In one of the world's most popular professions, the concept of professional development is still a hard sell. David Hayden -- a server here in Kansas City -- has launched a new blog, Tips on Improving Your Tips, as the first step in his plan to change the way servers are taught to interact with guests.
"You probably eat out a lot, but I do this for a living," says Hayden, who estimates that he has served more than 100,000 tables.
Every one of those tables has been a controlled experiment.
"I realized I had this knowledge to use my analytical skills to keep this career from dying," Hayden says.
"This is the most interesting sales job in the world -- it's the only
one where your customer determines your commission rate," he says.
One of his practical suggestions: "If you can use it to describe a car, don't use it to describe food."
Straightforward ideas like that have informed his new blog, which Hayden has designed to be a mix of education and sales techniques. The initial batch of posts is serious in tone, although Hayden also shows a sense of humor, such as when he explains the proper folding method for the foil swan.
The idea that he might be able to train other servers came to Hayden when he was working lunches at Ruby Tuesday's.
casual dining, it's assumed you don't know what you're doing," he says.
While he sought to change guests' perceptions, he realized that the
rest of the waitstaff could benefit from the lessons he had learned
from previous generations of servers when he'd worked at the 54th
Street Grill in Kansas City and Le Mirabelle in Springfield, Missouri.
Those servers had worked during an era of back waiters and extensive
training. His first lesson was to be specific, focus on the food that
you like at a restaurant and tell someone exactly why you like it.
Beyond servers, he is also hoping to catch the eye of a publisher. Hayden has a manuscript for a practical handbook that would help servers understand how to connect with diners and increase their income. That handbook, in turn, would form the foundation for a corporate training program.
"My ultimate goal is to work with restaurants to say there is a better way to do this -- all I want to do is help everyone make more money," he says.
By addressing topics like budgeting and selling, he maintains that servers can be more effective, which can improve sales for restaurants and reduce turnover. But for Hayden, it's about teaching servers there is a possibility for a career in the industry.