Being an excellent waitress is about excellent customer service. Employers typically pay servers minimum wage, and in some states, less than minimum wage. Yet, these servers also earn tips from customers. There can be a significant difference in total income between two waitresses working in the same restaurant. The waitress who masters her customer service skills will typically earn more income than the one who fails to meet the customer’s needs.
Attend to your grooming before checking in for work. Present a sparkling clean appearance, with clean hair, nails and a pressed uniform. Secure loose flowing hair, to prevent it from getting in the customer’s food, resulting in lower tips.
Acknowledge the customer immediately, even if you are not able to serve him at that moment. Cheerfully let him know you see him and will attend to his needs as soon as possible.
Communicate with the customer using positive facial expressions and body language. Smile naturally, yet avoid getting into your customer’s personal space or getting overly chummy. Don’t share your personal life with the customer.
Do not make excuses. The customer really does not care the cook is having a bad day or you have a headache.
Check with the customers immediately after all the plates arrive at the table, to verify they have everything needed for the meal. You may have forgotten to deliver the side of mayonnaise for the hamburger or perhaps the customer forgot to order it with the meal. In either case, the customer’s enjoyment of the meal suffers without the condiment, possibly resulting in a lower tip.
Give the customer a few minutes to try the food, before asking about his satisfaction with the order. If you ask too soon, the customer has not yet had an opportunity to sample the food. The object is to ask when you still are able to correct any problems, without having to discount the meal or have an unhappy customer. If you ask too late, the customer may have already finished a major portion of the food, and you increase the odds of a customer complaining with the primary objective of obtaining a discount.
Remove the dirty plates from the table immediately, yet, do not hover over the table. Give the customers privacy, and avoid interrupting their conversation. An excellent waitress attends to the needs of the customer without making her presence over obvious.
Avoid socializing with co-workers when customers are within earshot. It is unprofessional to discuss personal matters, and professional waitresses often make more than those who behave unprofessionally.
Keep working, even when business is slow. These down times often lead to poor customer service, due to the waitress letting down her guard and forgetting about the customer’s needs.
Pay special attention to the training program of your employer, and adapt to its business model. Not all restaurants handle customer service in the same way. For example, a restaurant might have a marketing gimmick where its servers are encouraged to insult the customer. While it may work for that restaurant, it will obvious be discouraged in most restaurants.
Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.