Training Servers to Stay Out of the Weeds


The sight is all-too common: A stressed-out server spinning out of control in his or her section. Table No. 1 needs a clean fork. Table No. 2 was just seated and the guests are scanning the restaurant for someone — anyone — to wait on them. Table No. 3 asked for refills five minutes ago.

Training servers with the right strategies can help them escape both the weeds and the measly tips that are sure to follow. If you have unseasoned servers struggling to control their sections in your restaurant, teach them to avoid the three phrases (and behaviors) that lead to the weeds in the first place.

“I’ll give you a few more minutes.” It doesn’t take much to throw a server out of whack. High on the list is allowing guests an abundance of time to decide what’s good without offering guidance or menu suggestions. Sometimes a server can ditch the undecided by using the tried and true: “I’ll give you folks a few more minutes to decide.”

There are two problems with this approach. First, it’s lousy service, especially if guests are unfamiliar with your menu or need assurance that what they’re ordering will make their evening special. Second, it doesn’t always work. An unprepared server can get sucked into a guest’s 20 questions. Meanwhile, the pressure builds as other tables in the section require but don’t receive proper attention.

“I don’t know.” Another pipeline into the weeds comes when servers can’t answer specific questions about food and beverage items. All hell breaks loose as they’re running into the kitchen to find out if chicken broth is used to prepare the special of the day.

The solution, of course, is training servers in product knowledge. Make sure your servers can describe in detail anything served in your restaurant. Verbally test that knowledge in daily pre-shift meetings. Allow your staff to sample new additions to the menu. Guests hate to ask how an entree tastes, only to hear the server respond: “I’m not sure. I haven’t tried it.”

“I forgot.” Servers might as well pitch a tent in the weeds if they chronically forget to bring guests items that were supposed to accompany the food or beverage. The extra steps really add up.

Restaurant Service and Sales Training

The Service & Sales Excellence Waitstaff Training Series is based on Service That Sells!, a restaurant training philosophy developed by restaurant owners for restaurant owners. Click here to learn more.

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