Tips on How to Be a Great Server… From the Chef
By Owen November 17, 2014
Q: What are some things I can do to make myself a better server? Are there any tricks to getting on the kitchen’s good side?
A: Whether any employees will admit it or not, good servers are critical to the success of any restaurant. We like to think that the food is the all important aspect of the dining experience, but in reality people are more likely to remember bad service than good food. That is one of the most frustrating things about service for cooks: no matter how good the food is, someone else is responsible for delivering it to the customers.
Waiting tables is something a bunch of people have done. The person complaining that there isn’t enough lemon in his water probably worked at a Maccy D’s in secondary school or served at the local pub to make spending money in college.
And that, more than anything, is the problem with servers. They are trying to be singers, doctors, art historians, or anything else besides professional servers.
So, what qualities should a good server cultivate to become a great server? Memory, attention to detail, and efficiency are very important attributes of an above average server. This doesn’t mean not writing down orders or trying to carry too many plates at once. A great server never looks weeded or rushed; the run from their section to the kitchen looks practiced and easy. Remaining calm under pressure and not letting little roadblocks ruin the dining experience for the customer are crucial skills.
Know the menu: not just the items on it, but the ingredients in the dishes. Does the watermelon gazpacho have onion in it? Can the shrimp pasta be made without the shrimp? A great server is like a menu sherpa for the customer, guiding the diner through a culinary adventure and keeping everyone safe and happy.
In today’s dining environment, food allergies (real or imagined, but that is another article) are much more prevalent, and the average restaurant patron is more educated about food in general than at any point in the past. Having a deep understanding of the menu and the processes involved in producing the food will go far towards ensuring a pleasant experience for server and diner alike.
This is also a great way to show the kitchen employees that you care about the food as much as they do. Having the kitchen on your side will improve your tips, guaranteed.
Be present at work, not just an empty shirt carrying food around. A great server cares deeply about the success of the restaurant and understands that the heart of any establishment is the kitchen. Keep an ear out for ways to help the chefs out – getting drinks, running to the walk in, finding the errant bus boy, or anything else the cooks need.
As a server, you aren’t just working for the customers; in a very real way you are protecting the kitchen staff too. Never blame the kitchen for anything in front of the customers. Throwing the chefs under the bus is a sure fire way of having everyone from the prep chefs to the KP’s cursing your name.
Finally, do your bitching elsewhere. The last thing any employee wants to hear after a 12 hour shift on grill is that you ONLY made £100 tonight because it was slow. Show a little compassion for the crew in the back, and every once in a while buy that grumpy saute chef a beer.
He deserves it!!!