Generating tips beyond the standard 15% and ensuring repeat business as a server is all about customer service. It is about making the patron feel warm and fuzzy about having chosen your eating establishment and feeling fortunate to have you as a server.

1. Quit saying, “no problem” – These are two negative words that have become a habitual way of responding to a customer. To make someone feel like what the customer has asked is an easy, simple request say, “With pleasure” or “right away” or “that sounds good.”

2. Attitude – Project a positive demeanor. Smile often. Imagine your customers are always watching you. Give them the feeling that you’re glad to be able to serve them and that you will do the best job you can for them. Cheery attracts, complacency is a turn off.

3. Acknowledge their presence – Keep your eyes open. Watch for new people being seated in your section. Make eye contact with new customers as soon as you see them arrive. If it’s going to be a bit of a wait before you can get to them, give them the “one minute” signal with your index finger or even better, go to them and tell them you’ll be right back. Welcome them to the restaurant.

4. Introduce yourself – Tell them your name. This creates connection between you and them. People are more apt to tip a friend then a stranger. Initiate small talk. If you get a welcoming response keep up the banter, if there is little response respect that these folks are here for a purpose and keep moving. Ask if the bill is to be together or separate.

5. Offer suggestions – Ask a customer what kind of food they prefer, do they have any preferences, sensitivities, are they vegan or of an ethnic persuasion that limits selection, then make a suggestion. Don’t do the how about this and how about that before you know what might be appropriate to recommend. Know your menu and the ingredients of each dish.

6. Be patient – No one likes to be rushed. Whether you’re in a hurry or not, try not to let your actions or your expressions show it. Stay focused in the moment with whom you are serving.

7. Check back – Go back to the table within the first few minutes and ask if the food tastes good and if there is anything more you can get for them. Don’t make suggestions, don’t suggest negatives, let your customer bring it up.

8. Refills – Pay attention to all of your customers. Go back to their tables and ask if anyone would like a refill and tell them whether the refill is extra or a bottomless glass. Make eye contact with them when you can. Body language is 55% of the communicated message, smile or nod as you pass by.

9 Wrapping it up – Tell them that there’s no hurry but is there anything else you can get for them. Offering another refill will help support that. Also ask if anyone would like a carry out box. Try to anticipate what people need or might want before they ask for it.

Remember to like what you do, even love what you do. This is your profession, even if it is while you are waiting for that big break from Stephen Spielberg! Passion sells and passion pays better than “I’m here because I have to be.”


Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group