So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

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Business dinners redux

I know I’ve discussed the concepts around serving business dinners but I recently waited on one the other night and, well, I need to get back in the swing of things, so I thought I’d dissect  this particular one.

It was a 7 top. They were all late 30s – mid 40s. Dark suits. Well groomed but not stuffy. They were all talking with each other as they sat down. As they settled in, they were all engaged in conversation, joking a bit and smiling.

At this point, as I brought them their menus, I scanned the table and saw that every one of them was either laughing of smiling and they seemed to be in the mood to enjoy their time together. As I passed out the menus, I asked them if they wanted the wine list. One pointed to the other, who pointed to another and two of them pointed to another guy. So I said,  “Guess you’re elected by popular vote”, which elicited some chuckles.

At this point, I knew that they were going to be a pleasure to wait on.

I’m going to stop here to say that it’s the initial impressions of a business table (or any table for that matter) that will determine what your service strategies are going to be. They were all dressed very formally but their demeanor was one of relaxation. Had they conveyed seriousness when they sat down, I would have been more formal. Or, had they been dressed more casually but seemed to be “all business”, I would have been similarly more reserved. I think what I’m trying to say is that you have to be sensitive to all aspects of the table, from their dress to their mood, to their body language.

So, rather than wait for a wine choice, I immediately asked first for their water choice and if they wanted cocktails. Which they did.

For those of you who haven’t waited on a lot of business people, take note – a lot of the time, the first thing they want to do is have a round of cocktails, even if they’re going to have wine. So don’t try to jump the gun and force a wine choice out of them. A cocktail round helps you as well –  it gets them settled. Usually cocktails are accompanied by either idle chitchat or work discussion or both. In this case, it was both.

After delivering the cocktails, I went to the guy with the wine list and we discussed wine. He was discussing some wines in the $100 category so I mentioned a particular wine that is a real sleeper at about $115 and he thought it sounded good. I might have been able to move him to $150 but, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, with a table like this, greed should be the last thing on your mind. Especially when he orders a Pinot Noir as well. The fact that he ordered a Pinot as well as taking my advice showed me that he knew wine, was looking out for the welfare of the others at the table,and was also confident enough in himself to trust the waiter.

So, I ordered two each of the bottles. Did I ask him? Nope. First of all, in my restaurant, I can return an unused bottle. Second of all, I have no idea how many are going to drink Pinot and how many are going to drink Cabernet. And third, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to sell at least a second bottle of one or the other and what happens if the bartender forgot to tell me that I was buying the last bottle or that there was only one left and another table orders it before I can. Always hedge your bets whenever you can. Now this doesn’t mean that I’m going to pour the entire bottle of either on the spot. However, I don’t know how many people are going to want Pinot or the Cabernet. So, I asked how many people would be drinking the Pinot (guessing correctly that there would be fewer people drinking it). Now I know that up to 5 people will be drinking the Cabernet. So, after I present the bottle, I go around to the Pinot abstainers and pour about 4 oz for each person (turns out that all 5 guests wanted wine, which might not have been the case). This left about 5 oz in the decanter. Why didn’t I pour the whole thing? Because I knew that we’d be into a second bottle pretty quicker. Basically, I’m telegraphing that I’m not out to gouge them or drain every single penny out of their wallets.

I poured a little more for the two people who wanted the Pinot, but it was still less than a full glass. With two people, I figured that I probably wouldn’t get a second bottle unless I really manipulated them and I wasn’t about to kill the goose that might lay the golden egg. Yeah, I could have probably forced a second bottle, but they probably wouldn’t drink a lot of it. I would have another $70 on the check, but heck, it was going to be a pretty good check to start with. And I’m firmly convinced that some guests are able to tell when you’re trying to get the last penny out of them and will penalize you for it when the time comes.

The main lesson that you should take away is that you should NEVER pour the whole bottle on the first go-round. You should always leave a little in the bottle. If you are pouring a bottle for 8 people, then only pour a couple of ounces per person.  Obviously, in that extreme case, you would ask if you can bring two bottles because you know that there’s no way that anyone’s going to get more than a sip or two. And if they say that you can pour from two bottles, then by all means, pour 5 ounces. But make sure you leave some in the second bottle.. Don’t try to force a third bottle.

OK, I’m going turn this into a multi-part page turner. This has officially turned into part one.

It might be a day or two before I do part two, but I’ll be continuing the lesson shortly.

New link added : The Waiters Today

As you cats and kittens know, I’ve been a bit of an absentee landlord lately. It’s not due to a lack of interest, but, as I’ve noted in the past, it’s because I’m down to just internet access through my phone. I do have regular internet access once a week on Fridays but I usually don’t have time to do my usual posting or research or deep ruminations on the art of waiting tables.

There’s a new place for waiters of all stripes to hang out and it’s called The Waiters Today. Not having a lot of time to dig deep into it (this I can do on my phone later), I can’t comment too much on the content, but what I see looks really good. It looks like both social hangout and informational source. I hope that everyone goes to check it out. Feel free to report back on what you find by using the comment section.

Feels good to post anything these days. There’s a chance that I might be able to really  get back on-line soon, but until then, keep it clean and earn those 20% tips, my lovelies.

I’ll be adding it in the Links section but until then, go here:

http://waiterstoday.com/

The book that you have been waiting for is finally out!

No, not my book.

Sorry to get you all excited.

No, it’s Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips by David Hayden of the Hospitality Formula Network.

Let me be blunt – if you are a waiter/server/bartender and you don’t buy this book, then you really don’t care about how much money you make. This book is a multiplier of skills and bank. It’s written in a clear, concise yet comprehensive style. It’s laid out logically and covers just about every topic that a waiter needs to know in terms of maximizing his or her earning potential.

The book is broken down into 10 sections and 41 chapters. With sections like Before Your Shift, Starting Your Shift, Interacting with Your Guests, and The Mechanics of Serving, the book puts lie to Hayden’s statement that “This book is NOT a training manual. Due to the fact that you picked up this book, it is assumed you know how to wait tables”. Those preliminary sections cover much of what the rank amateur waiter needs to know to make his or her descent into the maelstrom of waiting tables a smooth and unbumpy one. This book should be part of the training package of every restaurant who hires people who have never been waiters.

But it doesn’t stop there – with subsequent sections like Selling and Serving Wine, The Pitch, The Key Times, Selling as a Server, Special Guests, and The Intangibles, the main intent of the book becomes clear – waiter make money, guest get good experience, manager get smooth shift – everybody happy.

My blog covers many of the same points. In fact, you’ll get a sense of déjà vu when you read Mr. Hayden’s book if you’ve spent any time with my posts. The main difference is the clarity of vision and training. I tend to ramble, go off-the-cuff, go off on tangents, and generally get parenthetical (sometimes). You’ll find little of that in this book. What you’ll find is  a book full of practical hints, tips and directives that aren’t just theoretical abstracts; they can be applied on a daily basis.

Do I think it’s complete? Hell no! There are valid points that this very blog have made that are left out. Anyone who has waited tables for a long time has had situations that have given them insight that could be valuable to the waiter-at-large. But, all in all, the book is probably the most practical and valuable resource that a waiter could find on any bookshelf (either real or virtual) in North America. I say North America because other restaurant cultures have different standards and practices that might be at odds with the North American restaurant culture.

In a perfect world, this book would be the core of the book that I had intended when I first considered starting a blog on the subject of waiting tables. I wanted a book that was lavishly illustrated with photographs, filled with sidebars of interesting factoids and footnotes, brimming with information about everything from rapini to Calvados. I envisioned parts of the book that would be considered reference material for the ages – a book with the heft of a wine atlas, the look, feel and knowledge of a Thomas Keller book, the practical and accessible wisdom of a “…for Dummies” book. This book would be part of the curriculum at Cornell, would sit on every restaurant book shelf, would grace the coffee tables of the rich and poor alike, and my name would be whispered with a measured awe in the break rooms of restaurants for years to come.

Well, sorry. The bones are there; the framework sitting in the archives of this very blog. Until the storied day when a literary agent looks at my concept, knows just the perfect graphic designer to create the cheap equivalent of the Nathan Myhrvold “Modern Cuisine” $625 cookbook, my dream of the ultimate book on waiting tables is just that – a dream.

Until then, this book by David Hayden does what I hoped to do – make it possible for a newly-minted waiter to avoid the usual pitfalls of “learning on the job”. This is a dual goal; not only does it mean that waiters can share the knowledge necessary to maximize earnings, it means that fewer restaurant guests will have to suffer the fumbling of such “on-the-fly training”.

It’s lean, it’s mean – it’s the opposite of what I intended. And just what the world needs.

BUY THIS BOOK.

Buy my book or I'll make you look like a fool in front of your date.

Pet Peeve

Unnecessary doubleseats.

Don’t get me wrong – doubleseats are part of the routine. Waiters should be able to handle them when they occur. Hell, I’ve posted quite a few strategies about handling them.

What annoys me is when managers or hosts or hostesses doubleseat when they don’t have to. The mindset is that waiters should be able to handle any doubleseat and that’s true enough.

However…

…a doubleseat should actually be a last resort.

Why, you might ask. Well, it’s simple. It’s automatically offering worse service than if you didn’t get doublesat. Even though it goes smoothly most of the time, you can’t give your full attention to each table, especially at the beginning of the meal. Plus, it sets you up for getting doublesat all night long.

What happens if one (or both for that matter) table is especially talkative? What happens if one of your tables needs special attention such as helping with wine selection or having to serve two or more wines?

And imagine if you get a third or, god forbid a fourth table on top of the doubleseat before you even get the first two’s orders taken?

Despite the fact that waiters should be able to handle double-and-tripleseats, managers need to change their mindsets and stop thinking that “it doesn’t matter”. Managers should avoid doubleseat until there is no other clear choice. About a month ago, I actually got doublesat as the first two tables in the entire restaurant at the beginning of a shift. While it was no big deal in terms of service, that meant that there was no real sense of rotation. Our restaurant doesn’t get sat in any sort of real rotation since we have more than our share of call parties and regulars who have to sit at a particular tables. But really guys – can’t you think a little bit before you seat the first two tables in the same sections? Really?

Sometimes hosts and hostesses and other seating authorities have to move someone who doesn’t like their table. This can throw off the rotation, but the seater should be flexible and be able to figure out how to get the rotation back.

Most of the time, it’s just laziness. As I said, it’s the manager’s mindset that waiters should be able to handle doubleseats so they don’t bother to demand that their hosts and hostesses or they themselves prevent it from happening. When it gets busy, you don’t have much of a choice. But when you have 10 waiters and three of them get doublesat before the restaurant is even half full, you’re just setting people up for failure and you’re being slack in your responsibility to provide the best service that you can.

Managers, are you listening?

For waiters, here is an archive post about handling multiple tables:

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/managing-the-weeds/

And this post has a description of the sort of paces that you get put through when getting double-and-triplesat and some more strategies about handling such situations:

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/skills-a-server-needs-pt-1/

Picture: http://magnitudemedia.net/2010/04/bringing-social-media-into-a-restaurant-time-grid/

Article on tipping out from The Orlando Sentinel

Waiters can keep the change – but not all of it

By Sandra Pedicini, Orlando Sentinel

12:28 a.m. EDT, March 14, 2011

When you leave your waiter or waitress a tip, chances are they don’t keep all of it.

It’s common in the restaurant industry for servers to share part of their tips with other workers, sometimes voluntarily, but often because they have to.

But many workers have balked at what they describe as unfair tip-sharing policies, and some have sued. Starbucks, Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse and Orlando-based Hard Rock Café International are among companies that have faced lawsuits.

Restaurant workers often depend heavily on tips because in many states, employers can take “tip credits” and pay regularly tipped employees less than minimum wage — in Florida, as little as $4.23 per hour.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-law-and-you-tip-sharing-20110313,0,1299262.story

Tipping out is something that most waiters grudgingly tolerate. Afterall, we are told upfront what we are required to tip out. Problems generally occur when tipout policies change, and several companies who have changed their policies are discussed in the article, mainly because their staff went to court against them.

In states where there is no “tip credit”, i.e. hourly wage is at least minimum wage such as Oregon, there really aren’t too many restrictions that can be made to the tipout. Kitchen personnel are often part of the tip pool in those states. In states that have a tip credit, or allow sub-minimum wage, tipouts are restricted to personnel who directly serve the public.

As much as I respect the work that line cooks and dishwashers do, I’m against the mandatory sharing of tips with them. Their positions are production positions and they are paid a commensurate hourly wage. While they generally make less than waiters overall, they also get raises periodically and have the benefit of a steady and predictable income. And, while generosity is a good thing, I also don’t like the idea of voluntarily sharing tips with them, only because it sets up the possibility of unfair delivery of the food. It’s only human nature to wash the hand that feeds you and it feels a bit like extortion to be forced to pay to get your food in the order that it was sent to the kitchen, or to have someone who’s greasing the kitchen get a better plate than someone who isn’t.  Having said that, if a waiter ever goes out for drinks with a kitchen person, I feel like they should buy at least a couple of drinks for the kitchen person, if not pick up their tab. After all, it’s a fact that waiters generally make more money than kitchen personnel. And they work very hard under hot and dirty conditions. Of course, they are doing what they want to be doing and many of them are working toward the goal of being a chef one day. Waiters really don’t have any upward mobility in their profession, except to work at another restaurant that offers a higher tip income.

Most tipouts take between 15 – 40% of a waiter’s tips. The average that I’ve seen is more like 25 – 35%. Many waiters, including myself, usually grease our backwaiters a little extra as well.

Tipouts can be done two ways – they can be based on sales or they can be based on tips. My current job is the first that I’ve had that has based it on tips, and I definitely prefer that way. That way, everyone benefits or suffers from how well the guest pool has tipped. With sales, you’re stuck at a percentage regardless of how great or poor the overall tip percentage has been. I guess I understand the idea behind tipping on sales. You don’t want the possibility of a waiter hiding cash tips from his or her support staff. But I highly encourage restaurants to consider basing the tipout percentage on tips, not sales. It’s a much fairer system. A waiter can’t complain that they’re tipping out on a stiff.

Anyway, I’ve discussed tipout in the past. If you want to revisit the topic, go here:

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/tipout-pt-1/

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/tipout-pt-2/

https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/tipout-pt-3/

One bit of disturbing “news”, if you will; something that was discussed in pt. 2. The Department of Labor used to have “fact sheets” on how tipped employees are treated. Those fact sheets have disappeared from the DoL website. Here is what it said about tipping out:

“Tip Pooling: The requirement that an employee must retain all tips does not preclude a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as waiters, waitresses, bellhops, counter personnel (who serve customers), busboys/girls and service bartenders. Tipped employees may not be required to share their tips with employees who have not customarily and regularly participated in tip pooling arrangements, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors. Only those tips that are in excess of tips used for the tip credit may be taken for a pool. Tipped employees cannot be required to contribute a greater percentage of their tips than is customary and reasonable”.

I don’t know if they have just changed the website and haven’t added the old worksheets back in, or whether because of states like Oregon that specifically allow kitchen employees to share in the tip pool, they can no longer make that statement. And, with other court rulings that have impacted on tipouts, perhaps the governance of tipouts is in flux now. Therefore, it’s best to discuss with your local Wage and Hour people or with a local attorney that specializes in labor law what the current thinking on tipouts is if you have concerns about how your tipouts are being handled.

Dr. House and the waitress

OK, I admit it…I’m behind on my DVR watching. To be precise, I’m 4 episodes behind on House M.D.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m just behind on everything. I used to post, what, like 2 or 3 times a day, whereas now, I’m posting about 2 or 3 times every 2 weeks, if I’m lucky.

Hey, get off my back, will ya?

Just kidding. Back to the subject at hand.

Three episodes ago, Dr. Gregory House treated a waitress after she crashed and burned during a shift, right after she accidentally gave away some information that made one of her guests very uncomfortable. You see, she outed a lady who had actually come in to the restaurant “last August”, her boyfriend/husband/significant other not knowing that she had come in. The waitress proceeded to describe the exact date, what she was wearing and the fact that her eyes were puffy from crying. This allowed Joe Cuckhold to realize that this was the exact date of Darren’s birthday (his brother/best friend/proctologist/whatever) and that was the day that Darren was all upset because his ex-girlfriend “showed up and he had to cancel his party”. Braniac then puts two and two together and says that “Dammit, I knew it…ever since you two of you left the ski trip…”. Waitress realizes that she’s just lost any possibility of a tip and volunteers to go get their water and then turns and falls on her tray and broken glasses.

Paging Dr. House…paging Dr. House.

Apparently, this waitress is afflicted with hyperthymesia, a condition which he describes as “perfect memory” and which Google and Wikipedia confirm as a “superior autobiographical memory”. Apparently, according to Greg, this is a condition that only 5 people have been diagnosed with (Wikipedia claims 6) that allows the victim to remember everything that has ever happened to them. It’s like photographic memory times 100. She can remember exactly how many times she fell down in a year, she remembers what breakfast she had on Oct. 15th 1994 and the fact that her patron was excessively generous with a 25% tip the last time she came in because she was all flushed with the excitement of cheating on her man (well, I made up the last two).

After going though watching the credits and being nonplussed by the fact that apparently there are about a dozen “producers” and “assistant producers” on a typical television production (apparently everyone who isn’t a grip or a best boy is a producer these days), I found out that the episode was written by Kat(herine) Lingenfelter.

Thank you Kat, because it allows me to highlight an object lesson about waiting tables.

It’s a very well-known principle in country clubs that you never, I repeat never, acknowledge a previous visit of a patron. Why not, you might ask? It’s because of this very situation. Sure, it might not be a dalliance; it might be an important business meeting that shouldn’t be disclosed to the current dinner companion. You could screw up someone’s life in a big way. And country clubs are just filled with people who are super regulars, using the facilities over and over again.

For the rest of us, you might have the best memory in the world and you might use it as a parlor trick to build your tips; after all, everyone is impressed by your ability to remember an 8 top’s entire order without writing it down (but only if you get it right, of course). But you have to be very careful about mentioning previous visits.

I’m not saying that it’s always wrong to mention a previous visit. After all, that’s one of the ways that we establish a bond with our guests. We are constantly told that remembering a guest is the way to build call parties and regulars. But we should limit that to favorite drinks and other preferences, not the intimate details of their visits. And, occasionally, as in this fictional case, even the mention of a previous visit can out someone, so you have to be very careful about where and when and to whom you do this to.

Sure, there are situations where you can talk about previous visits. But you have to be very sure that you aren’t betraying a confidence. A “nice to see you again, Mr. Highroller” can convey the sense that you remember them, especially if you remember their drink. You don’t have to be very specific, especially if you don’t know them well.

You might ask, “Why is it my responsibility to cover for my guest”? Well, strictly it isn’t. If someone wants to be a sleazebag and bring his mistress to the restaurant on every other Wednesday, it’s they who are running the risk. It isn’t your place to be their alibi. But it’s also not your responsiblity to be private dick either. You are waiting on them. That’s it. Be neutral.

I know a guest who used to have a girlfriend who gave him blowjobs in return for rent. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. After all, I only knew that as a rumor. It wasn’t my place to inform his wife. After all, for all I know, she already knows. I only have a business relationship with him. If I were his or his wife’s friend, that would be a different moral dilemma.

So I hope you see where I’m going with this. Be very careful about what you say to a table about previous visits. You don’t want to be the subject of an ABC Afternoon Special.

Or an episode of House M.D.

PS, I stopped the viewing about 15 minutes into the episode. Please don’t spoil the rest of it or the next two episodes for me. Otherwise, I’ll have to come over to your house (pun intended) and kick your ass.

Gotta love it when Hugh Laurie plays air cane.

I’ve been a bad blogger…

…because I really haven’t had the time to keep up with the ever-expanding universe of restaurant bloggers.

Normally I like to give a little review and add links to fellow bloggers individually because I think that they deserve credit for their hard work and I like to make it easy for my readers to decide whether a blog is worthy of following.

So this is a bit of a departure for me.

I’m going to list a raft of blogs that have popped up recently. I have at least taken a cursory look at each of them and feel that they are worthy of inclusion in Ye Olde Blogroll. I am not listing them in any particular order nor is the inclusion of them a permanent condition. But I think it’s important to give them exposure and I’ll let you decide for yourself which ones you find relevent, entertaining and informative. I’ll be actually adding them to the blogroll shortly. Meanwhile, use the links that are provided here.

http://www.thejadedwaiter.com/

http://aneducatedserver.wordpress.com/

http://dignityandrespect.wordpress.com/

http://fuckmytable.wordpress.com/

http://doyoudothatathome.com/

http://www.gratuity-not-included.com/

http://waitress-tales.blogspot.com/

http://www.servernightmares.com/

 www.lifeonacocktailnapkin.com

I’m sure that there are more that I’ve missed. If I’ve missed your blog, feel free to list it in the comment section of this post.

I apologize in advance for not giving each of these blogs their rightful due. But I think it’s better to at least get the links out there. Perhaps I will comment on them later, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Needless to say, I found a lot of entertaining stuff in these blogs and I think you will too.

I got many of these links from this compendium:

http://www.bschool.com/blog/2011/60-best-blogs-in-the-restaurant-industry/

I’m proud to have been included. I’m listed #2, although I doubt that they ordered their list in any particular hierarchical fashion. Also, there are quite a few related blogs at this site that will be listed later, especially those dealing with the kitchen (i.e. back-of-the-house, chef/cook related).

Been a while…

This is the longest lapse of posting since I started this blog.

It wasn’t intentional, but I’ve had a dearth of inspiration for writing about the art of waiting tables, or even writing about the restaurant business.

Last year was a return to the earnings of years before the great financial crisis, at least in my restaurant. We had a banner year and it trickled down to the staff.  So, no complaints there. In fact, just the other night, I walked with the most money I’ve ever walked with for a double.

No, probably just needed to not obsess on the mechanics of waiting tables. Try to get recharged.

I’m not there yet, but I’m on a trickle charge at the moment. Seems like I’ve covered most of what can be covered from an “aha moment” sort of perspective.  Hopefully, some of you have taken this pause in the action to check out some of my earlier posts and hopefully, they’ve given you food for thought.

In the meantime, I suggest that you check out The Hospitality Formula at: http://hospitalityformula.com/

This is an evolution of the great blog, Tips For Improving Your Tips, the link of which can still be found in Ye Olde Blogroll. I’ll be adding the above link to the blogroll shortly and I’ll probably keep the old link there as well as long as it takes you to the earlier version of the blog.

This blog covers a lot of the same waiter territory as I have in the past, only it’s not as rambling, convoluted  or “personal” as some of my posts can be. And, with the expansion of the blog to cover all aspects of the hospitality industry, it’s a great go-to inspirational and instructional resource for everyone in the industry, especially waiters.

I hope you check it out and spend some time there as you wait for my battery to load.

Hospitality Formula

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:

 https://teleburst.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/its-the-little-things-2/

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”.