Servers have to be excellent jugglers—and far beyond entree-tray balancing. Between memorizing menus, tending to tables, upselling, and trying to please the kitchen staff, management, and your guests, the duties of a server merge multiple jobs into one.
To top it all off, many front-of-house employees depend on tips. Restaurant servers know that if you don’t accomplish all this with a smile, your wallet might take a hit.
Whether you’re a starry-eyed newbie ready for the challenge or a longtime server looking to level up, here are 12 tips for staying efficient and comfortable while also providing tip-worthy service.
How to Be an Efficient Server in the Restaurant Industry
As a restaurant server, your job is to keep guests flowing in and out of the restaurant at the right pace. This means finding the perfect balance between efficiency and customer service. Experienced servers don’t want their guests to feel hurried, but they also don’t want them to be camped out during a lunch rush.
That’s why our first three restaurant server tips are for keeping your rhythm without kicking guests out the door.
#1 Never Be Empty-Handed
The first rule of serving in the restaurant industry is to never be caught empty-handed. Going back to the kitchen to check on an order? Take guests’ dirty plates with you. On your way back? Grab that extra ranch for the family at table 12.
Serving requires stamina, and experienced servers don’t want to waste valuable time and energy. Get in the habit of making every movement count. Multitasking can help keep your guests from waiting, and your tired muscles will thank you.
#2 Know the Menu Inside and Out
This one is also good practice for getting tips, but when it comes to keeping the ball rolling, don’t underestimate the value of having immediate answers to guest questions. The fewer trips to ask the chef, the better.
Restaurant employees should definitely know about each menu item, including:
- If it contains common allergens like soy or shellfish
- If an item is vegan, halal, kosher, etc. (or can be made to be)
- The alcohol content of all drinks
- Each dish’s spice level
- Other modifications that can be made to items
Knowing the menu might also help you make better upsells—more about that later.
#3 Always Repeat Orders
This quick tip can save both you and the kitchen staff from getting slowed down by incorrect orders. In a bustling restaurant, it can be easy to mishear an order, or your guest might have misspoken.
As you record a guest’s order, repeat back what you heard. A simple “Club sandwich and fries?” can mean fewer headaches, more satisfied guests, and tables that get turned much faster.
How to Get More Tips from Serving
Efficiency keeps the house happy, but it shouldn’t have to come at your expense. Struggling to make tip-worthy connections with guests and still turn tables? Our next few restaurant server tips offer quick and easy ways to boost customer experience.
#4 Introduce Yourself
This is standard practice for servers for a reason. One study found that servers earn 23% more in tips when they introduce themselves.1 Your guests are spending their meal with you, and introducing yourself is the first step to connecting with them.
It could also help you out in the long run. If a guest becomes a regular, you could be forming a long-term friendly relationship, potentially leading to bigger tips and a better work environment.
Give a customer a great experience, and their glowing online review might even mention you by name.
#5 Write Thank-You Notes
According to one study, just writing “Thank you!” on the check helped servers earn bigger tips.2 Handing off the check is the last impression you get to make before the tip comes, so make it count.
If you really want to stand out, don’t be afraid to make it your own. A smiley face drawing or a quick doodle relating to your restaurant’s brand can get guests smiling just in time to add on that tip.
#6 Upsell, But Do It Well
Since most people tip a percentage of the meal, a bigger check often means a bigger tip. But don’t get cocky—many guests can smell a cash grab from a mile away.
The trick is to offer upsells customized to your guest that could enhance their experience.3 This is where knowing the menu comes in handy. Try suggesting:
- Wine pairings
- Your personal faves
- Recommendations based on what the guest has told you about their taste
The question “The chefs like to pair the tilapia with the sauvignon blanc; would you like to give it a try?” suggests an upsell that the guest might appreciate.
Or if they mentioned their love of spicy food when they ordered the hottest appetizer, you might try saying, “I know you’re into spice; would you like an extra side of sriracha with your eggs?”
#7 Be Honest
While your job requires you to be courteous and positive, nobody likes a transparent liar.
If you don’t know the answer to a guest’s question, don’t make something up on the spot. Be honest about your limited knowledge and offer to check with someone else to be sure. This is especially crucial for questions about allergens and other dietary restrictions.
You should also be honest about what you’re serving. There are bound to be a few dishes that you wouldn’t recommend, but if you tell a guest that a less-than-perfect item is top-notch, they might take their disappointment out on your tip.
That doesn’t mean you should be negative about the food. A couple of ways to beat this conundrum are:
- Answer their question with a different suggestion – Suppose a guest asks if the cream of mushroom is any good, but you can’t stand it. You could try saying, “Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the clam chowder,” or, “My co-worker loves it, but I usually go for the salads.”
- Suggest a change to the menu item that improves it – For example, “The croque-monsieur is good, but I’d suggest getting the sauce on the side.”
How to Stay Comfortable While Serving
All those trips around the house can add up to some serious mileage on your body. To keep you focused and ache-free, our next two tips are about your personal comfort.
#8 Keep it Fresh & Clean
A neat appearance will help you seem professional, but it’s also simply more comfortable. No one wants to work a whole shift in sweaty or stained clothes. Here are a few ways to stay fresh:
- Keep an extra change of clothes in your locker for accidents or extra-sweaty days
- If allowed, wear something light and breathable, so you sweat less
- Keep long hair pulled back and use pins and bands to keep it in place
- If you wear makeup, choose something long-lasting and waterproof
- Wear clothes that are easy to care for, and wash them after every use
#9 How to Choose the Right Shoes
The right restaurant shoes can make or break a shift. You walk miles every day, so make sure your feet aren’t screaming by closing time. Bad shoes can even cause blisters and ingrown nails—the absolute last thing a server needs.4
Are non-slip shoes required in restaurants? Non-slip shoes are often a job requirement, but we highly recommend them even if they’re not. A few other boxes to check when you’re looking for the best restaurant work shoes are:
- Correct fit for your foot shape
- Plenty of cushion
- Arch support
- Water resistance
You might also consider using compression socks. For more tips for taking care of your feet at work, check out our article on server foot problems.
Next Steps: Level Up Your Serving Game
Already know how to be a good server, but are ready to take your skills to the next level? Keep these last three tricks in your back pocket:
Serve in Snibbs
When you’re on your feet all day, the proper shoes are essential. Finding the right pair that fits your restaurant employee dress code can be tough for servers—your shoes have to look good, be non-slip, and provide the perfect support system. Just as servers have to juggle many tasks, so do their shoes.
That’s why Snibbs reinvented the work shoe.
Our shoes are designed with your job in mind. Dual density and ergonomic soles allow you to stand all day in comfort, and the lightweight and adjustability make them a breeze to get around in. They’re also slip-resistant to give you a grip on slick kitchen floors. And because we know how messy a restaurant can get, we made our Spacecloud design water-resistant for extra freshness and comfort.
To top it all off, Snibbs slip-resistant work shoes are made to look stylish, so your professional, tip-worthy outfit isn’t spoiled by your shoes.
When it comes to serving, the best tip is to do it in Snibbs.
- Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Effect of Server Introduction on Restaurant Tipping. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1990.tb00405.x
- Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Effect of Server’s “Thank You” and Personalization on Tipping. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1995.tb01772.x
- Lightspeed. How to be a Good Server: 21 Tips and Tricks from Seasoned Pros. https://www.lightspeedhq.com/blog/how-to-a-be-a-good-server/
- Healthline. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Healthy, Happy Feet. https://www.healthline.com/health/tips-for-healthy-feet-footwear-hygiene
- Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb00216.x