The servers who complain about not making enough money are usually the same people who went out on smoke breaks or stopped stocking up as soon as the place is empty of customers for ten or fifteen minutes. A gap in business to a waiter or waitress does not mean that it is break time. If you want to make good tips, then performing tasks that will ultimately help you when customers do pile in will result in you providing quick and efficient service. When these small side duties are done, it frees up more time for you to actually connect with your customers a little more, build rapport, make small talk, upsell, and do all of the other things that make your tips larger by the end of the shift.
For example, wrapping silverware is a task that not too many servers enjoy. But, they would hate it a lot worse if they get a lot of tables (like the scenario in the previous section) and then didn’t have time to roll four or five sets of knives, forks and spoons. This is a task that they have to perform anyway by the end of their shifts for their relief servers. So, that being said, rolling silverware will not only keep you on top of your game with customers, but will also allow you to leave the restaurant promptly when your shift is over.
Also, simply making sure the tables in your section are wiped down and stocked will save you tons of time. The condiments, napkins, and other items should be ready way before folks sit down to eat. Having this done will allow time for you to answer all of the time-consuming, spontaneous questions that customers frequently have, inquiries that you could never be ready for. If a special request from a patron has you running to your supervisor for an answer, at least you would have had the time to do so if you are stocked up with the basic things on your tables as well as at your server’s station.
If you can get on the same page with your colleagues, all of your tips will be good, whether you share tip money between each other or not. Everyone out working the floor should do their part in making sure that the server’s station has everything at hand that is needed. And, if there are slackers that only care about themselves, let them know that they should not just take things (like wrapped silverware) but that they should be just as ready to re-stock after passing them out to their customers. If the lazy waiter or waitress has a problem with that, you and the rest of the servers should collaboratively approach the supervisor and suggest having a meeting about how side work is just as important as taking orders.
Managing your time as a server is not just limited to making sure side duties are done. In order to make things run even more smoothly, get to know the cooks in the kitchen. One of the main things customers want to know is how long it will take for their food to come up. During those down times when the restaurant is empty, feel free to ask the folks in the kitchen what the estimated cook times are for certain foods that you aren’t familiar with. For example, you could find out how long it takes a steak dinner to be prepared. Then, whether your customer asks you for this information or not, you’ll still have enough knowledge about the meal preparation times to do other things (like tend to other tables) in the meantime. Waiters and waitresses should also have a good feeling about how long it has been since they have checked on a table. This is as simple as staying on top of your refills. As you check their drinks, you can also inquire about the meal, see if any other side items are needed, or maybe even chat a little if you feel the time is right.
Developing great time management skills can also be approached in a different way. For example, many servers find themselves stuck at work for a whole extra hour after their shift is over, because they didn’t stock up anything during work that day. After working a place for a while, you should have a good idea about how much silverware, for example, you will use on certain days of the week. If you know that you will use an entire container of silverware (and you know that you have to have another pan ready for the following shift) ask your supervisor can you come in an hour early and wrap and extra pan up. That way, when you are finished with your last table, all you have to do is collect the big tips you got that day (due to managing your time wisely) and clock out.