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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How Being a Hostess Taught Me to Be a Better Server

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.

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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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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!

The Waitress Confessions

 

 

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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Work Ethic: Minimize Your Trips and Maximize Your Steps

blurry restoWaiters 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.

You could:

  • 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.

Good luck!

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Tip of the Day: Treat the Kitchen Staff with Respect

Kitchen staff humming #sf
Photo by: Chatherine B.

The other day on Twitter, I wrote a tweet saying:

@waitresslife #servernightmares In the middle of a crazy rush: realizing you forgot to send an order. Nice when you know the kitchen guys..”

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:

@WConfessions @waitresslife happened to me yesterday during brunch. For 15 mins I forgot to ring in a medium sirloin; guys got it out in 5!”

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

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Tip of the Day : Learn Your Menu

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” ~ Albert Einstein

Are you training to be a waiter or waitress?  Before you start, make sure that you know your menu inside out.  It will help speed up the process and you’ll have an easy time taking the guests’ orders.

Didn’t get a menu to study?  Sometimes restaurants have their complete menu online so you can get an idea of the meals that they have. Get a head start and stand out and shine among the other servers!

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For more tips as a training waiter or waitress, see “9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress in Training”.

The Importance of Getting to Work On Time

Resto Red ChairsIt 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!

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9 Tips for a Waiter/Waitress In Training

The Italian Wine and Food Advocates Alfresco DinnerSo, 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.

TIP#9  Smile.

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.

Remember…

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.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or if you have any tips of your own you can contact us  or tweet a tip to @WConfessions

The Waitress Confessions

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Keeping Your Smile: Working Through the Pain

Skyviews of Texas Tech
Photo by: Give2Tech

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.

The Waitress Confessions

Applying for a Job at a Restaurant: When To Bring Your Resume

Craft Based Learning
Photo by Les Roches

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.

The Waitress Confessions