed as a generic server by their tables. This doesn’t upset the guest. It is not worth complaining about. It doesn’t even stop the guest from tipping the server the same percent they always tip their server. People have an idea of what they tip servers generically. The competent yet generic server receives the adequate, but generic tip.
This is fine for someone who aspires to be no more than a generic server. I am going to operate under the assumption that you, by merits of reading this blog, aspire to be more than a generic server. At the least, I am assuming that you aspire to make more than the generic tip. You cannot put the cart in front of the horse though. In order to receive more than the generic tip, you must be more than the generic server.
Here are three ways to separate yourself from the generic server:
Give them the Experience they Want. The generic server gives every guest the same experience. They have the same interactions with every table. In order to exceed the generic server, you must determine what your table expects out of their dining experience. The sooner you are able to read your table, the better you are able to meet their expectations. Here is a previous post on a great way to do this. Guests’ expectations vary on everything from pacing to the amount of time you spend at the table. Instead of a one size fits all experience, look for clues from your tables and follow them.
Develop a Connection. Find some way to interact with your tables on a personal level. This can be something as simple as asking someone bringing in an umbrella if it looks like it is clearing up or complimenting a businessman on his tie. Try to find the opportunity to have one brief interaction that doesn’t relate to food and let the table decide whether or not to turn it into a conversation. The only way this can be successful is if it is sincere. Guests can smell insincerity from a mile away. They will appreciate the common ground and relate to you as a person rather than as a generic server.
Throw Away the Script. There is a fine line between using the best pitch possible and sounding scripted. When a guest does want recommendations, it is easy to go into a prewritten pitch that might as well be prerecorded. To make things worse, most restaurant companies have certain things they want you to say to every table. The best way to sound unscripted is to change the order in which you mention these things. You want to follow a logical progression, but intentionally change the order of sentences from table to table. This does require more thought, but that time to think will prevent it from sounding too generic and scripted.
Being a competent, but generic server is much like holding most any other job. You can do the minimum in most any occupation and get by. The employee who does the minimum cannot expect to be promoted because of it. They will also get passed on the corporate ladder by those who take the effort to do more than the minimum. Exceeding the actions of the generic server is the best way to have the guest give your tip a promotion.
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