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Waiters, or severs, play an integral role in a restaurant dining experience as they interact with customers from start to finish. Restaurants must provide proper training and consistent reinforcement to ensure waiters are prepared to serve guests well and uphold a good reputation on behalf of the restaurant. Waiters receive the majority of their training on the job and can enhance skills by referring to industry resources or attending formal waiter training sessions.
Assign a head server for the waiter trainee to work alongside to observe and assist in serving guests. Teach restaurant basics, from setting tables and greeting diners to fine details such as steps of service, menu specifics and beverage/bar options. Demonstrate restaurant set-up requirements, side work and end-of-shift cleaning responsibilities.
Instruct waiter trainees on how to operate the restaurant computer system to clock in and out and to process customer orders, credit cards and gift card purchases. Make sure they are aware of restaurant terminology and proper communication with kitchen and other staff members to fulfill orders in the correct manner and a timely fashion.
Show the waiter trainee service stations and where supplies are stored. Demonstrate how to operate equipment, such as the coffee maker. Explain seating arrangements and table numbers and walk them through the restaurant so they are familiar with the entire facility. Introduce all restaurant employees, describe each role and foster good interaction between staff members.
Instruct the trainee on proper sanitation and safety guidelines as well as security. Provide information regarding policies and procedures and an employee manual if available.
Teach the waiter trainee to anticipate guest needs. Tell them to honor reasonable customer requests and the importance of immediate follow-up on inquiries or complaints. Inform the waiter trainee of up-selling techniques that can increase sales for the restaurant, which in turn can boost server tips. Make sure they know to treat customers with respect, interact in a pleasant manner and be gracious at the close of the dinner while encouraging guests to visit again.
Administer a written test after training to guarantee waiter knowledge of food (ingredients, accompaniments, preparation and origin) and drinks (which can include wine and liquor details). Evaluate the skill level of proper service by having the server wait on members of management before employment is finalized.
Beyond Basic Training
Require waiters to attend the pre-shift meeting to learn about menu specials, discuss topics at-hand or receive any general restaurant information that management presents. Tell them not to hesitate in asking for or offering assistance during the shift, as all employees should support one another to provide the utmost service for guests. Share the hourly wage with the new hire, inform them of pay periods and how to properly report tips.
Communicate with staff about professional waiter seminars and restaurant courses. Local restaurants and wineries may host tasting sessions periodically, and cooking schools may provide relative coursework.
Encourage staff to gain restaurant, food and drink knowledge. Industry magazines can be found online and in libraries. Bringing additional information to the job increases employee value and provides personal enrichment.
Advise wait staff to take advantage of in-house food and wine tastings to gain menu knowledge.
Provide trainees the opportunity to ask questions regarding the server role, restaurant operations and customer service.
Aside from proper training and supportive resources, experience will be the greatest teacher in successfully serving guests.
A waiter should have a genuine desire to cater to others and possess a pleasant demeanor, as the role can be physically demanding and unappreciated at times.
Dawn Fenske began freelance writing in 2009 with contributions to various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Lake Erie College with a concentration in marketing and communications. Fenske has previous corporate experience generating various business promotional materials and has additional knowledge within the restaurant industry.
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