Although a tight fitting tank top and a pair of orange short-shorts won’t hurt, showing some skin isn’t the only way to make a killing as a server. When it comes to making great tips, whether you work at a bar, a club, or a restaurant, it all boils down to one thing, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Although simplistic, the ethic of reciprocity encompasses the concept of the hospitality industry as a whole. So simply put, in order to make a killing as a bar server, just follow the Golden Rule. If that simplified explanation is a little too vague for you, maybe this 18-step guide will help to shed a little light:
Step #1 – Introduction
After you guests are seated, the first thing you should do is introduce yourself to your table. Give them your name and make them feel welcome. Although this should go without saying, many servers neglect to do this simple step. Not only will it make your guests feel welcomed, but also if you should provide excellent service, they will remember your name and ask for you the next time they visit your establishment.
Step #2 – Eye Contact
Your first impression is always the most important, so besides making sure you are neat in appearance, during your introduction it is very important to keep eye contact with your guests. Not only does it show confidence, but it also makes the guests feel that they have your undivided attention.
Step #3 – Smile
This should go without saying, but even if you are having a bad day, your smile is one of the most important things you have in your arsenal. No one wants to deal with a grumpy server, so keep it light and show them that you are happy to be there, even if you are not.
Step #4 – Menus
Menus can get dirty, so before you had them to your guests make sure they are clean. Hand them out individually, starting with the children’s menus first, followed by the eldest female at the table and then everyone else.
Step #5 – Quality Check
Depending on the type of environment where you work, you may not have a chance to do quality check of the table. Therefore , you should not only ensure that it is clean while you are introducing yourself, but that it is also set properly. If anything is missing, or looks low, make sure you replace or replenish it right away.
Step #6 – Drink Orders
After you have introduced yourself, quality checked the table and handed out the menus you’ll want to take drink orders. Many times your guests will be thirsty, so be prepared; they may already know what they want. Drink orders can take some time to be filled, so while you are waiting it is a good policy to return to the table with water for your guests immediately after the drink order has been placed. Don’t forget, a slice of lemon on a glass of water can go a long way.
Step #7 – Specials
After you have taken the drink orders, but before you leave the table, make sure you explain what the specials of the day are and ask your guests if they have any questions about the menu.
Step #8 – Know The Menu
This is probably the most important aspect of serving. Servers who are familiar with the menu, to the point that they know what each dish is comprised of, will almost immediately earn a higher gratuity, especially from those guests who are concerned about what they eat. By having the knowledge to quell the concerns of your guests, and readily answer any of their questions, your confidence in your knowledge of the menu will help put their worries at ease.
Step #9 – Upselling
Many restaurants encourage upselling, and although it can be a great tactic to increase the amount of a bill, thereby increasing your overall gratuity, many times upselling can sound forced and unnatural. Remember the Golden Rule here, if you yourself would not appreciate the upsell than you should not try to push it on your guest. Upsells are usually best given before the guest has made up their mind, so after dropping off the drinks and before coming back to take their food order, mention the upsell items at that point.
Step #10 – Taking Orders
Listening skills come into play here, and it is very important to listen to what a customer orders, especially with those customers that are concerned about food allergies or make multiple modifications. Although there are many schools of thought on how to properly take orders, specifically if you should write them down or not, it is at your own discretion what you feel most comfortable with. Whether you are going to do it by memory or write it down, it is extremely important to repeat back the order to customers. Wait until the entire table has finished ordering and then repeat the order in full. It looks very impressive if you can do it by memory. Orders should always be taken from the eldest lady at the table and then working clockwise. When customers are ordering appetizers, never assume that they will be shared or that they want them with their meal, always ask how and when they would like it served.
Step #11 – Quality Check Food
Always quality check the food before bringing it to the table, especially in the case of customers with food allergies or modifications. The server is the last line of defence before the food is brought to the customer, so make sure you do your due diligence and confirm that the meals are correct.
Step #12 – Serving Food
In a best case scenario all your for orders will be ready at the same time without any mistakes, so when serving your guests, just as with order taking, the meals should always be served to the eldest lady at the table and then clockwise from there. If you are able to, serve from the right. Ask to make sure everything is okay and if they would like anything else. This is a good time to check drink levels as well. If anything looks low, ask if they would like to replenish it. In the case of water, make a note and come back to fill their water glass.
Step #13 – Refilling Drinks
When it comes time to replenish drinks, such as water, coffee or tea, never refill the drinks over the table. Not only is it dangerous, as you may spill hot liquid on a guest, but it can also be intrusive. Always remove the guests glass to refill it.
Step #14 – Two-Bite Rule
In most cases, a guest will know if they like their meal within the first two bites. Give them a few minutes to get settled in before heading back to check on them. If something is wrong with the meal you do not want to make them wait for you to return. Although it may be impossible to time it, try not to show up at the table mid-mouthful. If anything is wrong with the meal take responsibility for it, apologize and rectify the issue as quickly as possible. In the case of things like hair, spoiled or undercooked food, voiding the dish from the bill is recommended. The two-bite rule goes for all courses of the meal, from appetizers to desserts.
Step #15 – Clearing
Dishes should only be removed when everyone at the table is finished, a caveat of course being if a guest asks you to remove their dish. Not unlike serving, dishes should always be cleared from the right, however the order is unimportant. This goes for both appetizers and mains.
Step #16 – Dessert
A dessert menu should always be offered, and in many cases it is customary to bring the dessert menu to the table and let the guests decide. First ask them if they would like any coffee or tea, paying particular attention to what they would like with it, be it milk, cream sugar, lemon or honey. Let the guest mull over the dessert menu while you are filling their drink order.
Step #17 – Handling The Bill
When it comes to the bill there are many factors to take in mind, firstly, when to bring the bill. In most cases you let the customer ask you to bring it. Never assume that after their main course, or even dessert, that they are finished for the evening. They may want to add a few more drinks or even another bottle of wine, so patience is the key. That being said, many guests want to leave immediately after they have finished their meal, so ensuring that you make yourself available to them is the best way to go. Always ask how they prefer the bill; never assume that it is one bill. Split the bill according to your guest’s wishes, and if they only want one bill, never assume who is paying for it. The best tactic here is to place the bill in the middle of the table. Finally, offer to process the customers payment in the manner of their choosing, and in the case of cash, always bring back exact change. Unless they ask you to take it, always wait to the customer leaves before you retrieve the bill.
Step #18 – Thank Your Guest
Once the bill is paid that does not necessarily mean your guests are no longer under your watch. In the case of guests finishing up their drinks, you should continue to check in on them and attend to their needs. When they are ready to leave you can ask if they need any help, hailing a taxi, putting on their coats, etc – above all, make sure you thank them for coming.
This 18-step guide is just that, a guide. Following it won’t guarantee bigger tips, but it will definitely ensure that you will at least receive the minimum. Personality will help you to get a higher gratuity, so remember the Golden Rule and always strive to go above and beyond when it comes to your level of service. If you do it right, your tip may even look like this: