Restaurant serving is a gamblers’ paradise. If you play your cards right, you could easily bring home an abundance of cold, hard cash. If you catch a bad hand, you could find yourself struggling for weeks, maybe even longer. There’s only one guarantee when it comes to waiting tables---no two days will ever be alike. While there is a touch of luck involved in the profession, there are a few shortcuts that, when executed correctly, could sway the odds in favor of your wallet. Here are some tip increasing tricks designed to keep you on your A game.
1. Carry a Notebook and a Stopwatch
Timing is everything in the restaurant world and the difference between an excellent tip and one that’s only mediocre is usually a matter of being on time. When you initially start a job, you should be keeping a log that counts everything down to the minutes, even the seconds if possible. If you have a ballpark idea of exactly how long it takes the kitchen to cook a medium steak on a busy day as opposed to how long it takes them to cook a medium steak on a slow day, you can time your tables accordingly. You can even offer the customers a general idea of how long their meal will take if they’re in a hurry.
Another thing that can easily be timed is drink consumption. Pay attention to how quickly the customers in your section are guzzling down their beverages. If you see a half full glass at one of your tables, head back to the kitchen and prep a refill before the customer even requests one. Bear in mind that people tend to slow down after their first glass so if they guzzle drink number one and sip drink number two, a third drink probably won’t be necessary.
2. Greet in Passing
The 30 second greet time applied in chain restaurants really isn’t a bad idea at all. Customers genuinely appreciate receiving acknowledgement almost immediately after they sit down but they also don’t want to feel like they’re being rushed. If a table sits down in your section, breeze past them with a hand full of trays, smile and let them know you’ll be right over. This makes you appear busy, but not too busy for them and they also get a sense of acknowledgement without the sense that they’re being rushed.
3. Seat Yourself
If you know you’re next in the table rotation, don’t be afraid to step up to the host stand and offer to escort the next set of customers over to your section in lieu of the hostess doing so. Most hosts or hostesses will welcome and appreciate this gesture and the table you’re seating will feel like you picked them out personally. They don’t need to know it was really just your turn. Making customers feel special is a great way to gain a better tip.
4. Tell a Joke but Only One Joke
There was a master joke teller at Red Lobster who could make just about everything that rolled off his tongue sound funny. He used this incredible gift to dazzle the customers in his section but he was smart about his execution. He didn’t overstay his welcome at the tables by rattling off jokes while customer stomachs growled and parties became impatient. He chose instead to tell only one joke per table. The kicker is that it was always the same joke. First he would tell the joke and the customers would double over with laughter. Then, when a new table would come in and take a seat, he’d let the first table in on a secret by whispering, “Watch what happens when I tell these guys next to you the same joke I just told you”. At this point, he would tell the joke again and the new table would laugh. The first table would laugh even louder the second time around. The mood in his section was almost always light hearted and easy going from that point on but there was nothing light about this jokesters’ pockets at the end of the night.
5. Convert to the Customers’ Style
Just as no two days are alike in the restaurant business, no two customers have the same style. If you want to give the best possible service, it’s extremely important to adapt to each customer on an individual level. You will find that some restaurant goers want to converse with their server while others prefer to eat in peace with very little interruptions. There are little clues you can look for by paying attention to their mannerism and activity. If it seems like a couple is on a date, treat them accordingly. If you seat seven business professionals in your section, try to limit the interruptions. On the other hand, if fifteen twenty two year olds are ordering drinks and cracking a series of jokes with you, feel free to chime in.
6. Build a Fan Base
The best servers understand the importance of building a fan base. If a customer seems particularly satisfied with the service they received from you, don’t be afraid to ask them to look for you the next time they visit the restaurant you work in. This fan base will keep your section busy even on slow days and the more customers that come into the restaurant looking for you specifically, the more faith your manager will have in you. This faith will eventually lead to larger sections, better hours and more advancement opportunities.
7. Always Refresh the Cooks
One way to ensure that your food reaches the window in a timely matter is to build a relationship with the cooks in the kitchen. Bear in mind the fact that they’re standing in front of a hot industrial oven 90% of the time. Every time you enter the kitchen, you should take a second to offer the cooks drinks. This small gesture will be greatly appreciated and your food orders will be more likely to maintain priority if the cooks like and respect you.
Waiting tables, much like most present day careers, is a job based on relationships. Your relationships with the customers, the managers, the cooks, hosts, bartenders and bussers will have the most impact on your tips. If you can build a strong bond between yourself and those around you, you will find yourself in a secure financial position which will just be one of the many rewards you can look forward to.