An overview of server skills
Server jobs are often entry-level positions, but it still takes a lot of work and skill to do the job. Servers often have many duties in addition to taking orders and delivering food. They also greet customers, set tables, engage with customers throughout their meal, and even up-sell menu items. Each of these duties requires a unique skill set, and the ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment.
What Are Server Skills?
Server skills are the skills needed to be successful as a waiter or waitress. In order to work in the restaurant industry, you need to enjoy interacting with many different types of people, be an effective listener, and have the ability to stay calm under pressure. Restaurant server jobs are both entry-level and for people with experience. The skills you need to work as a server depend on the type of restaurant since an upscale restaurant is very different than a casual breakfast cafe. The owner and management expectations also determine what skills you need in the workplace.
Examples of Server Skills
Since a server is a tipped employee and relies on the tips for a large portion of their salary, a certain skill set is needed. In addition to being friendly and personable, a server needs to:
Be an Excellent Communicator
A good communicator listens even more than they talk. Since you are responsible for accurately taking orders and relaying these orders to the kitchen and bar, you need to make sure you hear your customers. Asking questions to make sure you have everything right is also important.
Have Good Time Management Skills
A server must have good time management. Most customers want immediate service, and you need to be prepared to provide it, no matter how busy you are. Learn how long it takes the kitchen to prepare menu items so you can effectively communicate this to your customers, and work other tables within this time frame.
Attention to Detail
Some restaurants have detailed and complicated menus, and your customers might have special dietary needs. A server needs to know the menu and the main ingredients that go into each dish, along with information about specials and side dishes for each menu item. Remembering all the little details can mean the difference between a small tip or a large tip at the end of the meal.
Have Lots of Energy
Servers spend their entire shift on their feet, moving from table to table, and to the kitchen and back. You need to have a lot of energy to do this for several hours every day. Servers also have to lift heavy trays of food, and even balance food and drinks in their arms or on a tray as they quickly move from the kitchen to their tables.
Be Able to Multitask
Once you get through the initial training process, servers have to provide customer service to several tables at one time. This means you’ll be doing several different things at once, One table might be ordering their drinks, while another needs to get their food, and another needs their check. It is critical that a server knows what each of their tables’ needs.
Have Social Awareness
A good server knows what is going on around them in the restaurant, and with their customers. The ability to read social cues can help you anticipate your customer’s needs before they have to ask. For example, if you see your customer looking around, they probably need something, so you should head over to help them. If they are frowning or making an unpleasant face, they might not be enjoying what they ordered, and you’ll need to address this to make them happy.
Have A Good Memory
Every customer has unique needs, and many will ask for substitutions or want to omit certain ingredients. Every person at every table will want something different, and it is up to the server to remember what everyone wants. Most servers carry a pen and pad to write everything down, but when you get in front of the computer system to put all the requests in, you need to remember all the details.
Servers also have to remember the daily specials, their customer’s dietary needs, and many other small details over and over again throughout their shift.
How To Improve Server Skills
The better your skills as a server, the more money you will make. These tips will help you improve your server skills.
- Exercise Your Memory. A good server needs a good memory. Play memory games at home and in the restaurant to improve it. During your shift, repeat orders back to your customers, and visualizing the plate as you take the order can help.
- Work on Your Communication Skills. The most successful servers are excellent communicators. Always have a genuine smile on your face, stay positive, and talk to your customers.
- Learn All About the Menu and Taste Everything You Can. The most popular question from customers is “What do you recommend?” The more familiar you are with the menu, the easier it is to answer this question. And if you know how everything tastes, you can make personal recommendations.
- Get To Know Your Customers. Regular customers are often excellent tippers, and the more you know about your customers the more they will appreciate what you do for them. For example: A regular customer comes in the same time every day and orders the same thing. You can have the order in so they don’t have to wait, or have their drink made just the way they like when they walk through the door.
- Complete Certification Courses. Depending on where you live and work, certification courses for serving alcohol and food safety will make you a better, more informed server.
- Wear the Right Shoes. Restaurant servers can walk several miles throughout their shift, and uncomfortable shoes can affect your attitude and your work. Wear slip-resistant shoes for safety, and comfortable ones for your peace-of-mind.
Server Skills in the Workplace
Having the right skills as a server will not only help to make your job easier, you’ll see a difference in your tips. The job includes taking orders and serving food and drinks, but it is much more than this. It also takes:
- Knowledge of Food Service Regulations – All servers need to know the FDA’s Food Code for safe food handling.
- Patience with customers and team members- You work with many different people and personalities as a server, so you need to have the patience to deal with customers who might not be nice or those who are difficult.
- Bartending – Servers can make good money bartending if they have the skills to do it.
- Sales – Tips are calculated based on the amount of the final bill, so the larger the bill, the larger the tip.
- Problem Solving – A shift manager is usually on duty to help with a difficult customer or unusual situations, but you might have to solve a problem on the spot without them.
How To Highlight Server Skills
A well-crafted resume that highlights your server skills can help you land a well-paying job in a good restaurant. These tips will help you write an effective resume and cover letter.
Skills For Your Resume
- Manage orders and ensure the optimal guest experience.
- Knowledgeable recommendations of menu items based on customers preferences.
- Accurately perform financial transactions.
- Follow all food safety regulations.
- Negotiate and resolve customer concerns.
- Assist team members to achieve maximum efficiency during peak hours.
Skills for Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter for a server position should highlight your abilities and your decision-making skills. This is the place to tell an employer about positive customer ratings or a time when you resolved a customer complaint and they went home happy.
Skills For the Job Interview
The skills you should highlight for a job interview depend on the type of restaurant. A high-end, upscale restaurant will need servers who have knowledge of wine pairings, while a breakfast place needs someone who is comfortable working in a fast-paced environment. Emphasize your transferrable skills. For example, if you have sales experience, tie it in with your ability to sell menu items. If you have excellent technical skills, highlight your ability to quickly learn their sales system.
Working in a restaurant is a great job and an excellent source of income. The list of server skills needed to perform the job is extensive, but once you learn how, it is something you can always do, and it is a skill set you can take anywhere, whether it is working at a server in a new city, or using the skills in a different job.