Once known as waiters and waitresses, restaurant servers play an integral part in any restaurant. While a restaurant server job entails taking orders and delivering food, today's servers are the customer service representatives of any restaurant. A good server can make any customer into a regular, while a poor server can cause customers not to return for a second visit. A restaurant server job description can include many different duties, depending on the type of restaurant in which they work. Not every person is cut out to be a restaurant server. If you hope to become a restaurant server, it’s vital you understand that you are part of a much bigger team and you need to work well with your coworkers if you hope to succeed.
History of Restaurant Servers
The earliest restaurant servers were the owners of roadside inns and taverns, stretching as far back as ancient times. During the French Revolution, the modern-day restaurant and server were born. While many parts of the restaurant industry have changed since then, the basic job of taking orders and delivering food has remained the same. However, today's servers work in a fast-paced environment, and they need to have excellent customer service skills, organization, and common sense.
Knowing the Menu
At the core of the server’s job responsibility is to know the restaurant menu. A restaurant server should know the menu before taking any tables on the dining room floor. An employee manual and menu test can help new servers commit menu items to memory faster, as can a menu tasting. Servers should always have a recommendation for customers unsure about what to order. Knowing the restaurant menu is not only important for good customer service, but it can also help upsell food and increase check averages.
Server Side Work
One of the biggest duties of restaurant servers is side work. Side work refers to tasks that need to be done before during or at the end of a server's shift. Common side work may include refilling salt and pepper shakers, stocking condiments, laundering dirty linen, rolling silverware in napkins, sweeping or vacuuming the dining room, fetching ice for the bar, stocking salads and dessert coolers, updating specials boards, menu inserts, and table tents and wiping down menu jackets.
Organization is Key
A key trait for any successful restaurant server is organization. It isn’t easy to juggle several tables during a hectic lunch rush, but juggle you must. Knowing when to ask for help is part of being organized. If you find yourself in the weeds, don’t be afraid to ask the host to water a table or get them desserts. Or ask the busboy (busser) to bring extra bread to a table. Your job is to do whatever needs to be done to keep the customer happy.
Restaurant Servers and Gratuity
Depending on the restaurant policy, it’s customary for servers to tip out 15% to the rest of the front of the house. A typical breakdown is 5% to the bartender, 5% to the host, and 5% to the bussers.
The Golden Rule
It’s important to treat your coworkers how you want to be treated. No one wants to work with a restaurant diva. Even if you are pulling in big bucks and customers rave about your service, it’s important to remember you are part of a much larger team. A restaurant needs its cooks and dishwashers just as much as it needs its servers. A server who doesn’t ask for help or won’t willingly help out coworkers won’t go very far.