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10 min read

In our last post we broke down basic training fundamentals and how they were absent within a recent poor experience I had at a local restaurant. In this article we will be looking at standard steps of service and service fundamentals.

Even with the right training, there can be service breakdowns. However, following some clear steps of service will help you give you the best chance of pleasing a customer.

Greet The Customer

Greet the customer in the first two minutes after they sit down. Ideally over 30 seconds but under one minute. This gives the guests enough time to settle in but doesn’t have them yearning for a server. If you can’t do a full greet within two minutes, something as simple as, “I’ll be right with you,” can buy an extra minute or two and put the customer at ease.

As a manager at a pre-shift or meeting, gather everyone around and stand in silence for two minutes, just waiting. It feels like eons.

If a server is about to take the order of a large table, have her inform the host that they will be unavailable for a few minutes. That way a table isn’t sat at the same time as the server taking the order and then having to sit ungreeted for longer than 2 minutes.

Take a drink order

After an initial greeting it’s good to take the drink order. Make sure you write down your order using the Pivot Point technique. After taking the order for drinks but before walking away from the table, mention your food specials/features if you have them. This is a good time as it’s right as they are starting to think of food. If you mention the features after you come back with the drinks they may have decided on what to order already. Go ring your drinks into the POS using the Pivot Point system.

Return with drinks, take food order

Place the drink in front of the guest that ordered it naming the drink as you set it down. Once all of the drinks are dispersed, ask if they would like to try an appetizer and suggest one that you think the table may like. If they would like an appetizer, mark that down (use Pivot Point). If they ordered an appetizer ask if they would like to order food right away. If they do not order an appetizer you can take the food order right away if the are ready (again, use Pivot Point). Write down the order as ot is placed. Memorizing the order ised to be a cool trick, but now tends ti just make guests uncomfortable. Read the order back to the table to make sure you have everything correct. This is a dying art, but helps to build trust with your table and helps ensure everything comes out correctly.

After taking the food order mentioned a featured dessert if you have one and tell them to save room for it. Selling a dessert before your guest is stuffed is a lot easier.

Ring in the Food Order, A, B, C’s

Ring the food order (pivot point). Now prepare your A, B, C’s. Appetizers, Beverages, Condiments. Does your tablesl have appetizers? Do you need to bring out any plates or utensils for it? Your beverages should be out already, but this is a reminder to rethink about if you forgot anything or need to bring anything extra for the drinks they ordered such as a pitcher of water, lemons, or creamer for coffee. Condiments, does your table need any for their appetizers or meal? Make sure they’re on the table before the food arrives.

Appetizers (if applicable)

If I have an appetizer, bring that out next. Deliver it out and then check back with the after the first few bites to make sure everything is to their liking and they have everything they need. As they are nearing completion of the appetizer, start to prepare the salads and soups (if they ordered any.) Before bringing them out, clear the empty appetizer container and any dirty plates off the table. Wash your hands afterwards

Soups and Salads (if applicable)

Deliver the salads and soups. Be sure to name the type of salad and dressing or type of soup as you said it in front of the guest. This helps the guests know you have their order correct and is a last minute check to avoid a mistake before a guest eats it.

This it is a good time to check for a reorder on drinks. If anybody is getting low (below half) ask of they would like another one.

Ring in and bring the drinks back if any are ordered.

Prepare the table

As your food is nearly complete, return to the table and clear and dirty or empty food plates and bowls. Double check to ensure everyone has the proper utensils and codiments for their meal.Wash your hands.

Tray and Deliver the Food.

Tray up the food again using Pivot Point. Deliver the food and name the entree (and temperature if it’s a steak) as you place it in front of the guest. Ask to make sure everyone has everything they need. If not, brink back what’s needed.

Check back after two bites

Check back about two minutes or two bites later to make sure that everything is to their liking.You can again remind them to save room for dessert.

Check back as they are finishing up

As guests are finishing up or slowing down make sure you check back and clear any of the empty plates or glasses. This should be about 3-5 minutes after the first check. Observe your tables, you don’t want to rush them but you don’t want them having to wait for a box either. Ask if any one needs a to-go box.

Ask if anyone would like a dessert or coffee. If so write it down (PP), read it back, and then go ring it in.

If they would not like dessert ask them if they are ready for the check. If there are multiple people or couples, ask how they would like the check split up. Write that down.

Bring To-go boxes and desserts (if applicable)

If they did order dessert make sure you bring the to-go boxes first. This will allow you to clear the empty entree plates off of the table prior to bringing the desserts. Wash your hands after clearing and then bring out the desserts, naming each one as you place it in front of each guest.

Check back about a minute afterwards as desserts tend to go quickly.

Verify and Bring out the check

Ask your guests of they need anything else. If not, drop off the checks and clear any empty plates or glasses. If you have check presenters place the presenter standing straight up. In this way you will be able to see when they are likely ready to pay their bill as the presenter will be laying flat.

Observe your table, and run any necessary credit cards when they are ready. If there is cash in the presenter, do not open it. Leave it closed and ask if they need change back. Remove the presenters from the table and gather all change as needed.

Return the presenters to the table. Ask guests with credit cards to sign their slips naming each guest (the name from the card) as you place the presenter in front of each (provide a pen for each guest). Place any cash change in the presenter in front of the guests paying cash. Even if they didn’t need change, still return a check presenter with the receipt.

Thank the guests

Thank everyone for dining at the restaurant and invite them to return. Let them know you are still available if they need anything else.

If they remain at the table for a longer period after paying, continue to check on them and ask if they need drink refills or anything else.

Bus the table

After the guests leave bus the table off and prepare it for the next guest.

There can be a lot involved in proper guest service, but by following a few simple steps of service you can help to ensure great guest experiences.

If you had been following with the original bad experience story, you’ll notice many of these steps that were missed in our experience.

First, the time to take drink orders was unacceptable, taking nearly ten times as long as it should have.

Second, the order was not repeated causing errors in several of our entrees.

Third the never verified the check before bringing it out.

Finally, they failed to bus the other tables in the room until very late in our meals.

These steps easily could have been prevented had the server or trainer followed the proper steps of service. Sometimes however, even when following the steps of service with proper training, errors and problems can arise. This is where damage control takes over. We’ll explore it in our next post