Ebook: Social Media and Restaurants

Restaurants and Social MediaUse of social media by restaurants for marketing, service, and guest loyalty continues to rise. In 2013, Hospitality Technology reported that nearly nine of 10 US restaurants used at least some type of social networking as part of their outreach efforts.

Adding a social media component to your existing marketing tactics can increase awareness of your establishment, generate excitement around your food, and strengthen loyalty among regular guests.

Our ebook, Social Media for Restaurants, looks at a few best practices for restaurateurs and chefs seeking to utilize social networks for improving awareness, reaching new diners, and building customer relationships.

Included in this free download are a look at a few general social media best practices, as well as sections devoted to:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Foursquare and Yelp

Download the FREE ebook at the button below. 



This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com‘s Restaurant Strategy Blog


How Restaurants Can Better Tackle Their Off-Peak Hours

Restaurant interiorSo you’re happy with the revenue being generated during your restaurant’s peak operating periods. That’s great! That’s where the majority of your profit is going to come from.

Now, however, maybe you’d like to focus a bit more on the slower parts of your week. You want to limit the damage done to your bottom line by those pesky off-peak hours.

Off-peak operating times are similar for just about every restaurant for a reason; people simply don’t eat as much during those hours. Any plan for dealing with off-peak dips needs to focus as much on reducing operating costs as much—if not more—than it does on driving sales.

Here’s just a few ways to rein in costs during downtime.

Shut it Down

Turn off all unneeded ovens, stoves, steamers, and other kitchen equipment during your off-peak times. Important: be sure to first determine exactly how much time each piece of equipment needs to hit its optimal temperature again when getting ready for the next rush; every minute counts when it comes to saving energy.

Chill Out

Use your off-peak times to pre-cool the restaurant when utility costs are less. That way, you’ll have a cushion that should keep your temperature at a comfortable level during rush hour.

And speaking of chilling, consider shifting your ice production to off-peak times as well. Ice machines create heat in the kitchen and only add to your peak time energy demands. Have a timer installed to ensure the bulk of your ice production takes place in slow periods and overnight.

Kill the Lights

Kill the heat lamps in your pass-thru window. Turn off or dim the lighting in any private party rooms or other areas of your dining room that aren’t currently being used. Turn off your televisions if the bar area is empty. Any other lights or signs that could be turned off until the next rush should be shut down.

Reschedule Your Prep Times

RSGMag recommends moving prep periods to your midday off-peak hours as much as possible. They note:

“Controlling minimum staffing levels during off-peak meal periods is difficult because you never know when a busload of tourists or a rush of afternoon diners from a convention decide to pop in. Rather than scheduling prep before you open, consider doing the majority of it during open hours and off-peak times. That way if you do suddenly get an unexpected rush you’ll still have enough bodies to meet the demand.”

Cross-Train Your Staff

We’ve made this point time after time, and we’ll do it again here. A cross-trained staff means you can get more people off the clock and be certain those who remain can float from station to station.

So what about bringing in more guests during off-peak times? Below are just a few ways some establishments are increasing their traffic during the slower parts of the day/week.

Look Into Tech Solutions

Technology is helping many restaurants drive more off-peak sales. The biggest online reservation service for the industry right now, OpenTable, can reward your diners for booking reservations during preferred periods of your own choosing. You select the days and/or times you’d like people to book a reservation and OpenTable offers customers dining points for booking at those times.

Go After Clubs and Businesses

Identify any local clubs or organizations that may meet on your slow days and offer them a discount to entice them to dine with you. Just be sure to let them know to book a reservation so your staff is ready for them.

You could also target local businesses for private parties during your off-peak hours, or provide a local office with catering services, if you can handle it.

It’s Five O’clock Somewhere

Start a happy hour in the late afternoon to kick-start the dinner rush early. Happy hour offerings can include specially priced drinks, and smaller, cheaper dishes such as 1/2 price appetizers. Beginning the dinner rush early could also be framed as an early bird special if you prefer. Just be sure to stay consistent with these specials so people know what to expect and return for more.

Late Nights

The late night set could be tapped into as well. The late crowd tends to be a bit younger, so try to appeal to them with a fun, ambient atmosphere. Dim the lights and fire up some different music; do something that makes your later hours feel distinct from dinner time.

Unlike peak hours where quickly turning tables is crucial, encourage the late night crowd to stick around; have servers check in regularly, and offer that next round of drinks.

Closing time is drawing near at this point so consider paring the menu down to a few items, perhaps appetizers and salads. This lets your kitchen clean up quicker and close certain stations. You want to balance increased sales with the ability to let staff get off the clock as soon as possible.

For a look at reducing both food and labor costs in the restaurant, be sure to download our free ebook at the button below.

Restaurant Cost-Saving Practices


This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.

Improving Front and Back-of-House Relations in the Restaurant

Restaurant_Staff_RelationsAnyone who’s spent time in the restaurant industry will admit that, occasionally, tempers can flare. We’re only human after all and when a big rush hits mistakes can be made, orders can be missed, and arguments can ensue.

When a conflict takes place between restaurant staff, it often takes the form of front-of-house vs. back-of-house. In my many years as a server, I witnessed several instances of bickering between my dining room colleagues and a chef or line cook. At times it felt like we were on opposite sides, like two warring sports teams.

Seeing or hearing employees fight is awkward for a guest. It also makes a restaurant seem incredibly unprofessional. So, let’s look at a few ways restaurant managers can improve relations between the two sides of their house.

Invest in an Expeditor

If your budget allows for it a good expeditor can work wonders for creating a smooth relationship between front and back-of-house. Expeditors can be a member of the hosting or serving staff, but they should ideally have a thorough understanding of how the back-of-house operates as well.

This role serves as a buffer between the kitchen and the waitstaff, so they need to possess diplomacy skills and demonstrate great calm. Make it a rule that the expeditor – and only the expeditor – can ask questions of the chefs. Have your servers filter all questions and concerns through this person. This keeps a chef from being asked the same question several times.

The expeditor keeps the kitchen on task, and on time. With a good expeditor in place, serving staff have peace of mind that their plates will come out on time, and be well presented. This saves them the frustration of sending back dishes and arguing with kitchen staff.

Enough with the Blame Game

It’s important that your restaurant’s managers understand that regardless of role, people can and will make mistakes. They need to be able to step in and keep everyone focused on finding solutions to problems rather than figuring out which side of the house is to blame.

If a guest has complained about a cold plate, does it really matter whether the kitchen or a server has erred? While chefs and waitstaff stand around bickering, the guest continues to suffer. The Blame Game helps absolutely nobody, so stop it.

Cross-Train Your Staff

We’ve touched on this topic before and it’s a great way to help improve front/back-of-house relations. Cross-training allows your staff to not only develop new skills for themselves, but to see what a typical shift looks like from their teammates’ perspectives. The ability to experience service from the other side of the window and gain insight into what the other side of the house goes through is essential for better staff relations.

Pre-Shift Meetings

If it’s not logistically possible to include both sides of the house in a pre-shift meeting, try to make sure to address the concerns of the other side during these pre-shift gatherings.

Make certain that your front-of-house knows which items are low, which items are 86’d, and anything else the chef needs them to be aware of. Conversely, be sure the kitchen staff knows when all of the shift’s large reservations are arriving, and any other issues front-of-house may need addressed in the kitchen. Pre-shifts need to be about preparing the entire team for the next rush.

All-Hands Staff Meetings

Many businesses say they’re going to have regular meetings including the entire staff. Then they hold that first meeting and never get around to another one, or get to it a year later. Restaurant schedules are tough to manage and the hours of operation can make it difficult to gather the entire squad, but management must truly make an effort to commit to regular all-hands meetings.

Beyond those daily two-to-three minute pre-shift huddles, staff meetings are important, particularly if you’re making substantial menu changes or bringing in new management.

This is the time to encourage all staff to voice questions, obstacles, and concerns. This is crucial for building relationships between front and back-of-house.

Communication Boards

Avoid confusion and miscommunication between front and back-of-house with something as simple as a white board. This is where every staff member should go before beginning their shift. Write the day’s specials, soup of the day, low stock items, and any 86’d items on these boards. If possible, make your expeditor or manager the only one allowed to modify the white board. It’s a low-cost yet effective way to keep everyone on the same page. Time permitting, go the extra step of having a kitchen staffer or manager log into your POS system and flat out remove the ability to order 86’d dishes.

If all your best laid plans still fail to stop an employee battle, the National Restaurant Association offers an interesting tip. In the event of conflict, develop a restaurant-wide hand signal or verbal cue for gathering your team in private. This helps shield guests from embarrassing situations that might affect how they perceive your business.

Any other tips for improving relations between front and back-of-house? Tell us about them below.

Are you a restaurant looking to cut costs? Check out our free ebook, 25 Restaurant Cost-Saving Best Practices, at the button below.

Restaurant Cost-Saving Practices

How Restaurants Can Increase Profits During Those Crucial Peak Hours

Restaurant_peak_hoursMany restaurants focus on trying to increase business during their off-peak hours. It’s an important aspect of your operations to be sure, but what about maximizing your sales and profits during your peak operating hours?

The majority of your restaurant’s revenue is generated during its peak times, and those hours likely account for almost all of your profit. So how can you improve turnover (without blatantly rushing your guests) and get the most bang for your buck from those peak service times?

Here’s a few suggestions.

Take a Look at Your Seating Plan

Try to avoid a situation where all of your tables are occupied while actual seats still go unfilled. Do you have any four-tops that could easily be separated into two-tops?

There will always be some parties of two requesting the extra space of a four-top and you should do what you can to accommodate those requests. However, you need to prioritize servicing as many diners as possible and reducing wait times.

A full dining room is a good thing; being known for having long wait times is not.

Do a Little Menu Engineering

Consider re-working your menu offerings in order to speed things up for both guests and the kitchen. Menu engineering will help you pinpoint your top selling and most profitable items. Lose your under-performing dishes, simplify your menu, and help things move faster during rushes.

There are three good reasons to engage in menu engineering:

  1. Larger menus take longer to peruse. The more choices guests have, the longer they’ll take to decide.
  2. The bigger your menu, the more cluttered your POS menus (depending on the software, mind you). This means serving staff may spend more time in front of a terminal looking for items.
  3. Large, varied menus can create less efficiency in the kitchen. It means less multiple orders in the same pan, which means more time being spent preparing meals.

Staff Up

More staff equals more labor hours, right? Well yes, but consider how much more efficient you could be if you had one extra body to help out during busy periods. A great example of this is an expeditor.

How much time is wasted having incorrect/incomplete orders returned to the kitchen? Not just that, think about those orders that were correct but sat in the window too long and arrived at the table too cold to eat.

Having an expeditor helps minimize these hassles by ensuring food is hitting tables quickly and correctly. You’ve added another hourly wage, but the cost of it versus the increases in speed and accuracy may well be worth it.


Cross-train your staff so they’re able to move to other stations in the restaurant during those peak hours if need be. The ability to assign more people to fewer tasks during peak operating times is essential for eliminating bottlenecks. Can your prep people easily move to the salad station or the grill during peak hours? Can a host or busser easily step in as your expeditor to clear out your jammed-up pass thru window?

Have Your Best People Where They Should Be

When those busy hours hit, be sure to have your best people in position. Seniority counts, but when peak times arrive you need to have your best people running the show. That means your most efficient servers, your fastest kitchen staff, your quickest bartenders, etc.

If you find your new hires are already among your best, then you may wish to think about how much weight you’re giving to seniority when scheduling for peak times.

Get the Word Out on Cancellations

Do you have any reservations that didn’t show? Of course you do, it happens to every restaurant. Don’t let those last-minute cancellations leave you with empty tables during peak times. Let prospective diners know you’ve got an opening.

Many establishments now use social media for this purpose. Updating your Facebook status and/or sending a tweet is quick and easy; it’s a great way to let customers know you’ve got an opening. See this example below from Babbo in New York City.



Keep an Eagle Eye on Upcharges

When a shift gets busy, servers and bartenders can occasionally forget to ring in that side of gravy or extra sour cream. Trust your staff of course, but there’s no harm in keeping an eye on those smaller transactions, especially during your most hectic hours. An occasional audit of your POS to make certain that drinks and condiments are charged wouldn’t hurt, just make sure staff know you’ll be checking.

For a look at another aspect of restaurant efficiency be sure to download our free ebook, Improve Your Restaurant’s Ordering Practices, by clicking the image below. 



Cover image via Flickr
NOTE: This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.

Build a Winning Restaurant Serving Staff: Part 5

Restaurant CustomerThis is the final post in our five part look at creating a top-notch restaurant serving staff. In part one we laid out the basics – menu knowledge and essential tools of the trade. Part two looked at reading tables and anticipation, part three focused on the mechanics and politics of serving, and part four discussed upselling.

We conclude with a look at dealing with difficult guests, as well as a few notes on social media use (or misuse).

First, here’s what every good server needs to remember when confronted with an angry guest:

The Buck Stops with You

Sometimes you’ll make a mistake entering an order. Other times, the kitchen will be at fault. Either way it’s the server that faces the guest’s wrath. It’s a reality that waitstaff have to deal with.

One thing that irks us is seeing front-of-house staff bickering with chefs about who’s at fault for a missing or incorrect order. Meanwhile, the guest is still waiting for a proper plate. The Blame Game serves nobody and it has no place in the restaurant, at least during service. Not only is the customer in question suffering, but the rest of that server’s section is not being attended to while their waiter/waitress engages in pointless arguments with the kitchen.

There’s nothing wrong with sorting out legitimate concerns during staff meetings or after shifts. In fact, we actively encourage these issues to be hashed out during all-hands meetings. During service, however, stay focused on getting the customer’s issue solved as quickly as possible.

Handling Customer Issues

Regardless of how well you perform, you’ll eventually face an angry guest. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when dealing with those difficult patrons.

Don’t take it personally. Do not internalize the situation. You have no idea what’s causing this person to behave angrily. Sometimes there’s more going on under the surface than you realize. This isn’t about you, it’s about the situation. It’s tough sometimes but a good server learns to develop a thick skin.

Assume the best. Customers will lie, there’s no doubt about that. You simply can’t assume that’s the default setting for most people, however. Assume your guests are being honest about their issue(s).

Remain calm. Sounds obvious, right? Yes, and it’s so important we’re still going to list it. The rest of your tables – and everyone else’s tables – are watching. You’ll be silently applauded by many if you keep cool and handle the situation with aplomb.

Watch your body language. Back in part two we noted the importance of reading a guest’s non-verbal cues. Well, guess what? They’re reading yours as well. Avoid the exasperated sigh, the slight roll of the eyes or any otherwise defensive gestures such as crossing your arms over your chest.

Own it. As noted above, regardless of where the mistake/problem originated, it’s your job to deal with it. It’s not your fault, but it’s your problem. That may not be fair but it comes with the territory. Offer a sincere apology for any mistakes and rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

Involve management when needed. While it’s important to show the guest you’re taking responsibility for a situation, it may still be necessary to involve the manager on duty. Sometimes simply involving management can diffuse a tense situation, even if that manager is offering the same solution(s) as the server. It lets guests know their concerns are being taken seriously. And sometimes they simply need to hear a solution from someone they feel has more authority.

The show must go on. This one bad apple can’t ruin your shift. You’ve got other guests to attend to. Vent about the troublesome guest later and stay focused on your other patrons. Many of them will likely be nicer – and tip better – if they’ve just seen you endure bad treatment.

We’ve already discussed the importance of reading a table, anticipating guest needs, developing menu knowledge, the importance of timing, and more. All of this should go a long way towards preventing customer issues from arising in the first place.

To wrap up, we’d like to touch on a few more ways serving staff can avoid guest complaints and bad reviews.

The Exit Experience

Service expert Micah Solomon says the exit experience is every bit as crucial to a guest’s perception of your restaurant. He advises that “even the slightest hint that a server is ‘over’ one party and on to the next toward the end of a meal dampens the entire dining experience.” Are your guests obviously tourists? Perhaps they’d like entertainment recommendations, or even a cab. It’s important to remember that service doesn’t stop when the credit card slip has been signed.

Discretion When Needed

Speaking of credit cards, is there anything more awkward for a server than having to let someone know their card was declined? It will happen to your staff, count on it. Fortunately there are ways to handle the situation that will limit embarrassment for all involved.

1. You could simply inform the guest that there appears to be a problem processing the card. Do so quietly, and diplomatically.


2. We’ve heard of servers choosing to pass this information on to the customer in writing. Discreetly slipping a note inside the billfold as the check is returned. Just a simple note reading “The card does not appear to be working, do you have another we could try?”

This approach allows the guest to quietly grab a new card, slip it into the billfold, and give it back to you as you return. If the conversation is still ongoing at the table, there’s a good chance nobody else even noticed the delay.

Social Media and the Rise of Tip Shaming

So you’ve done everything right, and now that credit card slip is ready to be closed off. Unfortunately, this guest felt a tip wasn’t necessary this time; you’ve been stiffed.

It’s tempting to take to Twitter or Facebook to complain about lousy customers and bad tips. We strongly recommend avoiding this practice.

While we sympathize with our hard-working friends in the serving game, the potential downside of venting about specific customers is simply not worth that brief moment of catharsis one gets from shaming a bad tipper. Take this recent example of a waitress in Ohio who lost her job for this very reason.

Even on those occasions when a customer makes your day with a fantastic tip, exercise a bit of caution before sharing these experiences with your social networks. Even if you’ve hidden names and credit card numbers, we still feel it’s in bad taste to post about generous tips, particularly from people in the public eye such as a sports star or local politician.

Admittedly there’s no hard and fast rule here, but we’re of the mind that a tip is a private transaction. Respect people’s privacy and avoid problems for you and the restaurant. If you’d like to let the world know your day was made by a wonderfully generous tip, keep it vague. “Some customers really make your day!” or “I was reminded today just how generous some people can be. Great shift!” or something to that effect.

We won’t go so far as to suggest every restaurant implement an official set-in-stone social media policy, but it may be worth including some suggestions on how to conduct one’s self on social media as part of employee training materials.

Speaking of social media, be sure to download the free ebook, Social Media for Restaurants, at the button below. In it, you’ll find tips for restaurants looking to get started on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. 

social media for restaurants


This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.

Build a Winning Restaurant Serving Staff: Part 4

restaurant_serving_upsellingThis is part four of a five part look at creating a top-notch restaurant serving staff. In part one we laid out the basics, menu knowledge and the essential tools of the trade. Part two dealt with reading tables and anticipation, and part three focused on the mechanics and politics of the job.

Next up, it’s time to talk about selling. Because let’s face it, both restaurant owners and their servers want to make more money.

The Server as Consultant

We’ve likely all heard a server say “everything is good” when asked for recommendations. Don’t do that. Seriously, just don’t. This is where that extensive knowledge of the menu you’ve developed comes into play. It often only takes a couple of questions to help determine which dishes to recommend. “Do you like seafood?”, or “any dietary restrictions?” for example. You’re not strictly a salesperson when you serve tables, you’re a consultant.

There’s going to be those high-performing dishes you’ll want to guide customers towards when possible, but when asked about favorites just be honest with people. Best to deliver something a guest will enjoy versus simply pushing the items with the biggest profit margins.

You’re the expert in the room, so act like it. New serving staff that have yet to try much of the menu can always fall back on dishes that are known to be popular with other guests.

Keeping with the idea of timing – which we discussed in a previous post – be certain to outline the day’s specials right away in order to get people thinking about them. If you only mention those specials when you return with drinks, then your guests may feel a little pressured to decide on the spot if they’d like to try the special or not. This could lead to them needing even more time to decide, slowing down turnover.

On top of knowing the day’s specials, servers need to be to be up-to-date on dishes/drinks that have been 86’d for that shift. Restaurants should have some type of whiteboard or other means of letting front-of-house staff know that certain items are unavailable. Servers should make that one of their first stops before taking the first order of the day.

If popular dishes are unavailable for some reason, start thinking about your second and third go-to recommendations. Grab the menu and quickly reacquaint yourself with their descriptions in order to tighten up your tableside pitch.

Setting yourself up in the role of consultant helps a guest see you as more than someone who simply jots down an order and drops off a few plates. You’re increasing the likelihood of a good tip, and using all that knowledge you’ve gleaned from learning your menu inside and out to enhance the guest experience.

The Upsell

So with all of the above out of the way, let’s talk about selling.

Knowing your product is crucial for being able to effectively upsell, so if you’re still not a product expert go grab your menu and start studying. Knowledge breeds confidence, and that confidence will be evident with your guests.

Of course there’s a difference between offering helpful suggestions and being pushy and annoying. It’s a delicate balancing act, but servers that have mastered the art of reading their tables should have little trouble spotting appropriate upselling opportunities.

A few ideas to consider:

– Make it a point to recognize the host/ringleader of any large groups. They’ll often help set the tone for the table. If they order an appetizer or alcoholic beverage, others are very likely to follow suit. Seriously, if you can convince the host to try that awesome new draft beer, you’re increasing the likelihood of the whole table indulging.

– Vary your speech a bit. Don’t ask the exact same questions and use the same descriptions at every table. Guests can hear your interactions at the tables around them so try not to sound overly scripted. People hear a script and they’re likely to push back. Think of how often you’ve done just that with telemarketers trying to hard sell you.

– If a guest is ordering something that takes a bit of time to prepare – a well-done steak perhaps – suggest a starter salad or soup.

– Guests splitting an entree between two people? Suggest a second side dish as an add-on.

– Never miss a chance to upsell the little things such as sauces, gravy, toppings for a baked potato (who doesn’t love a twice baked?), chicken as an add-on for salads, etc. If you’re not asking about a side of fried onions and mushrooms with a steak, you’re doing it wrong.

– Alcohol offers several possibilities. Know your wine pairings and make suggestions accordingly. Wine offers the textbook example of a server acting as consultant rather than salesperson.

If you’re carrying a visually enticing drink, be sure the rest of your section gets a good look at it. Take the long way to your table if you have to and let everyone develop a little drink envy.

If management allows it, bring them a small sample of that brand new beer you’ve got on tap. Getting that tiniest of sips could be the difference in a beer sale or fetching a water with lemon.

Know your premium brands and offer the guest options beyond the well brand for their Screwdriver or Gin and Tonic. When you’ve got a moment, pick your bartender’s brains regarding which brands to suggest.

– Don’t blow an upsell opportunity by delivering a bill before you’ve asked about desserts. Profit margins are often high for your dessert offerings, so discuss them with guests as much as possible. Again, make specific suggestions, singling out popular desserts by name whenever possible. If they seem enticed but hesitant, mention the possibility of boxing up a slice of that delicious Carrot Cake to go. And remember that special occasions like birthdays or Mother’s Day are golden opportunities to tout your desserts.

– The role managers play in the upselling process cannot be overlooked. One sure-fire way to get waitstaff selling is to instill in them a sense of pride in both your product and their role. Empower them with proper training, incentivize them with contests and rewards for top sellers, and make sure the product leaving the kitchen is always of top quality so they can proudly stand behind it. Note: We’ve made these points before as it relates to reducing restaurant staff turnover.

Any upselling tactics we’ve left out of this discussion? Share yours in the comments. And be sure to check back for part five of this serving series as we look at dealing with difficult guests and the use, (or rather misuse) of social media.

Looking to cut costs of both food and labor? Download our free ebook at the button below. 

Restaurant Cost-Saving Practices

This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.

Build a Winning Restaurant Serving Staff: Part 3

Waiter taking orders from young woman customerThis is part three of a five part look at creating a top-notch restaurant serving staff. In part one we laid out the basics, menu knowledge and the essential tools of the trade. Part two touched on the importance of developing the ability to effectively read tables and anticipate guest needs.

In this installment, we’ll focus more on the mechanics of serving as well as the “politics” of the job for lack of a better term.

(Note: While the post is written as if addressing servers directly, we think managers and owners can get plenty from it as well.)

Timing is Everything

Much like good comedy, the key to great serving is timing. The best servers pay strict attention to the timing of everything. Master the fine art of timing every step of your table’s experience and watch many potential problems disappear.

This involves knowing the average time it takes to prepare a meal, from apps right down to desserts. It means effectively judging how fast the kitchen is currently moving, how fast the bartenders are getting to their drink tickets, how fast guests are finishing each course, and more.

Learning how to time means you won’t be that server immediately going to the bar to wait for the drink you just rang in ten seconds ago, annoying the bartenders in the process. You’ll know how much time you have to let the bar do their thing while you take care of other chores. Improved timing makes life easier for you and your co-workers.

If you offer free soda refills, get that next round on the table before glasses are empty. Everyone loves seeing that fresh glass of cola dropped in front of them just as their current beverage is about to run dry.

Another thing to remember is that good timing also means occasionally communicating to guests how their orders may affect the rhythm of things. The easiest example of this would be politely noting that a well-done steak may take a bit longer to prepare.

Bonus tip: Are you close to a theater, stadium or other notable entertainment venue? It may be worth keeping tabs on what’s happening in town that night, and ask if your guests need to be out the door by a certain time. Pace their experience accordingly.

No Wasted Motion 

You know what they say about idle hands. There is always something a server could be doing to keep service moving efficiently. “Full Hands in, Full Hands Out” is a common philosophy in the restaurant business, and if it’s not part of yours, it should be.

Dropping off food? Clear empty plates and glasses. Bringing dirty plates to the dish pit? Wash those hands, grab clean dishes, and drop them off for the cooks. Bringing glassware to the bar? Ask your bartenders if any drinks need to be run. Spare moment? Grab a colleague’s order and run it out to the dining room (though check with the kitchen to be sure the order is complete).

Make a trip through your entire section and see what every table needs, then drop it all off in one trip. There’s no need for running back and forth for one item.

Keeping up with your table maintenance and it will take less time to clean and reset your tables for the next round. This means quicker turnaround and more money. You like money, right?

Writing it Down vs. Memorization

To write orders down or try to commit them to memory, that is the question. Some servers can remember every order for a table of ten – good for them! Others may need to take a few notes.

The Waitress Confessions blog has a terrific post on this subject outlining the pros and cons of memorization. So rather than dive too deep into it here, we’ll recommend you go check it out (after you’ve finished this post of course) before deciding on what approach to go with. If you do feel the need to write out orders, we strongly recommend developing some type of shorthand.

The Politics of Serving

It sometimes feels like the front-of-house and back-of-house are like two opposing sports teams, constantly bickering with each other. We’re not suggesting that one side is always right; sometimes the kitchen made a mistake, other times the server is at fault.

Here’s the thing though, a smart server picks their battles. The time will come when you need something on the fly, and if you’re the server constantly berating the kitchen for every perceived slight, you’ll become their last priority.

Ask yourself, are you doing anything to make the kitchen’s job easier? Could you use a spare moment to fetch clean plates or pans from the dish pit? Maybe they could use a glass of water or soda; pour one for them. It gets hot back there working around those ovens and stove tops.

Be the server that’s making their life easier and handling disputes diplomatically and you’ll find kitchen staff rushing to fix your mistakes when needed. Managers: One of the most important things to keep an eye on during service is how waitstaff treats the kitchen, and vice versa.

While we’re on this topic, it’s worth noting that these same rules apply to dealing with your fellow front-of-house mates. As noted above, help run food, ask if they need anything, see if the bartenders need supplies, etc. It’s a team effort, don’t be that server standing around looking useless. We can assure you, every other server on the floor can easily pinpoint your team’s weak link.

As always, if we’ve missed anything here be sure to let us know in the comments. In part four of this serving series, we’ll look at upselling. Stay tuned for more.

While we’re on the topic of efficiency in the restaurant, be sure to check out our free ebook, Improving Your Restaurant’s Ordering Practices, at the button below. 


This post originally appeared on FoodTender.com’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.