Servers, De-Stress and Take Control Of Your Next Shift, Part 1

Server Life

The other day I told you about an article that said (and this should make you feel pretty validated) that being a server is more stressful than being a neurosurgeon.

A lot of that stress comes from the fact that, generally speaking, neurosurgeons can actually have a great deal of control over what happens when they work. They decide what is going to happen with their work. It’s not someone else (like the patient in front of them) who is going to tell them how to do their job.

So as I reflected on the author’s conclusions in that last post, I kept thinking about the things servers DO actually have control over.

These are the two things you have the MOST control over: your-appearance and being ready for revenue (meaning you arrived on time, walked in fired up and ready to go).

Uniform and appearance are also both “NON-NEGOTIABLES.” A non-negotiable is the minimum that must be done for every single guest, every single time. Other examples of non-negotiables would be clean restroom, hot food hot/cold food cold, clean table, being charged the proper amount; to give you a few. There will be more references to these as we go.

Although gaining control over these first two elements of service may not immediately score you more tips or higher percentages, but I guarantee you that if these Non-Negotiables aren’t handled, earning a bigger tip…or earning a tip at all…can be far more challenging.

And when you handle these things, over time the integrity you gain in the eyes of your regular guests and coworkers can be a game changer.

Imagine this…..a newly graduated student first enters the business world and shows up to work for the first day in his spiffy three piece suit. I can promise that just being dressed that way, he had more confidence in getting through his first day!

When you dress important you feel important.

Just because we wear uniforms doesn’t mean that we can’t have the same sense of confidence from a clean and pressed shirt with creases down the arms, an apron starched and ironed flat-no stains, discoloration or unraveling material. Polished black shoes, hair groomed appropriately, and of course, all the things that make up your uniform–pens, lighter, wine key, bank, etc.

How you present yourself to the guest has the ability to instantly communicate to guests, this server is confident and takes pride in their work.

Servers that are ready to work and focused on preshift set up automatically set themselves up for a successful shift because they know the mise en place (“everything in its place”) is squared away, real estate looking tip top, appearance is spot on, got the specials written down and I’ve quizzed a few of my coworkers on the chef’s new special so that we may all learn together.

Unfortunately, many times servers come into a shift knowing the bulk of their guests will not be seated for the first hour or so of their shift. They come in lollygagging and socializing with coworkers about last night’s fun.

Nothing is urgent to them.

Depending on the shift, tables must be set up and spec-ed out, service areas–soda, coffee, silverware, plates, linens-set up. If your restaurant is like most, you will go from zero tables to five tables with 20 guests in very short order.

It is much harder to start the sprint of dinner service if you have not even been jogging yet. I make it a point to not stand in one place for very long at the beginning of any shift, I circulate and keep moving-all along seeing what more I can do to make the impending stampede manageable.

These are just the first 2 of five ways servers can de-stress and take control of your next shift. What do YOU do to de-stress before your shift? Leave a comment below.