So You Want To Be A Waiter

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


Every waiter who’s been in the biz for any length of time knows what I’m talking about.

It starts like this:

You get double-sat. No big whoop except that one of the tables needs a song-and-dance and some hand-holding. Still, it’s not that big of a problem. But the second table needs hot tea along with the shots of Cuervo, iced tea and 3 sodas. So, you collect the drinks, but when you get to the hot tea pitchers, they haven’t been stocked (or you can’t find underliners for them, or there aren’t any small tea spoons…take your pick…) You finally get it all together and you’re back on track when you get your third table. You’re not technically triple-seated but it’s close enough where you feel like it.

So, after you greet the new table and get a drink order, you’re back to the first two tables, getting the orders and getting them settled in for the ride. Now the new table would like for you to bring crackers in addition to the bread ’cause they have a little one that would like to have something to teeth on. So, off you go to get the crackers, but you find that there aren’t any where you normally keep them. So you go to the Chef to find out if there are any crackers in the house. There are, but they’re in dry storage. So you have to go to dry storage, pull out an unopened box, get out your wine tool and open it up.

Now you’ve got everything settled and you get your 4th table, which now has to get settled in. No problem, except that they want a Midori Sour and when you come back to get it, the bartender informs you that they’ve been out of Midori for a week. So now you have to go back, get a new drink order while informing the guest that you don’t have what they wanted. No problem. You re-ring the new drink and get them to the table. Only now, you have to make sure that the manager takes the drink order off of the bill. So you go chase down the manager, which takes a precious minute or so.

Meanwhile, the third table orders a bottle of wine. You ring it in, you grab it and take it to the table, the year isn’t the same as the one on the menu. So now, you have to take it back, have the bartender go through the stock to see if there are any left from the correct vintage. There aren’t any, so the guest wants to order a different bottle. No problem, except now you have to chase down the manager again to take off the original bottle.

And so it goes, the whole night…

Every time you have to grab for something, it’s not there and you have to chase it down. Or it’s the wrong thing. Or the guest thinks the food sucks/has taken too long/the soup’s cold, etc. The kitchen is getting slammed so your timing is off by about 10 minutes on everything. Every minute wasted compounds the amount of time that you’re behind by two minutes. Just as you think that you’re getting caught up, something else out of the ordinary pops up, and it keeps you about a step and a half behind. You’re in the weeds, but it’s a smothering sort of weeds, not an over-your-head panicked weeds. It’s not panic that you’re feeling; it’s rage and frustration every time you reach for a demitasse spoon and it ain’t there.

It’s like you’re stuck inexorably in quicksand. The natives’ spears are landing all around you, there’s an arrow through your pith helmet and your chimpanzee companion is not as bright as Cheetah, because he keeps trying to hand you a banana instead of a long stick.

I guess that you’re waiting for me to teach you how to deal with it.  Well, since I was stuck in just that situation last night for about 3 hours, I’m sorry but it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I’ve got all of the answers. I might propose some things later that you can do to help keep your pith helmet above the sand, but frankly, there was nothing I could do last night to wiggle out.

Just be aware that you can be in the business for almost 2 decades and you can get caught in such a mess that the only way out is for the shift to finally end.

I’m just sayin’…

6 responses to “Quicksand

  1. tipsfortips April 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I had that same night last night. Something about Sunday night people. I also had competing tables trying to out “sir” each other. Why don’t people see every other guest in the restaurant roll their eyes at them when they yell “sir.” You aren’t at a diner and more bread really isn’t worth disturbing the whole dining room for.

    Rule 17) No more than 80% of what you need to make hot tea is ever in the same place at the same time.

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  3. PurpleGirl April 28, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Totally know what you’re talking about; and there’s really no way out of it except to plow through and try not to let your irritation show to your guests!

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  5. TigerDude May 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Yep, those nights happen about every 6 months or so no matter how good you are…not a darn thing to do but wait until the shift is over and knock down a Budweiser or three to drown your troubles.

  6. Amy J May 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm


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