The 7 Deadly Sins of Servers


Patrons and hospitality professionals alike  want to avoid a terrible dining experience at all costs.  In the information age, the consequences of a bad experience can have a ripple effect on a business almost immediately.  Servers hold the key to turning an ordinary meal into something memorable or something completely regretable.

We've polled some experienced servers and asked them to fill us in on the things that they notice while working. The list below is comprised of mistakes they've either done in the past or ones they've witnessed first hand being committed by inexperienced co-workers.  Would these errors make or break your dinning experience?

1. Poor People Skills


First things first, having good people skills can help a sever overcome the worst mistakes. Restaurant patrons should receive the best service possible, even during the most challenging situations.  Servers should always show compassion, be able to read or sense the attitudes of the people they are tending to and always have a smile on their face. These are small things any waiter can do to help keep the experience enjoyable. As a server, it is always import to:

  • Greet customers upon arrival and notify them of any wait times
  • Give patrons the right of way
  • Keep it cool: don't ever show panic or become visibly flustered
  • Never argue with a guest

2. Poor Pre-Meal Execution


A server should be as knowledgable as possible in terms of the menu, specials and most popular dishes. Servers are the liaison between the guests and the kitchen. After the guests are seated, the  servers should never:

  • Forget silverware
  • Forget to bring water to the table
  • Be unfamiliar with the menu
  • Forget to check on the guest and answer questions

Servers should promptly take a beverage order and offer appetizers to start.

3. Poor Floor Etiquette


It's never a good idea to use a mobile phone while you're on the floor.  It is understandable that smartphones are now a part of everyday life, however, servers should not use them while in the front of customers. If it is absolutely necessary, it's best to go into non-common areas to use your phone.  Customers don't want to see their server replying to personal messages instead of being attentive to their needs. Other pitfalls to avoid include: gossiping with co-workers, becoming "invisible" and not behaving professionally while on the floor.

4. Lack of Attention to Detail


As a server, paying attention to the smallest details can be the difference in creating a great guest experience and receiving a better tip. It's never good to guess what someone's order was instead of asking.  It's easier to understand forgetting an order rather than serving an incorrect one. Don't be afraid to write things down and it's always good to repeat the order back just to make sure it's right.  Make sure that everyone at the table receives everything they need for their meal such as condiments, water, drinks, side dishes etc. It's a good idea to circle back with a water pitcher a few minutes later to make sure everything is ok at the table.

5. Poor Table Clearing Etiquette


Servers should try not to leave empty glasses on the table, bring out entrees separately or sit down at the table with the guests, even if they are your friends. When clearing the table it's best not to say "Are you still working on that?". Asking if you can remove the plate is a better alternative.  Be on the look out for telltale signs that a guest is finished such as a napkin on the plate. If you feel it's appropriate, ask them how their meal was. After the table is cleared, be sure to offer dessert and/or coffee.

6. Improper Food Handling


Servers deal with a lot of people, food and cash. They should always keep their hands clean and use anti-bacterial hand sanitizers if possible. Fingernails should be kept trim as well.  Make sure that the table is properly bussed before serving.  Always make sure the orders are correct and announce the dishes as they are being served. A server should never touch the top third of a drinking glass with their hand.

7. Over Upsell


As a server, promoting the specials of the day are common practice, however, it is not good to oversell or be too pushy when doing so.  You will make a better impression by notifying guests things like:

  • If they would like another drink, they should order soon since happy hour is about to end
  • The dish they chose isn't the desired portion size and they should either order a different dish or add a side.

Letting the guest know that you are there to make their dinning experience as great as possible can go a long way.


In closing, servers should avoid these mistakes at all costs.  It will help them deliver the best experience possible and generate more tips. Have any more tips for us? Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know.