How To Keep Your Best Waitstaff

Written By: Lynn Corazzi

People don’t go out to eat just to eat. Read that sentence again. And again. Of course they come to your restaurant for great food, but they are also looking for a great dining experience. Your customers come to celebrate, connect with friends, do business, escape. Whatever the reason, their overall experience can depend on their server. Your server.

The performance of your waitstaff is a reflection on you and your restaurant. How your waitstaff is trained, and treated, can have a significant impact on your success. In return, your success can help address one of the biggest challenges almost all restaurants face – employee turnover. Use these thoughts to keep things on the right track.

6 Considerations to Keep Your Best Employees and Customers:

  1. Ask your servers, “How much do you want to earn?” Think about it. Their tips depend on the customer’s experience, so if your team is earning more tips, two other things are probably happening – customers are happier and check averages are higher. Which of these are not good for you? Successful servers understand your restaurant and customers. How can you make them better?
  2. Your servers are your brand ambassadors (Part 1). When people talk about your restaurant, it’s about food, service, ambiance. If your service is consistently great, it becomes part of what you are known for (your brand) and sets you apart from your competition. It keeps customers coming back.
  3. Your servers are your brand ambassadors (Part 2). What are the three things that draw people into your restaurant? Your staff should know these things as well as you do and make it part of their conversation with customers. If there is a unique restaurant history, special ingredients, or something else that draws patrons in, make sure they know that, too.
  4. Train, train, train. Then define and measure your expectations. Before new servers start, they need to understand how you want customers to be treated through all stages of the dining experience. How should customers be welcomed? Do you expect orders to be read back for confirmation? Are there upsell techniques for desserts beyond “did you save room?” How do you measure performance and provide ongoing feedback to your staff? Expectations should be written down and be a part of initial and ongoing training.
  5. Treat your staff as you want them to treat your customers. This brings out the leader in you. Say thank you, reward great behavior and ask them for ideas. Trust and allow your staff to reward your best regulars or fix customer complaints. Go the extra mile for your staff and they will do the same for your customers.
  6. Don’t pool tips. Surprisingly, this still happens. What is the incentive for your best servers to stay if they have to put their hard work into a pool?

Keeping a great staff is hard work, but it’s better than constant turnover. Be a leader and make the effort to train, thank and empower your employees. Your success and profitability depends on it!

-Lynn Corazzi


Lynn is a business leader with over 20 years of experience in building the teams, information and processes that companies need to grow. His strategic perspective to solving business problems was developed at Procter & Gamble, Duke University and Grande Cheese. He is now partnering with the Center for Business Performance Solutions to support independent restaurant operators. Lynn can be reached by phone at 920-948-3355 or email

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