Chapter 14: Don’t Be “The Server”

When guests are seated at the table, they have certain expectations of the server.  The server should be prompt, pleasant, and accurate.  The degree to which servers meet those expectations determines the percentage the guest will leave as gratuity.  It is a simple predetermined scale to most guests.  This is as far as most guests think about tipping the average server.

The key to making tips above and beyond their predetermined scale is to be more than just “the server.”  Once they see you as a person who is more complex than the job you are doing, they will reconsider their tipping standards.  In order to provide them an exceptional experience, you must be more than just the person who takes their order and brings the food.  When you become more than “the server,” satisfied guests, repeat customers, and excellent tips will follow.

Take advantage of the following opportunities to distinguish yourself from “the server”:

Bring the Show:  Your guests should get more than food when they walk in the door.  You need to help set the tone for the table by determining what experience they are looking for.  A couple celebrating their anniversary at a nicer restaurant is looking for a completely different experience than a group of friends on a bachelorette party.  Your presentation, demeanor, and humor should complement theirs.  Get to know your guests, and then provide them the experience they are looking for.

Become a Person:  Introduce yourself to your guests in a way that is personal.  The generic “Hi. My name is John and I will be your server” doesn’t cut it.  Introduce yourself by name and let your guests know that they can use your name.  If they ask about you, answer as honestly and positively as you can.  Compliment them sincerely, recognize anything they are celebrating,  and thank them for choosing your restaurant.  Sincerity is the key.  You can never get beyond being “the server” as long as they are simply “the guests.”

Be the Expert:  Take opportunities to impress your guests with your knowledge of the restaurant and the food you serve.  Learn a great story about your company’s history.  Know what sets your food apart from the competition.  When you show your guests that you care enough to do your job well, they are more likely to defer to your recommendations and allow you to steer the meal.  Doing this well will yield you far more credit for a great meal than “the server” ever earns.

Exceed Their Expectations:  Take the time to go above and beyond the minimum for your guests.  Constantly be on the lookout for ways to make their dining experience better.  Anticipate their needs before they arise.  Opportunities to give them a better dining experience than they expected are always plentiful.  A great wine pairing or quicker route to the after-dinner destination will impress them.  Take advantage of these opportunities to exceed their expectations and your guests will be impressed.

In order to earn an exceptional tip, you must provide an exceptional experience.  When you show that you are more than the average server, you will put yourself in the best position to earn far more than the average server does.  If you provide a service experience they could receive from any generic server, you will get a generic tip.  Exceeding their expectations is the key to exceptional tips.  You can be “the server” or you can be “the exception.”  The decision is yours.

This is an excerpt from Tips2:Tips For Improving Your Tips (c) 2011 by David Hayden All Rights Reserved