So You Want To Be A Waiter

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


Well, the holiday season is officially started. In many restaurants, this week is a sort of calm before the storm. Next week is when it gets started in earnest.

Now’s the time to get into the correct head space. Things worth considering:

Shifts, especially lunch, get longer. Cuts usually can’t happen when they usually do and this can be tough since we tend to get into a groove and a rhythm. Might as well just accept it now.

The closer you are to the mall or shopping areas, the more stressed out shoppers you’re likely to encounter. Try to be a little more patient with people when they seem to be on their last nerves. It’s hard when they don’t seem to understand that you’re just as stressed, if not more so. But this is the time where a little bit of compassion can pay dividends in the form of higher tips from grateful diners. Try to accommodate this as much as you can and you’ll find that it will pay off more often than not. This isn’t the time to really push table turns, even if you’re getting that pressure from management. A good manager will realize that table times are just naturally longer, but, as we know, not every manager is a “good one”. It’s hard to veer away from your normal practices but I guess I’m saying just try to roll with the flow of each table.

Be more aware of alcohol consumption and remember that sometimes, guests might already be coming from parties or other gatherings where alcohol has been served. Start watching guest behavior early and try to keep them safe.

Try to be as upbeat as possible, even as you’re getting your butt kicked or having the holidays kicking your butt just as your guests are experiencing.  This goes without saying, but sometimes it’s just hard to reflect a joyful spirit when the shifts are long, the diners testy, etc. Here’s one way of getting through it – remember that for most of us, December is like June and July combined. Your wallet will thank you.

And speaking of that, now is the time to squirrel some of that extra cash away, whether it’s to add to your tax withholding for the next quarter or as an emergency fund for the slower summer months (assuming of course that you aren’t in a tourist area that’s busy during the summer).

And, of course, now is the time to count your blessings, stake stock of your personal situation and plan for the next year. Just don’t make any resolutions please. Most of the time, they are just stupid and get forgotten by Valentine’s Day.

Happy Holidays from me to you and yours!

3 responses to “Holidays

  1. howtobeawaiterhowtobeawaiter December 4, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Customers do not want to tell orders or choices twice or more. In a way, you don’t want to be told something a lot of times as well. Get things straight: pick their orders fast and well and you are both happy.

  2. Seth December 6, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    From one waiter to another, I have a question for you.

    In my restaurant, there are so many waiters scrapping to pick up shifts and so few waiters willing to give up shifts. When a shift is available it is almost impossible to compete against everyone else trying to pick it up. I’ve thought it might be a good idea to offer the person giving up a shift either a flat rate of money, like $5, or maybe 10% of what I make if they give it to me.

    Is that really tacky? Would that make other waiters resent me? How can I pull this off in the least offensive manner? Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • teleburst December 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      This sort of thing is routine in my restaurant. Dealmaking is done one to one. Money changes hands frequently. I guess the best way to deal with it in your restaurant is to go to the people who are the most likely to either give up a shift or pick one up. Are there some waiters who gladly get cut early? They are the ones that you might want to approach privately if you’re trying to pick up a shift. And, if you are the one trying to take off, you might look at the schedule and match up days off with your needs. Unless it’s just against store policy, I’d offer cash for sure. How much? Well, that’s up to you. In my restaurant, I’ve seen shifts change hands for as much as $30 (usually lunches). In a more modest restaurant, $5 might do the trick. You just have to see what the market will bear. Once you start doing deals, it becomes easier to convince someone and people will start coming to you as well.

      Good luck!

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