Sometimes you catch a coworker doing something so brilliant that it makes you wonder why you had not thought of it first.  Even after 15 years, I still see things that would have saved me hours of time if I knew them sooner.  Being willing to adopt better practices and form new habits is the key to improving as a server.  Servers are pretty stubborn people.  Something about the job appeals to people who are fiercely independent and resistant to change.  Simple steps to improve the habits you have formed over the years can save you time and improve the service you provide.

Here are five examples of things I wish I knew years ago.

Memorize your fountain and taps: One of the most common server tricks is to put additional straws in different types of sodas to be able to tell them apart.  This is incredibly wasteful and looks tacky.  You will also have to make a second trip to remove all the extra straws placed on the table.  Instead know what order the sodas are in on your fountain and place them on your tray in the same order.  This saves straws and keeps guests guessing how you knew.  This is also very effective with differentiating beers.

Regular goes on the right: Another common spot for confusion is telling the difference between regular and decaf coffee once it has been poured.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had to go back and pour fresh cups because I forgot which was which.  Instead when you are setting the cups up, always put the regular on the right.  This will save you the second trip or guest complaint.

Ask them to cut the steak: Recooking steaks can be a time killer.  If there is a problem you need to know immediately.  When delivering steaks, ask the guest to cut into it to insure that it is cooked perfectly.  This will not only impress the guest with your concern, but also prevent you from being flagged down later.

Ask a better question: Every time I go out to eat, there is one line I am guaranteed to here.  “Is there anything else I can get for you?”  It is the most commonly used line in restaurants.  People have a reflex reaction of saying “no.”  The problem is that you will get flagged down shortly when they do actually think about what they need.  Instead say, “what else can I bring that will make this meal more enjoyable?”  Not only will it impress your guests with your concern, but it will also get you a much more accurate answer.

Drop two checks: In the current economic climate even nicer restaurants have been offering discounts and coupons.  This combined with the growth of gift cards will often leave the final bill much less than what the guest actually ordered.  Guests generally want to do the right thing for a tip, but often don’t consider the difference between the two checks.  Before asking for a check to be discounted, print a copy for yourself.  Then when you bring back change or the credit card receipt; drop the original check with the new one.  I say, “Here is your receipt Mr. Pierson.  Underneath is a copy of your check before and after the discount.”  This does not work every time, but it does jog your guest’s memory enough to make it worthwhile.

Five simple ideas that will save time and impress your guests.  What have you found that people should know about?  Drop a comment below and let us know.

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