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The Power of Serving: Working in a Restaurant

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Being a server at a restaurant is not for everyone. It takes people skills and multi-tasking.  But being a server has its benefits like any other job, such as health and dental benefits, and, if you’re good, then the money is good as well. In fact, it’s fast and easy money.

I’ve been a server for four and a half years now. I’m in college and I needed a job that could work around my school schedule, and restaurants usually have short shift hours. Restaurants also have a lot of turnover so they hire frequently, so it doesn’t take much to become a server, but there are certain things you should know before entering the field.

Restaurants give new hires training materials regarding menu items. It is very important to study these materials. This is knowledge that you need because when asked about certain items, you don’t want to look like an idiot in front of your guests.

It’s also important to help out fellow employees as much as you can. It's a group effort, from the cooks to the host, so helping out makes the restaurant run a lot more smoothly. Also the restaurant business can sometimes get very stressful, so it is crucial that you help out as much as you can because your shifts will go a lot better if you do.

I started off in the to-go area at a local Chili’s, where I learned everything there was to know about the menu items. By the time I was ready to become a server, all I had to learn was how to greet tables

Make sure you stock up on pens, because pens in the restaurant business are a scarce commodity.  Guests or other servers are always taking your pens, so keep plenty on you.

Serving isn't just about the food, it's also about dealing with guests. A majority of the money you make depends on how you interact with them. Guests come to a restaurant for good food and friendly service. So if you’re friendly towards them, most of the time you’ll get better tips.

One time I was busy training a new server while also helping out another one.  One of my tables stopped me and asked me about my college degree and what I was going do after college. They told me I was a good server, and as the gentleman shook my hand I noticed money in his. Walking back to the kitchen, I looked in my hand and saw a $100 bill. This was in addition to a normal eight-dollar tip they'd added to their tab on the credit card.  People notice if you work hard and interact.

You’ll still get people who, no matter how hard you try, are still going to tip badly. Those are the ones you have to brush off and keep going. You have to have a short memory in those situations and just go and handle your next table.

Being a server has its ups and downs, but has many positives. It helps you become more people-friendly and boosts your networking skills, which is important – because you never know who you may meet.

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About Elliot Jones

  • Well done article. As someone who has paid her dues many years ago in the food service industry. You hit it right on the money…as it were. 😉

  • Dan

    I don’t eat out often, but I’ve noticed how much effect a server can have on the experience.

    I can’t think of many bad servers I’ve had, but some of the good ones are real standouts. They make you feel comfortable. The good ones actually seem to personalize their service from what they sense about your mood.

    It’s a real skill that probably depends heavily on the individuals natural talent. It requires so much mental energy that it would seem to be hard to fake.

    I’ve had several incidents where a server has been able to switch and substitute menu items to save me moderately significant cash. I feel good about tipping someone with money that they have just saved me.

  • My wife and I eat out often. I managed a Long John Silvers for about 4 years and was a cook in the Army. Additionally, my son worked as a server at a local Palomino Restaurant, and I worked for tips driving a cab in NYC. Food service and working for tips are both tough ways to make a living.

    A good server and good service can make up for mediocre food – not bad food, perhaps, but mediocre food, yes.

    One of my pet peeves involves getting served the food and then, asking for, say catsup, or hot sauce, or whatever, and then never getting it, or having to wait an inordinate amount of time while you’re sitting there watching your food get cold. This happens, it seems, about 30% of the time.

    Another similar problem is having to wait for the check. So often it seems the server just disappears when you’re ready for to head out the door.

    But, when given good, attentive – but not too attentive, service we are usually generous tippers.


  • I managed a Long John Silvers for about 4 years and was a cook in the Army.

    That explains it…!

  • Yes, yes it does!

    I think.