So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: December 19, 2009

Nice post at Waiternotes

Our good friend at Waiternotes wrote some very commonsense things about some common quirks in the language and some hoary sayings as well.

I admit that I struggle with the “guys” thing. Once I discovered that it’s not considered a nice informal way to refer to a group, I have tried to wean myself off of it. I’m mostly successful.

But the main purpose of discussing this fine post is to make, not a counter per se (which is the same thing that he said about his own post, which was a reaction to another blog’s post, the blog being “Sorry, Not My Table”, a blog that I have been intending to add to the blogroll for a little while now).

It’s more of a slight amplification of this:

‘The Customer Is King’

The goal of word choice in the restaurant should be to make the guest feel comfortable. A large part of this process is establishing a pecking order, where the guest, frankly, gets to peck on your head if he feels like it. Sure, we keep our self-respect; we don’t put up with bullies; we demand some decorum in return. All of that. But we are ’serving.’

This is why all these ‘waiter rant’-type blogs are so ridiculous in their righteousness that the ‘guest is no better than we are.’ That’s just not the point. The guest is dining out to enjoy the experience of having servants. What, not to eat? Of course, but (we’re assuming finer-ish establishments here) the desire to eat can be satisfied quite easily any number of ways. Why spend double, triple, or ten times the money to eat? Because you can be served like the wealthy person you are, or wish you were. This is the service we provide. If you don’t believe that, then you must believe there’s no difference between your restaurant/job vs. the hot dog counter at Target.

Because people are basically decent, most guests don’t abuse the fact that you place yourself below them. The nicest ones resist this hierarchy, instead working with us as equals as much as possible.

If all this is causing your skin to prickle maybe you should stop reading. You obviously have control and self-esteem issues. We’re just doing our jobs. It so happens this is the arrangement between worker and customer in our industry. But it’s like that in every job everywhere. Bob Dylan has a great song that says it all, Gotta Serve Somebody.

I mostly agree with this. I’d add though that, when you boil it down, this is a commercial transaction between two people. The social statuses might be the same, or they might be unequal. For instance, I wait on many people who occupy a rarified social and financial status. I have also waited on many who have a lower financial and social status than I do. and i wait on people who occupy the same general social status that I do.

However, I go into the commercial transaction as a relative equal. They are there to be fed and I’m there to provide the service. The success of this transaction is dependent on both of us fulfilling certain social and financial obligations. Sure, I’m serving them. But this doesn’t make me their “servant”, i.e. “below them”. It’s a slight distinction, I admit. But a servant can only serve one master, whether it be a family or the head of said family. I serve many people, often times simultaneously. This is one thing that sets me apart from a servant. The other is that I am not totally beholden to this one “master” for my financial well-being as a traditional servant is. There are no chains or constraints to my autonomy.

So yes, I’m a server. I serve. But I am not a slave. I am an independent contractor providing a service, just like anyone else in the service industry is, and nobody argues that people who work in the service industry are servants. When you add in that I’m a salesperson as well, it adds icing to the cake. 

Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in.

PS, nice touch with the Dylan!

Oldie but goodie

I thought that one of my earliest posts was worthy of reprinting. Not because I have no ideas about waiting tables (I’m in this hopefully for the long  haul so I don’t want to shoot all of my ammo at once), but because newer readers to this blog might not have taken the time to explore the archives. I know that when I check out a new blog, it sometimes take awhile to get around to catching up. So I thought that I’d repost some of the early posts that go to the heart of waiting tables. Perhaps it will get a few of you checking out some of the earlier material and it will give some exposure to those of you who simply don’t have the time or inclination to wade through months of posts.

This is advice to guests about the part that you play in making your own dining experience better.

Cookbook of the day – Cooking Fearlessly

Cooking Fearlessly: Recipes and Other Adventures from Hudson’s on the Bend

by Jeff Blank, Jay Moore with Deborah Harter

  • Publisher: Fearless Press (September 1, 1999) 
  • ISBN 10: 0967232309
  • ISBN 13: 978-0967232300
  • Hudson’s on the Bend is a creative restaurant slightly north of Austin. It’s owned by two creative chefs named Jeff Blank and Jay Moore. By all reports (I’ve never dined there), it’s a stylish, forward-thinking restaurant known for its willingness to exotic ingredients like rattlesnake, emu,

    This book is a colorful and delightful paeon to the restaurant. The cover gives you a good idea as to the humorous and eye-popping nature of the book.  With lots of original and a bold visual graphic style that first seems garish but ultimately adds to readability, the great thing about this book is the humorous approach the authors take to prod the reader to take some chances. You don’t see this often in cookbooks and it’s refreshing.

    They tell the stories behind the creation of the dishes, dishes that sometimes are birthed through mistakes, happy accidents or thinking “out-of-the-box”.

    The flavor profiles are layered, consonant and bright; the plating is striking.  And the authors give plenty of leeway for the reader to modify the recipes to make them their own and they give some flexibility with suggestions should you not be able to get rattlesnake, armadillo or antelope.

    A quote from a Buddhist monk opens the book appropriately.

    In this food

    I see clearly

    the presence of the entire universe

    supporting my existence

    One of the most enjoyable cookbooks that I’ve obtained in a while.