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Team Service

Team Service


Restaurant Team Service is the best way for you to improve your restaurants service.

If you disagree, consider this: If your restaurant’s greet spiel and answer questions intro is 45 seconds, and a server gets triple sat, that last table is still waiting 1:30 seconds for attention.  And that number is on the low end.

I don’t care how badass a server is, they can not bend the laws of time and space and they can’t do everything perfect all the time.  The best they can do is win their table over once they get to them, multitask very well and stay composed. But what if every server had every other server’s back?  WOWWY!

Everyone’s doing it

Actually, that’s a lie. The truth is, the best places are doing it.

I recently spent two months on the road to spend a shift with, and write about, some of the best restaurant service teams in America.  Out of the 32 restaurants I spent time with, about 24 of them practiced team service and tip pooling. And the ones that didn’t were missing out on being even better.

How do I know these restaurant’s service was top of the line? Here was my criteria to spend time with them. Either:

  1. Opentable service score of 4.7 or higher
  2. Zagat service score of 26 or higher
  3. Gayot listed
  4. Nationally written about for service
  5. Michelin star, or two, or three

The restaurants on my restaurant tour had all sorts of team concepts. Some had delegated job duties. I.e. Back server did x, y and Z ONLY (La Belle Vie, in Minneapolis). Others were structured so the server did EVERYTHING, or damn near, (BlueStem in Kansas City). Regardless of the concept you build, going to team service is the best way to ensure great service.


The arguments


There are many arguments that people have when it comes to team service. If you use any objection correctly, you will sniff out an issue. Take objections one step further and solve the issue. That’s how restaurants get better: find a problem, fix a problem.

  • People will steal my money
    • If you have people on your team that think there are other people on the team who would steal, wtf?!?!? This is a major compass to shady people in your business. Investigate! Find. Fire!
  • I‘ll do most of the work
    • All that means is that there is a level of contempt in your business. It also means that not everyone respects everyone professionally. This again is a great compass. All that needs to happen is training!  But let’s face it. If you are going to go to team serving everyone is getting re-trained anyway, so who really cares?  Also, usually weak servers are weak for three reasons:
      • They are allowed to be weak (bad management)
      • They don’t know how to become better (bad training)
      • They don’t want to be better (they are lazy/unwilling, or they think they are waaaaaaay better than they actually are). (bad firing)
  • I won’t make good money
    • If the team is misran then this gripe is legit. But the point of running a team is to CUT THE FAT, become stronger and more capably, and to make more money.)
  • I won’t be able to spend one on one time with my guests
    • This is the weirdest misnomer of all the gripes. Why people think that working as a team will diminish their one on one time is beyond my grasp of understanding. Working as a team gives you more one on one time with guests, not less. When you run individual service and you have a table who wants to talk your ear off, and you know that your 4 top is staring a hole through your head because they need to order, or where’s their drinks? or they need sauce, or, or, or,–you can’t continue the conversation with your table, at least not without guilt or anxiety.  When you run team your team has your back.  Don’t worry about your 4 top. They are taken care of.


Next steps


I was recently hired on at a restaurant to re-train their service team to team service. It wasn’t that easy, but it wasn’t that hard.  There are some things that you need in order to to succeed.

  • Great attitudes. If you don’t have that, you won’t have success.
  • Someone to oversee the training. It can be an owner, manager or strong server.
  • Someone who is willing to be the “bad” guy. (It’s not a bad guy, but since people don’t like to be corrected, this person will not be at the top of the Christmas party invite list…. eventually they will, but not in the beginning.)
  • Someone who is committed to the cause. (It’s easy to fall off course, get lazy and let things slide. Someone needs to stay on the mission.)
  • Weekly meetings and group participation. People have to be allowed to vent and problem solve. Meetings are essential to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Eventually, you’ll need to develop a “lead server group.” 2 to 5 people that are responsible for the teams efforts, communication and accountability.


Learn more about team service.



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