So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Tag Archives: waiter blog

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”.

I’m still around…

…just dormant right now.

I’ve had to deal with a personal issue and it’s just about wrapped up. In the meantime, I’d suggest that you go back and relive the glory days of the archives. I’ll bet that there are a few posts that you have to catch up on, especially considering how prolific I have been in the past.

Also, remember that we’re in a change of seasons period. You might reread the posts that concern that. You can probably find them by using the search function.

Anywho, thanks for hanging in with me…

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.

Waiter’s Caddy

Our friends at Tip20! have just highlighted the new Waiter’s Caddy, in Deluxe or Standard version (the main difference that I can see is that the Deluxe has a spot for your pen). The Waiter’s Caddy is an exclusive product of the Waiter Depot. The folks at Tip20! have a thorough description and photos, so, to read about it and see it, go here:

http://www.tip20.com/waiter-caddy-table-side-innovation-that-every-server-should-have/1195

It’s a bit pricey, but many of you will find it invaluable. I’ve seen some “solutions” that are unwieldy, such as mni accordion holders (miniature versions of the accordion file folders that many of us use for our household documents. Some waiters like them, but I find them fussy and bulky.  The Waiter’s Caddy follows the form of a check presenter. If you go to Tip20!, you’ll get several shots of it as well as a link to The Waiter’s Depot.

When you pair it with this belt-clipped $2.99 “Lighter Leash”, also available carbabiner style for an extra buck:

and add this cool Corkscrew Holster, currently marked down almost 50% to $5.95 from $11.95:

you’ll be the envy of all of the other waiter kids on the block. Imagine, no more digging around in pockets for winetools. No more wads of cash just ready to be lost. Imagine being able to zip a lighter off of your belt for instant birthday candle action! You’d be like a gunslinger! Now, all you need is a Bluetooth link to the kitchen and an iPad ordering system and you’ll be a Bladerunning cyborg waiter.

Just so you know, I have no connection with The Waiter Depot, either personally or financially. Of course, feel free to tell ’em who sent ya!

Now here’s the kind of Waiter’s Caddy that I really like:

If you like this, go here:

http://www.ebuyheaven.com/home-and-garden/housewares.php

I especially like the kitschey waiter salt and pepper set further down the page.

Waiting on celebrities

Celebrities are people too. They like to go out to eat. After all, they put their pants on one assistant at a time.

I’ve waited on celebrities from all areas of life. I’ve waited on celebrities from sports, politics, the Arts, science, and even reality shows. I’ve waited on a guy who served 15 years for murder. I’ve waited on the scientist who inspired “A Beautiful Mind”. I’ve waited on every Tennessee governor since 1971 sans one (the older ones were when they were ex-governors). I’ve waited on a couple of presidential candidates (one of whom is now a bigwig in the Senate and the other a shill for reverse mortgages on TV). I’ve waited on the “Bad Girls” from the “O” network. I’ve waited on local celebrities, regional celebrities, national celebrities and international celebrities. I’ve waited on celebrities on the cusp of fame, those whose fame is burning brightly (for better or worse), those whose 15 minutes is long ago spent, and celebrities who have crashed and burned. I’ve actually been around a huge number of celebrities over the years (I’ve done “celebrity waiters” gigs as well as having mass numbers of celebrities dining with other waiters).

This isn’t bragging – it’s just to show that I’ve waited on a pretty healthy cross-section of celebrities.

The important thing to remember is, despite all of the horror stories you hear about celebrities behaving badly, tipping poorly and being demanding publicity sluts/and or freakishly demanding of their privacy, that usually isn’t the case. Most celebrities are quite warm and friendly, especially if you don’t make a fuss over them or appear to be fanboyish. Most don’t mind being acknowledged for who they are, although with some celebrities, you’ll probably go farther with them if you just wait on them like anyone else.  You might say something in the middle of the meal like, “How is the veal, Mr. Springsteen”? Surely, you didn’t greet them with, “Good evening everyone, welcome to The Hungr…OH MY GOD – IT’S YOU!!!! I’ve been listening to you since 1974! I saw you 4 times on the Born To Run Tour alone!!!!” Better that you gave him a knowing glance, an arch of the eyebrow and a slight nod as you cast your eyes around the table (as a good waiter, you don’t just greet the table, you greet each person by making eye contact with them).

Celebrities expect a certain amount of attention when not deliberately dressed down – in fact, they demand it on various levels. It’s part of the deal with the devil that they made to achieve their level of fame. Most celebrities are content with a tacit acknowledgment of their status, but obviously there are those divas that demand fealty from all they meet. If you get the latter (and I must admit that I’ve never encountered such a beast), I suspect that the best tactic is just to give in and do whatever fawning seems appropriate. after all, you’d like to separate as much money from their black AMEX card as possible. Playing to their ego might very well get you the bottle of Cristal or Dom.

In any case, don’t get nervous and tongue-tied (or starstruck). It’s easy for me to say after all of the celebrity encounters that I’ve had – but trust me, after the first few, you learn that celebrities are, in the main, not much different from everyone else. They can have their moods and you still need to read them just like any other table. You still have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. You still have to hit your marks. 

If you get a celebrity in the house, don’t tell your tables until they’ve left. You wouldn’t tell the celebrity that they are there, would you? If your restaurant is known for celebrities and someone asks you if there are any celebrities in the house, your stock reply should be (as you glance around the restaurant) “I haven’t seen any tonight, but I’ve been kind of busy”. Of course, if your restaurant is known for celebrities, then you already know this; this advice is for the novice who might accidentally find him or herself waiting in a celebrity-rich environment.

Be careful about telling stories out of school, even when they are complimentary stories. This goes double for Twitter, Facebook, et. al. It can come back to haunt you, as I have pointed out a few times on this blog.

If you get a celebrity with a handler, play to the handler. They’re the ones who are there to absorb or deflect some of the unwanted attention directed to the celebrity. They might also handle the purse strings.

Speaking of purse strings, most celebrities are very generous. I said most. Your chances of getting a good to great tip with a celebrity is higher than if you wait on the average person. I can only remember a couple of celebrities who were poor tippers.Some celebrities are extravagant tippers. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to wait on one day. but don’t expect a huge tip just because a celebrity is rich and famous. Remember, they are just people too. don’t invest them with super tipping powers.

So, to recap, celebrities are like anyone else. They can be friendly, moody, pissed off, generous, cheap, annoying, engaging, interesting, demanding, bored, imperious, quiet, reserved, boisterous or just plain nice. Just because they were in the Super Bowl or acted in a movie with Gene Hackman or were famous for being a pivotal character in one of the pioneering cop shows of the early 80s or being one of a brothers’ acting dynasty or being the distaff half of the Moonlighting duo doesn’t mean that they deserve any less than your best.

Or any more for that matter.

No, that’s not Zach Braff dining with Hung from Top Chef. PSYCHE!

A tall order: The challenges of being a state dinner waiter at the White House

From The Washington Post:

White House State Dinner Waiters Dish On Hospitality Under Pressure

By Robin GivhanWashington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

 To be a waiter working amid Washington’s power brokers means having one’s Social Security number screened weekly, if not daily. It means not flinching in dismay when lawmakers — more concerned with sobriety than respectful of vintage — order white wine with ice. (Oh yes, dear oenophiles, it’s true.) And it means not letting one’s nerves run amok and one’s hands go shaky when serving red wine or sizzling mole to the leader of the free world.

Read the rest of this article here:

http://tinyurl.com/Waiting-at-the-White-House

I love the three rules:  “Rule No. 1: Don’t gawk at the guests. Rule No. 2: Don’t talk to the guests unless necessary. Rule No. 3: Don’t hover”.

If you come in with a big group and are a totally hammered 55 year old woman…

…it won’t matter to anyone, especially my manager on duty, the hostess, or me (or even the rest of your party) when, after I tell you that I can’t serve you any alcohol, you yell, “I’m never coming back here again!” as you storm out from your party.  In fact, the rest of your party will be glad that you left and that I didn’t serve you anymore alcohol.

Just so you know, you never coming back here again is a big win for us.

I’m just sayin’…

New link added – More Bread Please

Here’s a new promising blog from someone who is documenting his move from one restaurant to another.  It’s well-written and it’s obvious that this person has a lot of restaurant experience, so we can learn much from this blog.

The blogger isn’t afraid to directly document what’s going on during his or her shifts, unlike myself.

I think that all restaurant people will enjoy getting in on the ground floor of this nice blog.

So let’s welcome this blogger with a slice of ciabatta, a wedge of Manchego cheese and a glass of La Rioja Alta “Viña Ardanza” Reserva Rioja.

Uniform check

Well kids, it’s the end of the month. Time to give your uniforms a really close look.

Use the eye you don’t use every day. Try not to ignore that nagging stain or frayed cuff. Do your polo shirt’s collars refuse to lay flat anymore? Is your white shite noticably yellow around the neck? Has your left shoe developed a small crack in the sole?

The point of this exercise isn’t to throw out uniform items with little flaws – it’s to evaluate the effective remaining lifespan. Is it close to time to get a new polo shirt? If so, then you need to budget for it. If you don’t wait until it’s too late, not only won’t you have to buy a shirt with the money you needed to pay your light bill because your manager made you throw away your shirt, you can probably reserve that shirt for the “emergency pile”. It’s always nice to have clothes that you can grab when you forgot to do laundry or you are stuck with a shift that you weren’t expecting.

So get all of your uniform items together in the next week and give them a really good fine-tooth combed inspection. Do this once a month and you’ll never get caught flat-footed.

Photo by smtaylor1

Could this be in your future?

VIDEO: iPad touting waiters, is this the iPad’s killer app?

May I take your order please

11 May 2010 12:07 GMT / By Stuart Miles

Apple might have sold 1m iPads in the US and expected to show bumper sales around the world when it launches at the end of the month everywhere else, but many people still can’t grasp why or what you would want to use one for. 

In steps the latest idea – a Point of Sale app that will let the waiter at your favourite restaurant take your order via an iPad and have it beamed back to the bar or the kitchen so they can start cooking. 

The system – similar to how Wagamama waiters already take orders, but with older PDA style devices with a stylus – could presumably evolve into letting the customers see pictures of the dishes they are ordering. 

See the rest of the article here:

http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/33030/ipad-touting-waiters-what-next