RESTAURANT SERVICE: the most common mistakes that can easily be avoided


During 10 years of my practical experience in the restaurant and entertainment sphere I have attended numerous seminars, trainings and lectures on personnel training, service inculcation and development.

Almost all of them considered the cases like “How to serve in a restaurant in a correct way”, but in this release I want to emphasize the most commonly occurring mistakes that I came across in my practice and observations. And even not always they depended on waiters.

MISTAKE 1: Nobody welcomed a Guest

Even when psychologists analyze the nuances of service, they point to the following thing: a Guest’s loyalty to a venue and credibility to a waiter is laid literally during the first couple of minutes of stay.

50% of success depends on welcoming your Guest, the convenience of the incoming group and the first dialogue between a Hostess (waiter, manager) and a Guest.

By the incoming group convenience I understand, first of all, a wide hall in the entrance area, hostess’ stand (or a special place), and also, what is the most important – the availability of a cloakroom.

It is necessary for a Guest to leave clothes at the entrance, which will later be the exit as well, but not to ramble around the restaurant in outside clothing, which reminds a railway station and spoils other people’s rest.

If it is impossible to arrange a cloakroom in your venue, you should think about some creative clothes trees. In case there is not enough space for that, so your establishment is more likely to be a café. In that case it must be themed and conceptual.

Reveal your creativity designing some clothes stands and make them a part of the interior and as well as convenient for Guests.


I am not even considering the situation when a Guest has to hang clothes on the chair back or put it on the sofa nearby. It’s a shame.

The first contact of a Guest with the personnel is supposed to take place at the entrance. If a hostess is not available, so a waiter who is responsible for meeting must take a menu or a backlog in his hands, “arm” himself with a smile and make some steps towards a Guest.

Why should he have something in his hands? One more small drawback in staff personnel behavior is connected with the fact that they have no idea what to do with their hands and look unconfident.

That’s why I recommend holding something useful in his/her hands than doing anything that comes to mind with them.

Besides, a Guest may have questions concerning the menu or the availability of seats.

During their first dialogue a waiter must greet a Guest (you should develop 5-7 prepared phrases), find out if a table was reserved, how many people are going to come and in what part of the hall they would like to sit.

In order not to make it resemble a conversation between a human and a robot, let your waiter imagine that this situation is taking place in his own apartment when a friend has come to him: “Where would you like to sit: near the window, in front of the TV or there is a quiet place in the corner?”. The same thing must be at your establishment, but with more respect.

Each place has its advantage: one place has a good view, another gives the opportunity to see how pizza is cooked, and on the contrary – the third is the most secluded. Let your waiter tell about it, and your Guest will take it as care.

And of course, before showing a Guest to his table, it is necessary to suggest leaving his outdoor clothes in the cloakroom. If the Guest is not well-bred enough as you hoped and entered the hall wearing outdoor clothes, there is no need to threaten him with the phrases like: “We do not serve people wearing outdoor clothing”.

Let the waiter suggest it one more time in a more obstinate way after taking the order and after the Guest comes to feel at home and gets warm.

In that case if there is some rush in the hall and nobody welcomed the Guests and they found a place on their own, it is necessary for the waiter to greet them at least with a nod of the head and let them know that they have been noticed, or passing by them with the menu or the order in his hands he should tell something like: “Good afternoon, glad to see you! Just give me a moment and I will come to you!”

MISTAKE 2: “It’s up to you what to choose”

This is a relative name for a mistake of that kind, and the main point of the problem lies in the fact that it is not a waiter who is guiding a Guest through the menu, but a Guest takes a decision on what to order on his own. As a rule, they will order very few of the cheapest items. That’s because they have time to calculate and save. That’s like in a food store:

– Give me a loaf of rye bread!
– Here is your loaf of bread!

It is extremely important for your waiter to take a leading position in the dialogue while handing out the menu, that’s to start the dialogue. If the procedure of meeting Guests took place in a correct way, that won’t be difficult to do it.

Don’t let your Guest feel the smallest doubt that he needs your (waiter’s) help. A phrase like: “Maybe I could recommend you something?” sounds something like “Everybody refuses my help, maybe you will agree, besides, the director told me to ask everybody about that.” That sounds absolutely gingerly and doesn’t show your care.

Be a bit more insistent and try using statements, but not questions. This will emphasize your categoricity: “Here is your menu! We have a great choice of business lunches. I can recommend the most popular set!” Something like that.

MISTAKE 3: an obtrusive waiter

There is no doubt that the main task of the personnel is to lavish care upon a Guest. That’s the good word to describe a high quality service.

I have noticed that attention and care mean much more than just technical skills of a waiter. No matter that you put a dish on the table with your distant hand and carry a tray using three fingers and keep your elbow at 90 degrees, but if you didn’t welcome your Guest or didn’t suggest taking a plaid on a cold evening, it means that you are a robot, but not a waiter.

In the light of discussing Mistake 3 I can remember some cases when the staff tried to be too caring and used the rules of unobtrusive sales too obtrusively.

2 attempts are enough to understand if the Guest is yours.

That’s an approximate case:

– I would like a goose leg with confit apples.
– Would you like any side dish: vegetable puree, couscous or potato Gratin?
– No. And some bread.
– Our Guests are complementary about our special baking goods set. Would you like to try?
– No. Have you got any rye bread?

And at this point you should stop. He has taken his decision about the choice so your further suggestions will be taken as bothering. But don’t get upset if you didn’t manage to make any additional sales.

Even this Guest deserves your additional care, ask him if he likes everything, what was the most delicious, if he has any wishes and certainly see him off to the exit and invite to come again. It’s easy. All the same, you will come to his table.

MISTAKE 4: “We have got black, green, sea-buckthorn, bergamot, chamomile tea, berry tea with ginger, Rooibos-vanilla, hibiscus tea, and also herbal and Oolong…”

The matter is that quite often waiters don’t know how to suggest something from the menu in a correct way. The choice is big and they want to tell right about everything.

As a result they name the whole tea list or even, Heaven forbid! (and I have come across with that), the whole wine list including such names that are hard to pronounce. In this case the waiter demonstrates not his proficiency but his foolishness.

How to suggest a Guest what he wants? It’s quite simple! Just ask what he likes!

And while listing menu items the method of “Three” should be used, meaning that not more than three variants should be suggested. But for all you should take into consideration that the first and the last variants remain in the memory, that is the first and the third.

Here is the case:

– What kind of tea have you got?
– We’ve got ten sorts of tea. What sorts do you prefer: black, herb, fruit?
– I like Rooibos.
– Great! We can suggest three variants of Rooibos tea: classic, vanilla and our special Rooibos-Cloves. Which one would you like?

The Guest is more likely to choose the last variant, because the waiter unobtrusively added some emotional accent calling it special.

MISTAKE 5: a “dumb” waiter

As I have mentioned in the waiter’s behavior description, the main thing is your care about a Guest.

Of course, while serving a table, a waiter (as well as a contact bar bartender) has to approach Guests many times.

So quite often I ask them the following question:

– Why did you come to the table?
– I took away some dirty napkins.
– And that’s all?
– And the empty bread basket…

It’s a failure. A useless movement that brings no extra profit. You need to use every contact with a Guest to show your care and make sales. While approaching the table the waiter could have:

  1. Poured some alcohol drinks (the Guests will run out of it faster and they will order again!)
  2. Proposed some more bread (because they ran out of it)
  3. Informed about the next serving: “Your steak and puree are almost ready! I am going to serve them in 3-4 minutes!”
  4. Found out about the Guests’ mood and if they were satisfied with everything including the taste of food.

This is by no means the complete list of service cases and mistake.

I hope that the solutions will be implemented in your establishments!

It will get more interesting as it will go on!

Address me for more detailed information at

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