Server Alert: 3 Fullproof Ways to Up Your Game

Back in my musician days, while opening for the likes of Neil Young and Richie Havens, I never gave much thought to restaurant service. That all changed when waiter Steven Hayes at the Garden Restaurant in Ocean City, Md. cast a spell with stories of the Garden’s local seafood that was enhanced with home-grown herbs. And, just as I’d meticulously studied singer-songwriter greats like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, when I later became a waiter, I integrated Steven’s best practices and those of other super servers.

1. Learn Selling Techniques
While at Paulo’s in Georgetown, I wondered how fellow waiter Wayne Anderson was making twice the money I did.  Eavesdropping from a nearby table, I overheard, ”I recommend our carpaccio, thin slices of sirloin accented with shavings of Locatelli Romano cheese.” Wayne never asked, “May I interest you in an appetizer?” He only suggested. The revelation paid thousands in the first year.
Other Wayne methods included pulling dishes off the expeditor line and letting guests get a look and a whiff of the merchandise, as well as seductively carrying the dessert tray through the dining room. His teacher/student menu tour was also impressive. He moved around the table using a pen to help guests follow along. Holding his patrons in rapt attention, they bought what he suggested.
Finally, I’d notice Wayne standing in the back dining room rehearsing his shtick before the show. While some saw Wayne as an oddball, for me, he was a walking treasure trove of ideas that lined my pockets with piles of cash.

2. Add Drama
Peter at J-Odette, also in Georgetown, was another fascinating waiter/teacher. In an act not for the faint of heart, Peter would slash open a bottle of Dom Perignon with a sword! This show-stopping technique inspired others to order bottles of the bubbly. My first and last attempt was a total failure, with the bottle top careening across the dining room and landing in a guest’s minestrone. I did, however, glean that opening a bottle of vino with flair reaped big benefits.

3. Dazzle and Delight
Next up was Thai master Mr. Lee. He turned me on to steaming off wine labels and placing them on placards with guests’ names, the date, and the occasion to create a “wow” good-bye. He was brilliant at fine touches, such as offering finger bowls of hot water and fresh lemons between courses. Mr. Lee’s tables were Asian gardens where he artfully tended to every knife, fork, napkin, and flower.

In the end, you, too, can observe, learn, and integrate the techniques of great servers. Keep on the lookout. Be sure to ask for the best server when you dine out to learn more. And then customize the best techniques to create your own authentic style.

About the Author

BOB BROWN, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions,, was the #1 speaker at the 2017 National Restaurant Show. He has worked with hospitality icons such as Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton and works internationally with the prestigious seven-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He has appeared on the Food Network and is author of The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. Contact Bob for keynotes, breakouts, and workshops at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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