What Makes a Good Server?

I used to work for a big franchised restaurant chain and we were doing some market research to improve guest satisfaction. This got me excited because I have my opinion of what makes a good server but this was an opportunity to find out what the market research results would show from the following question:

What makes a good server?

Over a 2 month period of using comment cards and surveys we got back approximately 11,500 total responses from 31 of our locations to this question, and the top 10 answers are as follows (in no particular order).

  1. Smiles
  2. Kindness
  3. Outgoing personality
  4. Attentive
  5. Helpful
  6. Knowledge
  7. Recommends items
  8. Makes us feel comfortable
  9. Makes us feel special
  10. Genuine

Now I would have thought that “friendly” would have hit the top 10 list however when you look at what is there you can see that “friendly” is pretty well indirectly referred to on a few of the different responses.

So I’m going to do a quick break down about why I think these were the top 10 answers to the question “What makes a good server?”.


The simplest gesture and most common form of politeness, when eye contact is made this is when you pull this guy out and wait for the returning smile. Hostesses normally get told to smile just before they pick up the phone because you can hear the smile come through their voice. One smile normally leads to another one :D.


It comes in many forms whether you pull a chair out for a guest, ask how someone’s day is, open a door for someone, smile (two birds with one stone) the list could go on. It’s these small acts of kindness that can leave a happy feeling with your guest.

Outgoing personality

You don’t need to be the center of the social scene, if you can have a conversation with a stranger comfortably then this is an advantage to you. You just need to be yourself and relax when talking with your tables. Engaging with your guests can help build rapport which in return will increase your tips.


Guests love it when you anticipate their needs before they even ask you. For example, if you noticed a guests coffee or pop getting a low swing on by with another one without them having to ask you. (note that standards and procedures would vary venue to venue). Knowing what is going on with all your tables is a skill.


If someone is walking around the restaurant looking lost simply point them in the right direction if a guests hands are full when they are leaving then open the door for them. This one has benefits much the same as the ones from kindness.


Knowing the food and drinks menu is one thing, but knowing the region of a wine that a guest has just ordered and telling them a quick story or fact about it is going to show your tables that they are in good hands. You don’t need to overdo it, but being ready with answers to questions which may not be a normally asked is good for both you and your guests.

Recommends items

Everyone has different taste so if a guest asks you what you would recommend or what your favorite dish is there is no wrong answer. This is a question directed at your opinion so if you answer with confidence and let them know why it is you chose that particular item then you can win some brownie points when the dish you recommended was a hit.

Makes us feel comfortable

People are in a better mood when they feel secure and comfortable. If you treat every person that walks in the door as if they were a guest in your home, then you will make a lot more money than someone who treats their guests like strangers who are eating at a restaurant they work in.

Makes us feel special

When people think they are getting better treatment than those around them it makes them feel great. If you can master the art of making each and every table you serve feel special you can increase your average tips and the general mood of your section will be uplifting for you.


Don’t lie, be honest and genuine with your tables. People prefer to hear you say “Sorry I dropped your meal while I was bringing it out” and not “It shouldn’t be too much longer, they’re working on it now” or “The kitchen screwed up”. We are human and we make mistakes and people are understanding of that. It shows respect when you are being genuine, and put yourself in their shoes, wouldn’t you want someone to be honest with you?

So there’s some insight for you on what makes a good server, straight from the communities mouth. Hopefully, this can give you a better idea on what it is you need to do for others to help make you a better server.

Have a super day everyone.