So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Here’s my wish for a happy and peaceful day for all of my readers.

If you have to work, as many do, I hope that your shift is productive.

And if you dine out, please be generous to your food service professional. Remember, he or she is working so that you can enjoy your holiday.

Photo by Doreen

It’s the little things redux

A while back, I wrote a post on “the little things”.  Detail things. Things that aren’t often taught in the employee manual or aren’t necessarily “house policy”.

You can find that post here:

I have a few things to add to that list.

When placing a ribeye or any steak with a bone on one side of the steak (i.e. not a t-bone or porterhouse), make sure you put the bone away from the guest.

If appetizer plates have just come out of the dishwasher and are still hot, and you are serving a cold appetizer like shrimp cocktail on it, make sure you quick chill the plates. There’s nothing worse than serving chilled food on hot plates. Unless…

…it’s serving hot food on a chilled plate. It’s not very good to serve a hot soup bowl on a chilled underliner (many restaurants use 8 inch chilled plates for both underliners and salad plates and sometimes they are the only plates available during the rush).

When presenting the wine bottle cork, place it so that you can read the winery name, if it’s printed on the cork. In fact, I make a visile effort to turn it so that they notice that I’m doing it. Now I know that corks aren’t really supposed to hit the table. In formal wine service, you either have a small trivet to put the cork on or you hand the cork to the guest. But most modern restaurants have no prohibition on the practice of putting the cork on the table. I find that many times, the guest isn’t ready to have the cork handed to them, so I usually just put the cork on the table. Remember, house policy trumps any advice that I give.

Some waiters actually carry reading glasses for their guests, and themselves. If you see a guest squinting at their menu, offer reading glasses if they are available (many restaurants keep them on hand for just this occurence).

If a guest asks for sauce on the side, offer to sauce their dish.

When marking a table (the act of replacing cutlery), don’t get lazy and give everyone a steak knife if a couple of them are having steak. If someone is eating deboned chicken such as a breast, or fish, please give them a regular knife.

If someone is having a burger, you should give them a steak knife in case they want to cut it in half. However, if someone is having chopped steak or Salisbury steak, give them a regular knife.

If you can avoid it, try not to give a table butter directly out of a reach-in cooler. Try to give them butter at room temperature. This isn’t always possible, but just think about how hard it is to butter a non-heated roll or slice of bread with a rock-hard piece of butter.

When pouring beer, try to create a nice 1 1/2 inch head. Some beers like many lite beers don’t generate much head on their own. Find out which beers don’t give much of a head and pour them more vigorously in order to get a good head on the beer. There are some beers, like Heineken, that build a good head on their own, so be more careful pouring them. For Heineken, a good plan of attack is to tilt the glass, pour fairly hard against the side and build the head in the first half glass and then straighten the glass and pour slowly, keeping the head about the same. For Bud Lite, you might want to pour into a glass held straight and force a head to be built. However, always watch the glass in case the head gets out of hand. The last thing you want to do is have half a glass of head. It’s all about practice.

If a beer glass has a logo, place the glass with the logo facing the guest. This goes for any logo on any glass or plate.

When skewering an olive for a drink, place the opening up facing the guest (the hole with the pimento or blue cheese showing).

Some of these things are very subtle. But the more subtle things you do, the greater the cumulative effect.

It’s all about details in our business.

Bigger isn’t always better

About two years ago, they expanded my local Target.

I thought, this is great! More stuff to buy! More specials!

Turns out that I was wrong.

Not only did I see less stuff (just more of less assortment), there were fewer yellow tag deals. There were several items that I was used to buying that disappeared. Suddenly, it was hard to buy usable pens in bulk on special. There used to be regular buys of bulk pens for cheap – now they are few and far between.

Also, prices jumped up on certain things like laundry detergent and bleach.

I guess they had to pay for the renovations somehow.

So, how does this relate to waiting tables?

The next time you get a smaller station than your neighbors, think about the opportunities instead of the downside. Think about the fact that a larger station can keep you from maximizing your sales. Think about quality over quantity. Think about having time to get personal with your guests, which can help you maximize your tip percentages.

I’m not saying that you should hope for smaller sections, but you shouldn’t let it get you down. You should take a different mental attitude. It can really prevent you from having a bummer shift. Keeping a positive mental attitude is paramount.

“I know I said I don’t mind a smaller section, but this is ridiculous”.

Clever and easy way to track your tips

Yep, you saw that right –


They have a tracker for miles per gallon which would work great for tracking tips, as you can view a graph online. You do have to put in “Miles Driven” and “Gallons Bought” but I just put 1 in each one.  I don’t worry about it figuring out MPG as I’m just tracking dollar amount. I use it not so much for actual dollar tracking, but I’m trying to establish baseline weekly, monthly and seasonal trends.

They have an Android app that ties into the web site. You can’t view a graph on your phone yet, but you can access it online. There have been a few glitches here and there with the interface between the Android app and the online site, but they are mostly in the various car modules and updating between the two (they are continuing to refine the whole thing, but if you just use it for tracking tips online, they are pretty much non-issues).

It happens to be a pretty good way to run a car log as well.

Sure, you could set up an Excel spreadsheet to track your tips (and some of you might have already done that) but this is a pretty simple way to do it. It’s free as of this writing but I’d suggest donating a little bit to the developer in order to encourage him and to keep it from becoming a paid site. Several “car log” sites are free for some log functions but make you pay for important functions like MPG tracking. This one is totally free and it’s a pretty clean solution to auto log-keeping.

I have no connection with this site other than being a user. I have no idea if the developer does any data mining or anything like that, so please use this site at your own risk. I don’t see a lot of danger in it myself.

Oh yeah, it’s really easy for me since I declare all of my tips. I just pull the figure off of my pay stub (my figures are bi-weekly). If you are someone who doesn’t declare all of your tips, you’ll still have to keep track of them separately and add them to your declared tips to get an accurate tracking. And no, I’m not going to take this opportunity to scold you for not doing the right thing (oh wait, I guess I just did!)

Just in time for Christmas – a new Marketplace Blogroll

Look for it shortly. I’ll be adding new links as quickly as I can.

I have no affiliation with any of them, although, regular readers of this blog will remember that I got a sample Waiter’s Caddy from The Waiter’s Depot a few weeks ago. Should I get any sort of swag or kickback from any of these links, I will duly report it. At no time should it be assumed that sending free stuff will get a link posted in the blogroll, although any vendor is free to leave a comment in this blog to alert me to their website. I alone will be the judge as to whether a link is posted. Unless there is a legitimate concern with a site, any website that offers items interesting to waiters will be added, as long as it’s a “legitimate” site. I alone will be the sole determinate of such “legitimacy”.

Also, selected “culinary” sites will be considered for inclusion, although it has to offer unusual, hard-to-get or interesting items. I won’t be putting up links for “gift basket”, Wisconsin cheese and sausage sites or other generic sites.

The listing of any link does not imply a specific endorsement of the site, nor an endorsement on the business practices of the site. All readers should use the services of these vendors at their own risk and I assume no responsibility for any business dealings that readers might or might not participate in.

Please remember the waiters in your life this holiday season.

Top ten menu trends from the National Restaurant Association

According to the National Restaurant Association, here are the top ten menu trends for 2011:

  1. locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. locally grown produce
  3. sustainability as a culinary theme
  4. nutritious kids’ dishes
  5. hyper-local items
  6. children’s nutrition
  7. sustainable seafood
  8. gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items
  9. back-to-basics cuisine
  10. farm-branded ingredients.

Here are my top ten restaurant trends for 2011:

  1. menus in five languages
  2. tableside butchering of salmon loin
  3. free blenders with purchase of frozen drinks
  4. steak meal in a bowl – filet covered with bernaise, fried onions, creamed spinach and mashed potatoes all layered in a bowl  
  5. non-sustainable animal products (an endangered species specials list) 
  6. ultra-hyper local produce (you must bring your own windowsill-grown herbs)
  7. popcorn odor-producing scent systems
  8. pop-up DVD players at every table
  9. deep fried Caesar salad
  10. open display restrooms

“I’m sorry sir, shall I wait until the end of the movie to take your order”?

Restaurants not jolly about Christmas weekend

From Nation’s Restaurant news:

Restaurants not jolly about Christmas weekend

Many operators fear lost sales because of the holiday’s timing

December 3, 2010

by Bret Thorn

Ben Benson didn’t need to look at a calendar to know Christmas 2010 was going to be on a Saturday. Everything seemed to go wrong this year. The economic recovery didn’t happen, the hot New York summer kept him from getting much use of his patio. Why would he expect Christmas to fall on any day of the week but the worst one?

“For the first time in 28 years, we’ll be open on Christmas and New Year’s,” said the owner of Ben Benson’s Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan.

Read the rest of the article here:

And yes, my restaurant will be open on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
This is probably bad news for Chinese restaurants as well as they’ll have some serious competition for a change.

Spam comments

Just got finished deleting a bunch of spam.

There were a couple that were borderline.

If you really want your comments to get through, you might want to make it absolutely clear that you are commenting about a specific post. Some of the spam has gotten quite clever, so, once again, you should make it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that you are responding to a specific post. Otherwise, your quite sincere comment might have been deleted by yours truly.

Oh yeah, no, there’s no Facebook or Twitter account linked to this blog.  So no, you can’t “follow me” or “friend me”. I’m already your friend.