Dear Waitress Confessions…I have a diner question, well a camper diner question. A friend of mine and I only see each other a couple of times a year. We meet at a Cheesecake Factory typically on a Friday night around 5pm and leave around 10pm.
We let our server know that we are gabbers, will be staying long and will tip accordingly. That being said I want to know if there is a proper way to calculate a tip for camping. I’ve been searching and searching and only find, “don’t do it – the server isn’t making the right amount” or “tip accordingly”.
We know we are taking a really long time. We know we are coming on one of the worst nights and times to do this. We order throughout the visit – generally putting in our dessert order and hour or so before we’re officially done. We know we are potential PIA’s so we want to make sure that the servers leave feeling as happy with their campers as we, their campers, are!
We keep an eye out on a neighboring table and keep tabs on how many times the table was turned. We calculate a 20% tip on our bill (tipping on the total amount after tax), then multiply that by the number of times the nearby table turned and round up to an even number.
For example, tonight we had a bill of $86 (it was about double what we typically spend because another person joined us for a while). I noted the nearby table turned four times (for at least the last hour, the table was empty as were quite a few in the section). We tipped $17.20 (20%), multiplied by 4 for a total tip of $70 ($50 in cash and $20 on a credit card). The server seemed put out.
On our previous visit, the bill was $45 and the nearby tables turned three times. We left the server, who was wonderful, $40 but then we lingered about an hour longer and left an additional $5 cash on the table. The server was thrilled and let us know.
I generally feel that the tip is appropriate but by the time I get home I start to worry!
We are going to camp so I want to make sure that the server is compensated fairly from us. What is the right formula for campers to tip so that the server is compensated properly?
(p.s. please don’t hold back – if this formula is stupid and we’re not doing it right, I’d much rather know than continue to do short change servers!)Sincerely, Happy Camper!
Dear Happy Camper…Seems to me like you are a very considerate customer! Most people don’t realize that staying for hours and hours at a restaurant could be ruining someone’s night financially. Although paying customers do have a right to enjoy their night as they want, they also need to understand that it is a business and yes – people are there to make money. Waiters and waitresses mostly rely on their tips as their income, so having a table of two people where their bill is $40.00 for over the span of 5 hours is not going to give them the income they rely on to get by…because let’s face it – on a $40.00 bill even if you leave %20 that means a tip of $8.00 (divided by 5 hours…well…it’s really not a lot). Unfortunately there is no rule or formula for this sort of situation, but I have to say – you may be on to something. In all honesty, if I had a customer like you who took the time to notice how often my other tables turned and tipped accordingly…well I would be as happy as a clam! First of all, letting your server know that you will be staying for a long time is a great way to start out. That way the server can mentally prepare themselves for how they will be serving you…and give them time to accept the idea that they have “lost” a table for the night. Starting out with that, you may see the disappointment in their face, so following up with the fact that you will try to tip accordingly will lessen the blow a bit. Second, I think keeping track of the tables turning beside you is a great way to somewhat judge how many times the table you’re seated at could have been turned throughout the night. That being said, I’d like to give you a few pointers on how to use your formula a little bit better (if you would permit me to do so). Keep in mind, I am in no way saying that “This is the way it should be!” I am merely suggesting other angles that you may not have considered. #1. When you’re seated at a table and you know who your server is, ask them if the table next to you is theirs as well. Some restaurants have the sections for their servers spread out so it creates more movement within the restaurant. So, if you’re judging the amount of times a table turns next to you in order to gauge how many times you should multiply you tip…well be sure that table belongs to your server. Why? Because if that table you’re basing your math on belongs to another server who slacks off and doesn’t care about turning their tables then you may only see it turn over once, whereas if your own server is a great server who can turn it 5 times then in reality your math would be off. Ask your server if the table next to you theirs and if it is, use it to count the turns. #2. If you are going out with one other person, upon entering the restaurant I would suggest asking the host/hostess for a table made for two people. If you’re really worried about being fair and not “screwing” a server over then this would be an important point. If you don’t mention it, the host/hostess may seat you at a table with a maximum capacity of 4 people. If you take that table all night, then the server is missing out on getting bigger tables (tables of 3 or 4 people) with bigger bills. All that they’ll see are groups of 4 people being seated elsewhere and it may put them out that their table of 4 is taken by a table of two. That way, you can also watch other tables of two and how many times they turn in order to calculate the appropriate tip. #3. After you have received your dessert and coffee, feel free to ask for the bill right away. Some servers have to stick around until their customers have paid and even though their shift is over they are not supposed to force you to pay. So they will wait and wait until you are done so they can finally go home. Paying doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave! Ask your server if it’s alright that you pay them right away and if you stay a while longer. They will be thrilled! #4. Don’t be taken advantage of! If you let a server know that you are a “camper”, but will try to tip accordingly and they DO NOT server you properly…I say screw it. As servers we are supposed to serve everyone equally, whether you stay for half an hour or five hours. You want to be served by someone who is a good sport and who deserves that fact that you take all these things into consideration when going out to eat. Because, let’s face it…you don’t HAVE to do this, but it’s amazing that you do. Don’t let a server’s bad attitude make you tip more because you feel bad. Do it because a good waiter or waitress deserves it. #5. Point #4 being said, if you find a server who is thrilled by your tipping formula…stick with them. Always ask to be served by them. That way they start to know you as a customer. They know your likes, dislikes, the pace that you like to be served at, etc. That way when they see you, they know what to expect for their evening. You’ll be comfortable knowing that your server knows how to serve you. #6. If you are at a fancy, expensive restaurant spending only $50.00 when the average bill is $100.00 then yes – you are kinda being “cheap” with the tipping. If a server would normally be making $80.00 off a a table turning 4 times and you use your formula of %20 tip times 4 turns then the server is making half of what they should be making. If you are just dining at good places where the average joe goes out for a meal…then don’t worry about it. Fancier, high end restaurants would be different though. #7. A point made by Bubba Aldridge on this post shared by The Service Industry on Facebook brought up a very good idea. “There are some restaurants who make their servers stay until all their tables have left. So, for anyone who knows they may stay an extended amount of time, when you arrive, ask for a closer’s section.” A very good suggestion! One to definitely take into consideration. #8. A recent email from Lauren wrote that she would like to just add that “if you are dining at a restaurant that accepts reservations and want to camp that you should inform the person taking the reservation that you plan on spending a long time at your table. This is because those restaurants will plan on re-booking the table after a set time from your seating. Just remember that if you are in a restaurant on a busy night that you will cost the business a loss of revenues as every table is expected to generate a certain amount of income for the night.” Now, that being said don’t worry about having to spend more because the restaurant will be at a loss of income. It happens all the time. But if a restaurant is based on taking a lot of reservations and double/triple booking tables in an evening it would be a great idea to let them know you will be staying a long time so as not to affect another reservation. Anyways, I hope this helped you out, but in all honesty (and in my opinion) you can just keep going the way you are. I wish more people took the time to think about these things and I would be happy with someone just trying to take the server into consideration while “camping”. I hoped this helped, and thank you for writing!
Tell Us What You Think!
There are a lot of different points to think about before considering a job as a waiter or waitress. To some it may seem like a step back in their career, but don’t really understand that it has the potential of being an excellent line of work, whereas others may think it may be the best job without realizing the pitfalls.
So, no matter which attitude you’re starting out with, it’s important to consider a few things before getting to the Pros and Cons of being a restaurant server.
Think about the following:
- What kind of lifestyle do you want?
- What kind of pay/income to you need in order to feel secure?
- Are you willing to give up your weekends?
- Can you manage a customer service job?
- Are you willing to go above and beyond for customers?
So, moving on along from that, let’s start off with the list of pros of being a waiter/waitress and serving tables.
- Always having cash on hand. You make your money mostly on tips, so leaving with your cash after every shift can be refreshing and extremely motivating.
- Working less hours, but still making money. A lot of times you have the chance to work busy shifts, but end up making a day’s pay in a few hours. Instead of a 9 to 5, 8 hour days, you can make your money in sometimes 5 hours or less.
- Always active. Serving tables means running around grabbing this and that, carrying trays, bringing plates to tables, etc. By constantly moving you are constantly keeping fit rather than sitting in one chair for hours at a time, staring at a computer screen. You’re always on the move.
- You’re around people. Being around people means hearing interesting stories, interacting and laughing. You also get to witness some pretty crazy stuff (read our True Stories) because, let’s face it, there is always something interesting happening if you’re around people. If you’re a social person than this is your best opportunity because the friendlier you are…the better the tips!
- You have the ability to control your income – a bit. Since most of your income depends on your tips you have a bit of control of how the customers will show their appreciation for your service. The better service you give, they better tips – or at least the better chance of getting a good tip. So if you can charm your way into your hearts and give them the service they need…ka-ching!
- The ability to be replaced. A lot of restaurants will allow servers to replace other servers as long as they are equal in their capabilities and experience. Being able to be replaced for a shift is excellent if you want a night off or have plans with family. With other types of jobs sometimes you have to take a sick or personal day, whereas with waitressing sometimes you can just call someone up last minute and have someone work your shift!
- You don’t have to bring your work home with you. Once you’re off the clock, you never have to take work home with you in order to meet deadlines or carry the worry of wondering if the stress of your shift that day will bleed into the next day. Once a day is over – it’s over. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to better your day!
- Once you’ve worked as a waiter/waitress…you can pretty much work anywhere as a server. Restaurants are always hiring. It may not be the classiest of restaurants, but if you need to move or are stuck without a job you can always turn to serving tables. You can work in hotels, on cruises, fast food restaurants, family owned restaurants, diners…I mean the choices are endless. As long as there are restaurants, there are jobs for servers.
- Extra money during the holidays and special days. Days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and around Christmas time you make a lot of extra money. Those times of the year bring in more people, bigger reservations, parties, etc. So there are times during the year where you make a little more than usual. Consider it like your bonus!
- The good co–workers. What makes working as a server worthwhile sometimes are the people you work with. Your coworkers who have the same kind of work ethic as you will band together and create a strong bond. If you’re lucky, you’ll have other servers helping you out when you’re in the weeds, rooting for you to make more money, help serve your tables if you need a bathroom break, etc. Some coworkers will go above and beyond for you if you’ve got each other’s backs.
- Employee outings and get-togethers. If you work with a good team, chances are you’re going to want to hang out with the people you work with. Sometimes people plan outings such as going out to a bar for a drink after work, playing team sports on your days off, paintball, going to see movies, house parties, barbecues, staff Christmas parties, etc. If you have good people you work with it’s like a second family where no one is left behind.
- With experience and loyalty comes great responsibility. That basically means that the more you know about the restaurant, whether it be from hostess to the back of the house, the more work you may have to do compared to your coworkers. People will rely on you and expect more of you, which could make for even more stress from you. Will you get paid for the extra weight you pull? Maybe not.
- Having to work weekends. If you’re working in a restaurant, there is pretty much a 100% chance of working weekends. While all of your friend, family and loved ones are off on weekend getaways and having dinner parties, you are the one “stuck serving” all the people out for a night on the town.
- Always having money on hand. Yes – this is also a pro! But, people who are apt to spending the cash they have could have a major problem with managing their money. Cash is so easy to spend, especially if all the staff is going out for a drink afterwards.
- After a while – it takes a toll on your body. So many times, servers who have been working for years will feel the effects of carrying heavy plates and constantly being on their feet. Back problems and knee problems are not uncommon. Being a server puts a lot of stress on your body.
- No benefits. Whereas other companies give their employees benefits from sick days to dental, most restaurants do not provide that for their employees. Are you sick? You have to show up or you dont get paid.’
- Having to deal with @$$holes. Yup, I hate to say it, but it’s true. People can be jerks and you will deal with a lot of them. It varies from people who know nothing about the restaurant business, impatient people, people who think you’re their slave, and just plain down-right MEAN people. I’m not saying you have to take whatever crap people throw at you, but if you don’t have a thick enough hide to let some thinks just roll off of you…then this is not the job for you.
- The bad co-workers. Oh my goodness…there are so many of them! Bad coworkers will ruin your day and can make you lose your mind. It’s always the co-workers who are always late, constantly check their phone in the back, sneak out a million times a night for a smoke break, ignore their customers, talk back to the kitchen, are rude to your tables, asking for replacements but never replacing anyone, and run around looking like they are busy but never actually lifting a finger. It can drive you NUTS!!! Sometimes it makes you think “Why do I bother working so hard?” and can make your motivation just plummet to the ground.
- Having to work with a different set of “rules” than other jobs. What I mean by that is that the restaurant business has a different way of working. Sure you have the same set of work code and rules as other places…but sometimes not. Now, how shall I put this? For example, the busiest Saturday night you could ever imagine. There are people everywhere! A large party in the back corner is partying it up and talking and laughing loudly. There are kids running around the restaurant and their parents don’t seem to care. The ticket printer at the kitchen is running non-stop and drinks are just flying out of the bar. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. Suddenly, you make a serious mistake. You sent a table’s order, but they wanted to wait. Now the customers are furious that their food came out already and they want you to bring the plates back to the kitchen because they are in no way ready for their meals. You’re scared, because you screwed up and walk back towards the kitchen. Whoever is managing the kitchen is working in overdrive, trying to control everything. They’re sweating from calling out orders, yelling out directions and trying to stay on the ball…and now you have to tell them that you effed-up and throw their whole system off. They look at you at first like they don’t believe you…then you get the “Are you f*cking serious?!?!” look. Next think you know they kick a small garbage bin into the wall and call you an idiot. Is that the way people deal with mistakes in other jobs? No…not really. But, in the restaurant business there is a lot of frustration, especially when under the pressure of a jam packed restaurant. People lose their cool, managers yell, dishwashers quit on the spot with no notice, hostesses won’t seat your section if you do something they don’t like, people back stab and try to screw you over. That’s just the way it works sometimes.
- The high possibility of becoming angry and bitter. Serving tables after a while can leave you feeling angry and bitter. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself constantly bashing your customers to other servers in the back, judging customers as soon as they sit down, getting down right pissed off about the tips that people leave you. It can get so bad that to a certain point there is nothing good about serving any more. You lose your faith in the good of the human race. The worst is that this kind of behaviour is contagious. If you’re around other servers who are constantly angry and complaining about the little things, you’ll start to feel that way too unless you are of VERY strong character. You can turn into someone you don’t like…so be carefull.
- Dining out. Some servers aren’t able to dine out in the way people who don’t serve tables dine out. They will start judging their servers more, especially if they are horrible waiters, and constantly be cleaning up the table or stacking empty plates. They expect the same level of service as they give…and sometimes that’s just not the case. They’ll watch the way people work, hear the phone ringing, watch as their drinks just sit at the bar as they wait, and they know when their steak is over or under cooked. They know how things work and it can distract them from just enjoying their night out. That and sometimes being in a restaurant just reminds them of work.
- Alcohol/drug abuse. Being in the restaurant business and serving tables can lead to all sorts of alcohol and/or drug problems. Where are you going to go to unwind with co-workers after work at 1 am? Most likely a bar or club. And what do people do at bars and clubs? Well, the answer is pretty obvious. Also, the stress of working in the business can lead to people looking for ways to relax and escape the realities of life. If you’re working as a server at a bar, people by you drinks, shots, and are looking for you to have a good time with them. Sometimes it’s just too hard to say no.
Not all restaurants are the same. Each individual restaurant has their own sets of advantages and disadvantages to working as a waiter or waitress. Part of the decision is at least knowing what could potentially happen and having an all around idea of the good and the bad. Take both sides into consideration when opting to serve tables and be ready for the best…and the worst.
Today was such a great day. I had an amazing lunch rush for a Sunday and everyone seemed to be in the best of moods. And you know what good moods mean? Good tips! I won’t lie, I schmoozed a little bit, but was genuinely happy to be serving our customers today. Life was good and the tips were generous.
The night shift was slow, but I had a couple of good tables that left me $20.00 so that helped me out quite a bit. At the end of my shift, I tallied up the tips that I had made throughout the day (I keep a record so that I have a good idea of what I’ll be leaving with). So, here’s the number all my tips added up to:
I felt very happy about that. I worked hard, served my customers well, ran plates and drinks, cleaned and helped other waiters. Seemed like for the amount of work I put in…well it was fair. When it came to doing my “reading” or my “report” (where the manager checks all my credit cards, interacs, cash, and tip-outs) I was left with $120.00.
It didn’t make sense to me. Didn’t add up. So when I checked how much I tipped out ($22.00) and deducted that from my total, I was left with $151.00 (which would make sense). But where was that $30.00? The manager checked everything again and even went as far as to go through all my bills with me in case another waiter was ringing up orders on my code and closing it cash. Hey..it could happen. But that wasn’t the case. I was missing $30.00
What a bitch, lemme tell ya! What happened to that money? Other servers were asking “Did you put some money aside? Put it somewhere else by accident?” and the answer was plain and simple: NO! I am very careful with my money when it comes to counting and keeping it safe in my apron. So what happened? I honestly have absolutely no idea. The only thing I can think of is if it accidentally fell out of my money clip. But everything stays together in one place and it’s pretty secure.
So, I had no choice but to accept it. Everything else balanced and the restaurant isn’t going to reimburse me for any lost money because it is…technically…my fault. But, when you’re a stickler for precision and money, it’s really hard to believe that I misplaced it. I just left. Took the hit and left.
Getting home and opening a cheap bottle of wine to drown my sorrows in, I keep going over my day – wondering if I somehow miscalculated or put money aside without realizing it. But my thoughts also dance around the idea of relying on technology to calculate all of my sales, tips, taxes and discounts. Could the computer I use somehow be deducting money without me realizing? Is it possible that somewhere in the computer system there is a glitch?
The idea of the possibility of technology being the culprit scares me, because to be honest I have no idea how it works. All the deductions and calculations it automatically makes. As an owner or manager, you can set the computer to pretty much whatever you want, so in my mind…is it possible that something somewhere in the computer is making a deduction it shouldn’t? Now…that’s a scary thought.
But us, as servers, how are we supposed to know this? Just take the word of the people we work for who are mostly there to make money? Sounds like it could be fishy to me, especially when they are the ones setting the conditions for the computer system. We can’t exactly approach them and say “What’s the deal here? I’m missing money!!” and expect them to pay out of their pocket when they believe you’re the one who lost it somehow. There’s no way to prove it, no complete record of cash (because a server could just pocket it), no way to show that you made the money you made 100%.
So it’s a problem – at least in my eyes.
I’ll take it as a bad day. A day where I lost money somewhere and it cost me in tips. There’s nothing more I can do except write about it and then move on. But in reality – it does come down to money. And I need money to pay for bills, food, rent, etc. The missing money is almost my cellphone bill for the month. When you look at it that way, when your tips just don’t add up, it’s not just a few dollars here and there. It can be a whole big difference.
Originally, The Waitress Confessions was started to help me vent about the problems at work and everything revolving around the restaurant business. But something happened. Instead of wanting to (excuse my language) bitch about the woes of waitressing, I realized that I wanted to help servers find ways to improve their work ethic and customer service, while at the same time providing them with true stories that they can relate to and helpful tips that they can implement into their every day serving skills.
Not only did I want to help servers, but diners as well. There are so many people out there who, through no fault of their own, don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes at a restaurant and wouldn’t really know exactly how things work. It’s no ones fault…but people need to speak up about the do’s and don’ts of eating out. I really wanted people to know proper dining etiquette and realize that servers are regular, normal people – not servants.
I wanted to take a moment and sincerely thank The Waitress Confessions’ loyal readers. I appreciate all the feed back and comments more than you’ll know. I also wanted to thank Total Food Service – Metro New York’s Foodservice Publication at www.totalfood.com for giving me a chance to publish one article a month in their magazine. It was certainly an unexpected surprise to hear from them one day and I am glad to have been invited to be part of their publications.
So, what’s our plan for the upcoming year? Well, we’re hoping to build more of a community by inviting people to type in their email address and follow us and send in either their true, tips, or comments. We’ve gotten a great response from our Twitter Confessions (send us your Twitter Confessions @WConfessions) and are hoping that waiters and waitresses from all over will start using the hashtag #wconfessions when wanting to dish out any secrets or confessions about serving tables.
So feel free to be a part of The Waitress Confessions community by following us! And once again…thank you!
To be part of the community…
I hope this holiday season has been treating you well and all the best for the New Year.
I’ve finally finished working crazy hours and double shifts and am looking forward to some well deserved days off. How about you? Was this holiday season a rough one for you as a server?
Please stick around for new articles and posts this upcoming month. I’m looking forward to hearing from you all.
Here’s a little picture I thought might brighten your days. As a server, I’m totally feeling this one.
A coworker of mine showed me this article in our local newspaper and just had to share it with me and the rest of the staff. Most of us can relate to it, so I seriously encourage you, as a server, to take a look and realize that you are not alone with these feelings! Most of them are completely normal. Some we agree with, some we don’t, but it’s important for us to feel like there are other people out there going through the exact same thing day after day.
There are so many things that customers do, whether intentionally or not, that really irks us as servers.
If you are going out to a restaurant, please check out these Waiters’ top 20 ways to not be a horrible restaurant customer.
— samantha baca (@samanthabaca84) November 19, 2013
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AS THE TEMPERATURE DROPS and December nears, you can feel it in the air that the holiday season is upon us. Restaurants are a zoo this time of year and already you start to cringe at the thought of hearing those dreaded Christmas songs over and over again during your work shift. Just knowing that this time of year brings throngs of family get-togethers and staff holiday parties will either make you ecstatic at the thought of all those tips you’ll be earning…or make you want to rip your hair out.
Before the holiday rush starts, you need to be mentally and physically prepared so that you don’t become (as my boss says) “burnt toast” by the end of it all. Accepting the holidays for what they are is a big part of getting through it, but there are also a few things you can do to make this time less stressful.
Start shopping now.
If you’re giving gifts to loved ones this holiday season, do yourself a favor and start buying your presents as soon as humanly possibly. The last thing you need is to scramble to find someway to get your shopping done on your break in-between shifts. Just finding parking will take you at least half an hour! Not to mention the lineups to pay and having to push through crowds of people at the food court. You’ll end up feeling frustrated and rushed, which never helps when you have to get back to the hustle and bustle at work. Getting this done sooner will help clear your mind while on the job, allowing you to focus less on all the things you need to get done for the holidays.
Accept that you will be working longer hours.
Sometimes it’s difficult to transition into the holidays as a server. If you’re used to getting off work, for example, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday nights and then all of a sudden you’re staying past closing time, it can be quite a shock to your system. Plans you make fall through because the restaurant is busier than usual, your feet and arms are even more sore from serving more tables, and you finish your shift feeling like you’ve got no free time for yourself. It can leave you emotionally discouraged and possibly make you bitter towards your manager for keeping you longer than usual, but you need to accept that that’s the restaurant business. The sooner you accept that you’ll be working longer hours, the less of a shock it will be when you do.
Get plenty of rest.
I know it’s the time of year where friends and family gather and you’re invited to parties every single weekend, but keep in mind that going to too many outings or staying out until the wee hours of the morning is going to end up catch up with you at work. Try to get the best of both worlds without compromising your sleep. Trust me, you’ll feel fresh and alert and keep you going strong rather than waking up with hangovers, wondering how you’re ever going to get through your double-shift.
Remember to stay calm.
We all know the holidays bring around many different types of guests. You’ll get customers who have never been to your restaurant before and will ask a million questions in the middle of the rush, you’ll have guests who are unaware of proper dining etiquette and leave you feeling like there is no hope for humanity, and you’ll serve tables that seem to have no clue about how the tipping process works. Just remember to do one thing….breathe. Go easy on your customers because they are just as stressed about the holidays as you are. Some people only go out to eat around the holidays in order to treat themselves or just going along with what their family and/or friends want, so it’s part of your job to make them feel comfortable. Smile and be patient. If you’re constantly getting frustrated, it’s going to wear you out and tear you down before you even realize what hit you. The calmer you are with “difficult” customers, the more relaxed you’ll feel overall.
The holidays bring along a huge assortment of mouth-watering feasts, tasty cocktails and decadent desserts. Try to stick to your healthy ways by remembering to get plenty of exercise and make sure you don’t overindulge in food or drink. It will help keep up your energy while serving tables.
If possible, celebrate the holidays on your days off.
Having to turn down holiday plans because of work can really take a toll on you. You feel like you’re missing out on family time and never get to see your close friends. While everyone is off of work for the holidays, we as servers are stuck serving. Our loved ones tell us “Just take the day off!”, but we all know it isn’t as simple as that – but, oh how we wish it were! Try to organize a dinner party or holiday breakfast on your days off so that you can partake in the festivities as well.
Rant about work with your coworkers after your shift.
There’s nothing like letting off a little steam with the people who understand your job the best. If you have some coworkers that you really get along with, go out for a drink after work and let it all out. Get mad, laugh, go on and on about how great or how bad your shift was and get it all out of your system. Holding everything inside will eventually cause you to explode – possibly taking it out on a customer or causing you to quit in mid-rush.
While everyone has time off for the holidays, you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off at work. So, after the holiday rush is done and before Valentine’s day rolls around, see if you can find some time to take a few days or even a week off for yourself. Think of it like a reward for working your butt off. Or, if your prefer, put aside some of that extra money you earned and treat yourself to something that will help you recharge your batteries. You honestly deserve it.
Sometimes a little goes a long way…
As waiters and waitresses, we need to do our best to remember that sometimes all the little things we do for our guests can go a long way. We can brighten someone’s day, help make two people’s first date go smoothly with good food and good drinks, sometimes give a little something on the house when it’s someone’s birthday or anniversary, etc. Just a smile can change someone’s mood for the better. Every little bit counts.
Now, we may not all have someone like Ellen notice and give us a $10,000 tip or a brand new car, but we should still do all the small things that make everyone’s life just a little easier. The perks of being a server.
I’m happy to announce that The Waitress Confessions was featured on another website!
Please check out Total Food Service or click on the image on the right to view the article “To Write or Not to Write? The Pros and Cons of Memorizing Orders “ on page 48-49.
Also feel free to browse previous featured posts:
August 2013 : 8 Tips on How To Train a New Waiter/Waitress
September 2013 : Regular Customers: How to Keep Them Coming Back For More
October 2013 : What Not to Do… According to Customers
See you soon!
In your opinion, what is the worst thing a waiter or waitress can do while serving you?
“Not be present and attentive. If the only time I see them is when they take my order, bring my food and take my payment, then they might as well be behind a counter asking if I want small, medium or large. Otherwise, check in – often.” -Richard (Businessman)
Great service is what should set restaurants apart from fast food chains and take-out restaurants. Checking in is one of the most important steps in service and one that should never be forgotten. All guests want to feel like they’re special and that you’re genuinely concerned about their dining experience. A quick “Is everything alright here? Can I get you anything else?” can make a whole difference in the eyes of your customers.
Photo credit: Ralph Daily 2011
Sorry father, for I have sinned…
I live on the outskirts of Toronto, the most multicultural city in Canada, but I grew up in a village of 1500 white people. You can imagine there was a bit of a culture shock when I first moved there. One night, I had a family of brown people come into the restaurant and sit in my section. I say brown people because at the time, I didn’t know that they were Muslim, and I didn’t know that Muslim’s don’t eat pork.
So the gentleman orders a delicious meat-lovers Panini (one of my favorites) but without the bacon. “No problem” I say aloud as I write down NO BACON on my notepad. I always use big letters because I am a very forgetful person. I didn’t think much of it as I continued on, as usual, topping up drinks and removing the dirty dishes from my other tables.
By the time their dinner was over, I stopped by my Muslim friends and asked how their dinner was, as they seemed to have really enjoyed it. “Do you not like the bacon? I find it adds a great smoky flavor!” I said smiling. The man turned to me; “No, I am Muslim! I do not eat any pork!” He said sharply. “I have never had pork in my entire life and I never will.” He said, in a rather angry tone. Suddenly I began to sweat and swallowed hard as I removed their dishes in silence.
I walked to the back looking a little pale as one of the cooks looked at me. “Are you okay?” he asked, you look like you’re going to be sick. “Does the meat-lovers Panini have sausage in it?” I asked him, dreading the answer I already knew. “Yeah of course it does dude.” He laughed. I blinked very slowly. “And our sausage is made of pork, right?” I asked, even more worriedly. “Oh yeah baby,” he laughed, “100% pork. Why?”
“I think I just sent a man to hell.”
by: The Million Dollar Server
Send us YOUR true story!
For the sake of digging deep down into the mind of the customer, I decided to ask several people from various locations and different lines of work what they think the absolute worst thing a server can do is. From expert salesman to full-time student, every individual has their own personal needs, but all expect a level of service that is genuine and courteous. – The Waitress Confessions (Read more…)
I’m happy to announce that The Waitress Confessions was featured on another website!
Please check out Total Food Service or click on the image on the right to view the article “What Not to Do…According to Regular Customers“
Also feel free to browse previous featured posts:
August 2013 : 8 Tips on How To Train a New Waiter/Waitress
September 2013 : Regular Customers: How to Keep Them Coming Back For More
See you soon!
All waiters and waitresses feel the need to vent about their experiences in the restaurant business. Here’s a look into what kind of rants and confessions these servers write about. Can you relate?
— landshark (@kenzvstheworld) August 26, 2013
— Daniela (@bellatoulouse) July 5, 2013
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You may not realize it, but there are a number of things you should consider while booking a table at a restaurant. Whether you’re a large party of 30 or more people or a table for two, there certain things to keep in mind that will make reserving at a restaurant easier for you…and for the restaurant as well.
When Making a Reservation Do…
Have all your information ready.
You will be asked the date (which is a given since you should know this ahead of time) and time you’d like to reserve. They will ask what name the reservation will be under. Full names are greatly appreciate to avoid any confusion or mix-ups, but Mr. Smith will usually do just fine. Know the exact number of people in your party so that the restaurant will know whether or not they will be able to accommodate you. Please be ready to provide your contact information (home phone number or cell phone number) so that the restaurant will be able to call you back to confirm your reservation. Specify any preferences (i.e. : a table by the window, a booth, near the bar) and mention any specifications (i.e. : serious food allergies, wheelchairs, surprise birthday party) so that the restaurant is aware of your likes and needs.
Call if there are any changes or modifications.
As soon as the restaurant has your reservation, they will keep it exactly as is, never assuming that anything will change. If you’d like to change the date, time, the number of people, or would like to cancel it all together the best thing to do is to call the restaurant to inform them of the changes. The same goes for if you’re going to be late and believe you won’t make it there at the exact time of your reservation. The sooner you call, the easier time the restaurant will have of accommodating you, even if you’re running late.
Keep your reservation time, especially for large parties.
If you’re a large group (let’s say 20 people or more – depending on the size of the restaurant), make sure that you keep your reservation time. Restaurants have a certain number of staff members at certain times and if you make a reservation during a period where there aren’t normally a lot of customers coming in, they may have fewer staff members than on, let’s say, a Saturday night. If you reserve at one of those quiet times, the restaurant will either add on more employees or keep them longer so that you will get the service you deserve. The later you are, or if you don’t show up all together, you’re keeping employees at work longer (whether it be bar staff, waitstaff, or kitchen staff). If you are going to arrive late, then call the restaurant. They will really appreciate the heads-up.
When Making a Reservation Don’t…
Make reservations for more people than you really are.
On busy nights, restaurants try to maximize their seating capacity in order to accommodate anyone and everyone. If you make a reservation for a party of 50 people when you know on some certain level that you’ll only be 30 people, it can create a lot of problems within the restaurant when your group of 30 arrives. Not only are you taking away other guests chances at reserving a table that night, but the restaurant will be losing out on customers therefore having less sales for that day. A restaurant is a business after all and although they are happy to have large parties, it’s a shame to lose out on other potential reservations because they don’t have the exact number of people for your reservation. A difference of 2 or 3 people won’t make a big difference, but when it starts to get to 5 to 10 to 20 people, it makes a huge difference to the restaurant. Also, for your benefit, having the exact number of people will be easier for the restaurant to organize your table/tables. You’ll be more comfortable if you do. If you are unsure of the number of people because you are reserving in advance, call the restaurant to give them daily/weekly updates on the number of people and inform them the day before of your exact head count.
Be wishy-washy about the time.
Be direct when choosing a time for your reservation. Giving a time like “Around 7:00-7:30″ or “At 6:05″ is too vague for the restaurant. Most places only take reservations on the hour or half hour (i.e. : five o’clock, six-thirty, etc) and some will take on the quarter hour. Be prepared to pick an exact time.
Blame the Hostess for the restaurant’s reservation policies.
Some restaurants have restrictions and limitations for reservations. They may warn you that you only have the table for an hour and a half or two hours because of other reservations or that there is no place at the time or day you are requesting. As a customer, I understand that this isn’t always ideal, but it’s not the Hostess’ fault. Getting angry at them will not help your situation. Politely ask if there are any possible solutions and if there are none, you need to be calm and accept the situation as is. Reserving in advance will certainly give you the upper hand, but reserving an hour before you’d like to dine out on a Saturday night will never guarantee you a table at a busy restaurant. It’s never the Hostess’ fault, but if you feel like they are not treating you fairly, calmly ask to speak with a manager to be 100% sure that what the Hostess is telling you is accurate.
Threaten the restaurant.
I’ve seen it happen many times where a guest will threaten to never return if we can’t accommodate them. Words like “I’m coming to spend $200! What do you mean you don’t have place for me at 6 o’clock on Saturday night?” and “That table is already reserved? If you don’t move that reservation to another table, we’re never coming back!” are not appropriate when trying to make a reservation. This tends to happen when people reserve last minute and are surprised that the restaurant is completely booked for the night. There is no way a restaurant will ever call another reservation to tell them we can no longer keep their reservation so that the restaurant can take your reservation instead. Threatening the restaurant is in bad form and expecting them to bend over backwards for you when it’s impossible to do so is unrealistic. Remember, you’re not the only guests hoping to dine there.
Hang up before giving all your information and expect to have a reservation.
Plenty of times, people are in a rush to make reservations. It may be on their way home from work, or on their short lunch breaks, but it’s important to have enough time to complete the reservation. Sometimes when guests call, they ask if there is place on a certain day at a certain time, they’ll give their name and then hang up. This leaves the restaurant stumped. What do they do? They don’t have the number of people or phone number and can’t possibly make a proper reservation. If you want to be 100% sure that you’ve made a reservation, wait until the Hostess is finished asking all the necessary questions before hanging up. If you call and say “I want to make a reservation for 2 people for tonight at 7 o’clock” and the Hostess says “Yes, we have a table available”, don’t just say “Ok, thanks!” and hang up. They will assume that you are just checking the availabilities and will be calling later to take the actual reservation. If you show up that night at 7 o’clock that night, the Hostess will not have your reservation, so make sure to give all your information.
Making sure that you follow the do’s and don’ts of making reservations at a restaurant will help you to have the experience you deserve and keep you on good terms with the restaurant. Proper etiquette, especially as a regular customer, can only benefit you at the end. As much as you expect the restaurant to keep your reservation and follow your restrictions and preferences, the restaurant expects you to hold up your end of the deal and to respect their policies.
So, reserve responsibly and enjoy the experience!
When asked ‘What is the worst thing a waiter or waitress can do while serving you?’, this is the response that was given:
“Question what I order. It’s happened before that I ask for something a little unusual (add this, take this off) and the server will say ‘Are you sure that’s what you want?’ It really annoys me because the answer is ‘Yes. This is what I want, otherwise I wouldn’t order it.’ Please don’t judge my choices.” – Emily (Store Supervisor)
Judging customer’s food choices can be extremely insulting. Making comments such as “That’s a lot of food, are you sure you want that?” or “Not the best choice of wine, but if that’s what you want…” can be taken very badly, leaving the customer feel self-conscious and anxious. Instead of asking the customer if they are sure of their order, repeat it back to them and wait for confirmation that the order is correct, especially when it comes to “strange” or “weird” food orders. Never make your guests doubt their orders based on your personal tastes.
Are you looking for a job serving tables? Are you new to being a waiter or waitress? Check out this tutorial video by The Waitress Confessions on How To Carry 3 Plates at Once. Practice at home (preferably on a carpeted area in case you drop them) before starting out so you’ll feel comfortable once on the job.
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For 4 years before I started serving tables, I was a hostess. Not just any regular, everyday hostess…I was deemed Head Hostess. This title pretty much meant that I was in charge of verifying all reservations, seating rotation, setting up large parties, organizing the wait list, and distributing tables evenly among the servers. It was, in my experience, a difficult job. The multitasking and workload, however, was not what made it challenging. It was handling the customers (along with their complaints) and most of all…dealing with the servers.
In my restaurant, the waiters and waitresses are not allowed to go up to the front desk and bother the hostesses. Any problems with tables or fairness were supposed to be brought up to the Floor Manager and from the Floor Manager to the Hostess. However, when the Floor Manager was busy chatting up a storm with regular customers or taking care of a customer complaint with a certain waiter, servers would flock to the front entrance like a bunch of vultures and harass the hostesses. Why does he have more tables than me? What do you mean my reservation canceled…give me another one! I don’t want any more tables, I want to get out of here early.
On slow days, I would constantly hear their complaints about customers. They would be all riled up because a table left them $8 on $102 or their table was just having two coffees and sharing a soup. I’d hear all these horror stories about guests dining and dashing, dishing out impossible demands, and even belittling them as people. After days of hearing all of these tales of woe, I decided then and there that I did NOT want to be a server.
But, when the time came that I had learned everything I possible could about being a Hostess, I figured it was time for me to learn something a little more challenging. Knowing what I knew about the difficulty of being a server, I thought that maybe it would be different for me. So, I started learning the menu, how to punch in orders, and the timing of the plates.
As I started learning more and more and watched the best waiters work, I started to notice how horrible some of them actually were. As I circulated within the restaurant, I was getting stopped by a lot of guests complaining that they had no utensils, were low on water, that their food was taking too long, and that they couldn’t find their waitress. Even though I was a Hostess and could have said “It won’t be long, I’ll get your server”, I stepped up to the plate and decided to handle these things personally. I would get the water pitchers and make my way through the whole restaurant filling up glasses. I made sure everyone had utensils. I checked with the Expiditor if food was taking too long. If someone wanted another drink, I took their order and sent off the order to the bar.
Slowly I started to notice the things you need to do as a server…and the things you should NEVER do. When it came time for my training, I already had a great overview of what was expected of me. I never neglected filling up water glasses. I never talked in the back, ignoring my customers. I always made myself available to them and any other table in the restaurant. I picked up visual cues and could tell when a customers was ready to pay or was getting up in search of the bathrooms. Anticipating the guests needs became a strong point for me.
The hostesses loved me because I would never go up and harass them about getting more customers. They would clear off my tables and reset it and sit more people all because I would watch the door for them when they’d run off to eat something in the back. It was a give and take relationship with them and because I knew the challenges of being a hostess and how the servers try any way possible to get them to fold and give them new tables, in their eyes I was the best waitress to get along with. Soon after, I became a bridge between servers and hostesses. Complaints from waiters about hostesses started coming to me and instead of brushing them off I’d explain to them why their table changed places or why one waitress had more tables (because she had all the tables by the windows – customers love that section). I took the load off of them for quite some time and I think they appreciated the silence for once.
Being a Hostess and walking around the restaurant taught me how to be a better server. I was like a fly on the wall, learning the job from only the very best and learning how to take care of neglected customers from the very worst. Without being a hostess, I’m not sure if I’d be the waitress I am today. I may have started at a low end restaurant, without a decent training and no restaurant experience. I could have been one of those servers, the ones who don’t give a damn about customer service…only the money in their pocket. So, when I’m passing by the front desk sometimes and I see a girl applying for a job as a waitress (even though she has no experience), I wonder why they don’t apply for the Hostess job instead. Maybe they don’t realize that sometimes that is the best way to get the job you want. Start slow and work your way up. Like I did.
So, my advice to anyone looking to get into the restaurant business for the first time is this: take any job you can get. Most places ask for a minimum amount of years of experiences in order to be a server, but can take you with no experience in another position. You’ll have to work hard and prove yourself to the managers and owners, but from my experience a lot of restaurants like to hire within the restaurant. We need new waitresses. Well, how about Kayla over there? She’s been working hostess for 3 years, maybe she can handle it.
Any experience you can gather up will only improve your service later on. You could go from dishwasher, to kitchen, to bar, to waiter and then… Voilà! Your a waiter who knows how everything works and how things are run in the restaurant. Are you in one of those positions now? Don’t sell yourself short, it may just be a stepping stone to yet another experience…serving tables and serving them well.
One of the most important things to do as a server is Learn Your Menu. When customers have questions about which items can be altered, side dishes, does it come with soup or salad, you need to be prepared. The “let me go check” answer or lying to them is just going to get you in trouble down the road. It wastes your time and your customer’s time.
If you’re having problems memorizing all the details and specifications of the menu, here are a few tricks to make learning your menu that much easier.
Trick # 1 : Write or type out the menu
It may seem redundant and a little over the top, but that was the best way for me to learn my menu. Some people need to write things down in order to remember them for later. Take your menu home with you and copy it all out. Especially the descriptions. That way, when a customer asks “What’s your seafood linguini like?”, you can name the description right off the top of your head, including any little other tidbits you may know.
The worst kind of reply would be “Well…it’s linguini with seafood in it”. Avoid that response as much as possible. Think about it. What kind of sauce is it? What kind of seafood is in it exactly? What is the portion like? Is it served with anything else? Typing or writing out the menu along with the descriptions may be a way to learn your menu that you never thought of.
Trick #2 : Study with a partner
If you’re lucky enough, another waiter or waitress (if you’re training than possibly your trainer) may be up for studying the menu with you. If not, a friend will do but keep in mind they won’t be able to answer your questions if doubt does pop into your mind. Get the other person to quiz you, ask you questions that a real customer would, role play and act out the whole ordering process. The more you do this, the more comfortable you’ll feel about the menu and what to respond to customers.
Trick #3 : Make a photocopy of the menu
When making a photocopy of the menu, it allows you to jot down notes on the actual menu so that when you’re reading through it, you have visual cues on what you should be remembering. Highlight items, underline portion sizes, put stars next to the most popular plates, etc. Come up with a system that works for you.
Trick #4 : Read the WHOLE menu
Another trick that may sound obvious, but a lot of times servers just glance at the plates or the wine list, memorizing the names and descriptions. But what about those small little details in fine print? Sometimes menus have words written all over it and it’s hard to get through it all, but make sure you know every single word on there, including the small print that hardly anyone glances at. You don’t ever want a customer to know the menu more than you do. So if there are exceptions in the small print, added costs to meals written in italics, side dishes that are NOT included with the meal then you need to know them 100%
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Something that gets me through my double shifts over the weekend is seeing the faces of the regular customers that come out to eat on a weekly basis. Every restaurant has those regulars and if you’re lucky enough, they’ll often ask to be served by you.
Personally, I find that it helps me get through the day to spend a couple of minutes chatting with the woman who dines out on Sundays at lunch with a only a good book to keep her company or the family with four boys who come to eat after every soccer practice. It makes me happy to know these regulars and seeing them leave feeling content with the quality of the food and satisfied with the service leaves me with a great sense of accomplishment. I know for a fact that they’ll be coming back.
Restaurants don’t always train their servers how to treat their guests so that they keep coming back, even though it’s a very important part of being a server. They’ll tell you to up-sell, to take care of your customers, and to make sure your timings are right, and of course owners and managers want people to revisit the restaurant, but they don’t always give their servers the actual tools they need in order to keep reeling them back in. So, whether they’re already regular customers or new diners, here are a few tips on how to keep the customers coming back for more.
#1. Remember their faces
This is a pretty standard point, but important nonetheless. If you’re a new server, remembering guests’ faces will help you to notice which customers keep coming back time and time again. You may never end up serving them since they may already have a waiter or waitress that they prefer to be served by, but on the off chance that their server isn’t working one day you may want to remember them in case they’re seated in your section.
#2. Greet them – even if they aren’t in your section
Even if they aren’t seated at one of your tables, stop by and say hello. If you’re walking by their table with your hands full then give them a polite nod or a dazzling smile. Just the fact that you’re recognizing them as loyal customers makes them feel like special guests, which is one of the reasons why they’ll be returning to the restaurant.
#3. Learn their names
Once you start to really know the customers who dine frequently at your restaurant, they may start to address you by your first name. This is an incredible step forward for you. It means that they trust you and know that you are an excellent server. Once you’re comfortable enough with each other on a professional or even personal level, you may want to consider addressing them by name. Whether you’re on a first name or last name basis with them, it creates a bond between the two of you that reassures them as customers that you will be treating them with the utmost respect while serving them. A good way to get to know them by name without having to ask is to take a look at the name on their credit card. When you’re handing them back the bill, take a chance by saying “Thank you so much, Mr. Smith! I’ll see you next time.” Also, if they often make reservations, ask the hostess for their name so that you can take a look at the reservation list before you start your shifts to see if they’ve reserved for that day.
#4. Memorize their food and drink orders
If you have the type of memory as I have, this will be a piece of cake for you. Personally, I think it’s a challenge to remember customer’s specific demands while ordering and I treat it like a game of how many specific orders can I remember. Which wine did they really enjoy their last visit? She didn’t eat any of the croutons when she ordered her salad, maybe she doesn’t like them? He’s allergic to gluten, I’ll have to notify the kitchen. Noticing the little nuances about their preferences will set you apart from all the other waiters and waitresses you work with. Some customers ask for exactly the same meal each time they come, so take a mental note every time you take their order. The quicker you are at memorizing it, the faster you’ll be able to say “The usual?” They’ll be extremely impressed and you’ll see a certain smile creep up on their face that shows that they think “This is why I keep coming back here”.
#5. Teach other servers how to serve them
Don’t be greedy with regular customers. Once you’ve served new customers and you see that they’ve returned and are seated in another server’s section, share the knowledge that you have about them with their waiter or waitress. The point here is to keep them coming back to the restaurant. I understand, it’s a bit annoying that you did all the hard work to bring them back and now they are being served by someone else, but the whole idea is to bring in customers to the restaurant. If they ask to be served by you then it’s definitely a bonus, but if not…don’t sweat it. The last thing you want is for the guests to feel like the servers are fighting over them. They may get the impression that you’re all only in it for the tips and that is definitely not the way to go about making them feel special. So, let their server know how they prefer to be served, their favorite drinks, and any specifications about their order. Feel free to pass by the table, tell them you’re happy to see them again, and let them know that you’ve informed their server of their preferences. They’ll be touched that you went the extra mile, even if you aren’t their server. Who knows, they may ask for you the next time they dine out!
#6. Make recommendations, suggestions, and exceptions
A lot of people dine out not because of the food specifically, but for the experience. They want to be wined and dined. They take pleasure in trying new dishes, they live to savor different wines, and relish in the thought that their server is giving them an experience they’ll never forget. These customers will keep coming back if you are able to make them aware that you are genuinely concerned about their evening out. Depending on the restaurant, some things on the menu can be changed or modified on demand, special wines are sometimes kept in the back for V.I.P. customers, and exceptions can be made on prices. It often takes an experienced waiter or waitress to know the rules of the restaurant for exceptions, so it’s often best to approach a manager or a more experienced server about these things. For example, there is a regular customer who comes every Friday to be served by the same waiter. In a conversation one day, they told the waiter that they have a favorite bottle of wine (a very expensive bottle, might I add) and that they were disappointed that we didn’t have it on our menu. The waiter then informed the manager that he’d like to surprise them with that bottle the following week, so the manager ordered that specific bottle of wine especially for them. To say they were ecstatic is an understatement. Ever since then, the restaurant orders that one bottle for the Fridays that they come to eat, which keeps them coming back every week. Now that, my friends, is the way to wine and dine your customers. Know what you are able to suggest, recommend, and make exceptions for.
#7. Invite them to come back to see you
It’s a wonderful feeling when customers rave about the excellent service they received. When getting compliments such as “Thank you for the great service!” or “This is the best service we’ve had at a restaurant!” accept them graciously and inform them that they may always ask to be served by you. Make sure to give them your name so that they can ask for you before being seated, or better yet, write your name on the restaurant’s business card and let them know that they can reserve a table in your section the next time they come (if your restaurant allows that). Tell them that you’d be pleased to serve them and that you’ll see them at their next visit. By inviting them back to see you, you may get those few extra tables, making it a very rewarding day. Other servers will be wondering what makes customers keep coming back and asking for your section and the reason that they do is because you are doing your job perfectly. You are an exceptional server! An added bonus is if guests are frequently asking to be served specifically by you, the owners and mangers will notice and may start giving you better shifts and bigger sections. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. The customers are happy, the restaurant is happy, and you’re happy.
A Note to Managers and Owners
It’s important to provide your wait staff with the tips and tools they need in order to keep your customers coming back for more. If you do regular meetings with your staff, please take a moment to encourage them to follow certain steps of service and focus on how to get and to keep regular customers.
When customers are eating out at a restaurant, they expect a certain level of speedy service (depending on the restaurant they are dining at, of course.) When the service is too slow for their liking, there are ways that they will let you know – some more obvious than others.
During your shift, sometimes things just aren’t going your way. As great as a server as you may be, there are times when things around you just seem to get out of hand. It may take you longer to get to your tables when you’re in a rush, but there are key things to look out for while you’re running around to get to all your tables on time.
If you see any customers doing any of the following things, you know that you should be improving the speed of your service, so here are the Top 5 Signs That You Need To Pick Up the Pace.
#1. Your customers go up to the hostess stand to pay when they should be paying at the table
#2. Your customers have empty plates and empty water glasses in front of them and are just staring at you…waiting for you to clear everything.
#3. Your customers have enough time to stack up their dirty dishes on the table for you to pick up.
#4. Your customers leave because they waited too long to be greeted.
#5. Your customers get up to refill their own water glass with your water pitcher.
Some of this may seem like common sense to most of you, but to others they don’t realize the reason behind why customers may do these things. As servers, we have to be aware of why our guests are acting the way they do. Yes, sometimes people are just impatient and there is nothing we can do about it as servers, but other times we have to take a good look at ourselves and wonder if we are at the heart of the problem. Were we neglecting them? Were we spending too much time chatting with our coworkers that we put the service of our customers on the back burner? There is nothing wrong with accepting that you were in the wrong and then trying to improve on that. Next time you’ll know to be more attentive to your customer’s needs and to pick up the pace.
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Some servers have the amazing ability of listening to a table’s order and remembering every small detail without ever touching a paper and pen. Some can take orders of up to at least 10 people without even batting an eye. No matter how many exceptions, replacements, or changes the customers make these waiters will somehow manage to get the order rung up .Personally, that just boggles my mind.
As a waitress (and a person for that matter) who’s afraid to forget the simplest little thing, I am constantly writing everything down. My fear is that I’ll carelessly make a mistake and forget to order a glass of wine or order a steak well-done instead of medium-well. So, with that fear deep-rooted in my system, I make it a point to write down all my orders even if I’m taking the order for a table of one.
Every waiter and waitress has their own system of taking down orders whether it be just doodling on your order sheet while memorizing every point or penning every single word the customer says. If you have a great memory and are just starting out as a waiter/waitress in training, you may want to consider the pros and cons of memorizing orders.
The eye contact that you keep with a customer while taking their order is extremely important. Some waiters just stare at their order sheet the whole time while writing down orders which leaves the customers feeling short-changed on the “service with a smile”. Some are capable of writing without looking down too many times, which is an improvement at least, but memorizing your orders can give you complete control over your eye contact with your guests, creating a very friendly and open service for them.
If you’re planning on memorizing orders, keep in mind that you are more likely to make mistakes. The amount of times I’ve seen a server run up to the kitchen and say something around the lines of “My bad, guys. It was supposed to be the salmon, not the tuna” is staggering. It could end up happening more often than you’d probably like to admit and can maintain a certain amount of hostility between you and your coworkers. Not to mention the managers will be wondering how all these mistakes are affecting their food costs.
With no pen and paper glued to your hands at every moment of service, your free hands allow you to do other things while taking drink and dessert orders. You could be tidying up your tables of any clutter, picking up empty beer glasses, or picking up menus. The ability to multitask in the restaurant business is a big bonus on your side if you are able to do many things at once. Plus, the length of the service with diminish slightly by just having the free hands to clear the table and memorize coffee orders at the same time, making it easier to turn your tables and serve more customers.
Sometimes, as you’re leaving a table to enter the order into the computer system, someone may stop you along the way preventing you from getting to the computer while the order is still fresh in your mind. Maybe a customer will have a complaint and stop you for a whole 5 minutes before giving you a chance to ring up the order. What happens then? Your mind gets completely distracted by the complaint that you stand at the computer holding your head thinking “What did she order? What appetizer did he want? Did he want fries or rice with his steak?”. Sometimes you’ll remember…sometimes you’ll just forget. Forgetting an order can be extremely embarrassing and seems pretty unprofessional if you need to go up to the guests a second time to ask that they ordered.
Memorizing your orders can save a lot of time when it comes to ringing up your order. Instead of constantly referring to your order sheet, you’re simply punching in your orders without missing a beat to glance down at what you’ve written. This can save time on your service and once again allows for a quicker service, which means your customers are receiving their orders sooner than other therefore satisfied with the fact that they aren’t waiting longer for their food to arrive. Every second or minute saved counts for a lot in the restaurant business.
Not writing down an order can make your customers nervous. One night I went out to eat at a restaurant. We were a table of 6 people and the waitress just took our order by memory. I asked for a few things on the side since it was my first experience at that particular establishment and wasn’t sure about the sauces offered with my plate. I felt worried that may order may be wrong, but decided to give her the benefit of of the doubt. When it came time to the appetizers, I received a salad instead of the soup and my steak came turned out medium-well instead of medium-rare. In my mind, if you aren’t going to write anything down then you’d better make sure that you’ve remembered everything 100%. Sure, people make mistakes and I understand that more than anyone, but other guests may not be so forgiving. When customers see that you’re relying solely on your memory for taking orders, they have that knowledge to use against you when things go wrong and may even approach a manager about it, suggesting that you write everyone down from that moment on.
When taking orders, servers know that it’s best to repeat orders back to the customers as they go along to avoid any mistakes or misunderstandings. When an order comes out wrong, your manager may ask you something around the lines of “Well, what did the customer order?”. Your answer may be “She definitely said she wanted the mashed potatoes, but when the plate got there she said she asked for a baked potato.” The manager might then proceed to ask what you had written down on your order sheet in order to see if you either a) punched it in wrong or b) wrote it down wrong. When you’ve done everything by memory, the manager is then just taking your word for it and may jump to the conclusion that you’re the one who made the mistake. If you’re repeating the order back to the customer and writing it down properly, he may then assume that it’s just the customer creating a problem for nothing and will be more inclined to believe you when you say you got the order right.
Everybody makes mistakes, even if you’re the type of server to write each order down on paper. The thing to keep in mind is that you’re only human, so do the best that you can no matter which order-taking process you choose to use as a server. Think about what kind of waiter you want to be and go from there.
There’s a certain sense of pride you should have if your boss has assigned a server-in-training to you. It means that you’re doing your job well and are capable of showing someone else the ropes. So take a moment to congratulate yourself: you are a great server!
But what happens when you’re unsure of how exactly to train someone? You may have been doing the job for so long that you know everything as if second nature, so teaching someone else without forgetting something can be a little nerve wracking. Some restaurants have a strict training policy, but others kind of just throw you into it, so be prepared no matter which category your job falls into.
Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind when training: does the person you’re training have experience…or not? At first, I would suggest treating each new employee as if they’re learning for the first time and work from there. The more experience you see, the less you’ll be teaching about how to be an actual server and the more you’ll be teaching about the working system of your particular restaurant.
Either way, here are a few 8 tips on how to train a new waiter/waitress. If you’re a server-in-training and need a few tips, you may want to read our article titled 9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress In Training
TIP #1: Get organized
There are so many things that need to be taught that some of us don’t even know where to begin. If you have enough notice from your boss on when the first day of training is, take some time before then to make a list of everything that needs to be shown to the newcomer. What’s the first thing you want to show them? What are the most important things that the trainee should memorize? What do they need to learn first in order to learn the way the restaurant is run?
Here’s an example of a list of priorities, starting with the first day of training:
- Menu Knowledge
- Wine List Knowledge (if applicable)
- Floor Plan Knowledge (table numbers, bar area, sections, etc.)
- Tour of the restaurant (so the trainee knows where everything is: bathrooms, stock rooms, fridges, stations, etc)
- How to clock in and clock out
- Cleaning tasks and side works
- Tables (presentation, cleaning, preparations, etc)
- The “running” system of the restaurants (how to run drinks from the bar, salads, soups, hot food, etc)
- How to greet customers
- How to take orders
- How to ring up the orders (POS System)
- Any steps of service (check backs, recooks, how to handle any complaints, etc)
- Serving coffee and dessert
- Presenting the check
- Closing duties
- Closing cleaning tasks and restocking
- Sales report at the end of the shift
- Rules of the restaurant
Make sure you follow a certain schedule so that they training makes sense. You don’t want to start showing them how to take orders if they haven’t even begun to memorize the menu (although, in my opinion, the trainee should have at least 85% of the menu memorized by their first day of training. Tip of the Day: Learn Your Menu.) Following your list of priorities will help you make sure you didn’t skip a step.
TIP #2: Shadowing
A very important step. Have your trainee “shadow” your every move. Before they even take an order, have them watch every step you take. Tell them to note how you speak with the customers, your tone of voice, your facial features, your posture, etc. Every little thing is important and if your restaurant has a way of presenting specials, up-selling promotions, or even describing the catch of the day make sure that your trainee knows the proper way to do these things. Consistency is very important in the restaurant business.
Also, when it comes time to picking up the speed and running drinks and food, it’s important that your trainee recognizes the pace of your particular restaurant and learns how to keep up with it. At a quickly paced restaurant, the last thing you want is for your trainee to get stuck in 2nd gear when they should be shifting it up a few notches. Tell them to keep up with you and that you want then 2 steps behind at all times.
TIP #3: Answer their questions
No matter how naive the question may seem, just answer it in a polite way. It may seem like common sense to you, but remember that every restaurant is different and they just want to know how things run at their new place of work. The more questions they ask, the better. Take note, however, if they are asking the same questions over and over. They are there to learn and soak up as much knowledge as they can, but if they can’t retain any of the things you are teaching them, it may be a red flag.
TIP #4 : Ask questions
This is the best way for new servers to learn, especially when it comes to learning the menu. Ask them to describe certain dishes for you. If they stumble or come out with a wishy-washy description, show them the correct way of describing the restaurants meals and tell them to practice. Ask them to name all the beers the restaurant offers on tap. They may respond, for example, like this “Uh…Heineken…um, Guinness….” so be prepared to show off a little and show them how you list off all the beers. Asking questions before customers get a chance to ask them is the best way for them to prepared when it comes time for them to take orders. Feel free to ask questions out of the blue and don’t be afraid to put them on the spot. During a rush, they’ll need to be prepared so catch them off guard so when the time comes they aren’t flailing for answers.
TIP #5: Role play
Pretend you are a customer and go through a dry run of taking a table’s order. Have them come up to you (pretending to be a customer) and act out a service. If you think it’s silly…well it is a little. But it’s the best way for you to get an idea of how they will be once faced with real customers. Remember, they will be practicing on your tables, so you want them to make as little mistakes as possible. A dry run will help you to correct any bad habits, mistakes, and allow you to make suggestions. Also, it will give the trainee a chance to get out their nerves before heading over to their first table.
TIP #6: Shadow them
Once the training has been done and you are ready to see them in action, let them take the reigns for a while. Inform them that they will be handling everything from A to Z and you’ll be following them to make sure that they are serving the guests properly. Be ready to jump in when they aren’t sure and take mental notes on anything that they are doing that doesn’t meet your restaurant’s standards. At the end of the day, go over what they need to work on, point out any strong points or things that they did perfectly, and ask if they have any questions or comments about how they believe their service was.
TIP #7: Give them space
If your trainee is catching on quickly and is starting to really get a feel for the job, give them a bit of space. Back off and let them take the wheel for a bit. See how they do on their own. Let them make a few minor mistakes so that they will learn (while making sure it doesn’t affect your customer’s dining experience of course). Make a few comments here and there such as “Hurry it up a bit” or “You forgot to order their drinks” and ask a few questions to help guide them such as “What are you forgetting on that table?” or “What’s your priority right now?”. But other than that, pretend that they are working alone. It’s the best way for you to see if they are capable of handling the job and the best way for them to get a real sense of what is expected of them.
TIP #8: Teach them how to Spoil Their Customers
Every restaurant has a different way of spoiling their customers. Whether it be offering a drink on the house for a regular customer or going above and beyond the steps of service, there are always ways that you can teach someone how the restaurants customers prefer to be served. Your trainee may have worked at a previous restaurant that wasn’t as keen about giving good service as you, so make sure they live up to the standards of the restaurant.
Now you’re all set for the basics of training a new waiter/waitress. Of course, there are so many other little details, but this will help give you an overview of what to do and tricks on how to get the best out of your trainee.
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Before heading out to your favorite restaurant for a lovely evening out, there are a few things that you may want to consider in order to have a better dining experience. Before a server comes to the table, keep in mind these simple tips in order to make your life easier…and your server’s as well.
1. Do not order unless you are ready to order.
This unfortunately happens very often in restaurants. A server goes to a table and asks “Are we ready to order?” and the guests reply with an enthusiastic “Yes!”. The problem with this is sometimes you actually…well, aren’t ready. The server then prepares themselves to write down your order and stands there while you desperately glance through the menu, trying to find something that suits your fancy. Feeling pressured to make a decision? Don’t. Ask the server to come back in a few minutes, giving you enough time to make your choice and giving them time to server their other customers as well.
2. Know and remember what you are ordering.
Sometimes menus can be overwhelming, especially if you are dining out at a restaurant you’ve never eaten at before. Make sure you take a good look at the name of the plate you wish to have, along with the description. That way when your plate arrives there are no mishaps. As servers, sometimes we witness diners who exclaim “This isn’t what I ordered!”, to which we reply something along the lines of “Did you order the barbecue chicken?” and their reply is usually “Yes.” The waiter or waitress then has to explain that this is the plate you ordered. It wastes a bit of time, plus makes you nervous thinking that the server got your order wrong.
Also, it sometimes happens with larger groups that a server will say “Caesar salad to start?”, glancing around at all the diners looking for a hand raise or look of recognition and gets none. Customers sometimes forget that they had a salad to start, forcing the server to take the plate back to the kitchen as a mistake. What happens then? You may miss out on your starter salad.
Be aware of what you have ordered (the same goes for bottles of wine – check that the server has brought you the correct bottle). It makes things easier for everyone.
3. Place your orders one at a time.
As servers, we want to be sure you have your complete order, knowing 100% what you ordered (including all exceptions and specific demands). Our priority is to make sure we understand and know what you as a diner are ordering. Problems arise when diners all speak at once to place their order. Speaking out of turn will draw the server’s attention to you, in which case they may miss what the other person is saying. If you have any changes to make after placing your order, please wait patiently until the server is finishes writing down the order and then ask if you can make a change. You want your order to be taken correctly, right? Then speak one at a time, letting the waiter as the correct questions per order, and make changes later.
4. Be patient and understanding.
There are some demands that are physically impossible to ask of a waiter. Be patient and understanding of their limitations. For example, if the server has not yet left the table after taking the order of a large group, think twice before asking the server if the plates are arriving soon. If they haven’t had the chance to leave the table yet, then no order has been placed with the kitchen or bar. A great example of this is in our post titled True Story: An Impossible Demand.
5. Try to stay seated at the same place.
The way some restaurants work is with a certain system that allows them to know and remember which customer ordered which item. Some restaurants call it “Seats” or “Pivots” or “Clients”. Not only do restaurants have specific table numbers, but also numbers designated per seat/customer. If you get up and constantly change seats, it will confuse the wait staff, especially when you are in a large group. It will be hard for everyone to know where you are sitting when it comes time for the food arrive, drinks, appetizers, and most of all the bill. If you know you will be moving around a lot, inform your waiter of which seat or chair is actually yours and when your drinks, food, or bill arrive, always go back to your seat. It will help the waiter stay organized. Also, if you are changing seats for the entirety of the evening, inform your waiter so they will be up to date with the seating arrangements.
Sometimes, it’s the little things…
We all have to keep in mind that sometimes the littlest things can make a big difference in our experiences. Following these steps will not only improve your dining experience, but there will be less mistakes and mishaps. Remember, if you are ever unsure of anything, the waitstaff is there to help you with anything you may need. Feel free to ask questions :)
Enjoy your meal!
Waiters and waitresses are constantly being thrown all around the restaurant. Fetch this, pick up that, take orders, run plates, etc. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle and can wind up looking like a chicken with its head cut off. The key to being a productive and organized server is learning to Minimize Your Trips and Maximize your steps.
What does it mean to “Minimize Your Trips”?
Well, let’s say your Table #1 needs more water and Table #2 needs the debit machine to pay. There are two ways you could possible go about this.
- Get the water pitcher
- Walk to Table #1 to fill up the glasses
- Go back and put the water pitcher away
- Pick up the debit machine
- Walk to Table #2 and have them pay
- Put back the debit machine and continue on your way
Or you could:
- Pick up the water pitcher and debit machine
- Fill the water on Table #1
- Have Table #2 pay
- Bring the water pitcher and debit machine back where they belong and continue on your way.
The second way is most obviously the better route to take. Going back and forth for things can end up wasting your time (and your customer’s time) which leads to a slower service, less sittings, therefore fewer tips in your pocket.
Take a good look at your section and your tables from afar, see what needs to be done, and plan accordingly. You will always find yourself at one point or another going back and forth for things, but sometimes that’s out of your control (ex: a customer asks for another beer at the last second).
What does it mean to “Maximize Your Steps”?
Make every step you take count! Walking by a table that is finished eating? Clear as much as you can. Bringing water to a table? Walk by all your tables to refill water glasses before you put the pitcher away. Do everything you can possible do while walking through your section before walking off to the bar or the back of the house.
this also applies to running drinks and plates. Don’t just take one table’s beverage from the bar. Take the initiative and bring several drink orders at once. It clears the bar faster, the customers get their drinks quicker, and you don’t have to keep going back and forth for things. Maximizing your steps helps minimize your trips. Is there only one drink order at the bar? You should be checking if there are any plates to run from the kitchen. Keeping that “hands full” attitude will grab your managers attention, letting them know you can handle many different things at once. Remember, maximizing your steps helps minimize your trips.
Different restaurants, different rules…
Of course, these things vary from each restaurant you may work at. In general, you do want to organize the priorities in your section without feeling like you keep going back and forth..back and forth. Sometimes you just need to take a second and take in all the things you need to do, put them in order, and find the most effective way to get each task done.
The other day on Twitter, I wrote a tweet saying:
It’s wonderful when you can mess up and have the help and support you need to make sure the customers walk away satisfied. Jessie Gladding wrote replied with:
Everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay. It’s where you go from there that really defines you as a person. So, the next time you think about going up to the chef to bitch him out for an overcooked steak, think twice. You need to have their backs and treat them with respect if you want it to go both ways. Treating the kitchen staff with the respect they deserve will not only benefit everyone in the end, it’ll create more of a bond between the back of the house and the front of the house, making the work environment more enjoyable.
What do you think about the communication between the back and front of the house? Tweet us at @WConfessions
As a waitress, I know when a waitress serving me is trying to fuck me over.
Last night, I ordered a Grand Marnier, no ice. The waitress looked at me with a dumb look on her face and said “A what?!”. I repeated it patiently to her, asked again for no ice and she walked off. I waited 15 minutes…no drink. I saw her walking by and I asked her nicely if the drink was coming. “Oh yeah!” she said, and ran off. Okay…she forgot about it. It happens.
She came back with a Grand Marnier that had obviously been sitting at the bar too long because the ice I asked her NOT to put in had pretty much melted all the way, making it a very light orangish color. Gross.
“Uh—I asked for no ice.”
“Oh…sorry” she said and placed the drink in front of me.
I was shocked. I asked her to get me one with no ice, she rolled her eyes and walked away. She came back 5 minutes later with the same drink. She had obviously just scooped the ice out with a spoon. Gee thanks…that makes it a lot better. So I said to her “Did you just go and scoop out the ice?” “Yeah.” she said. *sigh*….Well at least she was honest. I told her to take it off my bill and went to get a Grand Marnier (no ice) at the bar. They seem to actually know how to listen to an order.
It seems simple, doesn’t it? Getting to work on time. Although, for some people it just never seems to happen. That coworker who strolls in 15 minutes late without a care in the world or the vet waiter who’s been there for 16 years and feels they can do whatever they want whenever they want. We see it all the time and sometimes we even notice it in ourselves.
Tardiness drives me absolutely insane. You know why? Because it’s one of the easiest things you can do to gain the respect of your boss and coworkers without them even realizing it. Plus, it also has advantages for yourself. Sometimes employees don’t really seem to grasp the importance of being on time and what they don’t realize is the benefits that come along with it.
First, you have more time to prepare for the day ahead. That’s the real reason why the managers want to see you there on time (or even early). In the restaurant business, you never know what can happen. A group of 25 people can walk in at any minute and at all times you want to be ready for whatever rush is thrown at you. When you get into work early and all systems are a go, you’ll look more professional when that unexpected rush comes in. Your boss will be impressed. Who knows, you may even score a bigger (or better) section next time.
Another reason to be on time is for those odd days where tables start coming in early. This is mostly for shifts where you’re getting on the floor and there is already a waiter. If he’s buried or in the weeds then hostesses will start seating people in your section giving you a couple extra tables for the night. It helps out your coworker, plus puts a bit of extra cash in your pocket.
Last, it just shows a certain amount of respect for you job. Your bosses want to see that you care about the restaurant and actually want to be there. If they see an employee slacking off, coming in late, it shows them that they’d probably be better of hiring someone else. If you value your job and want to keep it then make a point of getting to work on time for every shift.
If you are going to be late for important reasons, pick up the phone and call. It’s the least you can do, but don’t make a habit out of it. For emergencies only.
Do you think it’s important to be on time for your shift? Leave a comment or tweet us!
So, you’re getting ready for your first day of training at a new restaurant, huh? Whether you’ve been working as a server for years or just starting out, there are a couple of things that you should always take into consideration before starting your first day of training.
If you need tips on HOW to train a waiter or waitress, read more in our article “8 Tips on How to Train a New Waiter/Waitress”.
If you’re a new server, don’t forget, be prepared to work…and to work hard! Training is all about seeing what you’re made of and testing your limits. Serving tables is in a league all on its own!
Here are 9 tips that might just help you land the job.
TIP #1 Be on time.
Better yet, show up early. Yes, I know it’s incredibly obvious and trust me, it feels completely ridiculous saying it, but I cannot stress this enough. Punctuality is essential when starting a new job. It’s one of the first impressions your employers and coworkers will get of you. Show up late and they’ll all think that a) you’re disrespectful and b) don’t really care about the job. If anything happens and you can’t make it on time or can’t show up at all then pick up the phone and call them.
TIP#2 Listen to your trainer.
Even if you’ve seen it all and you are highly qualified for the position, listen to what your trainer has to say. Different restaurants work with different systems and you really need to pay attention to the differences between this job and your previous ones. The whole “Yeah, yeah. I know.” attitude should be left at the door. Let your trainer explain things first and then ask questions later.
TIP #3 Pick up the pace.
When starting at a new restaurant, some servers have a hard time picking up the rhythm of the restaurant and the speed of the service. When changing to a busier restaurant, it’s time to get your ass into gear and pick up the pace. Walking around the restaurant like you’re taking a nice stroll in the park is not going to work. Keep in mind – your trainer will push you, and rightfully so. Keep up with their pace and don’t waste time. If you find your trainer moving quicker than you then you’re the one who needs to adjust your rhythm.
TIP #4 Be ready for grunt work.
You’re new, right? So you’ll have to a do a lot of the crappy jobs that people hate doing like preparing linens, silverware and glassware, filling condiments, restocking napkins, etc. Your trainer will make you clean their section, run their plates, and do any other cleaning duties or tasks they may have in store. You’ll have to really prove yourself, so don’t ever slack off or sneak off in back for a cigarette. Get rid of that cellphone and concentrate on working and working hard. Don’t even think about complaining. Your trainer and employers may be testing your limits to see how much you want the job and how much you can take. Also, you may get all the crummy shifts and hours that nobody wants. Be ready to take whatever shifts/sections/tables they give you.
TIP#5 Remember: Staff members will be hard on you.
Because you’re working in an industry where your coworkers rely on tips as their income, other waiters and waitresses will be hard on you if you make mistakes at their tables or if you’re in their way. It’s very possible that you’ll get snide comments or brushed off so be prepared for that. If you’re doing something wrong, chances are someone is going to tell you. Whether you’re garnishing a beverage with a lime instead of a lemon or bringing plates to the wrong table, someone will voice their disapproval and it may not be in the nicest way possible. Be ready to have a thick hide and learn from your mistakes.
TIP#6 Avoid asking questions that make you look bad.
I don’t mean don’t ask questions. You should be asking a lot of questions to show a genuine interest in learning the job and the correct way of doing things. What I mean is you should avoid asking questions that make it seem like you don’t care about the job or don’t even want to be there. Questions like:
- “What time do I finish?” This is my most hated question. You’ve barely been working 5 minutes and you’re already thinking about when you’re leaving. If you need to know for important reasons, that’s different, but find a way to make it seem like you don’t want to get out of there as soon as possible.
- “Do I really have to do that?” Your trainer is telling you that you need to do something. Just do it! They wouldn’t be telling you “You have to clean the chair legs before every shift” if you didn’t need to be done.
- “Can I eat something?” Um, you’re at work. You’re supposed to be working, not eating. Eat before or after your shift, not in the middle of training.
- “What kind of discount does the staff get?” This one isn’t as bad, but don’t ask it in the middle of training. You have more important things to learn other than the bonuses of working at that restaurant.
- “Can I take next weekend off?” The answer is no. Never ask for time off when you’re starting at a new place. If it’s something of importance, ask your employer and explain the situation to them. If it’s for your friend’s birthday party, keep that to yourself and do the hours they need from you.
TIP #7 Know your schedule.
Not showing up for a training because you didn’t know you were working is unacceptable. It’s not only frustrating for the restaurant, but for you as well. They will most likely not have you back. When getting your schedule for training, make sure you double check that you have the correct days and hours. Get the phone number to contact the person giving you your hours so that you can call in case you’re unsure. Be prepared. There are no excuses.
TIP#8 Focus on your job
The worst thing you can do is start yapping away with coworkers about what you did that weekend or telling your life story to your trainer while you should be paying attention to your customers and what you should be learning. Talking and telling stories will distract you from ordering food on time, seeing new tables being seated in your section, and remembering customer’s requests. Stay focused. Be friendly, but your priority is work, not socializing.
It’s really important to show that you’re happy to be there and working so smile! Also, it shows everyone that you are capable of having a good relationships with the customers, that you’re friendly, and easy to work with. A smile can go such a long way so don’t forget to let it shine.
Getting trained to be a server at a restaurant doesn’t necessarily mean you got the job, so make sure you’re constantly doing your best. Hopefully these tips will help give you a bit of perspective before starting your first day.
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Whoever said that being a waitress these days is easy?
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with as a waitress was learning how to smile through anything and everything that happened in life. Personal problems were checked at the door as you entered the restaurant and especially never came out when dealing with customers. Sad eyes had to dabbed with a Kleenex, bags under the eyes from lack of sleep were covered with makeup, and a smile had to be permanently placed on those lips no matter how much you felt like just throwing in the towel.
“Learning how to smile through anything and everything that happened in life…”
Of course, conversations about personal problems with close coworkers always happened. I would tell stories about my personal life with those I felt comfortable divulging that sort of private information to and end up feeling a bit better. Sometimes I even needed to tell my bosses if things weren’t going well, so they’d know why I wasn’t as focused as I usually am.
“Recently, something happened. It seemed as if the whole world around me was crumbling.”
Recently, something happened. It seemed as if the whole world around me was crumbling. From a series of matters or the heart, life, death, and illness the mess just piled up until I couldn’t imagine anything else happening. Yet, the restaurant business holds for no one. People keep coming and eating. Coming and eating. The world doesn’t stop for your problems. And
neither rarely does your job.
“But I got through it, put on a carefree smile and saved my sadness for when I could cry it out later at home.”
Needless to say, I had to go into work, despite all the horrible things going on in my life. No matter how sad I was for myself and others, I still had a position to fill. Being short staffed at a restaurant on the busiest night of the year isn’t exactly the ideal situation for the bosses, so I didn’t even consider calling in and asking for a personal day. It was difficult, to go in and see couples holding hands and sprouting words of love, but I got through it, put on a carefree smile and saved my sadness for when I could cry it out later at home.
The next day was a day of being ridiculously sick and receiving some heart breaking news. The day after that, I went into work yet again. I explained to my boss the situations that were unfolding and he gave me a small section of four tables. That whole night, customers were telling me that I have a lovely smile and that I must be so happy to have a smile like that. The whole night I was dying inside. Sick to my stomach, aching for the loss of a loved one, and my heart torn to pieces. Yet, I continued to smile.
“I walked away from the table, a couple of tears in my eyes but brushed them off.”
At one point, regular customers were seated at one of my tables and said “Hey! The waitress who always smiles! Are you ever sad?”. I wanted to burst out crying, right then and there. I wanted to yell “Yes! I am so incredibly sad!” then collapse onto the seat next to them in a bundle of tears and sobs after which I would curl up there for the rest of the night. I couldn’t put that on them, of course. That would be unprofessional. So I smiled and said “Hardly ever, but when I’m mad…watch out!” and we all laughed together before I took their drink order. I walked away from the table, a couple of tears in my eyes but brushed them off. There’s no time for tears when serving customers.
“The amount of strength and control that it took.”
The amount of strength and control that it took. The amount of energy I put in. All of that and just for a smile, something that usually comes so naturally to me. It was incredibly intense and one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. To pretend to be the happiest person in the world. It’s so unlike me. It felt fake and wrong, like I was conning these people into thinking that their waitress is one of the friendliest they’ve ever had. I don’t know. Is that wrong? Is it right?
People really don’t seem to realize that behind a smile may be someone who’s hurting. Someone’s who is in emotional turmoil and in need of help. Whether physical or emotional pain, it sits there behind the small, shy grin of the hostess at the front desk or the beaming ear-to-ear smile of the waitress serving you your plates. You may not realize it, but it’s there. And what is incredible is that through all the hardships and troubles, there they are…keeping their smile and working through the pain.
There’s nothing more frustrating during your night out to eat than a waiter who is never around when you need them most. Either you get the walk-by with no eye contact, the waiter who pretends they don’t see you, or a server that tells you “Sorry, I’m not your waiter.”
First of all, those sorts of things should never happen in a professional restaurant. If you find yourself constantly being neglected, it may be time to find another restaurant to dine at. But for all other regular circumstances, there’s are some key things you can do to make it easier to grab your server attention when you need something.
1. Raising your hand
This is one of the simplest and basic ways to grab your server’s attention. In order for this to work, however, your server must be on top of their game and circulating within their section, readily available for any sign you may be trying to give them. But, you have to keep in mind that they are not mind readers and sometimes need a clear sign to know that you actually want something. Be obvious with your hand raising. Especially while dining out at a busy, rush filled restaurant. Otherwise, the waiters may think you’re just tapping your hand on the table or talking with your hands.
2. Learn your waiter’s name.
I’ve mentioned this before in another post called “Remember to Tip Your Waitress”. As stated before, it’s actually encouraging for servers to be called by their name instead of something as rude as a finger snap. Imagine your in a busy, loud restaurant and you need another beer. You call out “Excuse me, Miss” but the waitress doesn’t catch what you said. If you raise your hand and say “Excuse me, Ashley “, the chances are much better that they’ll notice you.
3. Speak with a manager.
Of course, servers should be doing their utmost best to make sure your experience at the restaurant is a pleasant one. If you’re a regular at a restaurant and sense that a server is disrespecting you or purposely ignoring you : ask to speak with the manager. They may be able to switch your waiter or waitress and may even speak to the server who was ignoring you in the first place. If you find that you enjoy being served by a specific waiter, ask if it’s alright that you be put in their section each time you come. Management loves to get feedback on the good…and the bad and will most probably do their best to try to give you the service you need as a guest.
4. Treat your server with respect.
I can guarantee you right now that if you disrespect your server by snapping your fingers, yelling, making fun of them, or calling them names you will not receive the service you were expecting. I’ve seen waiters purposely ignore customers that were rudely snapping their fingers, so the solution is quite simple. Don’t do it. Period. If you are constantly getting bad service everywhere you go, take a step back and take a look at you table manners.. Are you making inappropriate jokes? Do you find yourself swearing at them? It may be time for a change in your dining etiquette.
There are always exceptions…
Servers are mostly responsible for being available for their guests. The things, they aren’t machines. They are responsible sometimes for quite a few tables and sometimes if one thing goes wrong, everything else gets dragged down with it. If you see you server trying to take care of a problem with another guest, be patient and remember that they are doing their best in sometimes a crummy situation. If you can help them out some of the time by making it obvious when you need something, it will make their jobs a lot easier and in return you’ll get the service you expect.
AS YOU ALL KNOW, there is a time and place for everything. This includes when it’s time to start printing out those ol’ resumes and finding a new job. Before you head out with guns a blazin’ and showing off that Go Get’em attitude, take a moment to think about what you’re applying for.
Are you applying for hostess? Waiter? Bartender? Which restaurants are you going to go to? Are they breakfast places, all you can eat buffets, or sports bar and grills?
It’s extremely important to know where you’re going to be applying.
Why, might you ask? Because different restaurants, diners, and bars have different RUSH HOURS. Now, what are rush hours? Rush hours are times where restaurants are at their busiest. For example, a 24-hour McDonald’s might get a rush at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. because that’s around closing times for bars, or a breakfast place might be around 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
So…think about it. All restaurants have certain times when they get bombarded by customers and don’t have the time for anything other than serving those hungry guests. DO NOT just show up at a romantic dinner restaurant at 6 o’clock on a Saturday night hoping to hand your resume personally to a manager. I can tell you now, it ain’t going to happen. So, plan your route according to the time of the day. You don’t want to bring your resume in mid-rush.
When is the best time for me to hand in my resume?
Well, that can vary depending on where you’re applying. It seems like between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm are some of the best times. It’s after the lunch rush and before the dinner rush for a lot of places. Of course, some restaurants are closed at that time specifically for that reason, so be sure you’re going when they’re open.
Of course, it always depends on how busy the place is, too. If you walk in a see a lot of people and the place is packed with customers, you’ll know it just may not be a good time. You also have to take into consideration what day it is. Weekends can be crazy if you’re at a busy restaurant, so maybe plan on going during the week. Every day is different in the restaurant business and sometimes you never know when it will be busy or not. I guess that’s the rough part about the food and service industry.
What else can I do to be sure that I don’t bring my resume in mid-rush?
Why not try calling the restaurants ahead of time and asking when the best time to bring your resume would be? It’s a quick fix and I’m sure they’ll appreciate that you are doing your best to not disturb them during the busy hours. Not to mention, they may ask you to come in right away if they are desperately looking for someone. You never know what could happen so be prepared. Know what position you’re applying for and which days and hours you’re available to work.
It’s okay, I’ll wait for the manager…
When applying, try not to pressure the manager into coming to see you. If the hostess or another employee tells you the manager is busy and that you’ll have to come back, take that into consideration. Although it’s good to have the never-giving-up attitude, you can show that in other ways other than taking up a table and waiting for the manager to come see you. They are quite busy at times, having to deal with the restaurant on a whole, so if you catch them at a bad time, you don’t want to be the person who bothered him during a crisis at work. You want to be the person who did it right. Make sure you’re on their good side.
Show them you understand the restaurant business.
Never (and I do mean NEVER) bring in your resume during the busy hours. You’ll leave a bad impression and your application may end up getting lost in the process. When everything is crazy and out of control and the whole staff is focused on the diners, it’s easy to misplace things that don’t matter in that moment. You want to stand out and be known that you know how the restaurant business works and know better than to come while it’s busy. You need to show that. Follow all this and you should have no problem with your first impression.
One day, back when I was working as a hostess at The Hot Spot, a woman strolled into the restaurant looking rather shifty. I cheerily greeted her as she came through the front door, but she continued on past the front desk with not so much as a glance in my general direction. As I hostess, I was used to being ignored by customers and I figured she was just too focused on trying to find someone she was supposed to be meeting for lunch. Discretely following her, I kept a few paces behind in case she needed my help, that is, until she finally came to a stop behind a nearby table.
“She stood there for a few moments, nervously clutching her purse and eyeing the man sitting in the booth.”
She stood there for a few moments, nervously clutching her purse and eyeing the man sitting in the booth. His back was facing her and as she ducked up and down to get a better view of the guy, I thought that maybe she was meeting him on a blind date and she was trying to size up the guy before deciding to take a seat or run out of the restaurant before he noticed. It was weird, however, that the man had only asked for a table for one when he entered the restaurant.
“May I help you?” I asked politely.
She shook her head, so I walked towards the front desk making sure to be a available if she needed a menu or not.
She finally took a deep breath and approached the table, quickly sliding into the booth to face him. No “Hello!” or “Hey! How are you?”. They started up in what seemed to be the middle of a conversation they had already been involved in. And it was quite the heated discussion, if I may say so myself. The man’s plate arrived to the table and their waiter asked the woman if she’d like anything. She shook her head and continued to stare at the man who was now picking up his fork and knife to eat.
“The man was trying to shush her, but she wouldn’t have it.”
After about 10 minutes, I could hear the woman’s voice more and more as the conversation grew more intense. The man was trying to shush her, but she wouldn’t have it. He finally had enough and asked the waiter for the bill. Their server placed it on the table and walked away to give the two of them some space. Before I knew it, the man was coming up to the front desk asking me to quickly get the waiter because he needed to leave right away. I got their waiter and the man paid, all the while as the woman stared angrily at him.
“She had that You’re Dead To Me look that Lily sometimes has on How I Met Your Mother.”
He walked out of the restaurant, saying a quick thank you, as the woman stayed behind still sitting in the booth. As I walked by, I was a little scared. She had that You’re Dead To Me look that Lily sometimes has on How I Met Your Mother. She was fuming, then suddenly she was up and running out of the restaurant. I went to the front desk to look out the window into the parking lot and saw her yelling at him as he was opening the door to his car. She continued to run towards him and then threw herself between him and the driver’s side door, slamming the door shut and preventing him from getting in.
“She tried to hold on for dear life he attempted to exit the car by the passenger side.”
The man then calmly walked around the car to the passenger side door and unlocked it and slid into the seat. The woman pulled the door open on her side and as the man climbed into the driver’s seat, she threw herself onto him, her legs dangling out of the car. He tried desperately to push her off, but she’d wedged her legs into the door of the car that there was no way he was getting her off of him. She tried to hold on for dear life he attempted to exit the car by the passenger side.
Meanwhile, people walking by were starting to watch the scene unfolding before them as the man finally freed himself from her grasp. He ran out of the car and started heading back towards the restaurant. I quickly ran to be behind the front desk so he wouldn’t notice me watching the craziness of what was happening outside. I saw the woman getting out of the car and slamming the driver’s door as the man asked me to (very politely might I add) to call him a cab. So I did.
He waited in the front lobby as the woman paced around outside waiting for him to come out. She had finally had enough of waiting and stormed into the restaurant and took a seat right next to him. I mean, she literally made sure that the whole side of her body was touching his. And then she just glared at him as he blankly stared ahead. She talked, he didn’t.
I finally saw the cab pull up to the front door so I told the man that his cab had arrived. He thanked me and got up to leave. The woman shouted at him to not go, but he wouldn’t listen. As he climbed into the cab with her yelling at him, she did the same thing as when he was trying to get into his own car. She threw herself onto him, making sure to dangle her legs out of the car so that the driver could not drive away. After 5 minutes, I could tell the cab driver was starting to get extremely angry. He yelled at them to both get out and drove away, never looking back.
“He attempted to get back into his car, but she was a complete maniac and was one step ahead of him the whole time.”
By this time, the man was finally starting to yell. I could see him yelling at her to get away from him. He attempted to get back into his car, but she was a complete maniac and was one step ahead of him the whole time. I saw him trying to push her away from the car door and then suddenly he was off running.
“He had somehow grabbed her own set of keys and was running to her car.”
He had somehow grabbed her own set of keys and was running to her car.She chased after him and caught up to him before he could figure out which key was for her car and a screaming match began. All the while he was trying to fake her out by running back to his car and quickly spinning around to run back to hers. Finally, he gave up trying and it was a wave of screaming and crying from the girl. She tried to wrestle her keys away from him, but he held on with all his might and then he did something that made me think …
“Did he really just do that?”
I even asked it out loud to the two other waiters who had joined me to watch the crazy show in the parking lot. We were shocked. The man had thrown her keys into the middle of a busy street and made a run for it as she watched where they landed. She stared with her mouth hanging open as she realized what he’d done.
“She ran right into the middle, grabbed her keys like a football player running drills, and made a mad dash for his car.”
He ran as if running for his life and you could see the split-second-decision-making the woman was doing. Keys or The Guy? Keys or The Guy? She decided to make a run for her keys as the man jumped into this car. At that moment, no cars were driving down the road so she ran right into the middle, grabbed her keys like a football player running drills, and made a mad dash for his car. She was too late as he pulled out of his parking spot and headed towards the exit. She tried to run out in front of his car, but he had already pulled ahead of her before she had a chance to pretty much throw herself onto his moving vehicle.
She bolted towards her own car, got in to the driver’s seat and drove off like the dickens, heading in the same direction he did.
The whole day, the staff talked about what must have happened. Some thought that it was his mistress and he’d just called it off and she couldn’t let it go. Some thought it was his wife of girlfriend who was checking up on him to see if he was cheating on her. Some thought it was some Psycho Stalker. Whatever it was, it was one of the weirdest moments I’ve ever witnessed at work.
A lot of servers go through this at one point in their career as a server. It’s dreaded occurrence that will happen at one time or another, whether working as a server for your first time or if you’ve been doing it for years.
You will forget to send an order.
It mostly happens either when the restaurant is booming or when it’s disastrously quiet. Is it your fault as a server when this happens? Why yes, yes it is. But we can come to realize is that we are people,plain and simple. And what do people do? Well they make mistakes. It happens. The best we can do is try to learn from our mistakes so as not to repeat them (hopefully) in the future.
I’ve seen a few different approaches as to solving this problem when it happens. There are a few that I find to be sneaky and deceiving and another approach I find is the best way to resolve the problem of forgetting to send an order to the kitchen.
So, imagine you’ve just realized that you never sent out a table’s order. You scramble around to ring it up as fast as you can. After the order is sent and you know it will be another while before the food comes out, so you need to decide what to do next.
Here are some different possible scenarios with different types of servers and let’s see which one seems like the right way to handle the situation.
1. Skittish Steve – Avoiding the table until their food is served.
Skittish Steve is a waiter that will notice the customers waiting impatiently, looking around for their food and even stopping other waiters for information about when their meals will be arriving. Skittish Steve knows that avoiding the table means not having to answer to the “We’ve been waiting half an hour for our food” spiel. Of course, this type of waiter doesn’t want to confront that uncomfortable conversation, so even though they know it’s understandable that the customers will be furious, they’ll leave the plates on the table giving some half-assed apology of “Sorry, it was longer than usual tonight ” or even worse of pretending like nothing is wrong. The customers now have their food and can hardly believe how long it took. They’ll leave, reminding themselves never to return because the service was terrible and the kitchen was too slow at getting the food out.
2. Blamer Barbie – Blaming it on the kitchen.
Blamer Barbie, once realizing that she forgot to send the order, will proceed to approach the table in an apologetic fashion, informing the guests that the kitchen has somehow”lost” their order, so it will be another little while before their meals are served. The customers will be slightly irritated at the kitchen staff for their lack of professionalism, but but Blamer Barbie knows that they guys in the kitchen will be none the wiser that she’s placed the blame on them and since they have no interaction with the guest and the diners won’t get up to voice their disapproval, no one will know that she forgot to order their food. This leaves Blamer Barbie off the hook as long as no one finds out. The customers finally eat, pay the bill with a decent tip (since they figure it wasn’t Blamer Barbie’s fault that the food arrived later than usual) and leave, perhaps only coming back to the restaurant when they know they’ll have a lot of time to kill.
3. Humble Helen – Explaining the situation to the customers
Once they realize that they forgot to place the order, Humble Helen will approach the table and excuse themselves for interrupting. She’ll then explain that she accidentally forgot to order their food and promise that they are doing their best to rectify the error. She’ll go to the Expeditor and tell them that she fucked up (and talk to the kitchen if need be) in order to try and get the order out as soon as possible. Humble Helen will then offer to bring them some more bread while they wait and ask if they need a refill of their drinks in the meantime. Sure, the guests will be a little put off, but they’ll appreciate the fact that their waitress is being honest. Once they receive their food, they’ll realize that Humble Helen did the best she could in a crappy situation and they’ll appreciate the fact that everything was prepared as fast as possible to compensate for the error. Humble Helen will ask the manager what they can do for the guests (whether it be free coffee and/or dessert) and be overly nice to show the customers that it was not for lack of caring that they forgot to order their food. The customers will leave feeling like they were not forgotten about and will return because of the honesty of the staff of the restaurant.
There are, of course, exceptions…
Waiters and waitresses will of course react differently in certain situations. Mistakes will happen where the kitchen somehow loses orders, or technology fails and orders are erased. That happens, in case you didn’t know. But you can tell a lot by how servers approach you! If they seem sincere and they really care about what’s happening, chances are that they are telling the truth. If ever you’re unsure about what’s going on: ask to speak with a manager. They should be able to tell you what’s what.
As a server…
You should do your best to treat your customers with the respect they deserve. The best way to approach this situation is to tell your customers the truth. The honest truth. If you’re a decent human being and an honest server you’ll feel much better to do the right thing. Try it out and see what happens.
Think about it…
Whenever I go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it seems as if a good amount of servers don’t really care about taking care of their tables. I often see other guests being ignored when lifting their hand to get the waiter’s attention and scanning the dining room impatiently waiting to pay. It really surprises me because taking care of your tables should be easy – like second nature.
There are many little things that you can do to spoil your customers:
1. Make eye contact
It seems silly really, but if you’re walking around the restaurant with blinders on, you won’t notice when one of your guests is trying to grab your attention. As a customer, it must be extremely annoying when a waiter doesn’t acknowledge you. Even if you’re in the middle of bringing plates to another table, scan your section. If someone raises their hand, the least you can do is nod to let them know you’ll be going around to see them.
2. Refill water glasses / Ask if they would like another drink
Don’t wait for their water glass to be completely empty before refilling it. Of course, you don’t want to top it off after only a couple of sips, but if the glass is half empty, top it off with some fresh water before they have a chance to finish it all. Some people drink a lot of water, so try your best to accommodate them.
When drinks/beverages are down to 1/4 of the glass, ask if they’d like another. I’m not saying offer it on the house or anything of the sorts, but if a customer stops eating and is looking everywhere for you to order another drink, it’s a waste of time. Think of it, you’ll be satisfying your customers needs before they even realize it and up selling.
3. Learn regular customer’s likes and dislikes
If you have a good memory, this tip will really come in handy. If you’ve been in a certain restaurant long enough, you start to get to know the regular customers that come in and out of the restaurant on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Learn what they like and dislike. If you notice that they always pick out the mushrooms from their pasta and you know it’s possible to make the dish without the mushrooms, suggest to the customer that next time they can order it without mushrooms. Better yet, then next time you serve them try to remember to order the pasta without it. It will surprise them.
For example, I served a couple once and they ordered the chicken. I remembered them saying they loved it, so the next time they came, I remembered and asked “Will we be having the chicken this evening?”. They smiled and said “How did you remember that?”. I just smiled and made a lame joke, but they laughed and looked impressed. Then I noticed that they ordered the same bottle of wine as last time. I added that to my memory so that when they next time they came, I asked them right away if they’d like to start with that bottle of wine. They were speechless and said that from now on they were going to ask to be served by me. Honestly, it’s a win-win situation. Learn your customer’s likes and dislikes.
4. Serve at the customer’s pace
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone out to a restaurant only to have the waitress run up to me and ask if I want anything to drink before I even have a chance to sit down. That’s just annoying (“Can I at least sit down and look at the menu first?”). Timing can be difficult, especially since there are some people who know right away that they want a beer immediately (you know – it’s been a hard day). But at least give people a chance to sit. You’ll notice that guests who want a drink asap will settle in much faster than a couple dining in your restaurant for the first time.
Do not rush customers who are taking their time eating. Especially in a group, people will eat slowly while talking and enjoying their night out, so go at their pace. Instead of rushing appetizers, give your customers a chance to sip at their wine a bit or enjoy those few first sips of an ice cold beer.
When it comes to the bill, invite them to take their time so they don’t feel like you’re trying to rush them out the door. I understand needing to turn over your tables and that’s how you make your money, but most people won’t stay that long after receiving the bill unless they’re really chatting up a storm. That can be a problem when it comes to making money, but there’s nothing you can do to change that without obviously trying to kick them out (which is inappropriate). It’s annoying, but it happens. Don’t rush your guests.
5. Think of the little things
All the little things you can do to make your customer’s experience even better than they expected is a bonus. For example, let’s say you have a salad and the guest has 3 salad dressings to choose from. They seem unsure of which one to choose, worried that they may not like it, so why not try suggesting putting it on the side of the salad so that in case they don’t like it, they can change it. It’s a simple solution really and the guest will really appreciate the effort. All the little things like that add up and make for a happy customer.
Waiters, really make an effort to spoil your customers rotten. Give them the service they deserve and treat them with respect. They’ll definitely come back wanting more…and even ask to be served by you.
Throughout the year, and especially around Christmas time, people receive Gift Cards to either their favorite Italian restaurant or to a new Sushi Shop in town and are delighted by the fact that can use the Gift Card to either pay the entire bill – or part of it.
We all know that the standard tip a diner should leave the server is 15%. Now, there seems to be a lot of people out there who believe that if they have a Gift Card it means either
- They get a free meal because of the Gift Card – in which case they don’t need to leave a tip or
- Half of their meal has been paid – which means they only have to leave a tip only on the amount after the Gift Card amount was deducted
This is a big problem between Gift Cards, Servers, and Diners.
What is the protocol here?
1. Paying the whole bill with the gift card
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that your bill is $50 and you have a gift card for $100. You think “Wow, this is great! I don’t have to pay a cent for my meal plus I get to keep another $50 on my Gift Card for the next time I come to eat”. I know it sounds great, and it is, but you have to keep in mind that the waiter/waitress who served you is (in a sense) not working for free. S/he took your order, served your drinks, made sure everything was to your liking, cleared the table, brought you coffee and dessert, etc. Getting a “free meal” never means skimping out on the tip.
2. Paying part of the bill with a gift card
Let’s say that your bill is $50 and you have a $25 dollar gift card. You think “Wow! I only have to pay $25 for a $50 meal. This is great!”. And you’re right, it is. The thing is, when the waiter/waitress who served you takes your credit card and passes it at the remaining amount ($25) it doesn’t mean that your bill is suddenly only $25. The server doesn’t cancel half of your bill, they just declare at the end of the day that the bill was paid for by credit card and gift card. You must tip according to the full amount of the bill before the Gift Card amount is deducted.
3. Paying with a bank card and gift card
When using a gift card and a bank card to pay your bill, a problem can arise when using the hand held machine to complete the purchase. Let’s say that your bill is $50 and you have a $25 dollar gift card. The server brings the machine to pass your bank card and puts the amount at $25 (the remaining amount after the deduction of the gift card). The problem with this is that it will ask you what kind of tip you’d like to add (15%? 20%? Other?). If you choose the option of adding 15%, then it will add 15% of the amount put into the machine – which was $25. Now you’re leaving a lower than 15% tip on a $50 bill. Be careful to choose the “Other” option in order to add in the exact amount you want, or better yet you can always pay the tip in cash to avoid confusion.
A Note to Waiters: Be Kind
It is considered to be inappropriate to approach guests about the amount of tip that was left. Some mistakes are obvious and sometimes it’s easy to see when someone doesn’t understand how the system works, but please be kind. Don’t lose your cool and make a fuss about it, that won’t help anyone and is extremely disrespectful. Find a way to inform your customers of the original cost of the bill, or consult with the floor manager with the best way to deal with this kind of situation.
Have Any Questions?
Unsure of what to do when paying with a gift card? Feel free to ask a server (or manager). They should be happy to tell you the correct way to pay. If anything, feel free to ask by leaving a comment below.
Nowadays, there are such amazing varieties of restaurants you can eat at. Whether it’s for a business meeting, family get together, or a hot date the choices are endless. Anywhere from French cuisine to Fast Food! There are a lot of factors that make your experience at a certain locale either good…or bad. Music, ambiance, cleanliness, decor, seating, food quality, food portions, etc. The list goes on and on. But all of that means nothing if the service is terrible, right?
I think we can all agree that the most important factor, besides good food, is having a good waiter or waitress, right? No matter how much you love that cozy little breakfast place, you wouldn’t go back if the waiters didn’t even bother to refill you coffee. What a pain! As customers, we do deserve to be treated with respect and served politely.
It’s a problem, however, when people start to treat their waiters like their own personal servant. I’ve seen it many times, a gentleman snapping their fingers angrily at a waitress instead of politely saying “Excuse me, Miss?”, a woman calling out to a waiter while he’s in the middle of taking another guest’s food order, customers ignoring waiters when they ask questions like “Would anyone like some more coffee?”.
A little friendliness from yourself (as a guest in the restaurant) can go a long way.
Here are a few tips on how to treat your waiter with kindness and respect.
TIP # 1
Learn your waiter’s name. It’s encouraging for waiters to hear their name from their guests. It lets them know that you respect them (ex: Thank you, Jessica) and it also makes your dining experience all the better. You’ll know who your waitress is and be able to get his or her attention better when they are walking by your table. If you say “Excuse me, Michael” as they pass, hearing their name will definitely grab their attention!
TIP # 2
Smile. Many experienced servers can tell in the first greeting whether their guests are happy, nervous, angry, frustrated, etc. If you don’t smile at them, they may pick up on some bad vibes coming from the table and limit themselves to basic monotone service, anxious about upsetting you more. Smiling will let them know that you are open to hearing what they have to say (whether it’s about the evening specials or the daily desserts) and in the end your server will feel relaxed and give you an even better service.
TIP # 3
Be understanding. Waiters are first and foremost people and what do people do? They make mistakes. It happens. They order your steak Medium-Well instead of Medium-Rare (they sound pretty close in a crowded, loud dining hall on a Saturday night). They forget your refill of Pepsi. They order a small beer instead of a large. I’m sure it’s happened to you and trust me, it will happen again. The thing to remember is that people make mistakes. Now, I’m not saying that if your server makes 10 mistakes in a night that you should be 100% okay with it, but maybe that waiter just went through a divorce and has other things on their mind, maybe it’s just “one of those days” for them, or maybe their car broke down on their way to work. You never know what could be going on in their lives that could be affecting their work. It’s good to try to give them the benefit of the doubt. The only problem with that is that there actually are waiters out there who really just don’t care. You do have to watch out for that. But if you have a waitress who’s smiling and you can tell is doing her best to satisfy her guests, if she forgets to bring you bread …try to be understanding.
TIP # 4
Be polite. Say “Thank You” and “Please” when addressing your server. They are there to help you, and if you are getting good service then it’s important to let them know you appreciate it.
TIP # 5
Compliment them! If you just dined at a restaurant and had the BEST service you’ve ever had at that restaurant, or even any other restaurant you’ve been to, let them know! Don’t be afraid to tell them. You may notice they suddenly feel shy or even surprised. Many people don’t open up enough to let people know they are doing a good job. Hearing that from guests will give good servers a reason to stay that way.
TIP # 6
Leave a good tip. If you go to the same restaurant every other day, every other week, or every other month and the staff recognizes you, it means that you appreciate the staff, quality, and food the restaurant has to offer. It means that they must be treating you well! Make sure that you let them know that you appreciate their hospitality. When it comes to paying the bill, be sure to calculate your tip correctly. There are many apps for your phone that are designed for calculating tips. You can always ask your server to add on the correct percentage. The average tip should be 15% of the bill and an excellent tip for excellent service should be more if you really want to show your appreciation. Money isn’t everything, but you must remember that your servers are making under minimum wage and rely a lot on their tips as their income.
TIP # 7
Ask for your favorite server. When returning to a restaurant that you love, learn the names of each waiter you’ve had and ask the hostess/host in the front to be seated with your favorite server. If there’s one in particular that you trust to make your dinning experience a pleasant one, ask for them. They will feel ecstatic to know that they remember you. A bonus in asking for the same waiter/waitress every time is that they get to know your likes and dislikes and should know them by heart. If you order a beer to start every time you sit down and you ask for the same server every time, they may already order one for you so that it arrives as you sit at your table. They may give you something on the house. If there’s a problem with your meal, they will try their hardest to right it because you are now a regular customer. There are major advantages to asking for your favorite server.
All these tips can really help you with your dining experiences. Remember to recognize the difference between those servers who just think of serving as another job and those who do it because they love it! You’ll notice a huge difference. Be kind, understanding, and treat them with respect and they should do the same!
Servers work extremely hard over the holidays, serving parties and people celebrating, with no days off to celebrate with their family and friends and may need an extra little pick-me-up after all the hours they put in at work.
Here are a few ideas that may help these hard workers get through the busiest and most stressful time of year.
1. A massage
Servers are on their feet all day, bending over backwards to carry plates and trays and could really use a wonderful massage to get out all the stress of the day.
2. Gift certificate to a restaurant
Waiters and waitresses are constantly seeing other people dining out and enjoying their evening, having people serve them and not having to clean up afterwards. I, for one, would love to have that opportunity. Seeing all these people celebrating makes us a little jealous…well, envious. Just a piece of advice, don’t get a gift certificate to the restaurant they work at.
3. A nice bottle of wine
For those servers at fancy restaurants with a nice wine menu, it would be nice to get in on that type of wine-action. A bottle to share with friends over a delicious dinner would mean the world to them!
4. A little getaway
Whether it be just for an evening or an all expenses paid trip to Cuba, every server needs to get away from their job and not have to wait on people hand and foot. Getting away allows us to let go and relax without the worries of work.
I hope this helps and gives you an idea of what a waiter or waitress might really need around Christmas.
As you all know, The Waitress Confessions has been featured in quite a few articles from blog posts to How to be a Good Waitress by wikihow . So, we are very excited to be mentioned over at FoodTender.com in an article written by Jason Boies called Build a Winning Restaurant Staff: Part 3 . So please feel free to check it out!
What’s You Order is where The Waitress Confessions leaves telling the tales of the service industry up to you!
If you’d like to be part of this segment and share your story, just write to us!
Okay, so I’ve been hostessing for three years now to make money for college. I’ll have a few more expenses coming this fall, so when offered a second job at a different restaurant as a server, I took it.
Now I’m not new to serving. My mother owned and operated a restaurant for 40 years before she retired. So obviously being around the industry my whole life, I know the difference between good service and bad service. I just needed to learn the menu and any required phrases when I took this job.
So I’m serving one night, and this couple comes in. First off, the floor changed and I was not told this. More so, the floor chart was shoved to the side and not displayed where I could actually see it. So they sat there for a bit before I got to them. I apologized and got their shakes and burgers out asap. I came back multiple times to make sure everything was okay. “Oh yes, everything is good, thank you.” was what I was told. It was when they ordered a shake to-go that things went bad. They waited for-ever for that shake because the shake person was behind. I did everything I could besides going back there and and forcing him to make it. That’s when they asked the manager to come over, and they told him that both the food and the service was horrible. He comped their check, and then after they got their shake, they left – without leaving any tip.
Now okay, I’m not saying I didn’t make any mistakes here. I could have been more attentive to the stations, and I could have asked the manager to make the shake. BUT at the same time, and I’ve seen this countless countless times at my other job too, the couple could have TOLD me their was something wrong with their food BEFORE they ate it all. We are servers, not mind readers. If customers do not tell us there is a problem, then we can not help them. Fortunately my manager was understanding, especially since I’ve been giving great service to all my other customers. However some are not so lucky. Obviously if there’s a complaint on the service then it’s on us.
It just tears me up that full grown adults cannot speak for themselves when they have a problem, and then get upset when said problem isn’t magically fixed. Even if it’s just a small thing, TELL US! Not only will you get a great dining experience, but we will know that you are 100% happy with your meal.
— Waitress Confessions (@WConfessions) June 22, 2014
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“Serving up the surprising truth about waiters and waitresses”
From what we can gather from the 1.5 minute trailer is that this awesome documentary is about the reality of being a server and how the restaurant business actually is – because let’s face it, you have no clue about it until you’re in it . Nine food servers are interviewed and spill their guts on the reality of the crazy amounts of money you could make in one shift, the kinds of tips people leave, the disgustingly low hourly salary rate (and that’s my opinion), and “the dark side of the industry” – alcohol and drug abuse. Not only does it discuss the dramatic side of serving tables, but also the fact that as servers we live off of our tips. Out sick one day? Well then we don’t get paid. No sick days means sometimes having to choose between staying home and getting well or going in sick and running ourselves to the ground just so we can pay our rent.
“Great blog, Marie! You should probably be aware of our soon-to-be-released documentary “Where’s My Food?!” that looks deep inside the world of America’s
hard working and underpaid waiters and waitresses.”
We thought this would be an excellent trailer to show to you all, whether you are in the service industry or not. Take a look and tell us what you think. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @WConfessions!
Here at The Waitress Confessions we love hearing about your own daily lives as a waiter or waitress. Here is a post that we found called Sometimes It’s Worth It by Ashley Parsons over at Why We Waitress. Click here to view the original post.
Sometimes…If I had a dollar for every time I thought, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m quitting tonight,” I wouldn’t have to be a waitress. We’ve all had those nights: it’s a half hour past closing time, and your table asks for a dessert menu, or right at last call, the birthday-drunk customer asks for 15 flaming Dr. Pepper shots. You think of responding with a laugh (or maybe flipping the table over), but you don’t. You plaster a smile on your face, ask if they’d like whipped cream on it, and tell them to enjoy the rest of their evening.
…but what about the good nights?
All too often, us servers forget about the times we don’t care how bad our feet hurt because we’re counting the cash in our hands. Every now and again, we get lucky, and customers actually give us what we bust our asses to earn. For example:
About a year ago, this cute couple came in for dinner. She was a nurse, and he was a writer – I guess opposites DO attract. Sometime during my usual schmoozy-small talk, I mentioned that I was an English major and very much into creative writing. When I handed them their check, WriterGuy started telling me about this old typewriter they had: no idea how old it is, but totally beautiful. It was just collecting dust in their attic.
(Side note: I’m obsessed with old typewriters.)
I spent about five minutes drooling over the details they gave me and fangirling over how cool it must be. Then NiceNurse said, “You want it?”
They didn’t want it to go to some antiques road show. Said it should be with someone that will really cherish it. They didn’t know how much it was worth and didn’t care to.
A month later, they brought me the most beautiful machine I’ve ever seen: a 1936 Royal portable typewriter in almost mint condition, traveling case still totally intact.
Like I said — sometimes, it’s worth it.
by Ashley Parsons
Here at The Waitress Confessions we love hearing about your own daily lives as a waiter or waitress. Here is a post that we found called That Restaurant Life by vickyamartin. Check out her blog and read the original post.
Back in 2012…
when I was looking for a summer job, I remember countless people saying to me “Become a waitress! You will make a ton of money.” As a college student I thought, how bad could it be? The money that came from tips sounded appealing and I worked as a cook in a pizza shop since high school so I had some restaurant experience. I got hired at a Buffalo Wild Wings and there I learned what waitressing was all about. And after swearing to myself that I would never wait tables again for any reason after quitting that job, I decided to work at a local bar and restaurant once again this past summer.
On a busy Friday night, restaurants are a nightmare. Waiters and waitresses are bumping into one another while running food and drinks to tables, cooks are yelling at one another to complete orders, and the printer is spitting out orders to the cooks almost constantly.
As a waitress at a restaurant that has a bar, I have become accustomed to staying up until 2 a.m. waiting for a handful of customers to drink their final beer after last call. I have met some customers who are always a delight to wait on. Those people understand that the servers and bartenders are working for far less than minimum wage ($2.13 an hour) and their positive attitudes make it easy to enjoy my job. They also understand what gratuity is fair and our paychecks are hardly enough to buy dinner at McDonalds. Their tips are what we use to get by; they are the cash that goes into our pockets at the end of the night. Then there are the people who do not understand said tipping concept, or the effort being put in my cooks, bartenders, and servers to keep the restaurant sailing smoothly. Whether it is ignorance or a bad experience that prevent these people from tipping, it still should not be the servers pay that suffers. I work at a restaurant that does not add gratuity to checks and many of times have found that it should be mandatory.
One busy Saturday night in January, I was running around from table to table as usual; refilling Pepsi with the one soda machine in the restaurant, running beer and drinks to customers, taking food and drink orders, and checking to see how my eight or nine tables were doing. I introduced myself to an older couple got them their drinks and took their food order. While waiting for their food to come up, I ran checks to other customers who were leaving and took drinks to new arriving customers.
When the older couple’s hoagies were ready, I took them to the table and asked if they needed anything else, and left. When I returned to their table, what I experienced was something worse than scorn you would receive from your own mother.
“This is unacceptable!” the old man shouted at me. The woman chimed in and added that my service was terrible as they had watched their hoagies sit on the oven for a whole two minutes while I brought drinks to my other customers. When I offered to get them something else to eat on the house, suddenly nothing was good enough. If they were not the center of my attention the whole night, I wasn’t a good enough waitress either. I gave them their check and got a 13 cent tip. The inability to understand how a restaurant works and lash out at your waitress for something they could not control shocked me. When waiting on many tables at once, it isn’t right to skip out on taking care of one table because of the impatient needs of another.
I realized from this experience why I enjoy my job as a waitress. Interacting with people and making them smile and laugh while they are out to dinner also puts a smile on my face. Seeing families together having a good time helps me suck up the fact that I am getting paid $2.13 an hour. And most of the time, goodhearted people are the understanding ones who have worked for minimum wage or less and are generous.
It is possible some people will find a reason to be cheap and skip out on tipping their waitress because of just about anything. I came across an article from the Huffington Post about a waitress from New Jersey who was left a note instead of a tip by a family of four. It read “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle choices.” The woman, who was gay, also happened to be a marine and posted a photo of the note to Facebook. This is an example that people are unethical and look for reasons to not tip. In this case, the family was banned from the restaurant and the waitress received an outpouring of donations after this incident went public. While I do not believe that all non-tippers should be banned from restaurants—because sometimes there is good reason for not tipping—I believe if you are eating out at a restaurant and have a server provide you good service, gratuity should be mandatory. Many people raise children, pay for their education, and pay living expenses from their tips as servers.
As a server, you have to have a backbone. The bottom line is that if people are not working hard at a restaurant, the restaurant will likely fail. If all restaurants added in gratuity that could be taken off in the event of terrible service, which does happen, servers would still work hard and things would run efficiently, perhaps even better. Waiters and waitresses can go home with money to pay their expenses like workers of other occupations, rather than having their wallet pay because of someone’s personal issues.
Written by : vickyamartin
Share Your Story With Us!
Dear Waitress Confessions…
I decided to contact you because I am looking to start waitressing. I read some of your posts and found your stories really interesting. I just moved to a new city (Calgary Alberta) and was wanting to try out something I would not back home, waitressing.
I’m not someone that goes to the bar often but would to get more comfortable to the restaurant environment. Can you give me some recommendations how I can start? My previous experience was in customer service. This would be a part time opportunity for me.
How should I approach or find an opportunity? Should my resume be different than my bank opportunity? How should I dress for an interview? How do I know if a restaurant want me to wear a certain type of clothing I’m not comfortable with, example Moxies. Thank you so much for your time, hope you can help me with overcoming this experience.” ~Kitty
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to write!
Part time waitressing is great, especially if you are just looking for make some extra cash on the side. Since this would be your first experience waitressing, you may have to opt for “less fancier” restaurants. Higher end restaurants ask for years of experience and it is very competitive.
The best approach, in my own opinion, would be to look for places that are willing to hire based on your experience working in customer service. Even if you have no servingg experience, they may be just dying to find someone who excels in that area. That, in my opinion, is definitely worth a shot.
Your resume should reflect exactly who you are and what skills you believe you have in order to convince them to give you a chance. Are you a good multitasker? Are you active? Do you learn quickly? Are you great with people? Take the time to think of the great qualities it takes to be a waitress.
As for the interview process, it could depend a lot on what type of restaurant, but I would always for for the professional look. Wear your hair up in a very professional, clean cut way if you have long hair. Working in the restaurant business, you always need to have your hair tied up. It will give them the chance to see what you would look like that way.
Upon entering a restaurant, have a pen ready, ask to speak with the manager and be really nice to the hostess since they will be the one who is going between you and the manager. If you’re rude to her and if she is very close and open with the manager, she may tell him that you aren’t worth his time and miss out. Find out when the quiet hours are to go in order to meet the manager/owner face to face, because there is nothing worse to a manager than having someone come in during a rush. Do NOT be that person…shows you don’t know how the restaurant business works. Call in advance to find out when the best time would be.
Smile…..A LOT! But, you know, not in a scary way. Ask questions and be honest. If you’re concerned about what a restaurant would want you to wear, then ask them what the dress code is and if there are any ways around that. If you’re not comfortable with the dress code then move on to another restaurant. You’ll be saving yourself the trouble and won’t be wasting their time either.
Also, there is nothing that people in the restaurant hate more (ok—im exaggerating just a bit) than someone who says that they have more experience than they do. Because they will be able to tell right away. It’s just the way it is.
I wish you all the luck in the world!