How to Be a Good Server and Get More Tips: Essential Training

Hey friends! I just watched an awesome video from Real Server Training that shares some killer tips on how waitstaff and servers can seriously increase their sales and fatten their wallets with bigger tips.

And get this – it’s not about being ultra sales-y or pushy. It’s actually all about providing top notch service by being crazy attentive to customer needs. I wish I knew these tricks and techniques back in my serving days!

In this video, you learn easy but effective ways to boost sales by observing tables closely, mastering the delicate art of knowing when to offer another round, and striking the ideal balance between refills and space.

Following these pro strategies allows you to deliver a five-star dining experience where guests feel taken care of and even doted on! And don’t we all know happy customers who feel cared for are a lot more likely to leave a nice big tip and come back to see you again soon.

The Art of Serving: 10 Essential Tips for Making Bank

As both a long-time server and restaurant manager, I’ve seen my fair share of good, bad, and “could use some polishing” waiters and waitresses. Sure, some folks are just born with the gift of gab and swagger that draws people in. But the truth is stellar service can be learned, and minor tweaks can lead to major rewards.

In my decade in the hospitality biz at places ranging from casual diners to upscale steakhouses, these 10 tips are what I’ve seen consistently separate the big tippers from the small fry. Master them, and you’ll not only deliver better experiences but see your tipout grow.

1. Greet With Gusto

A lively, sincere welcome sets the stage for great service from the start. Before you’ve even taken a drink order, guests have already sized you up based on your greeting—are you actually happy to see them or just going through the motions?

The best way to ace the initial greeting is to show you care with an introduction (“Hi folks, I’m Katie, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight”) paired with a relevant remark about something on the table or the guests themselves (“Looks like you picked the perfect night for our famous margaritas!”).

Beyond making that first impression pop, kicking things off on an upbeat note also makes it more likely guests will share more about themselves throughout the meal. Those tasty tidbits open up opportunities for personalization and, in turn, higher tips.

2. Schmooze With Purpose

Chit-chatting comes easily to some servers. For others, not so much. While an extroverted personality never hurts, remember that “small talk” during service actually serves an important purpose beyond chatter: it helps you get to know your guests better.

With every detail you learn, you gain valuable context that allows you to tailor the rest of their experience. Joe mentioned he’s taking his wife out before their movie date night? An after-dinner drink special might interest them. The couple at table 12 is celebrating their engagement? Time for a congratulatory chocolate lava cake on the house.

Rather than reciting generic niceties, listen closely to what guests share and ask follow-up questions. The more you personalize based on these details, the more you validate that great tip.

You can’t expect 20% (or more) if guests only see you as a random staff member.

Tips for How to Get Organized as a Restaurant Server

3. Know the Menu Like Your Life Depends on It

You don’t need to be able to list every obscure ingredient in the ratatouille or rattle off the entire wine list from memory. But guests do expect you to speak intelligently about the dishes you sling.

If you hem and haw over queries about prep methods, ingredients or how popular plates actually taste, it raises doubt over how much pride and care you take in your work.

Before each shift, review menu additions, removals, and specials closely. Ask the chef or more seasoned servers what they think are the tastiest, most interesting plates. Try featured dishes so you can describe flavors and textures from experience.

When a guest asks what you recommend, your own excitement over the seared scallops or ice cream sandwich of the week will show. And those personal endorsements prompt orders (and tips) again and again.

4. Upsell Skillfully

Mindlessly running through the usual “Anything to drink with that?” script won’t cut it. Savvy servers know how to upsell based on each table’s preferences.

Maybe the birthday girl is eyeing the craft cocktail list. Share your experience trying the seasonal Paloma special earlier. Or if Dad keeps talking about how he wants to take the day off from healthy eating, tempt him with that loaded baked potato special kicking around.

Upsells feel pushy or irrelevant when they’re random one-size-attempts-to-fit-all. Put some thought into what will complement and enhance what guests already want. Describe flavors they’ll dig and offer appetizers or experiences they’ll relish. It’s about making their meal better, not padding the bill.

Server Refilling Glass of Water

5. Time Things Just Right

Are your refill check-ins coming 30 seconds after you dropped the plates? Do guests need to holler across the dining room for salt? Timing is everything when juggling multiple tables.

Be strategic with your visits back to the table. Newbies often pepper guests with too many intrusions too soon before disappearing just when something’s wanted. Meanwhile, Veterans who think they can get away with “giving guests space” end up leaving them hanging, too.

Find your flow by reading tables closely. Are they still actively eating or winding down? Glasses empty or full? Any issues that need addressing? Run through this mental checklist to cue your next appearance.

And when it comes to delivering that check, don’t jump the gun. Let guests fully savor their meal before bringing up payment. But also don’t leave them awkwardly waiting on their bill if they’re clearly ready to leave. Read the room.

6. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Server stations, sections, and assigned tables make it tempting to put blinders on to other parts of the dining room. But cracking open that tunnel vision can lead to great tips from unexpected places.

Is the hostess triple sat? Bus a nearby table so she can seat properly. Notice glasses low at the bar during halftime rush? Grab some pint glasses to lend a hand. Spy a colleague struggling to carry five steaming plates solo? Offer to run two so nothing gets dropped.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours takes on whole new meaning when the team functions like a well-oiled machine. Your kindness will come back around. And guests take notice of great teamwork, too, upping your chances for better tips all around.

Waiter/manager checking in on guests

7. Stay Calm Under Fire

When confronted with less-than-thrilled guests, new servers often tense up, talk too fast, make excuses, or say the wrong thing. Not exactly the stuff great tips are made of.

With experience, you realize complaints just come with the territory in hospitality. How you respond means everything. The first step? Don’t take complaints personally. Sure, no server wants a plate sent back or to overhear grumbling. But it’s rarely actually directed at you.

Next, defuse and solve. After calmly apologizing for the misstep, focus on what you can do to make it right. Could you bring out a rush order of fries if theirs were cold? Offer to replace incorrect side dishes? Identification and resolution trumps endless apologies.

End by appreciating that guests gave you that feedback moment. Assure them you’ll share their experience with the chef or manager so that their input helps continue improving. If you can turn a negatives into positives, those tips often follow.

8. Remember the Regulars

Recalling little details about favorite customers keeps that relationship thriving beyond when the check hits the table.

While memorizing the endless stream of new faces entering your restaurant nightly seems daunting enough, devote mini mental post-it notes to details on regulars when you can.

Maybe you remember Sally always orders the burger well-done with cheddar and extra pickles. Or perhaps Bill prefers to start with a local IPA before switching to something lighter for his second round.

When frequent customers feel truly recognized beyond an impersonal “the usual?”, that personal touch touches them. And they’re typically more inclined to tip well to reward great hospitality and banter from their preferred server.

Server taking food orders

9. Always Be Learning

Veteran servers often stop trying to actively better their approach over time, sticking with comfortable scripts they know well. But the most successful never get stagnant with service skills.

Maybe take a cue from bartenders and memorize one new wine pairing suggestion each shift. Or get inspired browsing restaurant subReddits to see what service elements customers are raving (or complaining) about lately.

It could also be as simple as paying closer attention to what your highest-grossing co-workers are doing differently tableside that seems to work. Test out sprinkling some of their secret sauce into your routine.

10. Have Their Back

Mistakes happen. Plates crash, the kitchen staff falls behind, and things get miscommunicated. How a server handles these inevitable hospitality hazards says volumes.

While throwing others under the bus may offer brief validation from annoyed guests, it breeds resentment amongst staff. And word spreads quickly on those with loose lips.

Instead, smile through the chaos and acknowledge the hiccup without calling out any specific person or placing direct blame. Assure guests you’ll handle it swiftly because their experience matters.

Running to the table with replacements in hand instead of excuses also smooths tensions faster. And never drag your feet honoring requests, like removing an incorrectly prepared dish from their check.

Having your team’s back builds trust and goodwill that pays dividends down the road. And guests respect solutions over stories anyway.

The Takeaway

Mastering the art of serving requires honing intuition, charm, timing, and problem-solving skills one shift at a time. But small tweaks using the tips above compound over time into increased profits and happier diners.

And while a natural-born server with the gift of schmooze often starts strong out the gate, dedication to continually refining, observing others, and learning makes good servers great.

So soak up insights anywhere you can, try new techniques often, and don’t beat yourself up over the inevitable off night. Stick with it and before you know it, those tips will be steadily climbing higher.

Have any tips or tricks you’d like to share that help you get more tips? Let us know below!

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