So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: July 23, 2009

P.F. Chang’s turns profit despite drop in sales revenues

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From Restaurant News:

P.F. Chang’s cost cutting lifts 2Q By Sarah E.  Lockyer



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (July  22, 2009) P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. reported Wednesday that cost-cutting efforts helped the company book improved second-quarter earnings despite a continued decrease in sales.

The company also increased its full-year earnings expectations.

For the quarter ended June 28, P.F. Chang’s earned $11.6 million, or 49 cents per share, compared with earnings of $9.4 million, or 39 cents per share. Latest-quarter total revenue fell 0.6 percent to $301.4 million. Same-store sales fell 6.8 percent at the company’s P.F. Chang’s casual-dining concept and declined 0.1 percent at its Pei Wei Asian Diner fast-casual brand.

The company, which operates 351 restaurants under both brands, said it was able to boost earnings mainly through reduced costs. Its pre-opening expenses, for example, were slashed to $461,000 from $1.8 million a year ago. The drop is a result of P.F. Chang’s slowed development schedule, which includes plans for the opening of eight P.F. Chang’s and seven Pei Wei locations during this fiscal year. Last year the company opened 42 restaurants”.

Read the rest of the article here:

This shows one way that restaurants are trying to maintain profitability in the face of continued economic decline. Organizations that can’t act nimbly are going to be hurting.

Every operation has its waste and redundancies. The key is finding them and dealing with them without reducing quality and perceived service. Having first hand experience with P.F. Chang’s, I’m not surprised that they’ve been able to identify inefficiencies and respond in a way that keeps the bottom line afloat. Their corporate structure is savvy and the stores are closely monitored without being overly repressive, as can be the case in many corporate situations (or at least it seems so to non-management).

All restaurants could take some lessons from this quarterly reports on how to attack the problem of less butts in seats. Even free-standing non-corporate stores.


Once you’ve got the job, what should you expect? Pt. 2

Hopefully, you’ll be given an employee training manual that includes basic waiting tables stuff like pivot points, Steps of Service, standard procedures, etc. Even more importantly, it will usually include ingredients for all food items and many popular alcohol beverages. Don’t just put this book aside and think, “I’ll get into this during training”. Be proactive and start learning the food and beverages now. You’ll show yourself to be ahead of the curve and everything you can do to get an advantage over the typical trainee will benefit you in the future.

At this point, you’ll be told when to return for your first training shift and the uniform that’s required. Most of the time, you’ll be given any specialized uniform items that you’ll need such as monogrammed shirts or caps, nametags, aprons, vests, specialized ties, etc. You’ll usually have to supply certain items yourself – things like slacks, shoes, black ties. You might have to supply a certain type of shirt yourself. If they give you any uniform items, make sure that you prep them properly for your first shift. Bistro aprons need to be starched and tightly creased. If you are wearing a dress shirt, make sure that it’s new, and also well-pressed. I suggest that for the first week, you have these items professionally done, even if you’re accustomed to doing your own laundry. You’re still making a “first impression” as you’re training. Plus, if you get the creases started professionally, it’s easier to maintain those crisp edges later on yourself.

It seems stupid for me to point this out because I’m not your mother, but make sure you’re a little early for your first training day. Leave extra early so that you don’t get stuck in traffic. This is the time where you’re going to be timing your commute, so give yourself at least an extra 15 minutes. If you get there 20 minutes early, then that gives you more time to poke around and start getting your sea legs. In any case, you should always plan your commute so that you arrive 10 minutes before the start of your shift. This gives you some wiggle room in case you get caught in traffic. Start getting in the habit right now.  Too many waiters try to cut it so close that they end up being habitually late. You don’t want to be one of those waiters because those waiters are always on their managers’ shit lists.

During your training, you won’t earn any tips. You’ll follow (shadow) a trainer each day and you’ll get increasing responsibility until the trainer is following you. The more you know early in your training, the more responsibility you’ll be given. If you’ve done a lot of your homework and are able to quickly answer any menu questions that your trainer has, the quicker your training will go. Many trainees need an extra day or two of training, so don’t be one of those.

Things will seem strange to you because waiting tables is a bit different than other service-type jobs. Just pay attention and soak in as much as you can. You can’t be trained on every situation that you’re going to find yourself in, so the more you take note of, the better you’ll be. and, as you read this blog, I’ll try to give you practical, real-world tips garnered from years of actually doing it. If you’ve just started reading this blog, I suggest going back and reading some of the earlier posts. It certainly won’t hurt you.

Good luck, and knock ’em dead!