While the old adage, “Everyone should wait tables” applies to many guests it should be equally applicable for restaurant management. Walking a mile (or, more accurately, four every shift) in a server’s shoes is a great way to understand their unique challenges and create better servers.
Unfortunately, even though understanding the difficulties a server experiences can be a real game changer, more often it’s as if the server and restaurant aren’t on the same field let alone the same team. This disconnect, between management and wait staff is a challenging problem that needs to be corrected to create better servers.All too often the wait staff are treated like an unwanted step-child (no offense step-children). This in spite of overwhelming evidence that job satisfaction results in happier employees who not only perform better but remain at their jobs longer. This is especially significant considering the turnover rate in restaurants can exceed 100%. So how should restaurant management create better servers? First, to reduce server turnover and improve the bottom line, management should help and empower their servers to become restaurant’s superstar players. After all, the wait staff isn’t only the face of a restaurant but they are also primarily responsible for orchestrating a great dining experience. Superstar servers also make great economic sense. The better the wait staff does the better the restaurant does. If servers sell more, so does the restaurant. And if their tip percentages increase, fantastic, so will the number of regular guests. So what steps can restaurants take to improve the relationship with their wait staff and create better servers? First and foremost, eliminate any “us vs. them” attitude between servers and management. For that matter, eliminate any tension between the front and back of the house as well. Remember, everyone is on the same team. Of course, benefits and pay, while almost routinely overlooked, are critical in retaining key employees. In all the years I waited tables, not only did I, or anyone I know, ever receive any paid leave (including sick days) but a raise was completely unheard of. This unique practice, though amazing to me, is all too common in the restaurant business. How can restaurants expect to retain superstars if they insist on paying them minimum wage and provide little to no benefits? Next, create systems and policies that help you wait team and eliminate any existing policies that unnecessarily encumber them. Periodically meet with your servers, perhaps one-on-one at the beginning or end on their shift, and solicit their ideas on how the restaurant can be improved. In my years of experience servers can provide a wealth of information that is often overlooked or simply just ignored. They are in the trenches each and every shift, something management would be aware of if they heed my advice and picked up a serving shift every now and then. Lastly, provide tools to make their jobs easier and help them perform better. I know this is a bit self-serving but the Waiter Wallet is a great example. By helping servers to be more organized, efficient and informed (with our free template system), they and the restaurant will be more successful. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what it is all about?