So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

It’s the little things…

…that make the difference between average service and great service.

The guest might even notice these small things, but they will feel the cumulative effect.

Here are a few of them that spring to mind:

Leaving room in the coffee cup for cream. Sometimes we get into the habit of filling the cup to the rim. This is understandable since people might complain if you “short” them. However, leaving a little room is something that makes it easier for the guest to enjoy their coffee. It’s good to leave a little space. Plus, it makes it easier to carry cups without spilling.

Speaking of spilling, if you do spill a little coffee on the saucer, don’t serve it to the guest. Clean the saucer and the bottom of the cup before you deliver it to the guest. You don’t want coffee dripping on a nice shirt or blouse.

Another thing involving the coffee is to place the handle of the cup at the 5:00 position. The allows the guest to grasp the cup without turning it. While there might be the very rare person who holds the coffee cup with the left hand (I’m a left-hander who still holds the cup in my right hand), most people are right-handed when it comes to holding a cup with a handle.  Obviously, if you know for a fact that someone holds their coffee cup with the left hand, you’ll place the handle at the 7:00 position.

When you hand a menu to the guest, have it already open.

Write “Thank you” and your first name on the check.

If it’s not against house policy, ask if they would like bread instead of bringing it automatically. There are some who are on special diets or don’t want to get filled up who might decline.

Ask tea drinkers if they’d like a refill instead of doing it automatically. If the glass is almost empty, feel free to refill but if they haven’t drunk that much, you might ask. Some people get their tea sweetened just the right way and don’t want the glass to be kept absolutely full at all times. Once again, if house policy demands that all glasses be kept full, then you should comply. But you can ask someone if they’d like more tea right before you fill it up. Obviously, you just have to use your best judgment here. If they’ve said that it’s OK the first time, then you can probably forgo asking them in the future. If they say that they’ve got it just the way that they want it, wait until they’re 3/4 empty if possible.

Ask groups of 6 or more if they’d like for you to put together an appetizer assortment. If it’s possible, try to get the kitchen to put them together on larger platters so they can be shared “family style”. Not only might you sell more appetizers, it’s easier than selling individual appetizers, and it’s more fun to share. Just don’t use this as an excuse to oversell them. If you find that you are bussing platters with half of the appetizers left, you’re selling too much. You’re also filling them up before the entrée and this is something that you don’t want to do. The appetizer should whet the appetite, not dampen it.

When selling appetizer assortments, if you are offering things that are known for being allergy triggers like crab or shrimp, ask if anyone is allergic to those things and tailor your quantities accordingly.

These are just a few of the small things that create the foundation for great service. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

4 responses to “It’s the little things…

  1. Marta Daniels July 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

    These are awesome tips!!! I consider myself a vet at this, but somebody always knows something you don’t! Thanks so much, you’re awesome! God bless!

  2. vandervecken August 5, 2010 at 11:46 am

    good post! the “little things” are what get you the big $$ — and get people asking for you when times are slow. here are a few of my faves that are great attention getters:

    1. when you refill tea, pick up spent sweetener packets [i’m a table maintenance ob-com] — and look at the sugar caddy. if it’s low on the packets you picked up, bring more when you bring the refill.

    2. don’t hand plates or glasses over the heads of little ones. make a point to say you don’t like doing that.

    3. if a guest gets up from the table, fold their napkin and put it next to the plate.

    4. ask tables if they would prefer children’s food to come out asap or with entrees. i’ve actually had people get huffy when it’s assumed their raucous brats need to be served quickly! but everyone responds positively to being asked.

    5. not just allergy triggers — ask about picky eater triggers as well. “how do you feel about fennel/capers/spicy/etc”. this might save you a trip later as well.

    6. speak directly to small children, invalids, and doddering old people, even if someone at the table is speaking for them. be patient. when someone at the table speaks for them, acknowledge both the person speaking and the person being spoken for. this is a show of compassion both for the person and the family coping with that person and it sinks in. it’s a serious stress factor, both having to deal with it, and having to deal with people’s responses to it — and i’ve noticed visible changes in the overall mood of a table after doing this.

    7. if time and task management prevent you from doing something at a given moment, preempt the request: “i’ll be right back with [a drink refill/bread/pending cocktail]”.

    i gots more, but don’t wanna bore. you know what i love most about this post? it makes me wanna post again, a little. the biz sucks so bad lately where i am i’ve been suffering from serious ennui. haven’t felt funny for a few months, just pissed off, stultified, and bored. reading this post and writing this comment made me feel a little jazzed. maybe that’s what i need! keep the faith, bro … 🙂

    • teleburst August 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

      Hmmmm, tried to reply directly through my email client, but it didn’t work. Let’s try again using the ole cut’n paste routine:

      > New comment on your post “It’s the little things…”
      > Author : vandervecken
      > URL : http://vandervecken.blogspot.com

      i gots more, but don’t wanna bore. you know what i love most about this post? it makes me wanna post again, a little. the biz sucks so bad lately where i am i’ve been suffering from serious ennui. haven’t felt funny for a few months, just pissed off, stultified, and bored. reading this post and writing this comment made me feel a little jazzed. maybe that’s what i need! keep the faith, bro … 🙂

      Sounds like it’s time for an expansion of the theme at “How Not To Do Things”.

      Right? Right?

  3. Pingback: It’s the little things redux « So You Want To Be A Waiter

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