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5 Ways to Train Servers to Offer the Best Guest Experience

Servers who know your menu inside and out and how to make customers feel welcome and appreciate create guests who are eager to return to your restaurant again.

When customers walk through your restaurant door, they may encounter several staff members, including the hostess, bartender, manager or a server or two. Those encounters are fleeting but important, since they create the guest’s initial impression of your restaurant staff’s attitude towards customers.

The restaurant server, however, is typically the person who spends the most time with your guests — and the staffer with the most influence on making or breaking the guest experience.

Prioritizing the guest experience is crucial to growing your restaurant, keeping your customers happy and bringing guests back as repeat patrons, according to customer engagement software company Paystone.

“For most customers, going out for a meal means more to them than simply eating food,” says Paystone. “They’re looking for a fun night out, pleasant service and the opportunity to interact with friends & family. In short, they’re looking to have a good time—it’s all about the experience.”

Training your wait staff to create a positive guest experience is crucial to your restaurant’s success. Here are five tips for training servers to offer the best guest experience.

1. Build a happy team

When your restaurant team members are happy, so are your customers. “Satisfied employees are more likely to have positive customer interactions and higher tip amounts’” says Paystone. “They’re also more likely to stay with your business in the long-term.”

When training servers and other staff, Toast recommends boosting and maintaining morale in several ways, including:

  • Offering flexible and collaborative scheduling
  • Providing educational and professional development opportunities
  • Posting positive reviews on social media and on employee bulletin boards
  • Free or discounted staff meals
  • Celebrating work anniversaries with a celebration and/or gifts or gift cards

2. Create an employee handbook

Rather than rely solely on other servers educating new servers on your brand and core values, create an employee handbook to go over on the new server’s first day, recommends Toast, a provider of restaurant point-of-sale, ordering and management software.

“Creating an employee handbook is a great way to make sure your new hires have all the information they need to provide the best service possible,” says Toast.

“It also provides a standard for your employees to reference throughout their training and their tenure working at your restaurant. A handbook serves as a guide to reinforce at every step of the staff training process.”

Make sure your employee handbook covers your restaurant’s core values, standards and mission statement. Update the handbook regularly so new servers don’t receive conflicting information between what they read and what the person training them teaches.

3. Encourage and reward friendly and attentive service

Guests appreciate a friendly server who makes them feel appreciated and at home.

“The servers should be friendly and attentive. They should never congregate around the front desk or the POS terminal and instead should anticipate guests’ needs,” according to The Restaurant Times. “In the case of repeat customers, it always helps if the waiters are familiar with the guests.”

When you notice a server interacting with guests who are having a great experience, let that server know you’re impressed and reward them with praise and encouragement.

4. Teach the art of upselling

Upselling is a great way to boost revenue, and training your servers to upsell appropriately, without making guests feel like they must order menu items they don’t want.

“Upselling is more than sales. It requires perception, knowledge about the menu, and discretion,” says The Restaurant Times. “At its best, upselling can look less like sales and more like customer service.”

Train servers on every aspect of your menu items so they can upsell the right foods and drinks to the guests they would appeal to most. Train servers on consistency and details

5. Stress the importance of consistency and attention to details

“Consistently greeting guests the same way, keeping water glasses full, and taking initiative goes a long way,” says Toast. “The expectations you put on your server will vary based on your restaurant’s style, but it’s important to note the extra touches.”