As a server, it’s guaranteed you’ll have extremely busy nights feeling stressed and overwhelmed. When all of your customers and tables need attention at the same time, it’s easy to become flustered and deliver sub-par service.
When servers “are in the weeds,” it feels like they don’t have time to give all of their customers the service they deserve. Unfortunately, not only can this be stressful for the server, but it can also result in a decrease in tips due to customers feeling neglected.
But how can you and your restaurant staff prevent this?
Servers can ensure they stay calm and collected, even when busy, by staying organized, communicating effectively, and prioritizing tasks.
Here are a few tips to help servers stay out of the weeds:
Servers can ensure operations run smoothly by completing simple tasks before their shift starts. These tasks may include, but aren’t limited to, setting tables, stocking glassware, folding napkins, brewing coffee, and cutting bread. If these aren’t done before the shift starts, it may leave the server scrambling during service and wasting time.
Another way to keep organized before a shift is brushing up on the food and drink menu, as well as asking the kitchen and bartenders if any items will be unavailable that night. This practice reduces the risk of a customer ordering a dish, and the server not realizing until they get to the POS system that it’s unavailable.
Holding a pre-shift meeting with substantial information about the nightly service, specials, and products of the day can set up your front and back of the house to work in synchronization.
On the floor
Staying organized during the shift is just as critical as before the shift. Servers can use technology to effectively manage tables and ensure customers receive their food and drinks on time.
For example, most restaurant POS systems allow servers to course out a table’s meal, especially in the case that customers order their drinks, appetizers, and meals all at once. A restaurant POS is the central source for online ordering, curbside pickup, or table management.
With a tableside ordering system, servers carry tablets which eliminates the need for your servers to run back and forth between the table and the POS. This creates a better customer experience with faster table turns for you and more accurate orders.
Restaurants can speed up service even further by adding a QR code order and pay feature which puts ordering and payments in the hands of the guest. With QR code order and pay, in-dining guests use their phones to scan a code and order at the table. After the meal, they can just pay using their phone.
When your restaurant adapts QR code order & pay, your servers have less of a chance to be in the weeds since they will have less tasks to perform. Their focus can shift toward more accurate orders and customer engagement.
When a server is busy, the last thing they want is to have frustrated and hungry guests.
Communication with customers is a way to keep them happy and reduce wasted time during a busy shift. Even if a server is busy, it’s important to spend meaningful, quality time with tables instead of just breezing past them.
It may be tempting to just do a quick check-in because the list of “to-do’s” is piling up, but it will actually save servers time to take a moment and ask their customers several leading questions when visiting their table.
For example, the server could ask “Would you like another glass of wine” “How are you enjoying the meal so far” and “Do you need anything else to enjoy your dinner?” This way, servers can stay focused knowing their customers won’t be flagging them down to get their attention every time they walk past.
If a waiter or waitress feels overwhelmed during a shift, it’s important to communicate that with other staff members. For example, a server can approach the host to tell them their section has been extremely busy, asking if the host could seat a different section before theirs when the next guest walks in.
With table management software, this problem could be eliminated entirely but provide an interactive, real-time floor map that keeps track of servers’ sections and full tables. This software is also able to predict which table or server should be sat next and prompt the host when a new guest arrives.
During a busy shift, servers can stay out of the weeds by prioritizing their guests and tasks throughout the night. It’s more important to greet a new table than refill a customer’s soda.
Even if servers are not spending a lot of time with their guests, all of the tables know their face and know they will be taken care of. Service That Sells recommends prioritizing guests in the following way:
• Newly seated guests
• Guests who have a problem with their food or drink
• Guests who just received their dinner
• Guests who are ready to pay
Even if a server is overwhelmed and in the weeds, it’s important to give the best service possible in order to build relationships with guests, improve tips, and keep customers coming back.
A server’s livelihood relies on satisfied customers who tip well. Despite a hourly average of $12.50, it still only adds up to $26,000 per year. For this reason, the ability to keep cool under pressure is a critical skill to learn while working in the restaurant industry.
Restaurant owners can help keep servers stay out of the weeds by providing them with tools that make their job easier. CAKE’s integrated restaurant POS is just a start to maximizing operations with table, team, and menu management.
If you add more mobile solutions like tableside ordering, QR code order and pay, and a streamlined online ordering and curbside pickup, your servers will be able to turn tables faster with more accurate orders.
Note: This post has been updated on Aug. 12, 2022.