How to Better Manage Your Workflow as a Restaurant Server

Hey friends! As a veteran server of many years, I know firsthand how hectic it can get managing your workflow on the restaurant floor. It’s so easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed trying to juggle a gazillion tasks at once! Trust me, I’ve been there.

But over time, I’ve picked up some killer strategies to work smarter, not harder. I want to share my best tips and a great video tutorial for all you hardworking servers out there so you can streamline your service, make more bank, improve guest satisfaction, and maintain your sanity in the process! Let’s break it down:

Key Takeaways for Servers

  • Consolidate trips by gathering additional orders before entering items into the POS system and pre-bussing tables.
  • Prioritize getting hot food from the kitchen window out to tables immediately.
  • Use the “full hands in, full hands out” approach to maximize efficiency. Carry as much as possible on every trip.
  • Anticipate customer needs proactively instead of waiting for requests. Read tables and offer recommendations.

1. Prioritize Pre-Busing and Gathering Orders

Here’s a little secret that took me way too long to figure out: resist the urge to bolt and enter orders into the POS system the second a table places an order.

I know you want to get that order in ASAP, but take a quick lap of nearby tables first to pick up any additional orders. Multitasking ftw! This consolidates trips and saves you major time.

And don’t forget to pre-bussing before entering orders! Clear some dishes and glassware to make room for the next round. Then hustle those pre-bus tubs back to dish ASAP so you don’t get backed up.

2. Hot Food Takes Precedence

It’s tempting to obsess over entering orders quickly to fire tickets fast. But here’s the thing: no matter how promptly you punch in orders, nothing can start cooking until the kitchen receives the ticket anyway.

Instead, make hot food your #1 priority the moment it hits the pass. When that sizzling skillet or steaming soup is ready, drop everything and hustle! Even a 60-second delay leads to dying temp and quality. And trust me, few things are worse than delivering lukewarm food to a hungry table.

By getting hot items out immediately, you maintain the quality, freshness, and integrity of dishes. Customers eagerly anticipating their meals won’t be disappointed. And happy, well-fed guests equal bigger tips!

3. Work with a System, Not Reactions

It’s SUPER easy to get caught in nonstop reactionary mode on the floor. Tickets print in a flurry, tables flag you down, chaos ensues! This frenzied style of operating inevitably leads to stress, mistakes, and subpar service.

Implement order amidst the madness by developing a structured system and disciplined workflow. Begin by training yourself to pause when things get hectic. Resist the urge to spin into a tizzy. Instead, take a breath, assess the situation, and make a quick plan of attack.

Who just got sat and needs greeting? Is anyone waiting impatiently on apps or drinks? Does the kitchen need an ETA update? Once you’ve identified priorities, execute tasks accordingly.

Follow this “pause, assess, execute” system on repeat, and you’ll be amazed how smoothly full hands fly out. Let the framework guide you – don’t just react. In time, structured flow becomes second nature resulting in streamlined, stress-free shifts!

Front of House Waiter Serving Food

4. Full Hands In, Full Hands Out

It blows my mind how many servers constantly race through the restaurant empty-handed back and forth. What a waste of energy! If this sounds like you, listen up. It’s time to embrace a little concept called “full hands in, full hands out.”

The logic is simple: carry as much as humanly possible on every trip. Headed to greet a new table? Swing by neighboring booths to grab empty glasses and drop drink orders at the POS along the route. Dropping entrees off? Scope the area and bus dirty plates on your way back to the dish pit. Refilling sodas or restocking supplies? Restock napkins and straws, too. You get the idea.

Work smarter, not harder, friends! By following the “full hands in, full hands out” concept, you can maximize your productivity and reduce the time spent on unnecessary trips. Give it a shot!

5. Mindful Task Execution

It’s easy to get distracted as a server and flit from one thing to the next without properly completing tasks. You drop off apps, only to get flagged down for drink refills before placing the order. Sound familiar? It happens, but backtracking wastes precious time and mental energy.

It’s all about being fully present friends! Set an intention to completely finish addressing all of a table’s needs before moving on. Did you greet and grab drink orders? Are apps and entrees fired? Do they need refills or anything else for now? Check every box before table hopping.

FOH Meaning

6. Streamline Communication

Smooth communication between the front and back of house staff is imperative for seamless restaurant operations. Miscommunications easily happen in the hustle and bustle leading to slow service and mistakes. Be proactive about keeping all staff on the same page.

Chat with the kitchen to ensure prompt fire times and coordinate with other servers so you’re not overwhelming a station at once. Update hosts on table status so they know where to seat. Utilize tools like restaurant pagers to reduce telephone game failures as orders make their way to various staff’s hands.

Designating an expeditor or manager to oversee the flow between stations can be hugely beneficial as well. They can facilitate dialogue, clarify confusing orders, and spot potential slowdowns before they happen.

The key is to establish clear communication channels. When in doubt, over-communicate! The results will be crystal clear dialogue, minimal mistakes, and smoother service execution.

7. Be Organized and Prepared

Let’s be real – scrambling to grab pens, menus, and sidework supplies after being triple sat sucks. Nothing kills vibes faster than frantically ransacking your station, searching for tools needed to do your job.

Set yourself up for smooth service success by fully prepping your workspace before each shift. Restock pencils, mints, straws and anything else regularly needed. Neatly stack clean linens and collateral like menus and specials boards. Confirm you have all the necessary tools for sidework later like sanitizer buckets and scrub brushes.

Proper organization also applies to keeping track of orders during service. Whether utilizing a traditional ticket book or digital ordering system, designate a tidy landing area for slips. Ticket organization is crucial for avoiding confusing mix-ups down the line!

How to Manage Your Workflow More Efficiently as a Restaurant Server

8. Time Management

Managing time and pacing is imperative for consistent, quality service – yet it’s easily overlooked when in the hustle. Here’s a pro tip: wear a watch, set timers, and create structure around timing.

Watches allow you to actively monitor steps, so you can swing by tables right as drinks need refreshing, apps are ready for busing, etc. Can’t glance down often? Utilize alarms reminding you to check in on specific tables or take a hydration break (crucial!).

When you actively manage time rather than just reacting, it’s easier to provide consistent attentiveness across all your tables over the duration of service. No more getting sucked into just one needy table while others are neglected! Hello bigger overall tips.

9. Anticipate Customer Needs

It’s easy to fall into a reactive rhythm of just responding to customer requests as they flag you down. Extra ranch dressing? Coming right up. Drink refill? Let me grab that. But take your service to the next level by anticipating needs proactively.

Actively study tables from afar through keen observation. Scan body language, facial expressions, and dish statuses for clues. If a parent is rifling through a diaper bag while the baby fusses, they likely need a warmer. Notice someone eyeing empty glasses? Drop off refills without being asked.

Providing an extra level of attentive service stands out big time. So be proactive offering suggestions too – that perfect wine to pair with their entrees or must-try dessert they’re sure to love.

The Bottom Line

Look guys, the bottom line is that mastering your workflow as a server is critical for crushing every shift with smooth style. When you take control of managing your time and tasks, it’s game over for subpar service.

By kicking things up a notch with pre-bussing, prioritizing hot food, and working systematically, exceeding guest expectations and bigger tips are totally within reach! I’m telling you, next-level performance awaits.

And don’t forget the importance of little details like balanced full hands, mindfulness, solid communication, and TLC organization. They take your skill set to the next level!

Implement even just a few of these workflow wisdom nuggets and watch both customers and managers start raving about your service. You’ve SO got this! Now go run those tables like absolute boss and start reaping those sweet rewards!


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