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Table maintenance, 7 ways to impress your guests

Maintaining your table takes an understanding of what maintenance actually means. Table maintenance is keeping your table clear of items not needed or requested by your guests and providing your table with everything they need to have an exceptional experience. It seems like an easy task, if you know how to consolidate steps and if you know what to look for it is.  Here are some tips to use on your next shift to become a pro.


Here are seven things you can do tonight to maintain your tables, save yourself time and be a bad ass server.

Linen napkins:

Are the napkins folded?  There is nothing worse than having a guest exit the table leaving a crumpled up napkin behind, or worse on their chair, only to return to the same crumpled up napkin.  If you see this napkin please take a few moments of your time to fold it.  It will give you a moment to be seen by the dinner companion as a server who cares and you can also open up private lines of communication with them by seizing their attention and asking if they are having a nice time, where they are from or if there is anything else you can get for them.

Paper napkins:

Are the napkins on the table very dirty?  If so, replace it!  Sometimes guest will use a paper napkin until it is gasping for breath.  There may not be one white, clean area left on the napkin and still the finger wiping and mouth swiping continues.  Gross, huh?  We as servers have ultimate control on just how gross we let our guests become.  One napkin replacement will save your guest from feeling yucky and save you from having to look at it…win-win.


Sugar packets, stir sticks, straws, lemons, limes and olive skewers, oh my!  All of these things should be removed from the table once the guest is finished using them.  Is all the squirt out of that lime?  Get it out of there.  Are the olives gone from the skewer which is laying on the table?  Swipe it off the table!  Is the splenda packet empty?  Is the straw tossed aside?  Remove them from the table.

Empty glasses:

If there is an empty glass on the table that would be free to re-fill,  then re-fill the glass without asking the guest permission; if they don’t want it they will refuse it or tell you that they don’t need any more…after this one.  The idea is to not interupt the guest if you don’t have to and asking if they would like a refill is an avoidable interuption.   If the re-fill will cost the customer, then as you remove the empty glass politely ask if they would like a refill of “fill in the blank” .  “Fill in the blank” means specifically state the drink you are asking about.

Dirty dishes:

Do those bread plates really need to be there?  Are they done with the bread and butter?  You don’t know?  Then ask!  There is nothing wrong with communicating with your guest at the table.  Ask if they would like more braed.  If the answer is no then remove the plates, dirty knife and bread “basket”.  How about dirty utensils? If they can be replaced then replace them.  If it is against your restaurants policy then re-arrange them to be orderly for the customer. (Only touch the bottom of the utencil, never the part where the guest eats from;that would be yicky!”


Remove crumbs by using a table crumber.  Simple.  Fast.  Sexy.  Effective.


Move things to convenience the guest.  Position handles to more easily accomidate the guest, move water nearer, center candle and place glasses in correct order.


Bottom line

Scan your tables!  Every pass by is a possibility to do something for them.  I tell everyone that I train that you should eventually be able to scan a table and know everything that needs to be done on it.  The skill won’t happen over night but it is a skill and like any other it can be gained my intentional action and thought.  Pretty soon you will develop eyes for your table, you section and the dining room and be a bad ass waitress.



Every table that you have in your section tonight, as you pass by, do something for them; anything: remove trash, remove a glass, re-fill a drink, replace a napkin or move something.  No matter how “busy” you feel, do something. The idea is to get comfortable taking action at your table.  You will find that with every pass by you will become more in tune with what actually needs to be done and this “extra step” will eventually end up saving you time.





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