So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: June 19, 2009

New link added – Caution : Blonde Thinking

Thanks to this Hooters Girl who’s added me to her “Sweet Reads” blogroll. Very cool. She obviously has impeccable tastes.

Everyone should check out her blog and read about the unique issues that Hooters girls have to deal with.  Like this:

“Along with a few changes and additions to the management team, we received a particularly informative memo on the back of this week’s schedule.

Hooters has always been a very image-based company, requiring their employees to follow reasonably strict dress codes and other codes of conduct.

Well friends, it’s gotten even worse, er, better.

We were asked to read the memo with an open mind and to consider the motivation behind the changes that are being made. “We are aiming to focus a bit more on the ‘girl next door, all American cheerleader, athletic, healthy, friendly, outgoing, happy’ aspects of the ideal Hooters Girl image.” That I completely understand. During times like these, we cant afford to lose any business, and chubby antisocial Hooters Girls are definitely a no-no. (Notice the HUGE drop in currently employed Hooters Girls at my location.)

I’m not sure if these changes are being made in every location. (Sauce? KH? A. Robb? Mayor? Thoughts?)

1. We are now no longer allowed to wear white bras under our white uniform tank tops. I completely understand this. Our uniform tank tops are very much like snowflakes. They are all completely different and unique. Because of this, I dread purchasing new uniforms. Although I always buy the size XXS, they all seem to be of different material thicknesses and shapes. Some tank tops squeeze my armpits. Some necklines are higher or lower, which can make your C look like a D, or the other way around. Occasionally you’ll get a shirt that requires a “trim.” Which is why we always have a pair of scissors in the break room, so the shirt doesn’t bunch up underneath our ever-smooth shorts. Some are so thin, that while wearing a white bra, it looks as if you just participated in a wet tee-shirt contest. Hence the illegalization of the white bra”.

There are actually several good blogs from Hooters Girls that I’ll be adding in the near future. Having never been to a Hooters and having a rather jaded view of the concept itself (not being a lecherous 40 something car salesman), I’m glad to see that some Hooters Girls have good coping mechanisms that guide them through all of the bullshit, not only with their gabby, grabby guests but with their fellow co-workers, management and corporate policy. Good on ya, girls. And I’m sorry for not having patronized you so that you got some of my hard-won money. Maybe if I get the hankerin’ for some wings…

PS, I wonder if Brit (her handle based on her nationality) has ever been able to use “Get on your bike, Johnny” as a way to dismiss some creep. Seems like something that might go right over their heads in a typical Hooters. Obviously I misread her profile, thinking Brit was short for British and not realizing that it was short for something else. Apologies!

PPS, look for the link to her blog in my Waiter Stuff blogroll.

PPPS, yes, Hooters Girls are waiters too. Just the periodic reminder that waiters are either sex.


Find your lanes

Every restaurant floor plan has its own unique geography. If you were able to look from above during service, it might resemble watching rats in a maze all trying to get to the cheese.

So it’s important to find your lanes and learn the flow of traffic and the “rules of the road”.

In most restaurants, if there are two swinging doors, you normally use the right one instead of the left one. This is the usual convention and if you defy it, you could cause a catastrophe. Imagine carrying a tray loaded with expensive entrees and having a door that you’re going out suddenly swinging in on you. Or think of a tray of drinks going flying. You could see some serious injuries, not to mention having to redo the drinks, which screws that waiter and his or her guest and causes food costs to rise.

So, one of the first things you should find out and commit to muscle memory is which door is in and which door is out. Even though most restaurants are “right is right”, there are some that might have a different convention, so don’t take anything for granted. It can also be a little weird because department stores and supermarkets often reserve the left door for entrance. So it might take a little getting used to. It’s mission-critical that you do though.

“Right is right” also works for aisles as well. Most restaurants want you to stay right. This means sometimes having to stop and give the right-of-way to a guest who doesn’t follow that convention.  What makes this hard sometimes is that servers’ lanes sometimes have to cross this line sometimes. When you’re coming around a corner and going left, you will naturally have to cross the left side of the aisle unless you swing way out. It’s possible to run into someone coming the other direction so you should always be very careful when you’re rounding a corner, especially a blind one. One thing you’ll hear called out is “Corner”. This is a very good habit to get into. The thing is, if you’re out in the restaurant, it can be intrusive to the guest, so, just be really careful when rounding corners because something that’s even more intrusive to the guest is a bowl of hot soup landing on their head. Also, there’s the case of the double swinging doors being in a short hallway that connects two or more aisles. This can mean having to cross others’ lanes. You should be prepared for that. You want to quickly develop a sense of an internal GPS for the whole restaurant.

Avoid turning around quickly and changing directions. This happens a lot (and I’m a serial infractor myself) when you just remember that you forgot something. If you pivot on your foot and turn around, you sould find someone moving quickly in your own lane in imminent danger of trying to occupy the same space at the same time, which is impossible in this dimension. Always check behind you before making this move.

Which brings us to the most important word that you’ll hear in the traffic system that is the restaurant – “Behind you”! You’ll hear it a lot and you’ll use it even more. Anytime you get within 3 feet of someone’s back, you should at least say the word “Behind”. You don’t have to shout it, but you should say it loudly enough for the person to hear.

You should never run, no matter how much in the weeds you are. The fastest you should move is a brisk pace.

Carry any knife either blade backwards if not on a tray. Never turn around with a knife facing forward.

Non-slip shoes are mandatory, whether the restaurant requires them or not. You have to move from many different types of surface – from carpet to wood to concrete to tile. Wet tile, such as you’d find in a kitchen, is deadly for regular shoes. Non-slip shoes are a wonder. You’ll wonder why you ever tried to do without them. I don’t care how comfortable your high-end loafers or tennis shoes are, imagine how uncomfortable a sprained ankle or a busted tailbone is to you and your pocketbook. Many restaurants are now requiring them anyway because of insurance issues. Shoes For Crews is a pretty popular brand and places like WalMart have brands that are even cheaper but obviously made in the same Chinese factories (their house brand is called TredSafe and they are almost identical to Shoes For Crews). 

Here’s a little subtle thing that you can do to help your fellow waiter. If you sense someone behind you as you’re coming out of the kitchen, give the door a little bump with your hip or the side of your foot after you’ve initially pushed it open as it starts its swing back. Most restaurant kitchen doors have a hinge that dampens the speed of the swingback, and if you’re able to give it a “double bump”, you’ll keep the next server from having to kick it or push it open. If you time it right, they’ll be able to clear the doorway without ever having to touch the door. At the very least, they won’t have a door swinging back right in their face as they enter the doorway.

If you learn the friction points of the restaurant, those spots where people tend to converge, and you pay closer attention to them as you encounter them, you’ll avoid all sorts of disaster.

Oh yeah, the guest always gets the right-of-way. Always.

Waiter Crash jpeg

Cookbook of the day – The Joy of Japanese Cooking


The Joy of Japanese cooking

by Kuwako Takahashi

  • Publisher:Shufu No Tomo-Sha (September 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4079751508
  • ISBN-13: 978-4079751506
  • This is one of those standard reference works that non-native Japanese cooks should own. For such a compact volume, there’s an amazing amount of information – from nice photos and line drawings of various ingredients to various cuts employed in Japanese cooking.

    The book  does have some flaws according to at least one person in Tokyo, a couple of which are a rather inaccurate English translation at times and the lack of  a Japanese name index. Also, they point out that there are sometimes inconsistencies in measurements. Both metric and non-metric measurements are given, but sometimes you only get one or the other. The last drawback that this reviewer points out is the use of the occasional “non-authentic” ingredients in certain dishes. I don’t find the measurement issue of much consequence. Most of the time, it’s something pretty trivial like using cups instead of ml for liquid measurements or teaspoons and tablespoons, but weights are usually given in both standards. Obviously, the authenticity and translation is something that I can’t judge. I realize that calling dishes “casseroles” might startle a Japanese speaker familiar with English (I have a hard time myself using the word casserole with any Japanese dish), but I suspect that it’s not that big of a deal in the long run. There are some Japanese dishes that would be hard to name in an English context. I think that you basically just to have some common sense about it. 

    Having noted these reservations, I still heartily recommend this book for anyone interested in exploring Japanese cuisine. The section on sushi is helpful and the last section is devoted to “menu planning” with some timetables for assembling a large meal.  I think the best part of this book is the detailed cutting techniques that the Japanese use to prepare their food. The line drawings and instructions are clear and concise. And the book is fairly compact and easy to use in the kitchen. Many books that try to cover a cuisine that has a lot of unusual ingredients and techniques ends up being the size of a refrigerator. Not this book. There’s a lot of value packed in a small space.

    This is the cover for the paperback:


    If you can get the hardcover, I’d recommend it. It’s got a good feel to it. I think that both editions might be out-of-print, but Amazon has lots of NOS and used copies from their associated vendors.