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

In this video, “How to Increase Sales as a Restaurant Server: Being Proactive and Anticipating Needs,” by Real Server Training, you’ll discover effective techniques and approaches that can significantly boost your sales and tips as a restaurant server.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about schmoozing or upselling, but rather about being attentive and providing excellent service. In our following guide, we’ll explore the power of being available and observant, the art of timing when offering another drink, and striking a balance with refill requests. By following these strategies, you’ll be a better server and can maximize your income and create a positive dining experience for your guests.

Table of Contents

1. The Power of Being Available and Observant

Importance of scanning tables

As a waiter or waitress, one of the most important skills you can develop is the ability to scan your tables and be aware of your customers’ needs. By keeping an eye on your section and actively observing your guests, you can anticipate their requests and provide them with excellent service.

Scanning tables allows you to identify when a customer requires assistance, such as refilling their drink or answering any questions they may have about the menu. Additionally, by being available and attentive, you create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for your guests.

Attentiveness to guests’ needs

Attentiveness is key when it comes to providing exceptional service. By being attentive to your guests’ needs, you can ensure they have a memorable dining experience. This includes paying attention to subtle cues such as a raised hand, a slight pause in conversation, or a glance towards the bar for a refill.

By actively listening and observing, you demonstrate that you are there to assist and make their dining experience as enjoyable as possible.

Taking drink orders at the right time

Timing is crucial when it comes to taking drink orders. By being observant and aware of your guests’ progress with their current drinks, you can approach them at the right time to offer another round. This shows that you are attentive to their needs without rushing them.

By timing your approach appropriately, you can enhance their overall dining experience and ensure that they feel taken care of throughout their meal.

2. Timing is Everything: Knowing When to Offer Another Drink

Art of timing for offering another round

Knowing when to offer another round of drinks requires finesse. It’s important to strike a balance between being attentive and not overwhelming your guests. By gauging their pace of drinking and socializing, you can time your offer just right.

This involves reading their body language and engaging in friendly conversation to determine if they are ready for another round.

Approaching guests before they finish their current drink

To provide seamless service, it’s best to approach guests before they finish their current drink. By being proactive, you can ensure that your guests never have to wait for a refill. This demonstrates your attentiveness and commitment to their satisfaction. Try to anticipate when their glasses are nearly empty and be ready to offer another drink option.

Ensuring guests feel taken care of without feeling rushed

While offering another round in a timely manner is important, it’s equally crucial to ensure that guests do not feel rushed. Take the time to engage in friendly conversation and make them feel valued. By striking the right balance between attentiveness and giving them space, you can create a dining experience that feels attentive, personalized, and unhurried.

Server Refilling Glass of Water

3. The Art of Refill Limits

Striking a balance with refill requests

Refill requests can be a delicate matter. While it’s important to accommodate your guests’ wishes, it’s also crucial to strike a balance. Be attentive to their needs, but also consider the responsibilities of managing a busy section. By ensuring that refill requests are reasonable and timely, you can efficiently cater to your guests while maintaining a smooth flow of service for all.

Optimal number of refills before shifting responsibility to the guest

Determining the optimal number of refills before shifting the responsibility to the guest is a key consideration. It’s best to use your judgment based on the pace and behavior of the guest. As a general guideline, three refills is a reasonable limit before suggesting that the guest handles their own refills. This allows you to provide attentive service without excessive interruptions.

Providing attentive service while avoiding excessive interruptions

Attentive service is essential, but it’s important to strike a balance between being available and allowing guests to enjoy their meal. While providing refills and checking on their needs, be mindful of excessive interruptions. This can disrupt the flow of their dining experience. By being aware of when to step in and when to give them space, you can provide attentive service while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere.

4. Enhancing the Dining Experience

Personalizing recommendations for food and drinks

One way to enhance the dining experience is by personalizing recommendations for food and drinks. Take the time to learn about your guests’ preferences and tailor your suggestions accordingly. Offering personalized recommendations based on their tastes and dietary restrictions shows that you care about their specific needs and want them to have the best possible dining experience.

Offering dessert options

Dessert is often the highlight of a meal for many guests, so it’s important to offer a variety of options. Be knowledgeable about the desserts available and provide enticing descriptions to capture their interest. Some guests may be indecisive, so offering a dessert platter with a selection of smaller desserts can be a great way to cater to their preferences and enhance their dining experience.

Suggesting additional sides or appetizers

Another way to enhance the dining experience is by suggesting additional sides or appetizers. By offering suggestions that complement their main course, you can help guests explore new flavors and enhance their overall meal. Be prepared to describe the flavors and ingredients of each suggestion, allowing the guest to make a well-informed and delicious choice.

Tips for How to Get Organized as a Restaurant Server

5. Building Rapport and Connection

Engaging in friendly conversation

Building rapport with your guests is a key aspect of providing exceptional service. Engaging in friendly conversation creates a welcoming and personalized atmosphere. Take the time to learn their names, ask about their day, or even share a joke or two. By establishing a connection, you create a positive and memorable dining experience that keeps guests returning.

Remembering guest preferences and allergies

Remembering guest preferences and allergies is another way to build rapport and provide outstanding service. By taking note of their likes, dislikes, and any dietary restrictions, you can address their specific needs with ease. Whether it’s remembering their favorite wine or accommodating their gluten intolerance, showing that you remember and care about their preferences strengthens the bond with your guests.

Providing recommendations based on guest preferences

When it comes to providing recommendations, using guest preferences as a guide can make a significant impact. By remembering their previous choices and understanding their taste profiles, you can suggest dishes or beverages that align with their preferences. This showcases your attentiveness and makes them feel valued. By offering personalized recommendations, you enhance their dining experience and build trust.

6. Upselling without Pressure

Suggesting higher-end menu items

Upselling higher-end menu items can be an effective way to increase sales without applying pressure. By using enticing descriptions and highlighting the unique features of these dishes before ordering, you can pique the interest of your guests. Share your personal favorites and explain why these dishes are worth exploring. This encourages guests to try something new and enhances their overall dining experience.

Highlighting daily specials

Daily specials provide an opportunity to upsell without being pushy. Share the details of the specials and explain why they are exceptional choices for that day. By emphasizing their limited availability, freshness, or unique ingredients, you create a sense of exclusivity that encourages guests to try these special offerings. This not only boosts sales but also adds excitement and variety to their dining experience.

Explaining the value and unique features of certain dishes

When upselling, it’s important to explain the value and unique features of certain dishes. This allows guests to understand why these items are worth the extra cost. Describe the flavors, preparation techniques, or special ingredients that set these dishes apart. By providing a comprehensive understanding, you showcase the value they receive and make them feel confident in their choice.

Server taking food orders

7. Responding to Special Requests and Dietary Restrictions

Offering alternative options for guests with dietary restrictions

Responding to special requests and dietary restrictions requires flexibility and creativity. Be well-informed about the ingredients and preparation methods of each dish, so you can offer suitable alternatives. Whether it’s providing gluten-free bread or suggesting vegetarian or vegan options, accommodating guests’ dietary needs ensures that everyone can enjoy a fulfilling and satisfying dining experience.

Accommodating special requests with flexibility and creativity

Flexibility and creativity are essential when it comes to accommodating special requests. When faced with a unique or challenging request, approach it with an open mind and discuss possible alternatives with the kitchen staff. By finding creative solutions that meet the guest’s request, you demonstrate your commitment to their satisfaction and create a memorable dining experience.

Providing detailed information about ingredients and potential allergens

For guests with allergies or specific dietary requirements, it is crucial to provide detailed information about ingredients and potential allergens. Be knowledgeable about the menu and ingredients used in each dish, and be prepared to answer questions or provide alternatives. Taking the time to ensure guests have all the relevant information allows them to make informed choices and enjoy their meal without worry.

8. Upselling Beverages and Alcoholic Drinks

Educating guests about different drink options

Upselling beverages and alcoholic drinks begins with educating your guests about the different options available. Familiarize yourself with the beverage menu and be able to confidently describe the flavors, origins, or production methods of each selection. Providing this information not only enhances their knowledge but also increases the likelihood of them choosing a higher-end option.

Suggesting cocktail pairings with meals

Suggesting cocktail pairings with meals is an effective way to upsell and enhance the dining experience. Be knowledgeable about the flavor profiles of different dishes and the complementary characteristics of various cocktails. Offer suggestions that enhance the flavors of the food and make the overall meal more enjoyable. By providing thoughtful pairings, you elevate the dining experience and encourage guests to indulge in higher-end beverage options.

Promoting happy hour specials

Happy hour specials are a great way to upsell beverages without pressure. Promote these specials to your guests and explain the value they offer, such as discounted prices or unique cocktails. By highlighting happy hour specials, you create a sense of excitement and encourage guests to take advantage of these limited-time offers. This not only increases sales but also adds a fun and lively element to the dining experience.

Waiter/manager checking in on guests

9. Handling Complaints and Difficult Customers

Active listening and empathizing with customer concerns

Handling complaints and difficult customers requires active listening and empathy. When a customer expresses dissatisfaction, listen attentively to their concerns without interrupting. Show understanding and empathy for their experience, even if you personally disagree. By demonstrating that you genuinely care about their concerns, you can work towards a resolution and rebuild their trust.

Offering solutions and alternatives

When faced with a complaint, it’s important to offer solutions and alternatives to rectify the situation. Whether it’s replacing a dish, offering a complimentary dessert, or adjusting the bill, provide options that address the customer’s concerns. By taking proactive steps towards resolving the issue, you show that their satisfaction is a priority and aim to leave a positive lasting impression.

Escalating issues to a manager when necessary

In situations where you are unable to resolve a complaint or face a difficult customer, it may be necessary to escalate the issue to a manager. Managers are trained to handle escalated situations and have the authority to make decisions to rectify the problem. By involving a manager, you demonstrate a commitment to finding a satisfactory resolution and ensure that the customer’s concerns are properly addressed.


In summary, waitstaff can boost sales, increase tips and service quality by being available and observant, timing interactions effectively, managing refill limits, offering personalized recommendations, upselling in a friendly way, accommodating special requests, promoting beverage sales, and handling complaints and difficult customers well.

Remember, attentiveness and proactive service are paramount. Continuously strive for improvement, seek opportunities to personalize the dining experience, and make each guest feel valued and well taken care of. By implementing these strategies, you will not only increase sales and increase tips but also leave a lasting positive impression on your guests, ensuring their return and the success of your establishment.


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