Frustrated With The Servers

Lounge By maendings Updated 23 Oct 2009 , 1:25pm by TexasSugar

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maendings Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:04pm
post #1 of 38

I just came home from my son's restaurant and am so frustrated I don't know whether to cry or scream. He owns a family type restaurant/pub/grill in a small town (Brooklyn, MI) I bake for him on Monday's and Thursdays (my days off) and usually bake at least 2 desserts. Last Thursday I took up a sweet potato pie and a turtle cheesecake. I vary what I make; this is his 3rd year in business and I am trying to help him and myself build. I would like him to be know for his "home made" desserts; everything in his restaurant is from scratch. My point in my rambling is that the servers are just plain lazy when it comes to selling my desserts! No matter how I ask, plead, tell them how important it is to me and to Paul, I just can't get them to push dessert. I have tried to impress upon them it is part of the restaurant, part of the meal. I can sit there and watch them and never heart them ask people. I have asked them to include it in the beginning when they announce the specials, ask towards the end "would you like to try one of mom's home made desserts tonight", suggest they take it home if they are too full, and to ask people that are booking a party or have a table for 10 if they would like their own personal dessert. I make brochures and put them out and they don't replace them. I just don't know what else to do. I am trying to get my own business started too and the only other avenue is at my work (I do hair) and do get business from there. Are there any suggestions out there. My son has talked to them too and nothing seems to work. I'm sorry this is so long, but I am sick and tired of throwing things out. I used to give them the leftovers but I don't anymore. The people that do order things rave about them and some people still don't know I exist!
aka Mom's Alternate Endings

37 replies
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jillmakescakes Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:08pm
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Your son simply needs to have a talk with the servers as a group and explain that it is an expectation that they offer dessert and to continue to leave that out of their conversation with the customers may put their jobs in jeopardy. By setting it as an expectation, if they don't follow through, then he must be prepared to let them go.

When working with people who don't have a vested interest in the growth of the business, just in collecting a paycheck, the expectations must be very clear and very direct.

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indydebi Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:14pm
post #3 of 38

"Servers, we are in business to make a profit. When the customers check don't get bigger, then we're not taking in as much money, I'm not making as much profit, which means I can't afford to keep all of you on board for very long. So for ALL of us to have job security, we need to really push the desserts. Here's some suggestions on how to do that......"

Can he periodically do a contest, like giving a $20 bill to the server who sells the most desserts that night? I saw Ramsey do this on one of his restaurant makeover shows.

But a speech about "job security" will get their attention!

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leah_s Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:18pm
post #4 of 38

Those servers are pretty dumb. A larger check = a larger tip for them. Upselling IS the server's job.

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maendings Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:25pm
post #5 of 38

I have tossed around the idea of a "prize" once a month, but then I thought It's your freaking job!!!!!!!!!!! do it !!!!!!!!!
the only way I make extra money at work is if I suggest something else, are the younger kids just lazy or don't they get it. My daughter works there too and she tells them to push desserts because it does bring in extra money. Aghhhhhhhhhhh!

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prterrell Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:29pm
post #6 of 38

Yup, they need to be let go if they are not doing their jobs. Make them aware of this, but if they don't improve, hire someone who will do their job as expected and let the others go.

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CakeMommyTX Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 9:38pm
post #7 of 38

I've been a waiter and upselling was just part of the job, dessert, gift cards, appetizers you name it we tryed to sell it too you!.
We had mystery shoppers in every week and if you were busted not upselling (or performing your other duties) you got written up, 3 writes up and you're outta there.
Maybe he needs to have a training session and explain to them they upsell or they lose their jobs.

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kelleym Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 10:05pm
post #8 of 38

Yes, better training is the answer here.

As a teenager I worked in a mexican restaurant, and there were periodic contests to see who could sell the most sides of sour cream or guacamole in a month. It was a pretty good prize, too, I think around $100.

Of course we also had the "secret shopper" type deal, so you always had to be on your toes and do everything correctly (to the table in a certain # of minutes, offer the special, upsell bar drinks, sides, and desserts, etc.)

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HarleyDee Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 10:22pm
post #9 of 38

Your son needs to tell them that it is a REQUIREMENT to ask customers if they want dessert, just like they have to ask what they would like to drink. Maybe he will have to tell them that he is bringing in "secret diners" that will be finding out if they ask or not, and if they don't , they are risking their job.

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jlynnw Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 10:46pm
post #10 of 38

Lazy waiters! Make a table tent, you know the promo table toppers, attach a dessert special to the menu. You can get a small clip that attaches to the menu and slide in your Tonight's Pastry Special. You can also do a small display plate of the dessert. The contest works as well. The bottom sellers should also be on notice that their job is on the line. When I waited tables, anything below 10% upsales was an automatic write up. People really seem to get more motivated to do their job when it is their neck on the line.

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Loucinda Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 11:19pm
post #11 of 38

Is it a place where they are seated?? IF so, you can have the hostess mention to them to save room for dessert because they are homemade - yada yada yada......and it ALWAYS worked us having a prize for the most (of whatever) a server sold for the month. We would use a different item each month for the contest - soda, dessert, a certain steak, etc. The prize could even be a coveted day off (so it doesn't come right out of your pocket directly)

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cakesbycathy Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 11:34pm
post #12 of 38

I think you have been given a lot of good ideas!

Question: are you technically their boss or in charge of hiring in any way? If not, then that may also be part of the problem. They may just be blowing you off since they figure you can't fire them anyway.

IMO, your son needs to implement some of these things then actually fire someone for the other servers to get the hint that he means business (ever see the episode of Friends where Joey gets "fired" by Monica so the servers will take her seriously?).

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sadsmile Posted 19 Oct 2009 , 11:36pm
post #13 of 38

Honestly my instinct is that something is a miss. Perhaps the servers don't think highly of the desserts? I hate saying it but honestly if you and your son(the Owner) has talked with them and they are still not pushing the desserts... I have to wonder if this is a case of someone not being honest. Either they are not listening to your son and being lazy or they were secretly told not to and not to say anything to you.

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maendings Posted 20 Oct 2009 , 1:45am
post #14 of 38

Thank you for all of the input. Technically, I am not the boss, I'm the 'mom' and I can fire; case in point last week a new server bent over to wipe the tables off and I got a full shot of her hot pink thong underwear. Didn't know I could still move that fast! Anyway, I really think they think that I just bake for fun and don't understand that this is a job for me and a business. I guess that I need to take a more agressive approach here and lay it on the line. That's a good idea about the hostess and I've approached Paul about some type of insert. I haven't done it before because I change it twice a week. I guess I have to get serious myself about it. Thank you again. I need to email this entire page to the restaurant!


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Deb_ Posted 20 Oct 2009 , 2:01am
post #15 of 38

Wow those are some dumb servers if you ask me. My DD is a waitress at an upscale Steak/Seafood restaurant.

She's always telling us about the weekly meetings the owner of her restaurant has with all of his servers....the subject "How to get our clients to spend more money".

That should be your Son's goal. He should have meetings with his servers stressing what he expects from each and every one of them. Contests are a great idea.

Each week award the "highest sales" server a gift card (to the restaurant), this is what my DD's place does. (It's only $20 but hey it pays for their "break" food)

Her boss tells them to "upsell" the high end liquors, i.e. if the client orders a Margarita upsell the tequilla from house to Cuervo. If they order a glass of wine, upsell to a large glass rather then the standard cheaper size, bowls of soup instead of cups and of course dessert.

They have a sample"dessert tray" that is automatically brought out to EVERY table once the dinner plates are cleared. They don't ask if the client wants to see their desserts, they just bring it out for them to see. Chances are once someone sees how awesome the desserts are they'll order one.

The more the client orders the bigger the tip, so I'm not understanding why these servers are not cooperating.

Sounds like a management issue that could easily be rectified with weekly meetings.

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mkolmar Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 1:49am
post #16 of 38

I was told when I served to try to sell as much as possible, but without being too pushy. My boss told me " The more money this place makes, the more chance of you servers getting raises." Considering most servers make so little per hour because they are busting butt to make tips, this should really be in the back of their minds at each table they see.

On the lines of what dkellly wrote...they should have a dessert cart or somewhere to display the desserts to be sold that everyone can see. (Don't know the set-up of his restaurant so hard to say which would work better). People eat with their eyes first, so if they see it they will be more likely to buy it.

How is the communication at his restaurant? With how they are acting somethings not right along these lines or the servers are needing to be re-evaluated.
How many staff meeting are being held on a monthly basis?
Is there any motivating factors?
Are the staff being shown respect also along the lines by keeping them informed, praising them on a job well done, talking to them in private when there is a problem...etc?
May sound crazy but sometimes people will slack simply because they feel they are not valued by their employer.
Do the servers have a good work ethic or are there other areas they really need to work on? Sometimes an employee just isn't working out and is barely getting the job done, time to tell them to fix it or leave at that point.

I tend to be a hard tapedshut.gif on this subject. If they don't want to work and do the job, plenty of other people will. I know how scarce jobs are in MI, since I live here too.

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Mike1394 Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 9:11am
post #17 of 38

Don't give them a prize for doing thier job. Take the one that is biggest pain and fire them. That will perk the rest of them up. If it don't keep going down the line.


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maendings Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 12:00pm
post #18 of 38

I agree with everything that you say. I have approached the idea of a dessert cart or tray and the girls say it's alot of trouble when they are busy. Tough! I have often thought part of the problem is that my son (36) is too close in age to most of the servers and they don't take him seriously enough and that makes him mad and it's a vicious circle. He did fire a couple of girls last week that couldn't ever remember the specials. I know this is off of the cake line some but what is the matter with the younger kids?? I am 60 and work my tail off doing hair and baking and they just don't get it. Tomorrow I am having a meeting with my son and the girls and give them a good dose of what the h&^% is going on here.
thanks for all of your help and Paul will be reading all of this too.


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jlynnw Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 1:02pm
post #19 of 38

whoa, I am beginning to get a bit uhmm, troubled and ticked. If it is too much trouble to deal with when they are busy to do their JOB, then they need to find one else where. The first one at the meeting that says it is out the door!

When and where do you get that in life. Electric company - I am so sorry, been busy and forgot to pay the bill, I know you will leave it on because I was too busy to deal with it? Yeah, I have the money and I do like to have the electric on, but it is just soooooooo hard for me to get it paid. I know you send out the monthly reminder bill and even the late notice but I am too busy! icon_confused.gif That simply is not how it works. It is nothing personal, it is business. They need to understand you are not too busy to give great customer service, that is your job and only your job. The cook can't do it for you, your mommy can't do it for you, you best do it or find another. Don't like them apples, see ya! This is not an option. Working at any other place it would not be either. My DD works at a high end grill/pub that we all know. If your numbers aren't there, you don't get scheduled the number of hours, your numbers stay low, you don't get fired you may only get 1 shift a week for 3 hours. They let the staff take it upon themselves to be responsible for their employment. Yoou do the math, the sales, you get the hours, if not it is business, bye.

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mkolmar Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 2:52pm
post #20 of 38

They don't have respect for your son as a boss. icon_confused.gif That's a big problem!
My boss is only 2 years older than me. I may joke around with him but he has my total respect. I always call him Chef and if he says jump, I ask how high. There are people at work who are in their 60's and they also treat him with respect. Age has nothing to do with it. It's the workers work ethic that should be in question here. Also, since when are they too busy to do their job and pull out a dessert cart?! That's crazy talk or rather lazy talk. I've worked the front of house and back of house. I know how hard it can be for when a server gets busy, but that doesn't mean they should stop doing their job.
Sound like the issue is more internal. Lack of respect is the start of it. If they don't respect your son they more than likely won't do the job they way it should be done. Why should they? When you respect someone you tend to work harder and do a better job. Your son needs to sit down and have a big meeting with everyone who works there, make it mandatory. Have a list and go over the points. Things need to change or it will drag the business under slowly. He needs to get their side of the story too to be fair. Maybe somethings going on that he's not aware of.
With that said. It's time to get serious. He just fired some employees last week so that should be a little wake up call. Time to have a meeting and put things straight out for everyone to know.
If they can't straighten up there are plenty of other people who will do the job correctly.

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michellenj Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 3:18pm
post #21 of 38

When I wanted my servers to push something, I would have one ready for them to taste during the preshift meeting. I also instructed them to take the "long" route to the table when they delivered the desserts, holding the dessert kind of low where other diners could see the yummy dessert and hopefully make them want one, too. Something that I did for contests was to call a neighboring restaurant and offer them a gift cert at my restaurant in exchange for one at theirs, use the GC as the prize, not cash. In the kitchen I had a dry erase board with their names and current sales count of whatever we were pushing.


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Deb_ Posted 21 Oct 2009 , 8:56pm
post #22 of 38

Note to your Son........You can be "friendly" to your employees, but you can NOT be their "friend".

Until he truly becomes their boss he won't ever have control of his restaurant.

Look at it this way......these servers can make or break your business, right now it sounds like they're heading in the wrong direction.

I own a Hair Salon/Spa and have 10 employees. Some are older then me but most are younger. I make it very clear at monthly meetings exactly what I expect of them. I DO reward high gives everyone something to strive for.
We all get along very well, but you can bet your butt they know who their boss is. If they slack off they will NOT be working for me for very long. I give them 1 chance then I fire them....there are too many people out of work who would kill for a good paying job right now.

Your Son really needs to reevaluate his servers. Age has nothing to do with it. My DD is 21 goes to college fulltime and waitresses 25- 30 hrs per week. She hustles and makes close to $700 just working Fri evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday.

If these "young" servers don't want to WORK for you then fire them immediately....someone else will gladly take their job off of their hands.

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lthiele Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 2:02am
post #23 of 38

Get your son to do a "Blackboard Special" for a main course and "Cake of the Day" at a set price. You have to make it appealing in price, so that lots of people take up that option. Once your customers have tried them, if they're good, they will re-order next time!

Another thought it is that maybe it's just not the right sort of restaurant/outlet for your cake business. A pub / grill doesn't scream coffee and cake! Why not approach a nice cafe or coffee shop in your area and give them some samples. I used to make some nice pocket money doing that - my Banoffee Pie became famous!

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indydebi Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 2:16am
post #24 of 38

We rarely order dessert after dinner because we're so full, but one time we were in a restaurant that had a great dessert so I ordered it FIRST so I couldnt' change my mind! Perhaps servers can work that suggestion in when they are taking the appetizer order?

Another place, we ended up ordering dessert because when we indicated we were too full, the waiter suggested "How about one dessert and two forks?" We went with that one!

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jlynnw Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 3:18am
post #25 of 38
Originally Posted by indydebi

We rarely order dessert after dinner because we're so full, but one time we were in a restaurant that had a great dessert so I ordered it FIRST so I couldnt' change my mind! Perhaps servers can work that suggestion in when they are taking the appetizer order?

Another place, we ended up ordering dessert because when we indicated we were too full, the waiter suggested "How about one dessert and two forks?" We went with that one!

Leave it to indydebi, the simplest plan makes a lot of sense!

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prterrell Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 4:08am
post #26 of 38

A lot of time what we'll do is order dessert to go. So that's an option to push as well.

The desert tray is a definite good thing. It's a LOT harder to turn down dessert when it's sitting there so yummily in front of you!

Have one set up by the hostess stand so people can see them on their way in. Then have one or two more for the servers to use to preview the desserts.

Any server that doesn't try to upsell isn't a good server. period. the. end. The higher the bill of fare, the higher your tip is going to be. It's not just about turning tables! Maybe they need a little math lesson so they can SEE that even if they average a few less tables because people are there longer eating dessert, that their tips will be higher because the bills of fare will be higher (people who eat dessert are more likely to order a special coffee drink or dessert wine to go with said dessert). People who enjoy a nice long liesurely meal also usually tip higher than those who get in and out quickly.

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just_for_fun Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 5:36am
post #27 of 38

There are so many ways to "push" desserts. Recently, I went out w/ a bunch of friends, and we said we were too full. Now the server brought out the sample tray, and recommended maybe we take 3-4 desserts to share w/ 10 ppl, of course we did! Another time, we took my mom out for her bday, it was only women, the men stayed home to babysit. The waiter heard my sil tell that to a friend, so he recommended maybe we should take home a dessert for hubby, 6 of us did!, besides for the 5 desserts we split. Maybe they need ideas of how to push without being pushy, just friendly suggestions. With a little incentive and a threat of losing their job, if none of these ideas work, they're just lazy! could be their not talking up the other stuff either, so they're really costing the business lots of $$$

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Lil_Belle Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 5:55am
post #28 of 38

I can agree with most thoughts on this subject, since I'm not in the food industry I can't say for sure.

The part that grabs my attention is when you say "I have approached the idea of a dessert cart or tray and the girls say it's alot of trouble when they are busy. Tough!"
I can say that it does get fairly busy where I work, and when I have to be running around putting out fires or helping people, the last thing I would want to do would to have to push around another cart.

I'm sure there will be flack for this, but oh well. If they're already having an issue doing it then giving them another thing to do with it will make them dislike it more. And yes I know 'it's their job', but you have to get them to care about it first. Find the underlying issue then work from there. Constantly saying this is your job, this is your job, will get them to ignore you and anything you have to say.

While the 'I can fire you if I want' mentality might work for a short time, you can catch more flies with honey then vinegar icon_smile.gif There, my two cents added. Now I can sleep icon_biggrin.gif

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maendings Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 12:48pm
post #29 of 38

Thank you all for all of the wonderful suggestions over the past couple of days. I have some definate ideas now and hopefully can put them into plan today. I had thought of the hostess table display and now will definately do it. It may be a little investment for me now, but I'm sure it will pay off in the end.
The restaurant isn't high end, middle of the road, but it's the best in Brooklyn and around. The other alternatives are Big Boy, Popa's Place and a cafe in the next town. There are a couple of coffee shops and I did approach one with my desserts but she wanted them for a song; hardly covered my expenses. The other is Bear Claw and they have their own line.
One reason I started doing this when he opened was to show people that Hawkeye's wasn't just another 'pub'. He offers a good variety of food and things that you would find in an upscale restaurant. My thoughts were to have something that would be different from Big Boy and give people a reason to come in. I make desserts that would stand up to an upper class restaurant and he sells them for $3.99. I just wanted to help him out. I am trying to work on something to bring people in during the afternoon lull with winter coming up. Alot of advertising is a problem though -cash flow slows way down. This is a laker community and I lose alot of clientel to Florida in the winter and all of the business suffer.
Thank you all again and I will keep you posted and appreciate all of the ideas and anything else you can come up with.


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TexasSugar Posted 22 Oct 2009 , 2:07pm
post #30 of 38

I think the board with the special, and a big note about fresh homemade desserts would be a good point. I totally agree with what Indy said. The waitresses can slip in the suggestion during the appertizers. And I can't tell you how many times we have gotten dessert with 2, 3 or 4 spoons. Or even two desserts that we shared among a family. Most dessert portions are enough for 2-4 to eat on anyway.

I don't order desserts every time I go out to eat though. It does depend on what I have eaten and what I am drinking. Since you said this is a 'pub' I'm guessing that there is some alcohol flow there, and when you are drinking something really sweet isn't always something you want to finish the meal off with.

I think your son needs to address the boss/employee issues. He needs to command respect and settle for nothing less than that from his employees. We say it often on here, people treat you how you let them treat you. And I think it is something he needs to stand up and do himself. As much as you want to help him out, he needs to show the employees that what he asks them to do is what they need to do, no questions asked. No one has to know that you are behind the push. If you go in there demanding something from the employees, they can mistaken it was you are figthing his battles for him, and if he isn't pushing it himself, they can easily say to them selves that it is you that wants it and not him.

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