The Server Greet

Story Highlights
  • The Greet
  • The Approach
  • The Transition
  • Be The Consultant
  • IGNITE Challenge

Sure, we’re servers, but we often find ourselves on the other side of the table, too, right? We love going out. How many of these classic, unconscious greets have we heard?

  • Hi guys, my name’s Brittany. I’ll be taking care of you this evening. Can I get you started with something to drink? 
  • My name’s Taylor, and I’m going to be taking care of you. Um, well, we’re just down a couple of servers. Uh, can I just get you something to drink really quick? I’m sorry it took a long time. Okay. Okay. Yeah, it’ll be a few minutes on that, though, if that’s okay. Cause we’re just super busy right now. Okay. All right. Thanks. I’ll be right back. 
  • My name is Jonathan. I’ll be taking care of you this evening. Do we fancy a couple of drinks, perhaps a squash artichoke dip?
  • Hey guys. How we doing today? My name’s Chad. I’m gonna be hanging out with y’all today. Okay? We gonna do some shots? What are we gonna start with, Fireball? 
  • Hi, my name is McKayla. Um, I’m going to be serving you. Do we want to start with drinks? Okay. Just water? Okay. All right. 
  • Sup guys, what are we drinking tonight?

The Greet

The greet is absolutely one of the most important steps of service. It’s also essential that you switch it up because, as you can tell by Brittany and all these people, the standard greets are all overused, terribly stupid, and I hate them. You probably do, too, now that you’re thinking about it!! It’s okay – we’ll fix that, and it will mean more money in your pocket, stick with me here. 

Ok, so what’s the magic formula for greeting your table? The good news is, it’s simple. We’re going to go over it in three easy steps. But first, here’s some fuel for your fire. Why is the greet so important? It’s the first interaction with your table and your new guests. It sets the tone of how their experience is going to go. It also allows you to understand who they are in just a couple of minutes, allowing you to tailor the experience totally to them. Check out our video about tailoring the experience for each table. It is so vital that you’re not the same person at every single table.

Before you approach the table, take just a few seconds to breathe and get your head in the right place. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Set your intention of the vibe you are trying to put off. What’s your intention for that table? 

Personally, I want you to know I’m here to take care of you. I love serving. I quit my “big boy” job to come back to serving. Why would I not want you to feel that and to understand that I actually care about being at your table and that I’m super excited that you’re sitting with me? At the end of it, I honestly say, “Thank you very much for letting me serve you guys tonight.” People have no idea how to respond to that. They’re like, “Thanks?” It’s Awesome. I love throwing people off from what they are expecting like that. But you want that same kind of intention of, “Hey, look, I’m here to serve you guys. We’re gonna have a great time. You made the right decision sitting down at my table and coming to my restaurant.”

The Approach

Typically you have about seven seconds for someone to form an opinion of you, their first impression. So those first seven seconds as you walk up to the table, which I call “The Approach,” are super important. 

Part of our first impression is to reaffirm that they made the right choice in coming to your restaurant. As soon as they walked through the door or called to make a reservation, they made a purchase decision. They decided that they would spend money at your restaurant and were lucky enough to get you. People love knowing they made the right choice. So, we reaffirm this in our greet. When you do that, you have already started providing a different experience than what they are used to, or expecting.

Approach the table slowly. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the weeds or not. They need to feel like they’re your only table. I slowly approach the table, stand there, and I wait, just smiling. As soon as I have everyone’s attention, I say, “Good evening (or morning or afternoon).” Then, the big thing that most servers don’t do… I SHUT UP and wait for them to respond!! Sometimes I’ll say, “Good evening. How are ya?” because I work in a more casual place. You have to adjust this based on the style of restaurant you work in, but the concept is the same. WAIT FOR A RESPONSE! Most servers will say, “How are you? Can I get you started with a drink?” We are trying to start a conversation with them to build rapport and a relationship.

Often you can see it in their faces when they’ve realized you’re actually conversing with them. The change happens right there. They’re going to say, “We’re good. How are you?” I say, “I’m fantastic.” I always say something upbeat and positive like this because every time I say,” I’m fantastic,” I always get a great response. They’re smiling and thinking, “Oh, this is awesome, a server who’s not a robot!” Now I’ve begun to set the tone, and they know I’m here for them. I’ve reaffirmed that they’ve made the right decision to come here, and they know they’ve got a conscious server who cares about them. Not a bad way for a server to make a first impression.

Remember, you are their consultant. You are their coach. You know the menu and the restaurant better than they do. To be a good consultant, you need to learn more about them. We learn more by asking questions and listening for the response. By doing this in your greet, your guests will instantly feel that you are different and know they have a good server. This is SO EASY because of all the unconscious servers, and that’s what your guests are used to.

Next, hit them with “What are you guys doing today? Are you doing anything fun and exciting?” They can fall off the track I’m building and assume I’m asking them what they’re drinking. But no, I’m asking you a personal question. I love getting intimate with this question because, again, it throws them off. They need to be shaken out of the average experience they are expecting. Average experience is NOT what I’m letting them leave with. I’m going to make sure that their service expectation is a lot higher now.

“What are you doing today? Anything fun and exciting?” This is the most critical question you can ask your table. We’re going to find out how to tailor their experience. Of course, you can ask the question, “Are we here for anything special?” But if I ask, “What are you guys doing today? Anything fun and exciting?” it’s very open-ended, and they’re going to share as much as they want. Usually, the kid is going to tell me, “OMG, we went to the zoo, and it was so awesome. I saw a giraffe, and it was like SO BIG.” That’s great kid, thanks for telling me about your day. It sounds like you need a big shot of fireball. (Kidding… but you get the idea, right?)

They’re going to share the most important thing about their day. “We’re here for his birthday.” One shift, I had two different 21st birthdays. I actually served both tables their first drink. I know that because I asked that question. If I didn’t ask that question, they probably would’ve volunteered the info, but it’s a lot harder to get that out of them. (Dear Mom and Dad, I had my first drink on my 21’st birthday too…)

Remember, people love talking about themselves, and it makes them more comfortable. This question helps lower their walls. They already know I’m going to wait for a response, so they know I actually care, and in turn, they’ll reinvest the time to tell me more. “It’s his birthday.” “We’re from out of town.” “We went to this cool place today.” “We went to this or that attraction.”

“Oh, awesome. That’s my favorite place! Didn’t you have a great time?!” Where are you from?”  ”That leads into a whole conversation. Now I’m going to have a two to three-minute conversation just about them, from which I can learn a lot about them and how to tailor their experience. Every time it starts with, “What are you guys up to today?”

The Transition

Before the conversation goes on too long, we need to transition from personal to business. I say, “When was the last time we were here?” It’s another open-ended question, and there are about four responses you’ll typically get:  “It’s been a while, a couple of years.” “It’s been a couple months,” “Been a couple weeks,” or “Never been here before; this is our first time.” If they say it’s been a couple of weeks or a couple months, that tells you their frequency. Every couple of months or weeks means they’re regulars. If you don’t recognize them, that means they could turn into YOUR regulars if they love their experience with you. Building your regulars = $$$, but that’s another post. 

It’s important to phrase this question correctly. Never ask, “Is this your first time?” If you do, and they are regulars, You’ve probably offended them or rubbed them the wrong way. Let’s play this out: “Is this your first time?” “No, dude, literally I sit at that table like four times a week. I’m here all the time.” Alternatively, “When was the last time you were here?” “Like two days ago.” “Awesome, fantastic, we’re gonna have a great time.” In your head, you should be thinking and setting the intention of, ”After today, these guys are going to ask for me every time they come in!”

If it is their first time, I want to introduce them to the restaurant and to me. So, I do a menu tour with them visually using the menu in front of them or on their phone. I’ll walk them through everything until they’re comfortable and understand who we are and who I am as a server. I’m also going to share my personal favorites. Which, by the way, about 80% of the time, someone at the table will order. I try to have fun with it, “Do you like shrimp?” – “Yes.” – “High Five! You’re qualified for this! My personal favorite has shrimp in it, and it’s so good that I want to moonwalk across the table.” Most of the time, they’ll order what I recommend, especially if I pump it up. That will set them up to match my enthusiasm, and they’re more likely to love the dish as well. 

Be Their Consultant

We need to keep asking questions and take the time to learn about them and what they like or dislike. “What do you usually drink?” “What do you usually order here?” “Have you ever tried our salmon?” Then use your knowledge of the restaurant, which means; who’s cooking today, how fresh is the salmon, where does the meat come from, how is the lettuce grown, who’s tending bar, etc.…  Then, match up what you learned from them by asking questions to deliver a custom-tailored experience they’ll come back to see you for again and again because you set the service bar high.

IGNITE Challenge

I have heard a ton of excellent feedback from servers who have watched this video and DOUBLED or TRIPLED their tip percentage just from refining how they greet a table, and YOU CAN DO IT TOO!

I want to challenge you to look at how you actually do a greet. Over your next shift or two, just observe. How do you greet a table? What do you say? Do you do the usual greet that most servers do? “Hi, my name’s Kevin. I’m going to be taking care of you tonight. Can I get you started with something to drink?” If this is you, by now, you should be cringing, but that’s ok! Because now that you’re aware of how to uplevel your experience through your greet, you’ll consciously notice and refine it. Watch your guest interactions improve, and watch your percentages go up. It’ll take some work, but it will be worth it. 

I also want to challenge you to try asking those two fundamental questions, and then I’d love to hear from you. What were your experiences with that? What questions are you asking? Did you find anything else that works for you and your greet? How do you greet differently? How did you rethink the greet? Comment below, or hit us up on Instagram @SixFigureServer, and I’m @SixFigureKevin.

Now, go be #NothinLessThanLegendary!

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