Is it just me or is there something glamorous about working as a food server? As a server, you're on stage, twirling around, helping customers, and hoping not to break anything. But, there has to be more to the job. To figure out what draws people down this familiar path, I interviewed two top-notch servers in Berkeley, CA.
First, I chatted with Kara Cosgrove, a server at Summer Kitchen. This dynamite restaurant and bakeshop cooks gourmet meals using primarily locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients. The result: a minimal carbon footprint and out of this world taste.
Janessa from Sanctuary Bistro striking a post with a rescued chicken.
Next, I spoke to Janessa Olsen, a server at Sanctuary Bistro, a vegan French-style bistro in Berkeley. I didn't know vegan-French-bistros existed until now, but I wish I had known sooner. Sanctuary Bistro is the perfect spot for a healthy, sustainably-made feast. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you'll be in for a treat!
Servers wear a lot of hats, especially at small restaurants. Janessa from Sanctuary Bistro says to be prepared for a day of “serving, seating people, running, bussing, and answering the phone to take reservations or to-go orders in addition to side work at the end of the shift.”
The list of server responsibilities goes on and on, but I've narrowed down the 7 most important.
1. Prepare the dining room
When opening the restaurant, your primary job is to prepare the dining space. You will be clothing tables, setting up decorations, lighting candles, folding napkins, arranging silverware, polishing glasses, and doing other tasks to make sure that customers start their dining experience off right on the right track.
2. Know the menu
A server has to be able to answer a lot of questions from customers. To do this, it's important to know the menu inside and out. This is California after all — everyone has some sort of dietary restriction. Come prepared to answer loads of questions!
3. Remember orders
Servers need to know who ordered what. This means taking detailed notes when customers tell you their order and remembering faces for when you bring the food back. Complicated orders happen A lot and it’s your job to make sure the kitchen staff knows how to execute them.
4. Flawless execution
The best servers keep careful tabs on both customers and the kitchen. If the food is taking unusually long, check in with the cooks and relay important information back to the customers. As soon as a table's food is prepared, bring it out in as few trips as possible. No customer likes to be the last one served while everyone else is eating!
5. Check in with customers
How often should a serve check in with customers? It's a time-honored question. One Localwise pro tip is to check in with a customer 2-3 minutes after you drop something off. That way, you'll give the customer enough time to figure out if they like the dish.
After that, you'll need to "read your tables," meaning interpret how often the customers want you to come back. Some people want attention, others find it intrusive. The best servers master this balance.
6. Make them pay
When a table is ready to leave the restaurant, servers create and deliver the bill. After dropping off the bill, check back in 2 minutes to finish the transaction.
7. Clean up
When the restaurant is open, most of the cleaning falls on the busgirl or busboy. Once the restaurant closes, everyone chips in! Be a team player to speed up the clean up time and gain the respect of your co-workers.