9 Hiring Traits to Look for in a Restaurant Server

It may seem that serving is a job that just anyone can do, but anyone who has worked (or eaten) at a restaurant knows there is a world of difference between standard servers and those who take the experience to the next level. Whether their skills come from natural talent, experience, or a combination of both, servers who know what they’re doing can make sales shoot through the roof and turn one-off guests into regulars, all in one night. The best part?

If you have a great staff and you treat them well, you can even reduce employee turnover in the process.

If you want to stack your team with top-notch talent, here are some of the traits you should keep an eye out for as you try to recruit top talent.

1.Excellent Organizational Skills

As anyone in the industry knows, working in a restaurant is chiefly characterized by balancing roughly 20 tasks at once while consistently making the smartest choices about how to prioritize them.

As Work It Daily notes, “Servers must juggle tables, orders, and check every time they work. To do this, they must be extremely mentally organized.”

If they’re not, managers will spend their nights putting out fires and fixing botched orders, not to mention remedying situations with discounts and freebies, which can hurt your bottom line.

2. Technological Proficiency

Gone are the days when orders were written down on paper and dropped off to the kitchen by hand. And legacy POS systems are rapidly being replaced by cloud-based systems that run off of apps and iPads.

The more technologically proficient your servers are, the better able they’ll be to keep up with the times and make the most out of your technology investment.

3. People Skills

There’s just no getting around it; serving is a social job that requires interacting with person after person for an entire shift. The best servers have a knack for dealing with people and can anticipate guests’ needs before they ask.

Servers with “soft skills” are also adept and handling the natural scuffles that arise with wily patrons without letting the situation escalate into a major ordeal. Invest in these types of servers, and it’ll make your managerial life exponentially easier.

4. Comfortable with Constructive Criticism

Assembling a staff that is comfortable with constructive criticism is a must, especially if you’re hiring servers with more natural talent than previous experience.

Restaurant employee evaluations may not be a favorite exercise, but they’re essential in improving both your staff’s skills and abilities, as well as your restaurant’s performance. The ideal servers are willing to hear about the areas in which they can improve, and take steps to make that happen.

5. Calm Under Pressure

If there’s one thing that every server knows, it’s that some nights get crazy without warning. Whether someone neglects to show up for their shift, or a party of 20 comes in without a reservation, stressful situations can escalate quickly.

The best servers not only know how to stay calm and handle nights like these, but they thrive. Some of the best servers are people who work well under pressure and enjoy the fast-paced environment. Make sure you hire a staff that can perform with a restaurant’s unique stresses.

6. Keeps Work Life and Personal Life Separate

Every server has had that one coworker, that other server who couldn’t keep their problems outside of the workplace. Whether it was a fight with a family member or something as simple as a bad grade, a server always feels the need to share that day’s drama.

While employees who bring their woes into work will undoubtedly drive down the satisfaction of your other servers, it can impact you as an owner or a manager, too. If someone always has problems, there’s a good chance they’ll often be requesting time off to deal with those problems, and that can seriously start to weight on you and the team.

7. Communicative

The Balance explains, “As a food server, you need to be able to communicate effectively and clearly, both with customers and with colleagues.” It’s important to be able to listen to, and empathize with, customers’ concerns to get them what they need. After all, happy customers come back more often.

Conversely, if a meal is sent back, staff will have to explain what went wrong to the kitchen. Then, servers will have to tell the mishap to management get approval for comping or discounting the dish in question. Smart managers will hire servers who are natural communicators.

8. An Eye for Detail

Orders can become complex very quickly. From memorizing the ingredients of daily specials to accounting for food allergies, and so much in between.

Letting one detail slip can mean money lost for the restaurant regarding food sent back and that customer’s future patronage. Servers with a knack for detail will excel far beyond those who don’t.

9. A Love of Learning

Remembering details can take some time, so servers should have a comfortable relationship with learning. If you have a server who isn’t up to par with the menu yet but is also too self-conscious to take notes, your restaurant will suffer.

No matter how experienced a server may be, there’s a learning curve for anyone who starts a new job. Be sure to invest time in new-hire training and ongoing learning opportunities.

This helps your servers evolve and perfect server skills throughout their time at your restaurant. The more comfortable a server is improving, the faster that person will be at adapting to their new environment.

Written By
Vania Silva is a freelancer and lifelong lover of food with the exception of sea urchins, oysters, and caviar. She enjoys helping restaurants succeed & has been published in various restaurant industry publications such as Upserve's Restaurant Insider.

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