Sara Kay’s Top 10 Service Tips

I have always believed that good customer service is the most important part of any successful business. This is especially true in the food service industry, because your Chef may be amazing, your wine list may be to die for, but if the customers are treated poorly they will not come back & will most likely smear you in every Social Media outlet available. Here are 10 Tips I feel translate to good service no matter if you are Fine Dinning or Fast Food.



1.       It is all in the Timing:

Your guest should never be kept waiting or wondering. You should try and anticipate their needs. You cannot always control what is happening in the back of the house, but you can control what your customer experiences. So frequently check in, and if there is a delay keep them informed in a positive way. People would always rather be informed then neglected. And I find when you get people their orders in a timely fashion they are likely to stick around and order more, and most importantly they are more likely to return!

2.       Know Your Product:

It is your job as a server to know your menu and concept inside and out. (This should not be an assignment your manager should have to give you) When you are informed you can quickly answer any question thrown your way, and excite your guests. Excited guests are happy guests and that means more money for everyone.

3.       SMILE:

No one likes to be served by tiered, grumpy, winey, bitchy, or snooty person. When you are at work you should leave your personal issues at home, or at the very least in the break room. The more pleasant you are to your guests they more they will return the favor. And the more pleasant you are to your co-workers and management the overall tone of your work place is better, and that is good business for everyone.

4.       Be a problem solver:

If your guest has a question or problem, try and find the quickest solution possible. If you do not know the answer, offer them your best guess, and let them know that are going to find out for sure….. Then go find the answer and get back to them ASAP.

5.       Take Ownership:

Of course every establishment has its own sets of rules and procedures, but there is always room to be yourself. Take pride in your guest interaction, and create some extra steps of service that are unique to you, It always leaves guests coming back for more.

6.       Cleanliness Is Next to Awesomeness:

It goes without saying that hygiene is important in food handling. This goes beyond washing your hands. The joy of food is a sensual one, and if you are serving it you should not interfere with it. You should look and smell squeaky clean…. And yes this can be achieved even if you are tattooed from your nose to your toes, or a have a heaping hive of dreadlocks. The trick is to look attentive and alert, and do not SMELL of ANYTHING!!!! Say NO to cigarette smell, coffee breath, essential oils, perfumes, strong hair products, or BO! And always have a lint roller J you may love your pets, but your guests should not know you have them.

7.       Help a Brother Out:

No matter if you work for a tip pooled house, an everyman to himself place, or you are hourly with no tips…. Service is a team sport, and if one man goes down you all suffer. If you see a team mate is having a problem and you have a chance to help… DO IT!!!! The favor will be returned. And with this everyone wins, especially your guest.  

8.       Know Your Food Allergies: (And don’t be a hater)

Food allergies are a real and growing problem. This goes hand in hand with knowing your menu. If a guest informs you they have a food allergy help them find a food they can enjoy, and if there is nothing suitable for them on the menu, be honest with them about that as well. Do not be annoyed by this! I promise it is more annoying for them to always be afraid of what they can eat that it is for you to find out if your coleslaw has dairy  in it. And NEVER should your customers be at risk of an allergic reaction out of laziness or spite. Common Allergies Are:

  • Gluten
  • Nuts (Peanuts or Tree nuts)
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Shellfish
  • Seafood
  • Mushrooms

9.       Best Your Self:

Healthy competition with your co-workers is OK, but healthy competition with yourself is the BEST! I challenge you to pick a new item on the menu each week and become an expert on it. Try and know as much about it, get the most people excited about it, and sell the most of it as possible. This will have great positive effects on everyone.

10.   Create a Community of Regulars:

Take time to know your guests. Acknowledge and thank them for repeat visits. Learn their likes and try and surprise them with new treats they would like. Everyone likes VIP treatment, and when you do it sincerely it feels good to give it as well.



Hope these tips help. They are just a few thoughts I compiling while developing my new service training module. I would love any feedback.


  1. Great list! The food allergy one is something I’ve experienced myself as a guest. I get a really hard time from servers about having allergies to tree nuts and onions.

    I’ve even had a server once doubt me and asked me to describe what happens when I eat something that my body doesn’t react well to. The reason being “if it isn’t a real allergy then we can’t help you.” Did I mention this place charged close to $30 a plate?

    Not only did that embarrass me, it also offended me! It is awkward enough to have to ask about onions and nuts every time I eat – the last thing I need is for my server to give me a hard time about it! It was NOT a doctor’s appointment and really none of their business.

    Hope your post helps prevent this happening to anyone else!

    • I am sorry for your story but it does not shock me.
      Between myself and my husband we have allergy’s & or intolerance to:
      Gluten/ Casin (Milk protein)/ and sugar…. There so SOOOOO many places can not or will not eat at again.

      And even if it is an preference not an allergy you should never have to explain yourself.

      The server should just happly accommodate you, or explain why it is not possible and recommend something that might be.

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