“5. No one else in the restaurant is as dependent on your enjoyment.”
I had been discussing with my wife recently about my history with pure commission sales. I never really thought I could make it as a salesman. She pointed out that I’m basically making strictly commissions as a server. She’s right. After all, my hourly wage is primarily provided to ensure I don’t have to give my employers money for taxes and other benefits out of my tips. So nearly my entire income comes directly from the people who sit in my section and let me entertain them.
When people go to a restaurant where they will be served, they generally expect to enjoy the meal more than if they’d opted to fend for themselves. If they are with friends or family, they want to share the experience. If they are alone, they didn’t want to be, entirely. No matter how many are at the table, each and every guest is hoping for an enjoyable meal. The responsibility for that hope is placed primarily on the shoulders of the server. It is my job to fulfill that hope for each and every guest. Should any member of the staff dash their hopes through failure, the brunt of their disappointment falls on me. Even the most understanding of individuals will still see me as the source of the failure. If a guest fails to enjoy their visit, I take the hit.
What exactly, then, am I getting paid for? My knowledge, my experience, my attitude, my talent, and my commitment to service seem to be the most obvious reasons. No matter how frequently a guest visits, no matter how well they know the menu, they still need me to know it better. A guest wants me to be able to handle hot plates, and cold drinks, deftly, and quickly. They want a positive demeanor, and an empathy strong enough to know when humor, or humility is required. Their server should be able to look poised and polished, whether it’s Monday afternoon, or Saturday night. Above all, I should be treating them like they are my only guests, even if everyone involved is mature enough to realize that’s not the case.
Each time I greet a guest, I’m taking responsibility for their enjoyment. I’m selling the idea that they are going to have a good time, and my success is dependent on how well I can deliver on that promise. My guests cannot dock the pay of the cook who provides a medium steak when they wanted medium rare. They cannot charge their meal to the unruly guests at the table next to them. The dishwashers won’t lose hours because of a dirty dish that makes it to the table. More than any other position in the restaurant, the server needs the highest possible percentage of the guests to be happy, so that their gratitude is shown in their gratuity.
Some servers are fully committed to this truth. Some are not. The ones who aren’t shouldn’t be in this business. If you get the privilege to be served by one who is, you should encourage their efforts. After all, they simply want to you to do what I ask of you at the end of every post, whether it’s your next meal, or the rest of your life. Enjoy!