5 Ways Servers Can Make More Money And Give Better Service

By Salar Sheik, Foodable Industry Expert

As with any job, just coasting through a shift won’t make you more money. 

For many, being a server only pays off if the tips are right; if the waiter is just coasting through a shift, he/she won’t make much of a payoff day. Unlike salaried jobs or sales positions with a longer sales cycle, servers see immediate financial benefit on every shift. If you are hiring people that are genuinely interested in providing great experiences and in making more money, or if you’re a server that wants to make the most of your time at work, use the following tips to help bring home the dough.

1. Suggestive Selling

Many use the term “upsell,” but I like to use the term “suggestive selling” as upselling sounds a bit like a car salesman trying to sell you the extra lifetime gel coat for you paint. Suggestive selling also helps customers that are unsure of items or hesitate to order because they are guests of others at the table. 

For example, instead of asking, “Would you like any drinks with your meal,” tell them what you have to offer: “We have a fantastic Malbec that would pair well with your ribeye steak," and add that it can be served by the glass or bottle to share with the table. 

The same goes with food. Instead of asking, “Would you like to start with any appetizers,” try, “The chef makes an amazing fresh crispy calamari with house made spicy tartar sauce.” 

2. Always Offer a Full Meal: Appetizer, Entree, Dessert, Drinks

Never start with, “What entree would you like?" Don't assume your guests are here for only an entrée. Offer appetizers and always suggest courses, building a relationship with your table. This is key for a great dining experience and a better tip. 

3. Make Sure Your Support Staff Are Team Players

We all know there is no “I” in team, so it's important to work well with others. Be smart about the workload. This way you will be able to take on that busy 4-top and birthday dinner party with never ending soda refills. Build a relationship with bussers, runners, hosts, servers, and your manager so they understand when you will need their assistance. Never be a one man/woman team. Always help other servers and staff when you are able to do so; this will let them know you are a team player which will pay off in the future.

4. Add a Personal Touch by Reading Your Guests

Get a good read on your table for proper interaction. Is it a birthday, family, couple, business person or tourist?  Some guests don’t want to be bothered by small talk, such as those on a business lunch or a couple on a first date. However, a birthday party, family gathering, or tourist group will more likely appreciate small talk. With these types of diners you can chat about the restaurant, the city, or even have the opportunity to ask questions such as, “Are you a red or white wine drinker?” This will allow for a good opportunity to make a bottle recommendation, while building rapport with your guests at the same time.   

Business or dating couples might not enjoy you chatting at the table, but being quick and keeping the table clean and organized will show your persistence to offering great service. Also, fine dining servers may address the guest by their last name (e.g., “Mr. Smith”) when known from a reservation. 

5. Be an Server Who is Not in a Rush to “Turn And Burn”

I have seen too many servers lose out on a great tip right at the end of the meal because of one wrong move: rushing the check. Make sure your guests have completed their meal and wait for them to ask for the bill. If you push the check on them, all your hard work will be unseen. Make sure you are working the table until the end and buss any dessert and coffee before you drop the check. 

Always keep in mind that people pay for items, but tip for speed, care, and attention. As minimum wage increases, the repercussion of meal price increases will follow. In return, customers will expect service to match the increase. Expectations will rise for a complete and rememberable dining experience, which can pay off with bigger tips if you stay on top of your game.