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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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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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

You May Also Like:

 

Waitstaff Portrait
8 Tips on How to Train a New Waiter/Waitress
The Pros and Cons of Being a Waiter / Waitress

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