So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: March 22, 2010

New link added

Finally, a blog for the back of the house.

For civilians, back of the house refers to the kitchen and associated workers.

The name of the blog is So Hardy. Here is the link:

This is a new blog, so I can’t really comment much on the content, but it looks like it’s going to be a really good blog to follow.

Waiters and cooks are often at loggerheads. Waiters must walk a tightrope between the kitchen, the management and the guest and we aren’t always successful at it. The kitchen must often times fix waiter screwups, deal with stupid questions, deal with waiter intrusions during busy times, answer to management and react to guests’ unreasonable expectations. And they sometimes respond by do this by abusing the waitstaff. So there’s room for improvement from both sides of the house.

In order to produce food for hundreds of people, procedures have to be streamlined and precise. When a waiter screws up an order and food has to go out on the fly, it messes up the machinery of the kitchen. I have been guilty of this on occasion and I deserve some scorn. And yet, it’s not my fault if the management lets a table eat that comes in 10 minutes after close. And, when I ask about how long food is going to take because all of the food is going out slowly, I’m not asking to be annoying. I really do need to know. And I don’t want to be told what the Chef thinks I want to hear. I need a realistic answer so I can employ strategies at my disposal if I need to. If the food is coming out in 5 minutes, it’s likely that I only have to inform my guest. But if it’s going to take 10 minutes and I tell them 5 minutes because that’s what you told me to tell them, there’s going to be trouble, whereas, I might have been able to do a song and dance, or have the manager visit, or have the manager approve a quick free appetizer to mollify them.

Conversely, I shouldn’t go behind the line, mess with a cook’s carefully constructed mise en place, talk about tips in their presence or demand special favors when it comes to the food that I’m ordering (not to be confused with special requests – no, I shouldn’t ask for extra veggies or extra items that should normally be charged for because I want a bigger tip).

This is just begging for  more comprehensive posts regarding the interactions between the kitchen and the waitstaff. I’m probably going to do that in the future. The kitchen deserves all of the respect that we as waiters can muster.

But, in the meantime, I highly recommend that every waiter start reading this blog. It might go a long way toward rapport and mutual respect.

Plus, Anthony Bourdain must surely love their logo!

You were amazing! Thank you!

This is what my 6 top told me last night as they were leaving. I disagree with the hyperbole because, if my service was “amazing”, then I’m in the wrong business. I should be President of the United States.

I’m glad I was “amazing”. The wife of the guy who paid wanted to know about our salmon. In fact, that was her exact question – “I want to know about your salmon”.

Ummmm, OK.

“Well, it’s fresh, never frozen. It’s about 11 oz, so it’s a really nice piece of fish and we served it fileted, not cut into steaks”. That should have been the end of it.

“How would you describe it”?

Well, I though I already had, so I tried desperately to figure out what her *real* question was.

“It’s farm-raised salmon”.


“So it’s not wild salmon”?

“No ma’am, it’s ‘never frozen’ so it can’t be wild salmon. You can only get wild salmon during about a month and a half in the summer when they run. They don’t let salmon be harvested except for about a 6 – 8 week window”.

Hopefully that solved the problem in her mind. Maybe she’s concerned with the safety of farm-raised salmon, a concern that isn’t totally unfounded because of the issues of feed and environmental conditions.

“How would you characterize it in comparison with wild salmon. I mean, some of the farm raised salmon is kinda yellow”.

Well, having never seen “yellow” farm-raised salmon, I had to reply, “Ours is bright reddish-orange. It’s a high quality fish. And, since it’s about 11 oz, it’s a really nice filet”.

“What about the Omega 3s”?

What am I, the Gorton’s Fisherman? Still, I’m not going to be trapped into being just another salesperson trying to sell something without knowing my shit. Besides, I prefer the sea bass.

“Well, it’s obviously not going to have as much Omega 3 as wild salmon. That’s just a fact, I’m afraid. Still, it has the normal level of Omega 3”.

One of the other ladies (one of the ones who said that I was amazing on the way out) asked me what I thought of the sea bass. I thought that was a quite reasonable question.

“It’s my favorite. I love sea bass because the flesh almost melts in the mouth. It’s so succulent. It’s just about my favorite fish”.

Had I thought it was a concern of hers, I would have told her that we had sourced a sustainable variety of sea bass (ours is MSC certified). In fact, we’re only serving it for about 2 months and then it’s going to go away. Had the first wife not been such a freak, I would have assured her about this, but apparently, she wasn’t concerned about the conditions of North Atlantic salmon pens and the bizarre food that their occupants are fed. Fortunately, this lady just wanted to know how good it was.

The first wife ended up getting the sea bass, confirming what I already knew – that she just wanted to know the answer to a question that she already knew the answer to. Anyone who knows about Omega 3 in salmon probably already knows that wild salmon has more Omega 3 than farm-raised.

Anyway, I could have gone home at about 8:30 but had to stay for this 6 top. They had sat in the bar for about 30 minutes running up a $125 tab, which I had to transfer and pass the tip along to the bartender.

So, when I got the $625 check back only to see a $70, I was really pissed. Of that $70, I only saw about $45 because I had to pass along $15 to the bartender and another $10 to the server assistant. I didn’t want to screw him out of $6, so I tipped him the normal 20% instead of dropping the tipout to 10% on that part of my night (the bartender actually told me not to worry about her tipout, but I couldn’t do that to her).

Plus, I was getting out at about 10:15.

I can hear a civilian say, )hell, or even someone who works in a place where you’re lucky to make $50 on a Sunday night for that matter),  “What are you bitching about? An extra $50 for staying an extra hour and a half”?

It’s a principle thing.  I feel that I got shorted by almost half. That means that I should have gotten another $45 or so.  It would be one thing if my service had sucked eggs. But it didn’t. They told me so themselves! Unfortunately, the ones who said how great I was weren’t paying the bill. In fact, they would have probably been embarassed by their host’s tip.

I can hear you ask yourself, “I wonder if he was rude to the wife who asked the questions”. While I can’t be totally objective here, I’m pretty sure that I kept my own cynicism out of the equation and I answered her questions without being condescending or rude. the bartender told me later that she had questions about this guy anyway, that he was acting all bossy and dominant.

So, thanks a lot pal. I hope you choked on the Bud Light longneck at the honky-tonk that you were going to after you left us, because you probably wouldn’t be able to get the Jack Single Barrel and Ginger in a tall glass that you were drinking with me.

BTW, these weren’t imperious business people, rednecks or old farts. These were late 20s, snappily and hipply dressed. They seemed pretty hip. Well, they all were, except for the guy with the clear plastic Amex card (you know the one – it’s got the little blue shiny square in the corner).