How To Get Great Service In A Restaurant (Always!)

I am often asked how I am able to get great service from waitstaff when I go out. let me assure you it is not because they have my picture posted on the notice board under “Big Tippers” or “Friggin Blog Writers” it is because after almost 20 years of working in and with the restaurant industry I have been able to work out “What makes waiters tick”. Sure, big tips make for happy waiters but big tips come AFTER the meal and I want a smile and good service during the meal. So what is the secret? Actually it is not a secret at all and you are welcome to try a few of these the next time you go out.

Hint Number 1:

  • Smile. People simply do not smile any more. Most of the time they look bored or angry or both. Look your waiter right in the eye and smile with a bright, genuine smile. Genuine, because his or her presence means you are about to enjoy a meal–which is a whole lot better than standing in the queue at the door.

Hint Number 2:

  • Be polite. Some people feel it is their God given right to be rude to waiters and others in service positions. Stand out from the crowd by treating your waiter with common courtesy. Say ‘please’ when you order, and thank you. A polite ‘excuse me’ to gain attention works wonders compared to an across-the-room ‘HEY!’ Simple manners are one of the best ways of obtaining great restaurant service.

Hint Number 3:

  • Be respectful. Diners often treat waiters as lower class citizens. This is the wrong approach, since service does not improve with condescension. Think of your waiter as an important person whose expertise you seek. Respect goes a long way in motivating good service.

Hint Number 4:

  • Remember to empathize. Your waiter has been standing for several hours and has endured sore feet, rude guests and a hot kitchen. This person looks forward to the end of the shift. Make a comment that shows you empathize. “Wow! You guys are really buzzing today. I hope things calm down for you,” or “Gosh my back would hurt in this job. How do you do it?” This small nod to his feelings shows you see him as an equal, rather than a servant.

Hint Number 5:

  • Use a little bit of charm. Don’t over do it, just a little twinkle. . If the waitress anticipates the need for extra napkins, thank her with a smile. If she has pretty earrings, say so. Find at least one thing you can genuinely praise. It is not a difficult task, but many of us have forgotten how to give compliments. Your waitress will appreciate receiving one.

Hint Number 6:

  • Tip well. Most wait staff rely heavily on your generosity. Their livelihood depends upon tips, and give the ‘standard 10 percent’ for mediocre service. Tip good service 15 percent, and exceptional service much more. Odds are you will be back and servers remember good tippers!

And one final point to ponder… before you decide to show everyone at the table just how rude and condescending you can be to a lowly waiter, REMEMBER he handles your food when you are not looking! (For me that is a good enough reason to smile and be polite)

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  1. This is so true, and something I practice all the time. Recently, I went to a popular family restaurant with my daught er and was delighted to see a waiter from the sushi restaurant I frequent often. He’s “moved up” in the world and we exchanged greetings and pleasantries. The service I got was attentive and quick. I like engaging with service staff because they are so unnoticed by a hasty public.

    • One of these fine days I will write a post called “Enjoy your meal”
      Sadly a lot of people need to learn how to enjoy themselves

  2. The sad thing Michael, is that this needed writing. It is all so damn simple and obvious. Common knowledge. May I add supplementary advice to your Hint 2. I always look at the waiter’s name tag. If they are not wearing one I ask their name. Then when i order I say “Mary, please may I have . . .” and when they bring my meal or pour the wine or remove a plate, I say “Thank you Mary”. Using their name is a must. I want a happy waiter so I create an environment in which they can be happy. My waiters always laugh a lot. Always. I Am lucky to have that ‘skill’. If you don’t, develop it. Lastly – on Hint 6. Whatever the tip calculated I round up to the next R5 or R10. Happy dining

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