The biggest pet peeve for my husband when we go out to eat is having a server that is not genuine. Be yourself. Smile, suggestive movements, useless facts, all add to the experience. A straight face can also add or take away from an experience, it makes a statement of, insecurity, lack of knowledge, not in a good mood, this face can ruin an entire experience. I had this happen to me and sad to say I will never eat there again, nor will I ever recommend that restaurant.
Have you ever almost fallen and had someone see it, how did you react, ever smile? It can change an entire situation. Be aware of how people will perceive you, smile as you approach your table and when you are leaving it. If food is taking a while start up a conversation, be yourself, talk about things you are knowledgeable about, but guests would be interested in. One night, I was able to relate to each and every table I had, just by talking and picking up on visual cues. If the guests seem irritated, don’t avoid bringing up the subject, let the guests know you are aware of how long food is taking, tell them before they ask you. One of the reasons I have so much success as a server, is because I am aware of myself in relation to others. I really try to wear others shoes, if you can get comfortable with this, you will make less mistakes and more money. Work on reading body language and if you are unsure, ask the guest. Now, the next time you see that gesture you will know how to successfully handle it. For example, the guest is leaning back in their chair, their plate still has food on it, but they are not touching it, what would you do? If you are not sure if they are done, ask do they need a to-go container or if they want their plate removed.
Suggestive movements that are simple such as the nod. A little movement I use when a guest seems unsure, it helps. Just look at the guest and nod your head when you offer another round of drinks, dessert, or appetizer. This will increase the ticket, usually resulting in a larger tip.
Be aware of the tone in your voice and what you are saying. Younger guests tend to be more comfortable with a more relaxed approach to service (not slow) just less is more. Older guests from my experience like more information and guidance through the menu.
You don’t have to incorporate all of this at once, it will take time to learn to read guests. Over time you will build the confidence to talk to your guests even when things are going as planned.