21 Tips to Server Sales Success

It takes a lot of knowledge, skill, awareness, and creativity to be a great server. Below are 21 insights to get you to the winner’s circle.

  1. Know your menu inside and out: Boost your confidence, and ensure you’re on a level playing field with the Food Network and Fine Living crowd.
  2. Don’t pre-judge: Don’t be surprised by the verbal tip from Mr. Nice Guy and a pot of gold from a nasty guest.
  3. Be a meal designer: Maximize sales by having a planned approach to economizers, faithful regulars, diners, and jackpot tables.
  4. Watch your table like a hawk, but don’t hover: Be the stealth waiter.
  5. Be OK with silence: If you suggest an appetizer and get a blank look, relax. Your guests are taking in the information.
  6. Assist guests everywhere: Everyone is a potential lifetime guest.
  7. Personalize hellos: “ and Ms. Henley, welcome to Prime 68, and thanks for choosing us to celebrate your 1st anniversary.” Avoid, “Hi, I’m Bob, can I get you a drink?”
  8. The more you clear, the more you sell: Dirty tables make guests feel full.
  9. Practice presentations: When you’re fluent, guests relax. Sound natural, not rehearsed or robotic.
  10. Get it right, write it down: Guests stress thinking you’ll forget their sauce on the side even if you’re the magnificent memory man.
  11. Use brain stickers: “Our bartender Albert from Albuquerque makes an excellent Gray Goose Martini.” Names, brands, and places awaken.
  12. Don’t leave guests alone with the menu too long: They’ll order less. Combine drink suggestions with a brief menu tour.
  13. Touch the table: Move the salt and pepper, and adjust the flowers. It’s a powerful way to connect and say, “I care.”
  14. Avoid “May I?” “Can I?” “Would you?” Say, “We feature,” “We offer,” and “By the way, I recommend. “ Don’t ask, suggest.
  15. Open with benefits: “Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me a few moments to tell you about four great things on our menu.” Guests are more open to listening when they know you’ll be brief and helpful.
  16. When delivering plates, use the airplane landing, not the helicopter plop: Technical excellence is the key to seamless service.
  17. Appeal to sense of value: When patrons are on the fence about ordering a glass or bottle of vino, say, “It’s a good value to share the bottle.”
  18. Read and respond to non-verbal cues: Most guests tell us what they want with their body language, not their words.
  19. Find the leader-buyer: Stand across from the head honcho. She’s your assistant salesperson.
  20. Use: “And for the table, I recommend sharing … ” Guests buy if they’re splitting the expense.
  21. Try a Gen Y Goodbye: Send an Instagram holding a card saying: “Thanks for dining with us.”

About the Author

Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions ( pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program; worked with Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton; internationally with Burj Al Arab in Dubai; has appeared on the Food Network; authored The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success. Contact Bob at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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