For service staff in the restaurant industry, there are four phrases to never use with guests. Pass these on to your servers:

“I don’t know.” If you don’t know, find out. Instead, say, “Gee, that’s a good question. Let me check for you.”

“We can’t do that.” Instead, say, “Boy, that’s a tough one. Let’s see what we can do.” Then go find an alternative solution.

“I’ll be back in a second.” If you’ve ever said it to a guest, you’ve lied. Try the truth: “It may take me a two or three minutes to get back to you. Can I get you something from the bar on my way back?”

“No…” at the beginning of a sentence. The word “no” conveys total rejection. Turn a negative answer into a positive: “We aren’t able to substitute a taco for an enchilada on the combo platter, but I can bring you an extra taco on the side.”

Two Laws of Product Knowledge

Guests are counting on your servers to know the ingredients of every item on your menu. There are two things you should never do when answering guests’ questions about the menu. These rules are simple, so make sure your servers know them: Don’t lie and don’t lecture.

If a guest asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, go find out. Honesty is the best policy here. Let the guest know that you’re unsure and then find the answer as quickly as possible. It is wrong for servers to project their own opinions on their guests. This is true of your opinion about how a food tastes, too. For example, if you don’t like spicy food and a guest asks you about the jalapeño poppers, simply say something like “They’re really popular. If you like things really spicy, dip them in a bowl of green chili. Or, to cool them off, add a side of guacamole.” When describing menu items and answering guests’ questions, always be honest and respectful.