How Waiting Tables Prepares You For Your Baby’s First Month

Matt AbrahamMatt Abraham currently lives in China with his criminally insane cat Durden, his beautiful one month old son Kal, and his supportive wife Jenny. For more, check out his critically acclaimed debut novel Dane Curse (available for 99 cents) or contact him at authormattabraham@gmail.com and danecursepi.wordpress.com

I was terrified when I had my kid four weeks ago. He was tiny and fragile, screaming and shaking, and all I knew was that I wanted to succeed as a parent. However, the only skills I possessed dealt with waiting tables. What was I going to do, upsell him a bottle of wine or crumb his bib between courses? But after four weeks of fathering I realize there was no need for concern, because as surprising as it sounds, the skills I gained from working in restaurants were the only ones I needed to successfully deal with an infant. After all, he was just a weepy egocentric human who was demanding all my attention, and even on a slow Tuesday night you’ll see four of those… So if you’re a waiter who’s expecting their first kid you can rest easy, the following six lessons from your time spinning trays are guaranteed to get you through the crucial first month of parenthood with ease.

Kind of.

Lesson 1. No matter how bad it gets, don’t panic.

It doesn’t matter if your apps are dragging, the POS machine is down, or table twelve just found a human finger in the flan; you don’t panic. Personally, I apply this cool thinking to everything I do as a dad. Like right now my baby’s been crying for ten minutes straight, the cat’s crapping on the new white rug, and smoke from the toast I forgot I was making just set off the fire alarm. But am I freaking out? No. I’m writing a blog post. Because waiting tables taught me to keep a level head. Or maybe because I got six fingers of gin in me. Whichever. The point is I’m not panicking.

Lesson 2. You develop an iron bladder

It’s happened to us all: You have to go to the bathroom, but you’re weeded like Snoop Dogg at Reggae Fest with no one around to cover your section, so you seal up your bladder like a sous-vide bag and wait (sometimes an hour) before finally finding three minutes to sneak downstairs and drop your urine like one of those planes that fight wildfires. Congratulations. This ability comes in crazy handy when you have a baby. See, the first thing you learn as a parent is never wake the baby. Never. Even if they’re lying on your chest and you just drank a gallon of tea you sit there as still as possible like the kid’s pinning you to the sofa like they’re fucking Mjolnir, because the hard truth is a quiet baby trumps dry pants every time. Seriously. I’ve never wet myself to keep my baby quiet, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who has. It’s the right call every time.

Lesson 3. You’ll eat every meal like it’s a shift meal

If you’ve never seen a restaurant worker eat before their shift picture a team of piranhas working on a cow, except with more silverware and fewer niceties. And there are two reasons why: first, there’s only a tiny window in which that food can be consumed before the barbarians arrive, and second, there are precious few actual edible bits in a shift meal, and you got to fight for them. Seriously. I’ve seen cooks throw shoe leather into a hotel pan of Salisbury steak to add mass. Basically I’m saying if you want to eat you’ve got to move quickly.  Which is the same way you eat around a baby; you just power it down like it’s the Nathan’s Hotdog eating championship, because you got maybe three minutes before that cross between Golum and a potato you spawned wakes up and starts asking for shit. But whatever, tasting your food’s for pussies anyway.

Lesson 4. Booze won’t make it better, it’ll make it a lot better

Alcohol’s your friend, ally, parent, therapist, and old war buddy poured into a convenient bottle. I heartily recommend it to restaurant workers and new parents alike. But only AFTER the shift. And never when you’re breastfeeding. Unless you’re the feedee, and not the feeder. Then your freak flag’s flying so high I don’t think a glass of pinot will do much damage so go nuts.

Lesson 5. You only have friends like you

Thanks to the vampire hours most restaurant folk keep it was impossible for me to have friends who weren’t also in the industry, simply because my schedule guaranteed I’d never see them. The same thing happens now, except it’s with my kid-free friends, and if I ever do see them I have no clue what they’re talking about. “Taylor Swift’s twitter feud? China’s currency? Trump?” What the fuck are those things? I live in a world of diapers, man. Let’s talk about that.

Lesson 6. Babies and customers are NEVER right, but you still have to give them what they want

Every part of waiting tables is great. Except for the diners. They suck more than if a black hole manifested in the Dyson testing facility. With complaints like, “Where’s my food, I screamed my order at you a minute ago… This bottle’s too cold, warm it up… and, me me me me me me…” it’s amazing more of them aren’t killed annually (probably because it’s illegal, thanks Obama). So all you can do is shove whatever they’re crying for into their mouths in the hopes it’ll shut them up.I forgot if that point was directly about babies or restaurant guests, but you get my point, it works both ways.

Bonus Lesson. When it’s over you’ll miss it

Sure the industry sucks with all the doubles and clo-pens, but it’s full of the best people in the world. And you get to work and drink with them all night before waking up at noon in some strange place with no recollection of what you’ve done like a God damn werewolf. It’s awesome, and I miss it a lot. They say the same thing about newborns. That they grow up so fast and you’ll miss the time when they were itty bitty. It’s hard to believe, but I guess if I still long for my waiting days, despite being bossed around by bald assholes who thinks they’re the center of my universe, I don’t see why I won’t miss parenting a newborn despite that very same thing happens here on a daily basis, too.

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What to Get a Waiter/Waitress for Christmas

giftIf you know someone who is currently a server at a restaurant, you may be wondering what they may need as a Christmas gift.

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.

Happy Holidays!!

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The Pros and Cons of Being a Waiter / Waitress

Serve chilled.

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.

PROS

  • 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 coworkers. 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.

CONS

  • 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 don’t 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 behavior 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 careful.
  • 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.

 Just remember…

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.

Good luck!

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Where’s My Food?!

“Serving up the surprising truth about waiters and waitresses”


The Waitress Confessions
recently received a post on its Facebook Page (join the club and like us!) about a documentary film that is in the works by Telsius Productions called Where’s My Food?!.

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!

 

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When Your Tips Just Don’t Add Up

tipsToday 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:

$173.00

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.

$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.

 

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Surviving the Holidays as a Restaurant Server

DO_Lakeview Restaurant_ChristmasAS 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.

Stay healthy.

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.

Reward yourself.

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.

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Calling All Waiters and Waitresses!

It’s poll time!

The Waitress Confessions is looking for your opinion! When you go out to eat and are served by a decent server, are you a good customer to have…or a bad one? Cm’on …..let’s be honest!

If you have more to say, please feel free to contact us! We may even use post your deep thoughts and concerns in a post (credit given…of course).

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Tricks to Learning Your Menu

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%

Good luck!

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Regular Customers: 7 Ways to Keep Them Coming Back For More

SPYNEST RESTAURANT-BRASSERIE
Taken by Renato Spinazzola 2006

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.

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MUST HAVE: For Waiters and Waitresses

Portable Coin Dispenser

I, for one, hate it when change is loose in my apron.  I do carry a little change purse, but it quickly overfills and takes me forever to find the right change.

coin dispenser

So, I thought that this change dispenser would solve all my problems, and to tell you the truth it has.  Especially during a rush when a party of 10 all wants their complete change, this helps me out in so many ways.  Sometimes as a waiter/waitress, you just need to keep organized.

It does have a clip in the back if you want, but I just keep it in my apron as is.  I know this is full of Canadian money, but I’m sure they have the same thing all around the world.  Look out for it.  It’s a useful little tool.

Cheers!

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Serving Tables: Top 5 Signs That You Need To Pick Up the Pace

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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Tip of the Day: Looking to Work in a Restaurant

Are you looking for a job as a server?

Elixir Restaurant Waiter
Photo by: OPUS Hotels

Unfortunately, if you’re inexperienced in the field of serving tables, you may be fresh out of luck.  Most restaurants require a minimum of 2 years experience in order to even be considered an interesting candidate.  The thing is, most restaurants don’t want to train you on the basics of how to be a server. They want to train you how to be a server in their restaurant.  So, the more experience you have, the better.

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant before and really want to become a server, you may have to work your way up to it.  When you’re handing in your resume to a restaurant and ask to speak with a manager about a server position, you may be asked what type of experience you have.  If you say “none”, they may ask if you’d be interested in being a hostess or runner instead.  You may want to consider trying one of those jobs if you are serious about eventually serving tables.  If you take one of those positions and learn quickly, the managers or owners may consider bumping you up to waiter/waitress and then you’ll get the experience you need to become a full time server.

You can always try looking for restaurants who don’t mind if you have experience or not.  There are places that like to hire their staff from scratch so that they can mold them into the type of workers they need.  This happens less so in fancy, five-star restaurants so be aware of the type of restaurants that will take you with no experience.  So, call around and make a list of potential restaurants to hand in your resume to.

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To Write or Not to Write? The Pros and Cons of Memorizing Orders

fan4228379043Some 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.

PRO

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.

CON

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.

PRO

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.

CON

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.

PRO

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.

CON

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.

CON

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.

Remember…

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.

Good Luck!

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8 Tips on How to Train a New Waiter/Waitress

Waitstaff Portrait
Photo Credit: DWinton 2005

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.

Good luck!

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Waitstaff Portrait

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