So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

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.

7 responses to “It’s the little things redux

  1. ReneS December 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    My tips and tricks

    When somebody cries: give him or her without asking a glass of water. For the simple reason that when you drink you’re not able to cry. Besides it removes the helpless feeling of the other guests. A crying kid can be get silent with a lolly.
    Take always good care for elderly and children. When they are happy everybody is happy
    Where people shake hands (weddings, condolences) : place a jug of water (and glasses of course) and little (wet) towels to clean the hands..
    Give artists always water and glasses. They appreciate it a lot
    Walking with the guests to show the way to for example the toilet is very kind. You’re not working in the supermarket!
    If you bring empty glasses (for e.g. beer) turn them upside down on your tray to exit the little bit of water in the glasses.
    When people order mineral water, ask if they want ice in it or serve it separate. Never in the glasses (you don’t mix pure water with tap-water)
    Reading a lot of reviews on the internet and magazines.
    The etiquette dictates the rules, the situation the exceptions
    Even saying the word welcome make the guest feeling at ease

  2. Nick Boodris December 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Very informative post in all aspects. Good work.

  3. kristlkrost December 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    So..I think that’s one of the best attention to details lists I’ve seen. You really ARE paying attention…The littlest of things can really make the whole experience that much nicer. AND the customer will notice and tip better usually..As long as it’s not a contrived effort.When I was a server..I really cared about the customer..I knew that this was a night out and they were spending good money and deserved to be treated as if they were on a mini vacation.
    BUT I never over did it either… We all hate that nagging over bearer sever.

    But I’m gathering from your beer paragraph… you are trying to tell us….you give good head????

  4. kristlkrost December 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Ooops Eeek..The ever important didn’t go for some reason after the last sentence!

  5. Cody December 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your blog. Having 15 years in the BOH, it is nice to see a servicemen appreciate details. Temp on plates and butter are things often overlooked that can make or break a dining experience.
    Thank you for caring

    • teleburst December 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks for the BoH love. Too often it’s an us against them mentality. It sucks. I understand it but it still sucks. The BoH creates the opportunity for success in the FoH and the FoH is the last line of QC defense for the BoH.

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