Steps of Service – The Basics

Brilliant service at restaurants begins by knowing the steps that your guests expect. Whether you are casual table service, fine dining, or a small-town diner restaurant, your visitors come with some expectations on how they want to feel welcomed and catered. While every business has a set of procedures or guidelines they run by, restaurants use a basic blueprint for serving. Often these procedures are taught to servers when recruited. They can be in written or verbal form to make the day-to-day operations flow smoothly.

So, let’s have a look at the 12 steps of service for all restaurants! 

Feel free to customize these as per the audience you receive or the expectations your guests have. 

1. Greet Your Guests Within 2 Minutes

a server greeting guests in an outdoor dining setup

After letting your guests in, make sure you give them a warm welcome and ask them about the number of seats they require. Then, help them choose the right table and leave your guests for a minute to settle well. If you’re not a fine dining restaurant, your guests will arrive and find a place themselves. However, make sure you go within two minutes to say hello. We believe that you should greet the table within 1 minute, 2 minutes at the absolute maximum. If you cannot tend the table in time, ask another server. You may even ask the manager to help you out.

2. Take a Drink Order and Deliver Promptly

drinks in a tray

Once you’ve greeted them guests and they’re all set on the table, take an order for beverages. Instead of asking what they would like to drink, start by asking if they’d like to order some beverages or would like some time to settle further. It helps your guests feel comfortable and in control. They do not feel pressured to order something on the spot. It also allows them to take more time without creating an awkward and panic situation for them. 

Do not forget to mention all the restaurant specials here. Get the drinks order delivered in a maximum of two to four minutes after they place it. Generally, we recommend not offering alcoholic beverages at this point, but with the appetizers. However, some guests may like it. 

3. Next, Take an Order for Appetizers!

a server with bread for appetizer

Upon delivering the drinks, ask your guests for an appetizer order. We recommend giving them a minute after they get the drinks. Ask for what they prefer and help them navigate the menu. You may also take the appetizer order with the beverage one. 

Make sure you deliver within 6 minutes after they have placed their order. Guests do not like waiting, even on busy days!

4. Introduce Restaurant Specials and Take Food Order

a server taking an order on their tablet

While not many restaurants have specials, if you do, take this opportunity to introduce them. Do this step right when you drop their appetizers. 

Pull out that notepad or tablet while you write down their order. Make sure you listen carefully and mention the correct table number for delivering. If your guests cannot decide, help them. 

5. Deliver The Meal

delicious food dishes served on a table in a restaurant

Drop off the food at the guest table within a maximum of 15-20 minutes. Make sure you name the dishes when you put them down. It helps them point out wrong orders if any. You must also ensure that your guests have all the cutlery and crockery they need. Do not forget to ask for extras!

6. Go for The 2-Bite-Check

a server going for a quality check at a customer table

By their two bites or within 2 minutes of delivering the food, visit the table back for a quality check. Ask for anything more they need and if everything is up to the mark. But do not take much of their time. You do not want to disturb their time with loved ones over a meal. If your guests have any complaints, get them resolved with the help of your manager.

7. Clear The Table

a restaurant with people

Generally, there are two ways to go about this step. Either you clean the table with every plate empty, or you wait till everyone eats their meal. We recommend going with the policy or guidelines of your employer. 

8. Desserts, Tea, or Coffee?  

desserts

Once the customers are done with entrees and are satisfied with the food quality, bring them the dessert menu. Let them know about the specialties. Once again, the ideal prep time for dessert is 8 to 10 minutes and for tea, etc. is 3 to 5 minutes. Even during this stage, table maintenance explained in point 7 should be continued.  

9. Do not Just Drop the Bill.

a guy with money and cards for paying his restaurant bill

Most restaurants have loyalty programs for regular customers. Ask your guests if they would like to be a part of it while explaining to them its benefit. Do not just bring in the bill. Instead, ask them when they are ready to pay.  

Furthermore, place the bill in the center of the table unless someone has specifically asked you to give it to them. This way, you do not make your guests feel obligated to pay immediately. It also lets them feel not offended if someone else has to pay. You should also only go for the bill when they have paid. Keep an eye out instead of going to them asking about it again and again.

We recommend having scan & pay options for the customers. These are quicker and simpler. Payment procedures should not take more than 2 minutes.  We also recommend having restaurant technology for servers.

10. The Last Minute Impression

a restaurant filled with people and servers around them

As a last-minute impression, always thank the guests for choosing your restaurant and hope to serve them again too. As a plus point, you can also request them to ask for you as their server when they come in next time.  

11. Thank Your Guest As or Before They Leave

blocks of letters saying thank you

Service must never stop after the guests have paid the bill. Some servers do a great job only to suffer at the end because they leave after payments. Someone may want to order more: for instance, a glass of water. So, bid them farewell when they are at the doorstep or getting up from the tables. 

12. Ask For Customer Feedback

a customer feedback logo on a board

When you have extended your farewell to them, make sure you ask for customer feedback. Take their negative comments as happily as you would if they were positive. If a guest does not seem willing to write feedback, do not force them.

The Bottomline

With our 12 steps of service, we hope that you land that 5-star rating. As these are the basics, you can add more to them as per the procedures and guidelines of your employer. We also recommend considering some factors before becoming a server. 

If you’re new to the restaurant industry, do not forget to check out the differences between a host and a server. Many people tend to confuse both.