Steps of Service in a Restaurant

Steps of service in a restaurant have changed significantly in the recent past. Learn what you can do to adapt and provide the ultimate customer experience.

Customer service in a restaurant is an essential part of the hospitality industry. Communicating with customers, treating them with respect, answering their questions, and catering to their needs will provide them with a pleasant experience that will keep them coming back. While the food is important, making guests feel welcomed and at home is another key aspect of running a successful restaurant. Learn more about how service in a restaurant has changed and what you can do to provide the ultimate customer experience. 

How COVID-19 has Affected Customer Service

Perhaps the biggest impact on steps of service in a restaurant has been COVID-19. Today, technology is doing a lot of the heavy lifting and helping to reduce contact so that customers and employees can stay safe. Savvy restaurant leaders are incorporating mobile ordering apps, automated ordering systems, and contactless payment systems to help restaurants operate their steps of service more efficiently while continuing to deliver excellent service.

Important Steps of Service in a Restaurant

1. Service in a restaurant begins the second a guest walks through the door.

The host or hostess should immediately greet guests and make them feel welcome. If there isn’t a host station, then the bartender or waitstaff is responsible for greeting customers. In response to COVID-19 concerns, the greeting process now often includes providing hand sanitizer or pointing guests to a contactless sanitizing station.

2. Greet the guests at the table within 60 seconds of them sitting down.

They shouldn’t be left waiting or wondering how to order.

3. Write down or enter drink orders into the system within 2 minutes.

Keep this timeframe in mind when designing a cocktail menu. You want to be able to make simple drinks quickly and not have to worry about a drink that involves ten ingredients and lots of blending. 

4. Check on guests within 2 minutes of dropping off food.

This gives them a chance to look over their meal, make sure it has been prepared correctly and figure out if they need something like ketchup or ranch. 

5. Keep drinks full.

According to a study by Cornell, 40% of the restaurant experience comes down to three main factors: how quickly guests are greeted, whether their drinks were kept full, and how quickly they receive the check once they are finished eating. 

6. Support team members.

Providing good service in a restaurant requires teamwork. Be prepared to pick up dirty plates and napkins, keep drinks full, help garnish drinks and lend a hand whenever possible. 

7. Bus the table quickly.

Servers should be picking up dirty plates, straws, napkins, glassware, and even crumbs. A clean table improves the dining experience and sends a subtle signal to customers that it is time to leave.

8. Provide coffee and dessert.

Once the table has been bussed, make sure to offer customers coffee and dessert. 

9. Bring the check quickly.

As a general rule of thumb, servers should bring the check within one minute of the customer requesting it.

10. Send them off.

Instead of just letting the customer walk out or giving them a quick goodbye, try to be at the table as they are leaving and give them a friendly send-off that makes them feel valued and well cared for.

11. Clean and sanitize.

In the wake of COVID-19, steps of service in a restaurant now include a thorough cleaning and sanitizing. Servers should clean condiments, tabletops, ordering devices, and any other areas that are frequently touched. Any single-use items should be thrown away.

Different Types of Service in a Restaurant

With the popularity of fast food, it is easy to forget that table service is actually a lot more than just bringing food to the table. Restaurants train their employees to adopt certain procedures in order to provide consistent services. These procedures can vary widely. Here are just a few different types of table service.

English Service

This is also commonly referred to as host service. Basically, food is brought to the table then portioned out to guests. For example, a large tureen of soup may be brought to the table and the host will fill up the bowls. Women are always served first.

French Service

The French style of service is formal and involves wheeling food out to the table where it is presented to guests and they have a chance to inspect the food. In some cases, several plates of salad or dessert will be on a cart and the guest is welcome to choose the one they want. 

Russian Service

This is the most common type of service in a restaurant. Food is brought to the guests already fully plated and ready to eat. 

Buffet Service

Guests leave the table to visit the buffet and serve themselves.

Family Style Service

Food is placed on the table in large bowls or platters and each guest serves themself. 

Tableside Service

This is a staple of fine dining and involves preparing food at the table so that guests can see that it has been made fresh and just for them. Examples include preparing a caesar salad or banana foster at the table. Servers must be well trained to execute this type of service.

American Service

American service combines several different styles and usually uses Russian techniques.

The importance of providing excellent service in a restaurant cannot be overstated. While this has become extra challenging in the wake of COVID-19, new trends and technology are helping to bridge the gap and allow restaurants to provide safe, convenient and efficient steps of service. No matter what type of kitchen you manage or what type of service style you provide, there are solutions to help improve safety while still meeting certain standards for customer care.


What is service in a restaurant?

Service consists of the advice and assistance that waitstaff and other employees provide customers throughout their dining experience.

Why is service in a restaurant so important?

Customers are not just paying for the food and drinks. They are dining in so that they can have a complete experience. Good customer service helps to build loyal, repeat customers who will also provide positive word-of-mouth advertising for your business. Customer satisfaction plays a key role in overall success.

What are the steps of service in a restaurant?

Greet the customers as soon as they walk through the door, say hello once they sit at the table, get drinks to them quickly, check on the customers within two minutes of delivering food, make sure to refill drinks, work with other team members and fill-in when needed, thoroughly bus the table, offer post-meal coffee and dessert, bring the check to the table within one minute of it being requested, see them off with a friendly salutation and clean and sanitize the entire table after they leave.

What are the types of service in a restaurant?

Common types of service include American, English, French, Russian buffet, family-style and tableside.

What are some good resources for COVID-19 best practices?

Visit this link for additional information about how you can incorporate COVID-19 best practices in your steps of service.



2 Responses

  1. I totally agree when you said that the customers are also looking for a good customer service experience because they are just not paying for the drinks and food. So it is important to build a restaurant with great stuff to make the people feel comfortable while you’re eating or staying in their establishment.

  2. I like that you talked about having to check the guests after two minutes once they receive their food to ensure that the meal is prepared right and if they need sauces or anything. I plan to book a dinner at a restaurant this weekend for the family celebration of my grandmother’s birthday. And it is important to me that the experience will be topnotch when we have dinner there, especially when I am covering all the expenses for the meals we are getting.

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