As a server, it’s guaranteed you’ll have extremely busy nights feeling stressed and overwhelmed. When all of your customers and tables need attention at the same time, it’s easy to become flustered and deliver sub-par service.

When servers are in the weeds, it feels like they don’t have time to give all of their customers the service they deserve. Unfortunately, not only can this be stressful for the server, but it can also result in a decrease in tips due to customers feeling neglected.

But how can you prevent this?

Servers can ensure they stay calm and collected, even when busy, by staying organized, communicating effectively, and prioritizing tasks.

Here are a few tips to help servers stay out of the weeds:

 

Organization

Pre-Shift

Servers can ensure operations run smoothly by completing simple tasks before their shift starts. These tasks may include, but aren’t limited to, setting tables, stocking glassware, folding napkins, brewing coffee, and cutting bread. If these aren’t done before the shift starts, it may leave the server scrambling during service and wasting time.

Another way to keep organized before a shift is brushing up on the food and drink menu, as well as asking the kitchen and bartenders if any items will be unavailable that night. This practice reduces the risk of a customer ordering a dish, and the server not realizing until they get to the POS system that it’s unavailable.

 

On the floor

Staying organized during the shift is just as critical as before the shift. Servers can use technology to effectively manage tables and ensure customers receive their food and drinks on time.

For example, most restaurant POS systems allow servers to course out a table’s meal, especially in the case that customers order their drinks, appetizers, and meals all at once.

Not only does this save time inputting the order later on, but also helps reduce the chance of a server forgetting to put the guests’ main course into the system.

When a server is busy, the last thing they want is to have frustrated and hungry guests.

 

Communication

Co-Workers

If a waiter or waitress feels overwhelmed during a shift, it’s important to communicate that with other staff members. For example, a server can approach the host to tell them their section has been extremely busy, asking if the host could seat a different section before theirs when the next guest walks in.

With table management software, this problem could be eliminated entirely but providing an interactive, real-time floor map that keeps track of servers’ sections and full tables. This software is also able to predict which table or server should be sat next, and prompt the host when a new guest arrives.

 

Guests

Communication with customers is another way to keep customers happy and reduce wasted time during a busy shift. Even if a server is busy, it’s important to spend meaningful, quality time with tables instead of just breezing past them.

It may be tempting to just do a quick check in because the list of “to-do’s” is piling up, but it will actually save servers time to take a moment and ask their customers several leading questions when visiting their table.

For example, the server could ask “Would you like another glass of wine” “How are you enjoying the meal so far” and “Do you need anything else to enjoy your dinner?” This way, Servers can stay focused knowing their customers won’t be flagging them down to get their attention every time they walk past.

 

Prioritization

During a busy shift, servers can stay out of the weeds by prioritizing their guests and tasks throughout the night. It’s more important to greet a new table than refill a customer’s soda.

Even if servers are not spending a lot of time with their guests, all of the tables know their face and know they will be taken care of. Service That Sells recommends prioritizing guests in the following way:

• Newly seated guests
• Guests who have a problem with their food or drink
• Guests who just received their dinner
• Guests who are ready to pay

 

Final Thoughts

Even if a server is overwhelmed and in the weeds, it’s important to give the best service possible in order to build relationships with guests, improve tips, and keep customers coming back.

A servers’ livelihood relies on satisfied customers who tip well, as most staff are still paid $2.13 an hour. For this reason, the ability to keep cool under pressure is a critical skill to learn while working in the restaurant industry.

How do you stay out of the weeds during a busy night?