This post is going to be short and sweet because I want your opinion: what makes a good server? Is it overall personality? Knowledge of the menu or wine? Attentiveness? For me, it is a combination of factors, but what do you think lifts a waiter from average to outstanding? We’ve gotten lots of comments with answers to my question.
Calm under pressure
Able to communicate clearly to coworkers when “in the weeds”
Clean, quick and efficient.
Checks baggage and personal problems at the door
Improves the attitude of those around him/ her
Completes side work and paperwork without being checked
I shouldn’t have to :
Wait too long to bring and/or pick up the check. (What, you don’t want to be paid?)
Have me ask for a refill of water. (Or my other drinks for that matter.)
Them telling me they haven’t tasted the menu. (Is the food really that bad?)
Throwing other employees under the bus. (Especially the busser, since he/she probably is the better server)
Portland Food Adventures says
This is of course not a simple question. It’s easier to cite things that make bad servers, rather than those that make good ones. The first thing that came to mind when I pondered your question seemed to be more of an intangible: when a server makes me feel as though I am (or my table is) the most important patron they have, that goes a long way.
Attentiveness is mandatory. The only time I give a waiver on that is when you can see a place is understaffed, and the server makes a definite attempt to do their best and and in a subtle way acknowledges they are aware they should be with you and will be momentarily. Keeping up with water is a good determiner of attentiveness as is handling the check in a timely fashion.
Knowledge of a menu is key. Often I tell a server the two choices I am down to, and I do appreciate it when they steer me to a dish that is noteworthy.
When a server enhances the experience with their personality, everyone wins.
1) calm under pressure
2) able to communicate clearly to coworkers when “in the weeds”
3) clean, quick and efficient.
4) Checks baggage and personal problems at the door
5) improves the attitude of those around him/ her
6) completes side work and paperwork without being checked
I can overlook a lot but a server that doesn’t know the menu is like an oprah singer that forgets the words totally inexcusable !!!
Giving a damn.
Gordon Noel says
I want different things in different restaurants. For many years I was a regular at Lucy’s Table when Peter and Kelly Kost owed it. Their and their staff’s warm greetings, familiarity with us, and un-intrusive attentiveness made it the closest thing to a bistro we had found in our many years in Boston, New York City, Washington, DC, and Portland. DOC has a small staff that seems to remember us as well. For a restaurant we go to many times, being welcomed is just as important as the menu.
In most restaurants trying to serve very good food, familiarity with the menu, friendly but not “fresh” conversations about the food, and suggestions that explain the food without pushing it are what I am looking for. It helps if the waiter knows other restaurants.
Being able to read your table and adjust your service to the guests needs as opposed to barreling through and forcing “your style” on them. Also, timing.
An absolute necessity is empathy. Everything else is derivative. Got to understand who/why your customer is at your restaurant and meet those needs. If that happens, all is well.
They bring me things when I order them.
I agree, it’s a combination of all of those things. Some of my biggest pet peeves for servers are:
1. Waiting too long to bring and/or pick up the check. (What, you don’t want to be paid?)
2. Having me ask for a refill of water. (Or my other drinks for that matter.)
3. Telling me they haven’t tasted the menu. (Is the food really that bad?)
4. Throwing other employees under the bus. (Especially the busser, since he/she probably is the better server)
My water glass is always full and I’m not pressured to order an entree when ordering an appetizer.
Cheryl – often the pressure of trying to get the order for the entree is because it takes the kitchen about twice as much time to produce an entree than the appetizer. A restaurant would quickly get labeled slow an inefficient service if it took between 20 and 30 minutes for people to receive their entrees, especially if they are requesting their protein well done. Understandably you may find this to be a personal pet peeve but it is how so many restaurants run effective kitchens and provide seamless service. So take heart that we are not trying to rush you but we are trying to provide the type of service that is most commonly asked of us.
Cheers and good eats.
What's for supper? says
Eating out is a treat for many of us in this ridiculous economy. A good server treats all of his or her customers as well as possible – even if the table isn’t ordering rounds of cocktails or expensive wines.
My favorite servers don’t have a college degree and are not just slumming it while they do something “creative”.
See, even the comments can’t say what makes a good server. Only what makes a bad one. Good servers are warm and friendly, communicate effectively, are honest about their opinions, and take care of us.
Gordon Noel says
agree. That sums it up
I would still argue for giving a damn. I’ve seen plenty of servers aware of issues that still went unresolved.
oops I meant to reply to JDG below, sorry
One word: Awareness.
A good server to me is – anticipation! Anicipate when to fill water, when to check in with your customer, when to or “not” to make small talk. IT is all about anticipation of your customer’s needs and wants.
I love dining in large groups at Chinese restaurants with experienced servers and a good headwaiter.
If you’re having a conversation with someone and you look up – everything has been done without you even noticing. The teapots are refilled right after you cock the lid to signal that it’s empty.
Dirty plates are replaced by clean plates, empty dishes disappear from the lazy susan as if by magic (and you don’t have to tell the waiter “Wait – we’re not done with that yet!”).
To borrow some words from previous posters: unintrusive, aware, efficient, knowledgeable.
While I wouldn’t want a rude/dismissive waiter, warmth isn’t really high on my list – I’d settle for someone who is proud of doing a good job at a (hopefully) good dining establishment.
1. Knows the menu (including wine)
2. Paces the meal appropriately
3. “Reads” the table and is appropriately engaged with the diners
4. Never takes a plate before all diners are finished & removes used silverware after every course
Some restaurants have a goal to achieve a 2 minute table turn, so that they can give a good speed of service. That’s why restaurants are politely asking guests if it’s fine, and if they can remove the plates that are not being used, especially when the main course will soon arrive. The table would be messy if they do not remove it
same as salt still stands for me – service I don’t notice the lack of or presence of…
Never takes away a plate until all are finished.
When serving dishes, always knows who gets what without having to ask the customer.
Has empathy and common sense.
Not taking away plates until everyone is done? That’s ridiculous- who likes sitting there with their dirty, empty plate in front of them?
Servers are supposed to pre-bus their tables, which means removing empty plates as customers are finished with them.