Opening Service

Customers have the most contact with servers when they dine out. From taking orders to presenting checks, the server plays a key role in how the customer rates his or her dining experience. In this section, you will learn about the role of servers and how their duties should be performed.

The host or busser may serve bread and water before the server arrives at the table. However, the server is the main caretaker of customers' needs throughout the meal. The server's job is to greet customers, take the order, serve the meal, and present the check. The server must make sure that the cover is clean, with all of the proper equipment necessary for the meal. A cover is an individual place setting that includes utensils, glasses, and dishes. The server should do everything possible to make the total dining experience enjoyable and relaxing.

Greet Customers

Give the customer a moment to adjust to his or her surroundings before approaching the table. Be sure to smile and maintain good eye contact with each customer. Say, "good morning," "good afternoon," or "good evening." If your customers are gathered to celebrate a special event, try to find out who the guest of honor is. Your objective, or goal, is to make customers comfortable. Let them know that you are a caring and attentive server.

Take the Beverage Order

The first point of service is to take the beverage order from customers. Repeat the beverage order to the customer to confirm it. You can use position numbers to make sure the right beverage is served to each customer. (See Figure 5.2.) This can be done if you take the beverage order in a clockwise direction around the table. It can also be done by numbering each customer at a table by his or her seat position.

y FIGURE 5.2 Numbered Seating

Table Positions In this illustration, the seats have been numbered clockwise. How do you think this helps the service staff give customers the correct order?

If the restaurant has a wine list, ask customers if they wish to order wine with their meals. If so, present the wine list. Explain any wine policies, such as whether customers can take home unfinished bottles.

Serve Cold Beverages

Beverages are either cold or hot. They are served on a small, handheld tray called a beverage tray. Cold beverages include milk, iced tea, soft drinks, juice, and water. When you serve cold beverages:

• Be sure that the tray is clean and dry before you use it at a table.

• Use beverage napkins for each beverage if the table surface is not covered with a cloth.

• A server who will serve alcohol should check the bar to see when beverages are ready, and add appropriate garnishes.

• Arrange the glasses so that the beverage served first is closest to the rim of the tray. However, the tallest and heaviest glasses should be in the center of the tray for balance. Adjust the positions of the glasses on the tray as they are served.

• Carry trays at waist level and with your left hand under the center of the tray. Use your right hand to place the beverage on the customer's right.

• When possible, beverages should be served from the right side. Do not reach across the customer.

• Do not hold the tray between you and the customer or you and the table.

• Do not allow a customer to remove beverages from the tray.

• Keep your fingers as far as possible from the rim of the glass. Handle a stemmed glass by the stem and other glasses at the base.

• When about two-thirds of a beverage has been consumed, ask whether the customer wants another one.

• Remove the empty glass before serving a fresh beverage to a customer. Unless the glass is empty, ask the customer whether you may remove it.

Water Service

Some foodservice operations serve water to customers as soon as they are seated. Customers may want only water with their meals, or in addition to another beverage.

When serving water, place water glasses above the entrée knife and in line with its tip. Do not allow a serving pitcher to touch the rim of a customer's glass. Do not fill a glass more than V2 inch from the rim. Overfilling is a sign of sloppy service and causes spilling.

Refill water glasses whenever needed during the meal. Do not allow customers' glasses to be less than V3 full.

Serve Hot Beverages

Many customers have coffee or hot tea with their meals. A hot beverage may be the customer's last impression of the meal and the service. To ensure quality service, warm the cups or mugs before presetting the table or placing them in front of the customer. A customer who receives hot coffee in a cold cup or mug will have lukewarm coffee, especially if he or she adds milk.

The setup for coffee or hot tea must be completed before the beverage is served. The setup for coffee consists of cream, sugar, a cup and saucer or a mug, and a teaspoon. Coffee is poured from the customer's right side with your right hand. Hot water for tea is often served in a separate container. Offer to bring more hot water as needed.

Sell the Menu

Servers represent the menu to customers. Servers must know the descriptions, ingredients, and prices of all regular and special menu items. Many customers have dietary requirements or allergies. Servers can suggest alternatives, or can check with the chef if the customer has questions.

Some restaurants allow servers to participate in taste panels. This allows them to try dishes that they will recommend to customers. Servers should be able to identify seasonings and cooking methods of special menu items.

An effective server encourages customers to try different items. You can use highlighting, open-ended questions, and upselling. When servers use these selling techniques, customers may be more inclined to try something new or order more items. It is part of the server's role to increase sales and enhance the customer's dining experience.


Servers can use highlighting to promote specials of the day or regular menu items. Highlighting means emphasizing a particular menu item. It is important for servers to have favorite items on the menu. It is easier to recommend items that you personally like. The enthusiasm shown by a server for a food item will be clear through his or her description. Remember, however, that the customer should make the final decision.

^^J Listening Skills Listen carefully to each customer when you take food orders. How can servers ensure that they have taken food orders correctly?

Open-Ended Questions

Ask questions that require a specific answer. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with yes or no. For example, rather than asking, "Would you like something to start with?" you might ask, "What would you like to start with?" This suggests that the customer is expected to order something right away after sitting.


The technique to suggest a larger size or better quality than the customer's original order is called upselling. For example, if the prime rib is offered in 10-ounce and 16-ounce servings, you might ask the customer, "Would you like the 16-ounce size?"

Take the Order

Servers use the same position numbers that were used for taking beverage orders to take food orders. Always ask if customers have any questions, or if they are ready to order. According to the restaurant's policy, ask if separate checks are needed. Also, ask about any dietary needs.

Servers should follow these general guidelines to take orders:

• Smile, maintain eye contact, and use a pleasant tone of voice.

• Listen carefully to each customer.

• Take one customer's complete order, and then confirm the order before you move to the next customer.

• Take the menu from each customer after you have taken his or her order.

Write the Order

Usually, the server takes orders on a customer check or transfers them directly into a computerized system. You need to write quickly and clearly when you take an order. You must learn the shortened forms of words, or abbreviations (s-ibre-ve-'a-shsnz), that are understood by the kitchen staff.

Computerized Kitchen Computerized point-of-sale systems make transferring orders to the kitchen faster and easier. How else can a computer be used in a professional kitchen?

When you use an order pad, write down the table number and the customer's position number next to each item ordered. If a customer orders the same item as another customer, add the second customer's seat number next to the item. Place the quantity of each item in front of it. This technique will make it easier for the kitchen to fill the order. You may also need to write down additional information (for example, the degree of doneness for red meat or dressing on the side).

Transmit the Order

The three ways to place an order in the kitchen are to write out a customer check, recite the order from memory, or use a computerized point-of-sales system. Using a point-of-sale system involves a computer that has either a number or a button code for each item on the menu. By simply pressing a button or entering a code, the order is sent to the kitchen.

A verbal ordering system is sometimes used in very elegant restaurants. Most foodservice operations use a computerized point-of-sale system. A handwritten system of customer checks is used if the computer system breaks down. Servers must be able to clearly write an order in an organized way. Each course should be listed in the correct order.

Electronic Ordering

Nearly every foodservice establishment uses a computer to help communication and service flow smoothly. There are many benefits to using point-of-sale computer technology:

• Fewer Errors The computer sends orders to a printer in the proper workstations. For example, cold food orders are sent to the pantry and hot food orders are sent to the hot line. The computer also tracks each menu item and may be programmed to tell the server how many portions are available to sell.

• Increased Efficiency Using a touch pad computer to send orders also cuts down on steps for the server and increases accuracy in ordering. Orders are organized and easy to read, and the system prints accurate customer checks. Customers receive itemized checks with clearly marked totals.

• Better Marketing Management can also add messages to checks, such as "Make Your Reservations Early."

• Theft Reduction Item printouts help reduce employee theft. Each server's sales output is available for the manager to check during the server's shift.

To prevent misuse of the computer, each server receives an identity code or key. The computer prompts the server to enter information such as the check number, the number of customers, and the table number. After this information is entered, the server enters the order into the computer.

server's objective when greeting customers?

Continue reading here: Serve the Order

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