The Experience Of A Server

On The Frontline Of Events: The Experience of a Server

Whether you have done it at some point in your life or know of someone who has, the experience of working as a server in the catering industry teaches you a lot about people. And how to deal with them.

A server’s job includes a heavy workload, long hours, an upbeat demeanor, and not allowing personal issues into your workplace. This often-overlooked perspective is true not only for managers and event planners but also for the staff members who run tables.

The following information stems from personal experience and serves to rationalize the psychology behind a server’s profession and related issues.

Photo by Kate Townsend

Related: 10 Effective Ways of Dealing with Event-Related Stress

Server Training

Before one attempts to work at any venue, restaurant, or caterer, a certain degree of training is needed to prepare. This type of training usually revolves around the standards of professionalism and etiquette required to uphold your employer’s name and deliver the highest level of service. 

In developing your own style or way of doing things, you unconsciously make use of cognitive psychology. The same way a coach would train his or her athlete, managers should train their server-staff to “mentally rehearse their performances by developing clear images of when, how and what they should do in the phases of the game or event.”(Benckendorff & Pearce, 2012, p. 11)

By preparing servers for worst-case scenarios and teaching them how to deal with these situations efficiently, a few things happen:

  1. The servers become more independent and confident in their practice.
  2. By preparing servers to deal with problems and issues directly, managers and event-planners won’t be involved in easy-fix situations.
  3. By having servers experience the full wrath of a demanding customer or an end-of-the-world problem, any other issue becomes a drop in the ocean for them. 

This type of training is directly related to the concept of edgework, which is described as “exploring the limits of one’s ability and or/the technology one is using while maintaining enough control to successfully negotiate the edge.” (Laurendeau, 2006, p. 584

Understanding the limits of their abilities, the server or waiter can navigate scenarios with the confidence needed to succeed. And know when to ask for assistance.

Related: Why You Need Brand Values For Your Wedding Business

Product Knowledge

A server must have deep knowledge of the products that are available to customers. By memorizing, recalling, and describing the products you are selling in detail, you show the customer that you are knowledgeable and committed to their service. This could result in return customers or an increase in purchase quantity because customers are only as interested in your products as you are.

This is also beneficial when dealing with stock limitations and product availability. The server or waiter can quickly offer alternative options when the customer’s needs are not met. By providing alternatives, the waiter or server can still make a possible sale, or better yet, introduce customers to new or unknown products. 

Are Servers Participants or Attendees?

An interesting concept is that of being either an “active event participant” or a “passive attendee” (Pettersson and Getz, 2009Standevan and De Knop, 1999). The difference between these two terms is astronomical, especially in the service industry sphere, mainly “because active participants are likely to have different motives and higher levels of involvement” (Benckendorff & Pearce, 2012, p. 9). 

An ‘active event participant,’ which one can describe as a focused and determined server or waiter, is someone who attends to their duties and attempts to make the event an experience for the customers. This includes going above-and-beyond what is expected, going the extra mile even if it goes unnoticed. These servers are worth their weight in gold and should be taken care of at all costs.

On the other hand, a ‘passive attendee’ can be described as a ‘clock-watcher.’ In other words, someone who only does what is required of them to receive a pay-check. These servers lack motivation and pride in their work and will look for any excuse to cut corners or take time off. But not all hope is lost!

By establishing a solid work ethic in your team of servers, waiters or vendors, and being fair with the implementation of penalties or rewards, your team will know what they should do and won’t be surprised with the consequences if they don’t.  

Servers Must Think On Their Feet

When combining adequate training, product knowledge, and most importantly, experience, you can either create or become the Terminator-equivalent of a waiter or server. When applying the real-world knowledge that he/she has collected, this individual can be thrown into any type of service industry or situation and still prosper. 

Events and environments change; people don’t. Therefore, if you know how to work a crowd, you’ll surely be able to adapt and improvise where needed. Being able to adapt helps with service delivery. It allows the server or waiter to add a bit of his/her personality to the performed duties. This relates to providing a standard service but adding humor and light conversation to the mix, which turns the service into an experience. 

Attending To The Everyday Customer

When working as or managing servers and waiters, it is essential to be consistent and focused. It can become difficult to produce a high level of service day-in and day-out. Still, you have to remember that the customer might not share the same daily experiences and cannot relate to you. 

Therefore, it is important to remain objective about your job and treat every customer how you would a potential investor. Because at the end of the day, customers are the reason you earn a salary.

Owning your Confidence

When forming part of an event team, be confident in your abilities and take pride in your work. This is obviously easier said than done, but it can significantly help the degree of your job satisfaction. Many people disregard certain jobs because they are seen a menial or unimportant, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Something that is often downplayed is the role of the server. People forget that the services they receive are controlled, managed, and executed by these individuals. In the hospitality industry, customers grow accustomed to the idea of a restaurant, stall, or vendor that functions perfectly, without accounting for the regular people who make sure it does. 

Do not underestimate the influence that a server or waiter can bring to an event. Without them, people would have to bring their kitchens with them!

And event planning software like ThymeBase can help keep a team of servers on track and informed. 

Meet the author:

My name is Duan Nel, and I am currently occupied as a Publishing Honors student. I would say that humor is one of the most important aspects of being human. Without it, I’d probably be a Graham Cracker.

Benckendorff, P., & Pearce, P. L. (2012). The Psychology of Events. In S. Page & J. Connell (Eds.), Handbook of Events. New York: Routledge.
Laurendeau, J. 2006. He didn’t go in doing a skydive: sustaining the illusion of control in an edgework activity. Sociological Perspectives, 49(4), pp. 583-605.