Learn about the 9 Steps of Table Service

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How would it feel if you could consistently offer unforgettable experiences to all your customers through premium level customer service?  

Do you expect this to just happen by luck or based on the individual performance of your staff that day?  

If you really want you and your business to:

  • have a flexible tool to ensure that all your customers have a “perfect dining experience” every time
  • achieve consistency in your service levels and style
  • deliver a high-level customer service and achieve high scores in mystery diners
  • manage your time in a proactive manner
  • have a system in place for training and developing your staff
  • look professional, attentive, knowledgeable, being in control and enjoying what you are doing

you need to implement and follow the 9 Steps of Table Service.

Step 1: Greet the customers

 This is usually done by a host / hostess; if you don’t have a host, then a server or the bartender needs to acknowledge the customers entering the store and greet them.

Use welcoming words in a genuine and personalised manner, make eye contact using a friendly smile and, if possible, open the door for them.

Best practice: greet your customers within 10 seconds of entering the store.

Step 2: Seat the customers

Select the best table available for your customers, matching their desire if possible (quiet place or family area).

Make sure that you make your table choice for them sound special.

Escort the customers to their table, following their walking pace and making a welcoming and pleasant conversation with them.

Best practice: When they reach the table, assist them with their chairs while settling in and remove any extra menus from the table.

Step 3: Take their drinks order

At this point, you need to introduce the menu to your customers and ask them about the drinks they want to order.

Make suggestions and recommendations regarding the drinks they have chosen and answer any questions they might have about any drinks from the menu.

Best practice: get the drinks to the customers within 5 minutes from the time they placed their drinks order.

Step 4: Take their food order

At this point ensure that you guide, advise and recommend specific food items from the menu, by using tempting and descriptive language.

After they have finished ordering food, check back with them that you have listened and put through the exact items they ordered.

Best practice: top up their drinks, offer second round of drinks, check napkins and cutlery on table before you start bringing any food.

Step 5: Check back

Very critical step usually missed.

Make sure that you check with the customers at this point how they feel about the items they have received.

Avoid checking back continuously and ensure that only their server is checking back, otherwise they may end up with different members of your staff checking back with them and being disruptive and annoying.

Best practice: check back within 2 minutes that the food was served and never ask “Is everything OK?”, make it personal and refer specifically to the items they had ordered.

Step 6: Clear the table

You need to clear the table after everyone has finished.

You should clear items from the table before everyone has finished, only if the customers requested you to do so.

Ensure that everything has been cleared from the table but carry enough items up to the point that you are comfortable with.

Best practice: never offer desserts to the customers while clearing their table, use this time to engage and connect with them.

Step 7: Take the Dessert and Coffee Order

Now with the table cleared, introduce the dessert and coffee menu.

Ensure that you guide, advise and recommend specific items from the menu, by using tempting and descriptive language.

After they have finished ordering desserts and coffee, check back with them that you have listened and put through the exact items they ordered.

Best practice:

Don’t Push!

If the customers don’t want any desserts or coffee, you can now move to step 8.

Step 8: Get the bill and payment

Anticipate the customers request for the bill at this point.

Before you deliver the bill to them, check that it is correct, to avoid misunderstandings and unpleasant situations at the end of their experience.

When you deliver the bill, thank the customers and make eye contact with them.

Use the time they spend to pay the bill to ask about their experience and try to get some valuable feedback about your services and products.

Best practice: get the bill back to the customers’ table within 2 minutes of their request.

Step 9: See them off

If you really want to exceed their expectations, be at their table as the customers are leaving and see them off as if you would do with your family members who you wouldn’t see again for some time.

This will make them feel special and totally taken care of. 

Try not to just yell from a distance and just nod back to them, it’s not that bad, but it doesn’t show total care and respect to them.  

Not saying goodbye to your customers before they leave, it’s a big fat NO NO.

Best practice: Open the door for them, it really feels great!


From all the above, one thing is clear: there are so many areas and points where the service can go wrong, that you shouldn’t take such a risk to leave your service unattended, without any structure and reliant on each employee’s daily mood.

Please invest time and effort to train yourself and your staff on the 9 steps of table service as this will make you exceed your customers’ expectations and win your competition by far.