Empowering Your Servers to Increase Sales

As a restaurant owner, you know your wait staff is your sales team. Servers who are well trained and know how to work their sections to improve customer satisfaction create loyal customers for your restaurant and can upsell menu items to improve your sales. It is difficult to build a team of all-star employees, as it is with any company. The secret to getting a team that is providing outstanding customer service, upselling, receiving larger tips, and working with each other to keep the restaurant flow moving comes down to empowering your servers.

Here are some of our best tips to empower your servers and see your sales increase.

Give Servers the Tools to Be Successful

It can be easy to skip out on regular training during busy seasons or if you are having difficulties finding schedule availabilities for your servers. But the first and most important step to empowering your employees is giving them the tools to be successful through training. The only way to ensure they are performing their best with an understanding of the restaurant’s goals is ongoing training.

At least once per month, hold a team training session with your servers to keep everyone on the same page. To get everyone involved and to make the training more positive and successful, make it fun with these tips:

  • Feed everyone with new dishes you are thinking of adding and get their vote.

  • Give each month’s training a theme and make it more of a team building game.

  • Commit to keeping trainings under a certain time (like under an hour) so everyone knows what to expect and isn’t disengaged from training.

Sales Result: Only when employees are properly trained to know what to sell, how to sell, and what makes customers come back for more can they begin to utilize their skills to increase sales. The biggest hurdle restaurants face to get employees trained for sales increase is getting employees engaged in the training so that it is successful. When you structure it and make it more fun, it gets your servers more engaged in the training to help them retain the tools to success from a highly efficient and engaging training session. These skills will cause your sales to increase as a result.

Give Your Servers Authority

Servers get the brunt of all negative customer experiences. While proper and frequent training will circumvent a lot of customer service issues some things will always remain out of your control. From kitchen emergencies slowing down food preparation to customers walking in the restaurant ready to complain, sales are always at risk. When servers know the table is unsatisfied and their tip is not going to be good, they are more likely to reduce the quality of their service.

Sales Result: To avoid this, you need to give your servers some authority over customer service management. With proper training, give servers permission to provide discounts or free dishes to avoid unhappy customers. Be sure servers know the instances it is appropriate to give out a free item and give them a couple of options to offer based on the table’s preference so as not to hurt sales by giving away too many free items. When you empower servers to completely manage the customer service at their tables, you are able to save more customer experiences that will come back in the future, increasing sales over time. The quality of servers’ customer service will improve as well when they know they have the ability to save a customer experience.

Demonstrate and Show Respect to Your Servers

The simple act of listening and showing respect to your servers can go a long way in empowering them towards peak performance, such as: 

  • Provide a culture that assures your wait staff they can openly communicate any issues or questions they have. Adopt a listening leadership approach that lets employees know you are there to listen to their problems and find positive solutions.

  • Set an example by starting each shift with a good attitude. Even if you are having a bad day, put that aside and be a positive force in your restaurant, ready to tackle anything.

  • Ask for your servers’ opinion! Encourage them to come to you with ideas and suggestions for improvement. Carefully consider each idea and discuss it with servers or during your team trainings.

Sales Result: When your servers feel like a valued and respected member of the restaurant staff they are empowered to work harder and perform better every shift. Highly motivated employees are an easy and natural vehicle to increase the sales at your restaurant.

Provide Flexibility and Control on Scheduling

Server turnover is high in the restaurant world and it is often because employees are trying to hop to a restaurant with better management or more perks. By offering flexibility in scheduling, you will be rewarding your employees with something that is not offered at every restaurant. This will reduce turnover, allowing your servers to develop their sales skills for your restaurant. Communicate with employees about their scheduling needs and work with them the best you can. You also want to rotate employees through the high tip-earning shifts. It is tempting to only schedule the all-stars during busy times, but treating each employee fairly by giving an equal chance to earn more will gain you a lot of loyalty.

One of the best ways to empower employees through scheduling is to put it in their hands. By utilizing technology, you can allow employees to set schedules, trade shifts, and work out a lot of scheduling issue on their own without getting management involved. This not only frees up your time, but puts servers in control of their schedule which is a huge perk in the restaurant world.

Sales Result: Utilizing technology for scheduling increases sales in three ways:

  • Frees up management’s time to focus on promotions and other ways to increase sales and improve staff performance.

  • Empowers employees to take control of their schedule, making them love their job more. Happiness on shift will increase sales naturally.

  • Avoid burning out all star employees on high tip shifts and empower your other servers to perform excellent customer service on those shifts, improving your sales opportunities without overworking some of your employees.

  • Ensures there is always enough staff for every shift with the ability to call in more employees easily during busy times. This improves the chances of customers being more satisfied with fast and thorough service that will keep them coming back for more!

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If you would like to learn more about goal setting and incentivizing your employees check out Split, an innovative solution for restaurants that helps track and set goals for staff.

Writer Bio: Matt Thompson has let his lifelong passion of food and people lead him to 15 amazing years as a restaurant manager and another 9 years working as a Director with a major food service distributor. He has channeled his passion to help create and run Shiftnote - the #1 restaurant app for employee scheduling and manager shift communication.