Do’s and Don’ts for Motivating Young Servers

by Emily Tatti3 Min Read

Diners judge the quality of your restaurant on two things: your food and your service. And unfortunately, when guests go online to make a complaint, they normally do so because they have experienced less than stellar customer service. If they feel unwelcome or unattended to, they will let the world know about it.

To solve this issue, you really have to address your servers’ behavior. While it may seem easier to simply replace these team members and move on to better candidates, it’s worth considering why this attitude problem is coming up in the first place – especially if it’s happening with other staff as well.

Why Servers Aren’t Responding to Your Sales Training

The majority of your serving staff will be from the millennial generation – those aged between 18 and 34. These young people witnessed the collapse of the economy due to ‘evil corporations’. They have also been inundated with advertisements since birth. Unsurprisingly, they trust peer review sites and social media posts over traditional sales when they make purchasing decisions.

I’m sure you’ve experienced your share of frustration when you’ve tried teaching these young servers to sell. But the fact is that they don’t want to ‘sell’ to your customers. Instead, they would like to make honest recommendations that help that customer. If you focus on this difference during your training, you will have far more success motivating them.

Here are some other dos and don’ts to consider before you get started.

Do: Empower Servers

If you make your young servers feel like they’re playing a key role in your restaurant’s success, they will be personally invested in its future. Don’t be afraid to put this responsibility on their shoulders – they want to feel like they are special, and that you have faith in their abilities. Be open about your vision for the business in regular team meetings, and encourage them to share their own ideas for better service, so they can help make your restaurant great.

Don’t: Threaten Servers

Millennials won’t tolerate an unpleasant work environment, especially in an industry as transient as hospitality. Threatening to fire them will not motivate them to do better. It will only push them out the door.

Do: Offer Non-Financial Rewards

It might surprise you to learn that financial incentives actually lower performance. They encourage people to act unethically instead of uniting as a team. Young servers are far more likely to respond to gestures, because this shows them that you value their contribution on a personal level. So single them out for praise during meetings. Let them have the odd Saturday night off. Reduce the number of people on a shift and give them the opportunity to earn more tips.

Don’t: Run Contests

Telling servers they’ll win a prize if they sell more of a particular item can be a strong motivator, but it can also backfire. It makes staff feel pitted against each other, instead of encouraging them to work together. It also means their customer service will be opportunistic and not necessarily honest, which could reflect badly on your restaurant.

Do: Chip in During Service

By serving tables alongside your waiters, you will show them how much you care about service. This will also help them view you as a mentor rather than as a boss who doesn’t understand their daily roles.

Don’t: Give Them a Script

This is the most important thing to remember during your training. Millennial servers want to believe that they are doing more than simply helping your restaurant’s bottom line – they want to feel like they are genuinely helping people. So allow them to be honest during service. Ditch the scripts, and let them bring their own personal flair into conversations with guests. The results will speak for themselves.

You can learn more about motivating servers to sell in our exclusive course with restaurant trainer David Hayden, “Teaching Servers to Sell.” Check out the preview above.

Emily Tatti

@upsidehl | Website

Emily Tatti is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Upside, an online training platform for the hospitality industry. They pair up with experts from around the world to create video courses on marketing, management and customer service.

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