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10 Steps of Service

waitresses wearing uniform and a service tray in front of them


The success of every restaurant lies in the manner in which it takes care of it's customers. Well trained staff will always deliver high quality service, hence improving customer experience and increasing revenue. Here are the 10 steps of service every waiter must know:

  1. Greet the guests

  2. Offer a beverage

  3. Serve beverages and offer an appetizer

  4. Take food order

  5. Serve food

  6. Two-five minute check back

  7. Clear plates and glassware

  8. Suggest desserts and after dinner drinks

  9. Present the bill

  10. Collect payment and thank the guests 


Greeting your guests

Guests should be greeting immediately. They must be acknowledged within 30 seconds of arriving. Greet your guests with a genuine smile and a, "Welcome to ABC Restaurant". This is the time to also check the number of pax (covers) as well as whether they made a reservation or not. Follow your restaurant's procedure for guests with/ without reservations. 


Offer a beverage

As soon as your guests are seated, introduce yourself and offer them something to drink. In some restaurants, you may be required to pour water for your guests. "My name is... and I'll be your waitron today. May I offer your something to drink? A beer, cocktail, etc". Don't waste time and wait for guests to call you back to order drinks!


This is the time to also present the menus. Mention specials and out-of-stock items.


Serve beverages and offer an appetizer

Serve the beverages without delay. Drinks shoould be delievered within 5 minutes of being ordered. Offer to pour drinkns for your guests. This is also the time to offer an appetizer. Drinks should always be served on the clean tray.


Take food order

Take food order, starting with the ladies. You should have intimate knowledge of your menu and be able to guide your guests. You should also be able to answer any questions pertaining to the meals. Remember to repeate the order. 


Serve food

Bring food immediately when it is ready. Serve ladies first. If the table has kids, offer to bring the kids' meals ealier. The same goes with older guests. Warn your guests if the plates are hot. After you fininsh serving, check if everybody has the corect item.


Serve from the left/ right in accordance to your restaurant policy. The general rule is if you are serving from the left, use your left hand and if you are serving from the right, use your right hand.  Also make sure that the table has the correct condiments for the dishes served. Be availabe in case the customer may need a condiment that you did not bring. For example, some customers may ask for mayonnaise with their french fries instead of tomato sauce. 


This is also the time when you can also offer beverage refills. Feel free to recommend a even a drink they were not having. A good waitron is a good sales person. Most restaurants conduct waiter training to help you perfom effectively and efficiently in your job. 




Two-five minute check back

Within two-five minutes, come back to the tabe and check if everything is good. Clear unnecessary plates and glassware. This is important so that you can verify the quality if the food. Sometimes when customers start eatling, they may need some condiments. If there are any problems or complaints, they can be resolved immediately. If the guest complains about the meal, apologize, take it away and fix it immediately. 


Clear plates and glassware

When guests are finished, clear plates from the table with minimum disturbance. Do not start clearing when some guests are still eating. This may be seen as rude. Clear according to your restaurant's standards and policy. 


Offer desserts and after dinner drinks

You may need to crumb the table down. This is the opportunity for your to suggest desserts. Here are examples:

  • "May I delight you with our amazing, freshly baked carrot cake or malva pudding with valnilla ice cream?". 
  • "How about an amarula dom pedro to finish off your meal?"
  • "A double shot of cognac (nightcap) will ensure a peaceful sleep for you sir"


Present the bill

When your guests are done, check if they would like anything else. Do no ask if you can bring the bill; they may feel like you arew chasing them away. Present the bill as per your company procedure and confirm method of payment. 


Take payment and thank the guest

Take payment as per your restaurant procedure and thank the guests. If the service was great, you may receive a good TIP. 



Here are some extra tips to better your restaurant service:

  • After taking an order, repeat it back to the customers. This gives them confidence in you, and studies show can result in bigger tips.
  • Learn proper table service manners: serve from the left, remove from the right; beverages poured from the right as the cups and glasses are always on the right; glasses never picked up when filling; bring fresh wine glasses with every new wine; and MANY others... Books written on this subject include "The Main Course on Table Service". Get one and read it.
  • Learn the correct way to set a table: forks left, knives right, napkin, coffee/teacup handles at 5 o'clock with teaspoons parallel to the handle... etc.
  • When clearing a table do it quietly as not to disturb the diners at other tables.
  • If you have spare time: If two people are sitting at a table and one goes to the restroom or excuses her- or himself for a moment, and if the other person looks even slightly uncomfortable or awkward sitting alone, go by and make small talk until the partner comes back or as long as you can before another table needs attention. (Do not fail to keep an eye on other tables while doing this.)
  • Even if not required in training, memorize the menu cover to cover ASAP. Talk to the kitchen to familiarize yourself with any specials. Taste sauces if possible.
  • If you are not busy at the moment and notice a customer at another table is in need of something, assist them. If you help out your fellow waiters, they will be more likely to help you out as well. Good service (no matter who provides it) will ensure that customers will come back - that's keeping your paychecks coming.
  • Striking up friendly chat is usually recommended, but keep it short and bear in mind that some customers desire privacy more than others and may become irritated by intrusions.
  • Customers can boil up and become upset over the most minuscule things, such as the wrong drink order. When this happens, stay calm and correct the situation and apologize to the customer. You may find the LEADS policy helpful:
  • Listen to the customer's complaint.
  • Empathize with the concern ("I know it can be frustrating when you get the wrong order...").
  • Apologize personally for the problem, even if it isn't your fault.
  • Do what it takes to make it right with the customer, such as offering a free appetizer or other cheap item, or reducing the bill (check with your manager).
  • Stand by your promise.
  • Never tell a customer you will do something or "be right back" and not do it. Do not promise to do something, anything, and not do it.
  • Interaction and cooperation among co-workers is crucial in the speed of the deliverance of food. Be kind to others, though they may be sour.
  • Answering the phone may be part of the waiter's job. Clearly speak into the receiver to be understood, and make sure you understand what the customer wants. Always write down the customer's phone number.
  • Use caution when writing down orders.
  • Remember good drinks and quick service = good mood = good tips. Try your hardest to keep their water/tea glasses filled without being intrusive.
  • Even when having pleasant conversation with co-workers, face your tables so you can see if they motion or start looking for something. If customers see you with your back turned, chit-chatting with a friend, they are more likely to be annoyed and feel they are not receiving good service.
  • Keep a spare shirt or tie at the restaurant. Accidents happen and a sloppy waiter is not good for the appetite.
  • If someone forgot to make tea and there is only enough for half a glass or a little more, add more ice and fill the rest with water. Customers appreciate fast service more than anything. Go back and start the tea. If they notice the tea is weak (most won't), tell them you will start a fresh brew just for them.
  • Don't give each table the same speech. It's much more personal that way.
  • When serving couples, always take the woman's order first.
  • Smile A LOT! Depending on the environment you work in, make jokes, small talk etc. to keep the mood light and friendly.
  • If a customer complains, don't try to blame it on the cooks, hostess, or anyone else. Simply apologize and work to resolve the problem. Check with the manager before offering discounts, comped meals, etc...If the customer is still not satisfied, ask if they would like to speak to the manager.
  • When you get busy, make sure to let new tables know you will be with them in just a minute. Don't get frantic, trust me, you'll start forgetting things.
  • Never talk about how long of a day you've had or complain to customers or coworkers. No one wants to hear it. Leave your problems at the door and fake a smile if you have to.
  • Be polite, call men Sir and women Ma'am or Miss.
  • Interact with the kids. Parents love it. If children are becoming rowdy or irritable, offer to bring them crayons, paper, crackers, something to keep them busy. The parents will often be very grateful.
  • Plates and silverware should always be brought before food arrives. You can to this when you greet the table, or after you have brought the drinks.
  • Once you get into a routine, stick with it. Analyze it frequently to see if there's anything you can to more efficiently.
  • Learn the menu, the ingredients and the cooking processes. Customers ask weird questions sometimes and if you don't know the answer, be sure to ask someone who does...most likely your manager.
  • Be friendly with your co-workers, bartenders, cooks, busboys. If they like you, they'll help you out more and make you job so much easier.
  • Stay alert for refills, customers trying to get your attention, frowns from guests, dropped silverware, spills, empty plates etc.
  • If the restaurant you work at does not give free refills, but a customer asks for one, be sure to inform them and ask if they would like another anyway.


Did you find this helful? Please comment. 


Are you running a restaurant and looking to better the service or are you working in a restaurant as a waitron? Where are you based? Is it a standalone restaurant or is it in a hotel, resort or lodge? Talk to us if you need fine dining waiter training at your establishment. We offer on-site training countrywide.


Yours in Hospitality, 


Samkeliso Nkwanyane

Hospitality Expert, Coach, Speaker and Consultant