So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Ways that you know that you’ve “got it” as a waiter

It takes a little while to become a great waiter (and for some it takes more than a little while, and, let’s face it, some people never get it).Here are some signs that you’ve finally “got it” and you’ve passed from being a beginner and an amateur to a professional. Keep in mind that the job is such that even the most hardened professional will occasionally have issues and make mistakes. People who claim that it’s just “taking orders and bringing food” don’t understand the complexities and vagaries of waiting on an expectant, sometimes demanding public and trying to negotiate a restaurant system that must serve as many as 200 guests at a time at different stages of their meals.

Also, just because you’ve “mastered” a couple of these doesn’t mean that you’ve “got it” quite yet. You need to be able to deal with most of these situational issues before you can be confident that you’ve really “made it” as a server. And you should keep in mind that even the best server has the occasional hiccup. If you are a seasoned server and you find yourself dealing with an increasing number of these issues that you thought you had long ago conquered, you should refocus and/or deal with the issue of burnout. Burnout doesn’t have to be the eventual end of a waiter’s career, but it takes awareness of slippage and a desire to re-find the passion that was once there.

These are in no particular order except to say that I’m writing them down in the order that they come to me and that might be significant as to their relative importance.

Most double and triple seats don’t cause an undue amount of stress.

When the kitchen goes down in flames, you manage your tables so that it doesn’t affect them and you don’t panic.

In the weeds simply means that you’re busy, not panicked, one step behind instead of three steps behind and your focused and not distracted about the things that you haven’t done yet.

A 20% tip is the standard, not the exception.

You’re 10 minutes early for all of your shifts, not 5 minutes late.

You find yourself blaming yourself for your mistakes, not passing it off on others or circumstances.

The little knot in your stomach preceding a potentially busy and stressful shift is one of anticipation, not fear.

Your interaction with the management at the terminal when they have to correct a miss-ring is seldom, not often.

On your days off, the time that you think about your job is when you’re doing some research on food and beverage, not spent stewing over the “bad day” that you had last week.

Work seems more like play than work.

You have discovered the miraculous ability to slow time down, in the same way that a seasoned NFL quarterback does.

You rarely have to say to your guest, “I’ll have to ask someone about that”.

You rarely say to your guest, ‘I don’t know”.

You don’t let a 12% tip rattle you or ruin your night.

You finally realize that some people are bad tippers regardless of your best efforts and the high quality of your service.

The time spent ringing in your order is reduced by half.

You are able to read the kitchen in all phases of service and are able to “feel the flow” of the entire restaurant, including seating.

Your guests rarely have to wait an inordinate time for their food, even during the crush.

You make more money than the year before with fewer shifts.

And perhaps the most important thing is the feeling of confidence that you feel in yourself and the sense of confidence that you can feel from your Manager On Duty.

Feel free to add your own in the comments section.


3 responses to “Ways that you know that you’ve “got it” as a waiter

  1. joanthan Uzhca December 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Great post!Ionce thought that giving outstanding service and using the right word was enough… but in actuality its also having the right mindset like you pointed out not letting 12% rattle you,you wont panic,and when in the weed your in control…alot of waiting is dealing with your mindset and attitude

  2. waiterextraordinaire December 20, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Another is rather than the 12% tip what about the $5 tip on the $100 bill. One other is how much your co-workers and managers think of you. Do they respect you for your professionalism and give you the toughest tables to handle?

  3. SkippyMom December 20, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Most of these are maturity driven, which is hard to find in some restaurants.

    When you can get along [or ignore] your coworkers and their drama?

    You have arrived.

    Also I think that self medicating should be included in the list. A waiters ability to do the job without the stimuli of alcohol and narcotics makes them a true waiter.

    I get so tired of reading blogs where waiters claim that all waiters drink or smoke dope/snort cocaine. It just isn’t true – a true waiter doesn’t.

    Wasn’t trying to be snarky or mean – just wanted to give my experiences too.

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