I was given the best training as a server from Sam, Dorothy and Vinnie Piccolo which was proven by the tips I got--never less than 20% of my total sales. (An aside to servers of today--do yourself a big favor and declare your tips--whether years from now it is Social Security as we know it today, or another system, what you declare today will pay back for you then. Yes, I know, you are young and want to spend the money now but in your old age the money will come in handy! I know as I spent my tips and only declared what I had to so that is part of the reason I live below the poverty level!)
Years later when corporate owned restaurants started to have 'rules' I was already following them! Here are a few things all servers should do when you are their customer:
1) Stop right now and see how long 2 minutes can be--yes it is long. The first rule of a good server is to acknowledge a new customer even if it is only to explain that you will get to them very shortly. If they were seated when you were in the kitchen picking up something acknowledge them as you go to the other table.
2) Take a drink order and deliver it within 3 minutes unless it is alcoholic and you have to depend on the bartender. (Customers may not know it but in today's world of restaurants servers have to tip a certain percentage of their tips to the bartender--plus a food runner, if the restaurant has one and a bus person--but more about that later.)
3) Their food order should start to be taken within 5 minutes--how long that will take depends on you the customer.
4) After serving a dish, whether appetizer, entree, salad or dessert always check back and ask how everything is--if you feel they are not too enthusiastic about something you possibly may change. If they are finished eating whatever you served it is too late to correct it. Many customers will eat something rather than complain--a good server will pick up on those vibes.
5) If a customer is drinking alcohol ask them if they would like another before they completely empty the glass as most drinkers don't like waiting for another one.
6) If customer is drinking a bottle of wine, water, coffee, tea or soda be sure to refill when cup/glass is a quarter full. (In the case of tea many restaurants will charge for a second tea bag so either offer them more hot water or tell them there is an additional charge. Yes they will blame you but ti will be worse if you don't tell them and they see it on their check!)
7) If the complete party isn't finished a course be sure to ask the person who is if they would like their plate removed.
8) "Crumbing" of a table is a lost art in restaurants but show you know what you are doing by doing that, at least after the main course. If you don't know what crumbing is it is basically removing crumbs, cleaning the table so it looks as near as possible as to when they first sat down. (I definitely tip extra if a server knows to do that!)
9) Always be a step ahead of your customer--if they are having a burger than ask if they would prefer mayo, mustard or catsup--bring Worcestershire or A1 when serving beef. Ask if they would like extra cream with their coffee, lemon with their tea, their salad dressing on the side or anything that will save you a trip and prevent them from having to ask for what they want/need.
10) To make your boss happy, and many times customers appreciate it, do some 'suggestive' selling--suggest an item that will add to the enjoyment of the meal or you feel the chef really makes special. Don't suggest add-ons every time you open you mouth but maybe an item with dinner, a dessert or an after dinner drink. Yes it makes your check higher so possibly a higher tip and it makes your boss happy--it's a 'win-win' situation.
11) It is not often the case these days but many restaurants now have patio dining so the few customers who still smoke can. Smokers don't like dirty or full ashtrays so always keep an eye on them and when you do take the ashtray off the table do it the professional way--yes, there is a professional way. Top the used ashtray with a new one and remove both--this way you don't have ashes flying out--and when you have them both away from the table put the clean one on the table.
12) After serving dessert or if they say they don't want any, put the check down but be sure to let them know if they need anything else just to ask. Also it is your judgement as to who to give the check or where to put it on the table. In most cases if someone asks for the check they should get it but then who is doing most of the ordering or maybe you would be better off putting it in the center of the table--if you 'read' your customers you should know what to do.
13) Thank the customer when you put the check down AND when you bring the change or credit card slip AND when they get up to leave.
14) When working remember you are a part of a team--just as the bus person, bartender and food runner help you so does the other servers on the floor and you in turn should help them. Have a pot of coffee refilling your customer's cup how much work does it take as you walk back to the side-stand or kitchen to fill up other cups? A customer asks you for something don't tell them that you will tell their server but get it and if you can't tell the server. If you and the servers who have a station on either side of you look out for each other the work will be easier and the tips better!
It may sound like a lot of work, or extra things to do, but a professional server does all the above without even thinking about it and certainly will get you better tips.
Hey customer if you see a server doing the above tip higher!