Q & A with Chef J Stephen … Why do all restaurant waiters tell me their names?

Watress Two Older GuestsQ&A

The answer to this question is simple…. Tips. Research has clearly shown that when a server states their name they become a real person to the guest. When they kneel down, touch your shoulder, speak to your kids, they further personalize themselves, all resulting in increased tips.

You might stiff a faceless “food deliverer” but almost never a person you are acquainted with.

This may sound like a cold hearted fact but doing these things is actually a win/win for all parties. The server makes more money (usually) and believe me they work hard for every penny they get, the guest feels special and the proprietor has provided a service that will assure their guest will come back to that special place that treats them so well.

Where the system breaks down is when the process is institutionalized. When chain restaurants all “train” their staff to follow “standardized” welcoming rules, they become rote and lose their meaning. Servers then “blindly follow” their “training” without thinking because it’s the “rule”.

At our Forney, TX European Bistro, we ask our servers to treat people like they have just come in to visit them at their home. Do those thing that will personalize you to your guests, but do them because you mean it, just as if you are talking to a friend.

Not easy to do when you have a line of guests waiting to be seated, looking for refills and awaiting their dishes. But that’s the art of being a professional server. Understanding who needs attention and the attention they require is an art not a process. Chains who are all about systems and controls often lose site of that fact.

J Stephen


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