How Servers Can Become Big Earners

How Servers Can Become Big Earners

Good restaurants have servers who are big earners. They’ve worked there for a long time, know the clientele, and know how to maximize their effort. They make good money on slow nights and great money on average nights. They’re enthusiastic experts, and customer rapport kings. They may not love being at work every time they walk in the door, but they’re professional and consistent.

The fact is that your restaurant needs to have servers who are big earners. This impacts the way servers come to work, what they expect from employment, and how they approach their job. Big earners motivate new hires by showing a successful example. They’re a sign of consistency and community involvement to your guests. Familiar faces put customers at ease right away. If your restaurant doesn’t have big earners, now is the time to change. Here are a few ways your servers can become big earners.

Know the Menu

Big earners are experts on the menu. They’ve tried everything, they know where it comes from, and they have favorites. They use this knowledge to sell the menu, advocating your business to every guest they meet in the process.

Managers who want expert sellers should consider these strategies:

Re-training sessions
Sales contests
Family meal
• Periodic exams
• Leadership programs based on menu knowledge

Menu knowledge and enthusiasm are the two keys to great sales and big per-table check averages. A great recommendation to a willing guest usually leads to a big tip.

Know the Guests

Servers who have personal relationships with the guests almost always receive better tips. This is possible in small towns and less transient areas. But what about big cities or tourist areas, where repeat customers don’t drive the business?

Knowledgeable servers grow equipped to gauge guests by their openness to a great experience, through recommendations, suggestive selling and awareness of the table. Knowing the guests is about feeling the temperature of the table and knowing when to build rapport and when to get out of the way. Business meetings in upscale restaurants usually want servers to get out of the way, while family gatherings often appreciate friendly service. The server who gets to know the needs of the guest typically receives better tips.

Know Wine

At mid-level to upscale restaurants, wine sales drive check averages and lead to better tips. The best wine sellers are often the best tip earners (more tips on increasing wine sales). Wine knowledge is more than knowing about varietals and wineries. It’s about trying wine, having favorites, and making pairings. It’s about well-placed recommendations and knowing price points. A table that is ready to order wine is like a fastball down the heart of the plate to a baseball player – he has to be ready to hit it out of the park.


The top-earning servers in a restaurant give it the same effort for every table. This is a major challenge for most people, regardless of the industry or job. It’s especially hard in a sales-driven business in which rejection is the norm. Servers have to remain consistent, enthusiastic and friendly, all while hustling between tables, the bar, and the kitchen. Big earners know their efforts will eventually be rewarded, and give the tenth table of the night their best, even if the first nine haven’t gone as well as they would like.

Develop Call Parties

Call parties who request the top servers help make average nights into great ones for the server. Great servers provide timely, efficient service while building relationships with their guests. In turn, guests know where to go to receive great service and request an individual server. Building clientele is a great way to build a cottage business within a larger one, and to turn an average night into a great one.

Leave it at the Door

The best servers are consummate professionals, and focus for the duration of their shift. They don’t let outside problems become distractions, and they’re sure to leave other challenges at the door when they enter the building. It’s the nature of the restaurant industry to be staffed by people with second jobs, school challenges, or other responsibilities. Good servers leave those challenges at the door.

Get a Superlative

The superlative should be during the entrée or dessert. The server should work to hear the guest acknowledge that they’re having a great experience by asking how something specific is. “How is your filet?” or other specific item is a good example. The server should never ask if everything’s okay, or their guests are doing alright. The goal is for the guest to articulate the greatness of their experience.

Remind them at the End

Big earners always take a moment at the end of a meal to talk to their guests, either about their great experience or something discussed previously. The goal is to get the paying guest to smile, reiterate how impressed they were with the experience, or both. Big earners never drop off the check and run. If the first impression is important, the last impression is critical. The best servers always smile, are always thankful, and always remind guests that the service was great.