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How to Give Excellent Customer Service in a Restaurant

Updated on January 23, 2013
SMILE | Source

Customer Service Is Not Extinct

It has been said that customer service is lost in our high tech, self-involved society.

Could it be that as human interactions become more infrequent, we forget how to positively interact with each other?

Restaurants are one of the industries that rely on positive customer relations as one of their major factors for survival. As we have all experienced at one time or another, they don’t all excel at it.

Restaurants owners and their employees can dramatically increase their income and chance for success with outstanding customer service.


Servers and bartenders receive minimal monetary compensation from their employer in the form of an hourly wage. This wage varies depending on the state or country they are in but, the majority of their earnings come from the customers themselves in the form of tips.

Tips have been debated and discussed for many years as there are many different thoughts and opinions on the subject but the desire for excellent customer service has never been in question.

The definition of a tip is really quite basic.

Tips are a monitory compensation and appreciation that is given to any person who has provided a service that is deemed exceptional.

Tips are not an entitlement that servers and bartenders receive simply for placing a plate or glass in front of their guest.

When the public decides to go to a restaurant for their meal, they are choosing to pay for the convenience of having their meals and/or drinks prepared for them and in most cases, served to them. The bill they receive at the end of the meal is intended to cover the cost of the food and preparation. The server receives additional compensation for making the dining experience a good one.

Great customer service is the key to making everyone happy.

Steps To Providing Excellent Customer Service

There are many factors that go into providing excellent customer service and once those principles are applied, the rest will fall right into place.

Get There Early

Arrive to work at least 15-20 minutes early.

This allows you the time you need to put your things away, make sure your uniform is in order, use the restroom if you need to and make sure your section is ready to go. Most importantly, it gives you time to get mentally prepared to be productive.

Be In A Good Mood

Leave any personal problems or complications you may have at the door. When you are at work, you should be in a good mood. Obviously you can’t instantly change your mood at will but you can smile and pretend while you are there.

When you work with the public you are essentially being paid to be happy and cheerful. The guests that come in have their own problems and challenges with their families, employers, bills and other trials of daily life. They are looking to escape all of that for a little while. Many people go out to have someone serve them for a change of pace and they certainly don’t want to feel like they should be comforting you or feel obligated to put up with your sinister mood because of some drama that may be going on in your life.

Customers should always feel like welcomed guests when they arrive and when they leave they should feel like you were happy they came. It’s the positive feeling and attentive services that will make them return to see you and eat at your restaurant, they can get food and drink anywhere.

Make them choose you again.

ENGAGE | Source

Smile and Engage

Smile at all times and make a point to greet every guest whom you make eye contact with, regardless of whose section they are sitting in.

View the dining floor or lounge as a party you are hosting with the customers being your personally invited guests. This will make everyone feel that they are important and special. There are two positive outcomes this will produce:

1. Your guests will notice your positive interactions with others and it will enhance their experience and their appreciation of you.

2. Other guests will most likely return and could possibly sit in your section next time. They will remember how friendly you were and you will be rewarded.

Do Your Side Work

Believe it or not, side work can positively or negatively affect the customer service provided.

When certain employees feel like side work shouldn’t be required for them, they carry a defensive and negative vibe through their whole shift, even if they don’t realize it. If employees are wasting their mental energy and focus justifying why they shouldn’t have to clean this or stock that, it reflects on their service. It usually takes more time and effort figuring out ways to avoid and evade the side work than it does to just get it done. The time wasted is better spent attending to a guest.

Side work is an essential part of making any restaurant run. Every employee must do their part to make sure things are clean, stocked and readily available when a guest needs them. This is necessary for every restaurant and bar everywhere.

Stay Positive When Working a Split Shift

Many restaurants and bars have split shifts as part of their regular schedule. These shifts designate that a server or bartender will work a few hours during lunch and then return to work a few hours during the dinner hours. It is a great way for the restaurant to have the staff they need for the busiest times and it allows the employee to maximize their earnings for the day.

The only potential risk in working a split shift is the possible decline of customer service.

It is important to recharge your emotional batteries during the time between the two shifts. It is a good idea to take a walk, listen to music, read a book or eat lunch.

It is a bad idea to stay at your work and socialize with your co-workers during that short break, especially when it turns into a complaining session. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to give excellent customer service after spending and hour focusing on negative things.

FOCUS | Source

Focus On Your Job

When guests see employees talking and hanging out with each other it makes them feel less important and at times, uncomfortable.

It can be a real blessing when co-workers get along and sometimes deep friendships are formed from a work place meeting. It is important to keep those friendships outside of work however.

While fellow employees are being paid to do a job, they should just behave as co-workers. There is plenty of time to enjoy personal relationships before work, after work or on days off.

Go The Extra Mile

While at work, do whatever you can to assist a guest or co-worker. Guests notice the big things and the small things you do or don’t do. It is common to assume they aren’t paying attention but trust me, they are.

When a guest sees you helping someone out the door or stopping to help a co-worker while their hands are full, that reflects positively on you and the restaurant.

Never wonder if someone is watching, just assume they are.

Customer Service vs Tips

Does The Customer Service You Recieve Affect The Tip You Leave?

See results

Everyone Wins

People have different personal policies on tipping and their standard for doing it. Those are beyond your control and it should not be a deciding factor when it comes to the customer service you provide.

When employees are consistent in providing all guests with the best experience they can, the appreciation and compensation will be there.

It isn’t always easy working with the public but when you give a genuine effort to provide the best customer service possible with every guest, everyone wins.

  • The customer is happy and grateful for a wonderful experience
  • The restaurant is happy with the revenue and promise for future sales
  • The server has been immediately compensated in the form of a tip as well as planted many seeds for future revenue


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    • roxanne459 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roxanne Lewis 

      5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Robie. It has been my experience that people are just as aware of body movements and emotional cues as they are the intentional greeting they are given. If someone is in a negative place or unhappy, we will feel uncomfortable, even if they are smiling at us. I really appreciate your input!

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Great article, I like how you approach things from a different angle, not only showing a smiley face to the customers, but being positive and helpful in all ways. Voted up and useful!

    • roxanne459 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roxanne Lewis 

      5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you teaches 12345! You are absolutely right, most servers do work very hard and a kind word goes a long way! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      This should be part of Robert Devine's training on Restaurant Impossible! Great tips and one that will make the server successful and the customer happy. I know that servers work hard most of the time and really appreciate a word of kindness and good tip for a job well done.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      yeah, roxanne.....also, biting one's tongue with a crabby customer!! LOL

    • roxanne459 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roxanne Lewis 

      5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you fpherj48! Again, we have a lot in common. My family also hails from years of restaurant service. My mom and I have done everything from scrubbing pans in the dish pit to being General Manager. My dad was an executive chef for many years and the experiences we've all had were ones we will take with us the rest of our lives! Restaurants are a great place to learn a strong work ethic, social balance, budgeting money and many more important values.

      Thank you! :)

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      roxanne! Excellent=A+ !! I come from a history of Family Restaurant owners. We all, (in the family) worked at one time or another in some capacity or the other, or as in the case of my sister, mother and I, in EVERY capacity. It is a memory of fun and wonderful work experience.

      "Service." A touchy subject are right. I've always been overly aware and alert to this, of course....but I have a tendency to "feel" for servers.

      Regardless.....I always leave the appropriate tip..btw...around here, it's at 20% now...(the general consensus, anyway). If service was above and beyond, I leave extra.....if not, I leave just the 20%.

      I love this hub, roxanne.............UP+++ and shared

    • roxanne459 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roxanne Lewis 

      5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Leslie! ;)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very informative hub. I really enjoyed it. Voted up and useful my friend.


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