So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Regulars

I’ve talked about regulars and call parties in the past.

They are the bread and butter of the restaurant business and waiters. They can get you through lean times and they can make your job easier (most of the time).

There is a minority of waiters that don’t care for call parties or regulars. They’d rather just wait on the regular clientele. This isn’t right or wrong, just a different viewpoint. And god help you if you get a pain-in-the-ass regular. You’re stuck with them for life. Fortunately, they are the extreme minority. Almost by definition, a regular or a call party wants you as their waiter and so, unless they are masochists or sadists, the reason that they repeat as your guest is that they like your service. Normally, this takes a lot of the pressure off of you to perform.

One thing that occurred to me as a reason for actively cultivating call parties besides the obvious ones is the shortcuts that you can take with them. Here are a couple:

1. You can usually forgo some of the corporate or management demands that you are required to do every time. Things like scripting every special. Some call parties don’t even need to hear the specials because they know what they want, or they understand what a chore it is for you (and them) to recite every special and use enticing language in order to tempt them to buy those specials. And you already know their food tendencies. If they don’t like steak, then you don’t normally have to mention the steak special. Another example of this is the stricture that you must make the attempt to sell bottled water. If you know that they never order bottled water, you can simply ask “Tap water as usual?” without worrying that they’re going to turn you in on some secret shopper report for not mentioning bottled water by brand. You have just saved a little time and Mickey Mouse requirements to hit a service point demanded by management. In fact, you’re giving them a better dining experience by not asking them every time that standard question that you are required to ask every other guest. Only an idiotic management would demand that you ignore their known wishes (this isn’t discounting the possibility that you work for such a brain-dead, anal management system though).

2. There’s a certain shorthand that you can use that you can’t use with strangers. The water and specials thing are two examples, but there are others. For instance, if they normally turn down bread, that’s one less thing you have to worry about. Once you get to know that they don’t want well vodka and they prefer Belvedere, it’s one less thing to have to fuss about (and who doesn’t like their waiter remembering their favorite drink?) You do have to be careful about this though because they might just want something different or have read about some hot new vodka in Cosmopolitan magazine. It’s always good to confirm that Belvedere is what they have their heart set on.

3. Regulars tend to tip better without you having to jump through hoops. The good tip is part of the price that they pay to have a familiar and comforting waiter serving them. You are a known quantity and so they don’t have to worry whether they are going to get decent service. They already know how well you perform.

4. And this segues into regulars generally being more understanding when you’re having a bad night (as well all do from time to time) or when the kitchen might not be performing up to snuff. This doesn’t mean that you get an automatic pass to be lackadaisical or slipshod, but they will generally be more patient when you explain that the bar is getting slammed and it’s taking longer than usual to get their drinks. This is because they can believe you and know that you’re not just making excuses because they’ve seen your normal time standards. With a waiter that they’ve never dealt with before, they don’t know whether the waiter is just blowing smoke up their asses or not.

To sum up, the more seamless and personal you can make the service without having to perform the normal server manual song-and-dance, the better opinion the regular will have of you and your establishment.

The regular is your friend, in more ways than one.  Unless you are one of those minority who’s just uncomfortable with waiting on the same people over and over, you should try to cultivate every reasonable table to ask for you when they dine.

I know one waiter who literally makes around $10k a year from a diner he waits on once or twice a week.

Not bad.

2 responses to “Regulars

  1. Nick Boodris September 22, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I am very familiar serving the regular patrons and not having to jump through hoops to make them happy. One thing though, if the kitchen or bar is swampt with orders, you will hear about it from your regular if the service is slow whereas, a new patron may not come back if it is their first time there. Well written post.

    • teleburst September 22, 2010 at 10:56 am

      Agreed about regulars not being shy about commenting slow service. It’s easier to manage them in those situations though, as long as you keep them informed from the beginning. Plus, it’s easier to kill some dead time while waiting for slow food. You actually have things to talk about with them, assuming you have the time, of course. and, even if you don’t have time to fill all of the time, you can divert them for short periods. With strangers, it’s not as easy (at least for me).

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