So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

So you STILL want to be a waiter…

…after checking out all of the servers out there who have to deal with everything from drunk guests to cheap-ass people who want to look like a big shot by order $100 bottles of wine but don’t want to pay for the privilege? You’ve gone to some of the links that I’ve sent you to and are horrified by the behavior of guests and fellow restaurant workers and management and you still want to be a waiter?

Good for you. There are quite a few pluses to the job.

First of all, it’s a portable job. Once you learn it and get good at it, your skills will transplant easily. No matter how bad the economy gets, people are still going to find a way to eat out. Restaurant jobs may contract, but almost every community has at least a couple of options and most have anywhere from dozens to hundreds. And it’s a nature of the job that there is a constant flux in staffing. People graduate and move on to “real jobs”. Newbies find out that they’re “just not cut out for this madness”. People get fired or quit. Servers move up to management (usually to their detriment). Servers move to other associated industries such as becoming wine reps, food reps, or retail. Waiting tables can be done in any part of the country no matter where you learned to do the job. Sure, jobs aren’t as easy to get these days due to the reduction in business. But there are already signs that the market is coming back, just as it did after 9/11, where business dropped off dramatically in the weeks after the disaster.

It’s nice to have money in hand at the end of the day. The downside to this is the fact that, unless you plan for it, you’re going to actually owe the IRS at tax time. This is a subject that we’ll cover in a future post. The other downside is the temptation to go out after your shift and blow a third of it. But there’s no denying that the constant flow of cash into pocket is a big draw. However, the variable nature of this cash flow can make budgeting difficult, if not impossible. It’s almost impossible to set up automatic bill payments because, let’s face it, it’s hard to project how much money you’ll have in the bank on the 25th of the month.

Think of the interesting people you can meet. I’ve met and waited on presidential candidates, members of Congress, governors, movie stars, music superstars, famous writers, and VIPS like teachers, police and firemen, military personnel and even reality show fodder. Yes, this can sometimes be a bad thing because sometimes the things that make people interesting are the very things that will piss you off. But guess what? It gives you stories to regale your friends with. And you can start a blog, right? Fortunately, most people that you wait on and work with and work for are very cool people.

If you have even the barest interest in food and drink (read: cuisine), you will learn more in a month than you would learn in 5 years of study. There’s nothing like being around the production of food and the close contact with the sensory delights of well-made food to give you new insights as to how flavors, textures, aromas and visuals all combine to create a great dish. Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to taste a lot of food and hopefully some wine and spirits as well.

Waiting tables is rarely boring. Every day is unique. Every day has its fresh challenges and potential for learning. Just when you think you’ve seen every aspect of human behavior, you’ll be surprised by humans’ infinite capability to shock and surprise.

Yes, there are downsides to the job.  I’ve already referred to some of them.

But,  on balance, waiting tables is a job worth doing.

And yes, it’s a “real job”. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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2 responses to “So you STILL want to be a waiter…

  1. waiterextraordinaire May 16, 2009 at 10:28 am

    We have an overdraft that helps us out during lean weeks. Whoa!

  2. Mark S May 16, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I would include the social aspect as another positive. The high rotation means you meet a lot of people, and (typically) not having to wake up early means you get to go out and socialize more after your shift.

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