Restaurant server skills that will be essential in 2023

Published January 19, 2023

There’s no substitute for good service at a restaurant

Customer service is essential to a restaurant’s survival and success. An establishment could serve the most incredible food but if the wait staff doesn't provide exceptional customer service, people will stop coming.

Great restaurant servers create an inviting atmosphere using their interpersonal skills, including the way they smile, speak and interact with customers. They should be able to clarify and elaborate on the menu, easily answering customers’ questions. Moreover, servers should check in with customers throughout the dining experience without disrupting it.  

Balancing all these elements of customer service isn’t easy, but a waiter who can make customers feel at home and heighten their overall dining experience is priceless.

Skill #1: Promotes customer and employee safety and complies with sanitation guidance

Understanding and complying with safety protocols has become an important part of a restaurant server’s job.

The pandemic brought new safety concerns to the restaurant industry and even resurrected new health guidelines for many establishments. For example, carelessly cleaning tables with industrial chemicals could be dangerous to guether employees is an essential skill all servers should exhibit.

Skill #2: Can focus on the task at hand and pay attention to detail

There will always be a million things vying for a server’s attention, but the ability to manage multiple tables while making customers feel like the main priority is key. Being able to multitask is an essential skill in the modern server’s toolbox, and will deeply impact customer satisfaction at a restaurant.

Servers should take care to always pay attention to the details when dealing with customers, like specific requests or order modifications, food allergies and social cues throughout the dining experience.

Skill #3: Knows the menu well and elicits trust from customers

Another crucial skill servers must have is a deep knowledge of the restaurant and its menu. Waiters should know the restaurant’s offerings backwards and forwards and should be able to communicate them clearly to customers.

It’s a good idea for restaurant owners and managers to require staff to take a test on the menu during their first week on the job. Memorizing the menu increases the speed of service because waiters are able to quickly answer customers’ questions rather than darting back and forth to clarify details with the restaurant manager.

Being familiar with the menu also enables servers to make recommendations to customers based on their preferences. And most importantly, when a waiter exhibits extensive knowledge of the restaurant and the menu and has the right communication skills to share that information, he or she elicits trust from customers. It’s this trust in the service and quality of the food that helps build long-term customer loyalty.

Related: Learn how server compensation changes can promote restaurant employee retention

Skill #4: Works well under pressure

Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows that it’s a high-stress workplace. On a busy night, a restaurant can turn hundreds of tables and deliver twice as many orders.

Sometimes being the face of the restaurant isn't in the server’s job description, but it’s important they don’t show any of the chaos during customer interactions. This is an important part of delivering excellent customer service.

The ability to leave a crowded, bustling kitchen appearing cool, calm and collected while providing great customer service is crucial to being a great server.

Skill #5: Has a solid understanding of the restaurant POS system

The POS system is the restaurant’s key for delivering orders accurately and on time. Thus, it’s imperative that servers are familiar with how to use it efficiently and without error.

Similar to the menu test, having servers place timed “test” orders on your restaurant’s technology platform will help ensure they’re able to correctly enter orders and understand how to submit modifications.

If your servers understand how to correctly use the restaurant POS system, your operations will be faster, more efficient and more accurate.

Related: 4 critical questions to ask when shopping for a restaurant POS

Skill #6: Exhibits a can-do attitude

None of the aforementioned skills mean anything if a server doesn’t have the right attitude. Some skills can be learned on the job through training or with time and experience, but a good attitude can’t be taught.

Servers who approach each shift with a positive outlook inadvertently end up boosting the rest of the team’s morale. Their positivity also affects customers, making them feel more welcome and at home. A can-do attitude is the key differentiating factor that sets great servers apart from good ones.

Fred Castellucci of Castellucci Restaurant group reinforced this concept by saying, “As long as you have energy and passion, we can teach you the rest.” Though waiters are the face of the restaurant, becoming a great server requires lots of experience. All servers should ensure customer satisfaction is their main goal, then prioritize safety, pay attention to details, know the menu and understand how to leverage technology.

These are all essential skills for any restaurant server in 2022, but what truly sets a server apart from the rest are interpersonal skills and a fantastic attitude that creates a more positive work and dining experience for everyone.

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