How To Provide Exemplary Service

Servers should not spend too much time at tables but be reachable with eye contact.
Servers should not spend too much time at tables but be reachable with eye contact. Image Used with Permission

Discretionary spending is down, which means fewer restaurant meals for most of the U.S. population. It also means that meals out are considered more special, so more is expected of them.

Alas, too many restaurants trip up on many small matters of etiquette, says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Mannersmith, an etiquette consulting firm in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Here are Smith’s top tips for providing an excellent restaurant experience:

  • Make a good impression from the minute a guest walks into your restaurant. If you are with other customers, simply make eye contact and smile; otherwise greet them verbally.
  • Be realistic about wait times. If you underestimate, diners will be more than annoyed. It’s better to tell them too long because then you might exceed their expectations.
  • When guests are seated, an employee should come to the table almost immediately with water and a menu. Make sure you look at the menu from the patron’s point of view—if you are a dark restaurant, make sure your paper isn’t dark and your font not too tiny, for example.
  • Sticky menus are incredibly off-putting. There’s no reason for a menu to be sticky or stained.
  • If you can print out the specials, do so. It saves servers from having to remember them, makes it easy for guests to follow them, and also provides prices.
  • When a patron asks a question about a dish, if a server doesn’t know the answer, he or she shouldn’t guess, since sometimes these concern medical issues. Guests are happy to wait while servers check with the kitchen.
  • Never lie to the customer.
  • If you don’t have something, offer something in return. Never just say no, say “Sorry, we don’t have that, but we do happen to have this.”
  • Servers should know enough about the menu, even if they haven’t eaten everything on it. For example, “I haven’t tried the filet mignon, but our server John loves it.” Or “I haven’t eat the shepherd’s pie but it’s one of our best-selling dishes.”
  • If you have a table of women, or a table of older people don’t call them “you guys”. This is permissible, however, with a group of younger people.
  • “Never ask: Are you still working on that?” It should not be work to eat at a restaurant. If you have to say something, ask “Are you still enjoying that?” but this question really shouldn’t be asked at all. Servers should be able to tell by the placement of diners’ utensils whether they’re finished or not.
  • Don’t ever put your thumb in customers’ food when carrying plates or on the rims of glasses when serving drinks.
  • The sign of superb wait staff is knowing to whom to present the check. It’s usually the first person to speak and the person who helps orchestrate things at the table.
  • Servers shouldn’t reach over diners when filling water glasses.
  • Smart wait staff can ask women if they’d like the dressing on the side when they order a salad. It looks polished and is thoughtful.
  • Servers can ask diners with children if the kids’ meals should come first, if they’re ready. It’s good to anticipate customers’ needs.
  • Servers shouldn’t be at the tables too much but should be within eye contact distance so diners can reach them.
  • Always thank diners before they leave.

By Amanda Baltazar

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by FSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.


 Smart waiters can ask GUESTS if they want dressing on the side not women.  If I was solely asked at a table with men, I would be insulted , not pleased

I agree with guest #1, singling out women is insulting.  I run a high scale restaurant and would be appalled if one of my servers addressed only women with that question.  I think the question is unnecessary as is, but to single women out only seems kind of absurd.

The sexist dressing issue I see has been addressed.   "If you don’t have something",  somehow you must not allow anyone to order that item.  No one will be satisfied with a second choice.  I recommend if this happens to you, just get up and leave, as the dining experience has been ruined. 

The myth spending in restaurants is down, must stop.When it was stated in sentence one, "Discretionary spending is down".  That was wrong in so many ways.  First,  Discretionary spending is a component of how the Governments spends money.  Disposable Income is what is left after taxes, Discretionary Income is what is left after taxes and necessities. There was a dip in Discretionary Income in Q2 and Q3 of 2009 and has risen every quarter since as has Personal Expenditures on Food Services, Purchased meals and beverages (i.e. Restaurants). (US Dept. of Commerce).  Many restaurateurs are continuing to see a decline in spending at their restaurant.  This myth is part of the problem.  These restaurateurs believe it's the economy causing their problems and are "waiting it out".  Restaurant spending is, in fact, been raising since Q3 2009.  If your restaurant's income is not increasing, it is because you are doing something wrong.  It's not the Economy, it's You.  The World is changing as is the way people choose a restaurant.  People also have higher expectations.  They want their food faster and are less tolerant of mistakes especially in order accuracy.  There has been a big shift in how people choose where to eat. Most people 64% (Microsoft Bing Study) are in transit when they get hungry and many while in unfamiliar territory.  They will use their mobile smartphone.  Even the 12% that are at home are more likely to use a smartphone rather than a desktop PC or any other method.  This means you must be accessible by a mobile device.  You must be listed in Google Places, and should be listed in the restaurant review and directories that come up in a MOBILE Google search.  Encourage (and reward) your highly satisfied customers to post reviews.  Respond to negative reviews.  And you MUST have a Mobile Optimized web site.  Mobile is just one example of many ways your World is changing.  Keep up or perish.  And remember, no matter what the media may lead you to believe, IT'S NOT THE ECONOMY, IT'S YOU.

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