You may not realize it, but there are many little things you could be doing, intentionally or not, that could be affecting your guests negatively, resulting in fewer customers and less than average tips. As servers, it’s important to know the reality of how our guests feel and to take constructive criticism to heart and act accordingly.
So, for the sake of digging deep down into the mind of the customer, I decided to ask several people from various locations and different lines of work what they think the absolute worst thing a server can do is. From expert salesman to full-time student, every individual has their own personal needs, but all expect a level of service that is genuine and courteous.
For those of you looking to avoid guests leaving feeling disappointed and annoyed, here are several opinions worth noting.
Question: In your opinion, what is the worst thing a waiter or waitress can do while serving you?
“Not be present and attentive. If the only time I see them is when they take my order, bring my food and take my payment, then they might as well be behind a counter asking if I want small, medium or large. Otherwise, check in – often.” -Richard (Businessman)
Great service is what should set restaurants apart from fast food chains and take-out restaurants. Checking in is one of the most important steps in service and one that should never be forgotten. All guests want to feel like they’re special and that you’re genuinely concerned about their dining experience. A quick “Is everything alright here? Can I get you anything else?” can make a whole difference in the eyes of your customers.
“Purposely ignore me. I was at a restaurant one day before 4 o’clock on a Sunday. The waitress took our order, brought our food, but then never came back. We had no utensils or napkins either. After waiting a while, we saw her walking around and tried to get her attention, but soon as she saw our hands raised she just walked away. We had to ask someone else to get it. Then, after our meal, we wanted another drink, but we couldn’t find our waitress anywhere. She didn’t even bring us our bill and at that point we decided to leave. So, we went to the front to pay and saw her by the kitchen chatting up a storm with her co-workers. She saw us leaving and purposely looked away and continued her conversation. We left and never looked back.” -Laura (Massage Therapist)
This may seem like the previous point, but this is a clear example of servers purposely ignoring their customers. Both the guests and the server know it’s happening, which creates a very hostile environment. Now, not only did the waitress’ lack of work ethic leave the customers feeling neglected, but it also lost the restaurant more sales. Instead of checking in on her guests every so often and up selling, this particular waitress treated work more like a social outing. If you’re honestly looking to build up your clientele, do not purposely ignore them. If you see them trying to get your attention, get to them as fast as possible. Keep on top of your tables and be readily available to anticipate your guests’ needs.
“Demand more tips. I’ve had a waitress who was really mean throughout the whole service and then demand that we tip her more at the end of our meal. I was stunned. I know tips are important to waitresses, but I think it was really bad form to demand more, especially since she was incredibly rude, never smiled and asked in an inappropriate way. If she thought I was being unfair, it would have been better for her to ask me if something was wrong with the service or to politely ask privately. Not in front of everyone in a loud obnoxious way.” – Amanda (Full-time student)
Waiters and waitresses should not be approaching guests about the tips they leave. It is entirely inappropriate. Ultimately, it is left to the discretion of the guest. If you are actually concerned that you may have done something to offend your guests (therefore resulting in a smaller gratuity), they should be approached in a calm, polite manner. Ask if everything was all right with the service and be prepared for the truth that you may have inadvertently been the reason behind a bad tip. If they thank you for the service saying it was great, then you need to leave it at that. Demanding more tips is in bad taste and extremely unprofessional.
Note: Guests from out of town may not know that tips are or are not included in the price and for this I would suggest approaching a manager. They may be able to explain the tipping procedure so as not to insult the guest.
“Question what I order. It’s happened before that I ask for something a little unusual (add this, take this off) and the server will say ‘Are you sure that’s what you want?’ It really annoys me because the answer is ‘Yes. This is what I want, otherwise I wouldn’t order it.’ Please don’t judge my choices.” – Emily (Store Supervisor)
Judging customers’ choices of food can be extremely insulting. Making comments such as “That’s a lot of food, are you sure you want that?” or “Not the best choice of wine, but if that’s what you want…” can be taken very badly, leaving the customer feeling self-conscious and anxious. Instead of asking the customer if they are sure of their order, repeat it back to them and wait for confirmation that the order is correct, especially when it comes to “strange” or “weird” food orders. Never make your guests doubt their orders based on your personal tastes.
“When the restaurant is busy, it bothers me when a server doesn’t even acknowledge we’re there when we first arrive.” – Michael (Salesman)
Acknowledging your customers is the key factor when the restaurant is booming and you don’t have the time to greet a table properly. As soon as the customers sit down and see everyone running around carrying loads of plates and trays of glasses, they worry right away if the service is going to be long. So, to relieve any of that stress, if you see a new table in your section and you don’t have a moment to approach the table, make sure to make eye contact with them and smile or pass by the table saying, “Hello, I’ll be right with you.” Knowing that their server is aware of them will put the customer’s mind at ease. Remember, don’t keep them waiting too long or they will feel neglected. As soon as you have the time to greet them, apologize for the wait and give them your full attention.
“I hate it when waiters or waitresses are on their phone in a place where I can see them. Please, at least go to the back and quickly check your messages when you have a moment.” – Nick (QA Tester)
When customers witness you on your phone at work, they will automatically see a lack in professionalism. If you happen to be on your cell phone while your customers need something – watch out! You could be about to lose your tip – or possibly your customers- for good. Most restaurants do not allow servers to carry their cell phones on them, but if you work at a job where it’s acceptable, try to make your calls or send your text messages in a place where the guests will not see. Being discreet with your cell phone prevents your guests from feeling like you’re not taking care of them properly.
Every customer is different and sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether or not your customers are 100% satisfied with the service they’ve received. Something that may annoy one table may go unnoticed by another so it can be difficult to be on top of everything all at once. But, one thing always remains the same: customers want a genuine and courteous service. Remember, these are the general opinions of the people you are serving, so please take them to heart. It may help you develop a closer relationship to your guests and help keep your pockets full.