I have a diner question, well a camper diner question. A friend of mine and I only see each other a couple of times a year. We meet at a Cheesecake Factory typically on a Friday night around 5pm and leave around 10pm. We let our server know that we are gabbers, will be staying long and will tip accordingly. That being said I want to know if there is a proper way to calculate a tip for camping. I’ve been searching and searching and only find, “don’t do it – the server isn’t making the right amount” or “tip accordingly”.
We know we are taking a really long time. We know we are coming on one of the worst nights and times to do this. We order throughout the visit – generally putting in our dessert order and hour or so before we’re officially done. We know we are potential PIA’s so we want to make sure that the servers leave feeling as happy with their campers as we, their campers, are!
We keep an eye out on a neighboring table and keep tabs on how many times the table was turned. We calculate a 20% tip on our bill (tipping on the total amount after tax), then multiply that by the number of times the nearby table turned and round up to an even number.
For example, tonight we had a bill of $86 (it was about double what we typically spend because another person joined us for a while). I noted the nearby table turned four times (for at least the last hour, the table was empty as were quite a few in the section). We tipped $17.20 (20%), multiplied by 4 for a total tip of $70 ($50 in cash and $20 on a credit card). The server seemed put out.
On our previous visit, the bill was $45 and the nearby tables turned three times. We left the server, who was wonderful, $40 but then we lingered about an hour longer and left an additional $5 cash on the table. The server was thrilled and let us know.
I generally feel that the tip is appropriate but by the time I get home I start to worry!
We are going to camp so I want to make sure that the server is compensated fairly from us. What is the right formula for campers to tip so that the server is compensated properly?
(p.s. please don’t hold back – if this formula is stupid and we’re not doing it right, I’d much rather know than continue to do short change servers!)
Dear Happy Camper…
Seems to me like you are a very considerate customer!
Most people don’t realize that staying for hours and hours at a restaurant could be ruining someone’s night financially. Although paying customers do have a right to enjoy their night as they want, they also need to understand that it is a business and yes – people are there to make money. Waiters and waitresses mostly rely on their tips as their income, so having a table of two people where their bill is $40.00 for over the span of 5 hours is not going to give them the income they rely on to get by…because let’s face it – on a $40.00 bill even if you leave %20 that means a tip of $8.00 (divided by 5 hours…well…it’s really not a lot).
Unfortunately there is no rule or formula for this sort of situation, but I have to say – you may be on to something. In all honesty, if I had a customer like you who took the time to notice how often my other tables turned and tipped accordingly…well I would be as happy as a clam!
First of all, letting your server know that you will be staying for a long time is a great way to start out. That way the server can mentally prepare themselves for how they will be serving you…and give them time to accept the idea that they have “lost” a table for the night. Starting out with that, you may see the disappointment in their face, so following up with the fact that you will try to tip accordingly will lessen the blow a bit.
Second, I think keeping track of the tables turning beside you is a great way to somewhat judge how many times the table you’re seated at could have been turned throughout the night.
That being said, I’d like to give you a few pointers on how to use your formula a little bit better (if you would permit me to do so). Keep in mind, I am in no way saying that “This is the way it should be!” I am merely suggesting other angles that you may not have considered.
#1. When you’re seated at a table and you know who your server is, ask them if the table next to you is theirs as well. Some restaurants have the sections for their servers spread out so it creates more movement within the restaurant. So, if you’re judging the amount of times a table turns next to you in order to gauge how many times you should multiply you tip…well be sure that table belongs to your server. Why? Because if that table you’re basing your math on belongs to another server who slacks off and doesn’t care about turning their tables then you may only see it turn over once, whereas if your own server is a great server who can turn it 5 times then in reality your math would be off. Ask your server if the table next to you theirs and if it is, use it to count the turns.
#2. If you are going out with one other person, upon entering the restaurant I would suggest asking the host/hostess for a table made for two people. If you’re really worried about being fair and not “screwing” a server over then this would be an important point. If you don’t mention it, the host/hostess may seat you at a table with a maximum capacity of 4 people. If you take that table all night, then the server is missing out on getting bigger tables (tables of 3 or 4 people) with bigger bills. All that they’ll see are groups of 4 people being seated elsewhere and it may put them out that their table of 4 is taken by a table of two. That way, you can also watch other tables of two and how many times they turn in order to calculate the appropriate tip.
#3. After you have received your dessert and coffee, feel free to ask for the bill right away. Some servers have to stick around until their customers have paid and even though their shift is over they are not supposed to force you to pay. So they will wait and wait until you are done so they can finally go home. Paying doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave! Ask your server if it’s alright that you pay them right away and if you stay a while longer. They will be thrilled!
#4. Don’t be taken advantage of! If you let a server know that you are a “camper”, but will try to tip accordingly and they DO NOT server you properly…I say screw it. As servers we are supposed to serve everyone equally, whether you stay for half an hour or five hours. You want to be served by someone who is a good sport and who deserves that fact that you take all these things into consideration when going out to eat. Because, let’s face it…you don’t HAVE to do this, but it’s amazing that you do. Don’t let a server’s bad attitude make you tip more because you feel bad. Do it because a good waiter or waitress deserves it.
#5. Point #4 being said, if you find a server who is thrilled by your tipping formula…stick with them. Always ask to be served by them. That way they start to know you as a customer. They know your likes, dislikes, the pace that you like to be served at, etc. That way when they see you, they know what to expect for their evening. You’ll be comfortable knowing that your server knows how to serve you.
#6. If you are at a fancy, expensive restaurant spending only $50.00 when the average bill is $100.00 then yes – you are kinda being “cheap” with the tipping. If a server would normally be making $80.00 off a a table turning 4 times and you use your formula of %20 tip times 4 turns then the server is making half of what they should be making. If you are just dining at good places where the average joe goes out for a meal…then don’t worry about it. Fancier, high end restaurants would be different though.
#7. A point made by Bubba Aldridge on this post shared by The Service Industry on Facebook brought up a very good idea. “There are some restaurants who make their servers stay until all their tables have left. So, for anyone who knows they may stay an extended amount of time, when you arrive, ask for a closer’s section.” A very good suggestion! One to definitely take into consideration.
#8. A recent email from Lauren wrote that she would like to just add that “if you are dining at a restaurant that accepts reservations and want to camp that you should inform the person taking the reservation that you plan on spending a long time at your table. This is because those restaurants will plan on re-booking the table after a set time from your seating. Just remember that if you are in a restaurant on a busy night that you will cost the business a loss of revenues as every table is expected to generate a certain amount of income for the night.” Now, that being said don’t worry about having to spend more because the restaurant will be at a loss of income. It happens all the time. But if a restaurant is based on taking a lot of reservations and double/triple booking tables in an evening it would be a great idea to let them know you will be staying a long time so as not to affect another reservation.
Anyways, I hope this helped you out, but in all honesty (and in my opinion) you can just keep going the way you are. I wish more people took the time to think about these things and I would be happy with someone just trying to take the server into consideration while “camping”. I hoped this helped, and thank you for writing!
There are a lot of different points to think about before considering a job as a waiter or waitress. To some it may seem like a step back in their career, but don’t really understand that it has the potential of being an excellent line of work, whereas others may think it may be the best job without realizing the pitfalls.
So, no matter which attitude you’re starting out with, it’s important to consider a few things before getting to the Pros and Cons of being a restaurant server.
Think about the following:
What kind of lifestyle do you want?
What kind of pay/income to you need in order to feel secure?
Are you willing to give up your weekends?
Can you manage a customer service job?
Are you willing to go above and beyond for customers?
So, moving on along from that, let’s start off with the list of pros of being a waiter/waitress and serving tables.
Always having cash on hand. You make your money mostly on tips, so leaving with your cash after every shift can be refreshing and extremely motivating.
Working less hours, but still making money. A lot of times you have the chance to work busy shifts, but end up making a day’s pay in a few hours. Instead of a 9 to 5, 8 hour days, you can make your money in sometimes 5 hours or less.
Always active. Serving tables means running around grabbing this and that, carrying trays, bringing plates to tables, etc. By constantly moving you are constantly keeping fit rather than sitting in one chair for hours at a time, staring at a computer screen. You’re always on the move.
You’re around people. Being around people means hearing interesting stories, interacting and laughing. You also get to witness some pretty crazy stuff (read our True Stories) because, let’s face it, there is always something interesting happening if you’re around people. If you’re a social person than this is your best opportunity because the friendlier you are…the better the tips!
You have the ability to control your income – a bit. Since most of your income depends on your tips you have a bit of control of how the customers will show their appreciation for your service. The better service you give, they better tips – or at least the better chance of getting a good tip. So if you can charm your way into your hearts and give them the service they need…ka-ching!
The ability to be replaced. A lot of restaurants will allow servers to replace other servers as long as they are equal in their capabilities and experience. Being able to be replaced for a shift is excellent if you want a night off or have plans with family. With other types of jobs sometimes you have to take a sick or personal day, whereas with waitressing sometimes you can just call someone up last minute and have someone work your shift!
You don’t have to bring your work home with you. Once you’re off the clock, you never have to take work home with you in order to meet deadlines or carry the worry of wondering if the stress of your shift that day will bleed into the next day. Once a day is over – it’s over. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to better your day!
Once you’ve worked as a waiter/waitress…you can pretty much work anywhere as a server. Restaurants are always hiring. It may not be the classiest of restaurants, but if you need to move or are stuck without a job you can always turn to serving tables. You can work in hotels, on cruises, fast food restaurants, family owned restaurants, diners…I mean the choices are endless. As long as there are restaurants, there are jobs for servers.
Extra money during the holidays and special days. Days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and around Christmas time you make a lot of extra money. Those times of the year bring in more people, bigger reservations, parties, etc. So there are times during the year where you make a little more than usual. Consider it like your bonus!
The good co–workers. What makes working as a server worthwhile sometimes are the people you work with. Your coworkers who have the same kind of work ethic as you will band together and create a strong bond. If you’re lucky, you’ll have other servers helping you out when you’re in the weeds, rooting for you to make more money, help serve your tables if you need a bathroom break, etc. Some coworkers will go above and beyond for you if you’ve got each other’s backs.
Employee outings and get-togethers. If you work with a good team, chances are you’re going to want to hang out with the people you work with. Sometimes people plan outings such as going out to a bar for a drink after work, playing team sports on your days off, paintball, going to see movies, house parties, barbecues, staff Christmas parties, etc. If you have good people you work with it’s like a second family where no one is left behind.
With experience and loyalty comes great responsibility. That basically means that the more you know about the restaurant, whether it be from hostess to the back of the house, the more work you may have to do compared to your coworkers. People will rely on you and expect more of you, which could make for even more stress from you. Will you get paid for the extra weight you pull? Maybe not.
Having to work weekends. If you’re working in a restaurant, there is pretty much a 100% chance of working weekends. While all of your friend, family and loved ones are off on weekend getaways and having dinner parties, you are the one “stuck serving” all the people out for a night on the town.
Always having money on hand. Yes – this is also a pro! But, people who are apt to spending the cash they have could have a major problem with managing their money. Cash is so easy to spend, especially if all the staff is going out for a drink afterwards.
After a while – it takes a toll on your body. So many times, servers who have been working for years will feel the effects of carrying heavy plates and constantly being on their feet. Back problems and knee problems are not uncommon. Being a server puts a lot of stress on your body.
No benefits. Whereas other companies give their employees benefits from sick days to dental, most restaurants do not provide that for their employees. Are you sick? You have to show up or you 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.
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.
I decided to contact you because I am looking to start waitressing. I read some of your posts and found your stories really interesting. I just moved to a new city (Calgary Alberta) and was wanting to try out something I would not back home, waitressing.
I’m not someone that goes to the bar often but would to get more comfortable to the restaurant environment. Can you give me some recommendations how I can start? My previous experience was in customer service. This would be a part time opportunity for me.
How should I approach or find an opportunity? Should my resume be different than my bank opportunity? How should I dress for an interview? How do I know if a restaurant want me to wear a certain type of clothing I’m not comfortable with, example Moxies. Thank you so much for your time, hope you can help me with overcoming this experience.” ~Kitty
First off, thank you so much for taking the time to write!
Part time waitressing is great, especially if you are just looking for make some extra cash on the side. Since this would be your first experience waitressing, you may have to opt for “less fancier” restaurants. Higher end restaurants ask for years of experience and it is very competitive.
The best approach, in my own opinion, would be to look for places that are willing to hire based on your experience working in customer service. Even if you have no servingg experience, they may be just dying to find someone who excels in that area. That, in my opinion, is definitely worth a shot.
Your resume should reflect exactly who you are and what skills you believe you have in order to convince them to give you a chance. Are you a good multitasker? Are you active? Do you learn quickly? Are you great with people? Take the time to think of the great qualities it takes to be a waitress.
As for the interview process, it could depend a lot on what type of restaurant, but I would always for for the professional look. Wear your hair up in a very professional, clean cut way if you have long hair. Working in the restaurant business, you always need to have your hair tied up. It will give them the chance to see what you would look like that way.
Upon entering a restaurant, have a pen ready, ask to speak with the manager and be really nice to the hostess since they will be the one who is going between you and the manager. If you’re rude to her and if she is very close and open with the manager, she may tell him that you aren’t worth his time and miss out. Find out when the quiet hours are to go in order to meet the manager/owner face to face, because there is nothing worse to a manager than having someone come in during a rush. Do NOT be that person…shows you don’t know how the restaurant business works. Call in advance to find out when the best time would be.
Smile…..A LOT! But, you know, not in a scary way. Ask questions and be honest. If you’re concerned about what a restaurant would want you to wear, then ask them what the dress code is and if there are any ways around that. If you’re not comfortable with the dress code then move on to another restaurant. You’ll be saving yourself the trouble and won’t be wasting their time either.
Also, there is nothing that people in the restaurant hate more (ok—im exaggerating just a bit) than someone who says that they have more experience than they do. Because they will be able to tell right away. It’s just the way it is.
AS THE TEMPERATURE DROPS and December nears, you can feel it in the air that the holiday season is upon us. Restaurants are a zoo this time of year and already you start to cringe at the thought of hearing those dreaded Christmas songs over and over again during your work shift. Just knowing that this time of year brings throngs of family get-togethers and staff holiday parties will either make you ecstatic at the thought of all those tips you’ll be earning…or make you want to rip your hair out.
Before the holiday rush starts, you need to be mentally and physically prepared so that you don’t become (as my boss says) “burnt toast” by the end of it all. Accepting the holidays for what they are is a big part of getting through it, but there are also a few things you can do to make this time less stressful.
Start shopping now.
If you’re giving gifts to loved ones this holiday season, do yourself a favor and start buying your presents as soon as humanly possibly. The last thing you need is to scramble to find someway to get your shopping done on your break in-between shifts. Just finding parking will take you at least half an hour! Not to mention the lineups to pay and having to push through crowds of people at the food court. You’ll end up feeling frustrated and rushed, which never helps when you have to get back to the hustle and bustle at work. Getting this done sooner will help clear your mind while on the job, allowing you to focus less on all the things you need to get done for the holidays.
Accept that you will be working longer hours.
Sometimes it’s difficult to transition into the holidays as a server. If you’re used to getting off work, for example, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday nights and then all of a sudden you’re staying past closing time, it can be quite a shock to your system. Plans you make fall through because the restaurant is busier than usual, your feet and arms are even more sore from serving more tables, and you finish your shift feeling like you’ve got no free time for yourself. It can leave you emotionally discouraged and possibly make you bitter towards your manager for keeping you longer than usual, but you need to accept that that’s the restaurant business. The sooner you accept that you’ll be working longer hours, the less of a shock it will be when you do.
Get plenty of rest.
I know it’s the time of year where friends and family gather and you’re invited to parties every single weekend, but keep in mind that going to too many outings or staying out until the wee hours of the morning is going to end up catch up with you at work. Try to get the best of both worlds without compromising your sleep. Trust me, you’ll feel fresh and alert and keep you going strong rather than waking up with hangovers, wondering how you’re ever going to get through your double-shift.
Remember to stay calm.
We all know the holidays bring around many different types of guests. You’ll get customers who have never been to your restaurant before and will ask a million questions in the middle of the rush, you’ll have guests who are unaware of proper dining etiquette and leave you feeling like there is no hope for humanity, and you’ll serve tables that seem to have no clue about how the tipping process works. Just remember to do one thing….breathe. Go easy on your customers because they are just as stressed about the holidays as you are. Some people only go out to eat around the holidays in order to treat themselves or just going along with what their family and/or friends want, so it’s part of your job to make them feel comfortable. Smile and be patient. If you’re constantly getting frustrated, it’s going to wear you out and tear you down before you even realize what hit you. The calmer you are with “difficult” customers, the more relaxed you’ll feel overall.
The holidays bring along a huge assortment of mouth-watering feasts, tasty cocktails and decadent desserts. Try to stick to your healthy ways by remembering to get plenty of exercise and make sure you don’t overindulge in food or drink. It will help keep up your energy while serving tables.
If possible, celebrate the holidays on your days off.
Having to turn down holiday plans because of work can really take a toll on you. You feel like you’re missing out on family time and never get to see your close friends. While everyone is off of work for the holidays, we as servers are stuck serving. Our loved ones tell us “Just take the day off!”, but we all know it isn’t as simple as that – but, oh how we wish it were! Try to organize a dinner party or holiday breakfast on your days off so that you can partake in the festivities as well.
Rant about work with your coworkers after your shift.
There’s nothing like letting off a little steam with the people who understand your job the best. If you have some coworkers that you really get along with, go out for a drink after work and let it all out. Get mad, laugh, go on and on about how great or how bad your shift was and get it all out of your system. Holding everything inside will eventually cause you to explode – possibly taking it out on a customer or causing you to quit in mid-rush.
While everyone has time off for the holidays, you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off at work. So, after the holiday rush is done and before Valentine’s day rolls around, see if you can find some time to take a few days or even a week off for yourself. Think of it like a reward for working your butt off. Or, if your prefer, put aside some of that extra money you earned and treat yourself to something that will help you recharge your batteries. You honestly deserve it.
When asked ‘What is the worst thing a waiter or waitress can do while serving you?’, this is the response that was given:
“Question what I order. It’s happened before that I ask for something a little unusual (add this, take this off) and the server will say ‘Are you sure that’s what you want?’ It really annoys me because the answer is ‘Yes. This is what I want, otherwise I wouldn’t order it.’ Please don’t judge my choices.” – Emily (Store Supervisor)
Judging customer’s food choices can be extremely insulting. Making comments such as “That’s a lot of food, are you sure you want that?” or “Not the best choice of wine, but if that’s what you want…” can be taken very badly, leaving the customer feel self-conscious and anxious. Instead of asking the customer if they are sure of their order, repeat it back to them and wait for confirmation that the order is correct, especially when it comes to “strange” or “weird” food orders. Never make your guests doubt their orders based on your personal tastes.
I recently received an email from a new server looking for any help they could get while in the “rush”. We’ve all been there and no matter how many years experience you have under your belt it doesn’t save your from those random times where you are just completely slammed with tables. I thought it would be interesting to share this email with you, along with my response, and look forward to any tips you may have of your own.
Please feel free to leave a comment at the end of the post with any advice you may have for this new server.
“Hi! I was hoping you could share your expertise on dealing with the “rush.” I’m new to serving and get overwhelmed a bit more than most. However, I really enjoy serving and want to know how to better take care of my customers during a rush. How do I best serve all my tables when I’m bombarded by tables? Is it better to wait a few minutes to greet a table so I can immediately serve than their drinks, or take their order immediately and have them wait several minutes until I arrive with their order? Any help and tips would be greatly appreciated!!”
– The Frazzled Waitress
Dear Frazzled Waitress,
Thank you so much for writing to us! We greatly appreciate all comments and questions.
Something to keep in mind when you’re in the “rush” is to remember to keep your cool. Most importantly keep your cool around your customers. The more they see you running around like a chicken with its head cut off, the more they’ll feel stressed about their service and wonder whether or not you forgot their order or not. Remember to smile even when concentrating on the million things you have to do at once. If the customers see that you’re busy, but it looks like you’ve got everything under control they’ll be impressed.
Now, I know you want to do a good job, so while looking all fine and dandy on the outside is great, you also want to feel good knowing that you’re doing the best you can with the situation you’re in. Plus, you want to know you’re doing your job well. So…
Tables are being seated at an alarming speed and you’re having a hard time getting to them all. Make sure you greet people in the order that they came in. There’s nothing worse when you’re a customer and another table that came in after you gets to order first. Mistakes do happen and sometimes you don’t see a table, but make that extreme effort to make sure that doesn’t happen. Always be aware of what is happening in your section.
Think about what you need to do first. What would that be? The greeting and drink orders (most likely). That’s something that can also buy you some time when you see other tables being seated as you’re at a table. Ask them “Would you like something to drink to start?” and if they start to look at the menu, unsure of what to have, let them know that you’ll give them a few moments to look through the wine and/or cocktail list. Not only does it help up-sell (they may not have taken a drink to start if you hadn’t mentioned it), but helps buy you time to greet the new tables. So, be sure that while those customers are busy picking a fantastic drink, you’re off greeting the new customers that just sat down.
If they’re ready to order drinks right away…well all the better! Inform them that you’ll be right back with their drinks and head off to your other tables. The place where it gets tricky is when they are ready to order at the same time. Then you are at the table for a lot longer than expected and your other tables are starting to wonder where their waiter is. That will stress you out, but try not to rush through the order. That table deserves your utmost attention so keep eye contact and remember to write everything down and repeat the order to avoid mistakes. Also, this is where knowing your menu 100% comes in handy. The last thing you want to do is waste time taking an order, so when the customers have questions about the menu you should know the answers. Memorize your dressings, toppings, sides, extras, etc. It will help you to take orders quickly and accurately.
Something you can try is if you’re in the rush and walking away from a table with your hands full of plates, is approaching a new table and saying “Hello! I’ll be right with you” (or something around those lines). It lets the new customers know that you are aware that they are there and that you haven’t forgotten about them. Most customers will appreciate the gesture and tell you it’s no problem, but if you say you’ll be right with them, you’d better make it as quick as possible. Don’t hold off on them for 10 minutes or else you’ll start to lose their respect.
Be organized! Minimize your trips and maximize your steps (meaning don’t go back and forth for nothing and do as much as you can while walking through your section) The last thing you want to do is keep going back and forth for things that you’ve forgotten. Use both your hands and carry as many plates as you can when clearing tables. Use trays to pick up empty glasses and don’t forget to ask for refills while you’re at it. Multitasking is key here. You want to be as efficient as possible.
Something I’ve always asked servers-in-training over and over again is “What’s happening in your section?” I’d literally get them in mid “rush” to stop and tell me exactly what was happening. “Table 1 is eating, table 2 needs the dessert menu, I need to do a check back on table 3 and 6, table 5 is ready to pay, and we need to order table 7”. Now, that’s something that every server should stop and do. If you don’t take that second, you may forget to order a table’s appetizers or print another table’s bill. Every now and then just take a deep breath and ask yourself “What’s happening in my section?” and go through all your tables.
Please know, when I give my advice it is solely on what I have learned as a waitress. You may work in a larger or smaller restaurant than I do, so the way the restaurant’s system works may be different than mine. The restaurant I work in is quite big and takes a lot of time to walk from the back to the front so the “going back and forth” system doesn’t work. We need to be efficient. Also, some restaurants have runners, a teamwork environment, and bigger sections so it’s difficult to say what the best procedure for you would be. I’m lucky to work in a teamwork environment where if I get slammed other waiters will notice and come help me, everyone runs everyone’s drinks and food, and anyone guest can stop any waiter if they are ready to order. In other restaurants, though, you have to do everything yourself and I can see how difficult that can be.
All I can really say is keep calm, smile, be patient, be focused, and know your menu inside out.
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:
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)
Any steps of service (check backs, recooks, how to handle any complaints, etc)
Serving coffee and dessert
Presenting the check
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.
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.
Waiters and waitresses are constantly being thrown all around the restaurant. Fetch this, pick up that, take orders, run plates, etc. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle and can wind up looking like a chicken with its head cut off. The key to being a productive and organized server is learning to Minimize Your Trips and Maximize your steps.
What does it mean to “Minimize Your Trips”?
Well, let’s say your Table #1 needs more water and Table #2 needs the debit machine to pay. There are two ways you could possible go about this.
Get the water pitcher
Walk to Table #1 to fill up the glasses
Go back and put the water pitcher away
Pick up the debit machine
Walk to Table #2 and have them pay
Put back the debit machine and continue on your way
Or you could:
Pick up the water pitcher and debit machine
Fill the water on Table #1
Have Table #2 pay
Bring the water pitcher and debit machine back where they belong and continue on your way.
The second way is most obviously the better route to take. Going back and forth for things can end up wasting your time (and your customer’s time) which leads to a slower service, less sittings, therefore fewer tips in your pocket.
Take a good look at your section and your tables from afar, see what needs to be done, and plan accordingly. You will always find yourself at one point or another going back and forth for things, but sometimes that’s out of your control (ex: a customer asks for another beer at the last second).
What does it mean to “Maximize Your Steps”?
Make every step you take count! Walking by a table that is finished eating? Clear as much as you can. Bringing water to a table? Walk by all your tables to refill water glasses before you put the pitcher away. Do everything you can possible do while walking through your section before walking off to the bar or the back of the house.
this also applies to running drinks and plates. Don’t just take one table’s beverage from the bar. Take the initiative and bring several drink orders at once. It clears the bar faster, the customers get their drinks quicker, and you don’t have to keep going back and forth for things. Maximizing your steps helps minimize your trips. Is there only one drink order at the bar? You should be checking if there are any plates to run from the kitchen. Keeping that “hands full” attitude will grab your managers attention, letting them know you can handle many different things at once. Remember, maximizing your steps helps minimize your trips.
Different restaurants, different rules…
Of course, these things vary from each restaurant you may work at. In general, you do want to organize the priorities in your section without feeling like you keep going back and forth..back and forth. Sometimes you just need to take a second and take in all the things you need to do, put them in order, and find the most effective way to get each task done.
Whenever I go out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it seems as if a good amount of servers don’t really care about taking care of their tables. I often see other guests being ignored when lifting their hand to get the waiter’s attention and scanning the dining room impatiently waiting to pay. It really surprises me because taking care of your tables should be easy – like second nature.
There are many little things that you can do to spoil your customers:
1. Make eye contact
It seems silly really, but if you’re walking around the restaurant with blinders on, you won’t notice when one of your guests is trying to grab your attention. As a customer, it must be extremely annoying when a waiter doesn’t acknowledge you. Even if you’re in the middle of bringing plates to another table, scan your section. If someone raises their hand, the least you can do is nod to let them know you’ll be going around to see them.
2. Refill water glasses / Ask if they would like another drink
Don’t wait for their water glass to be completely empty before refilling it. Of course, you don’t want to top it off after only a couple of sips, but if the glass is half empty, top it off with some fresh water before they have a chance to finish it all. Some people drink a lot of water, so try your best to accommodate them.
When drinks/beverages are down to 1/4 of the glass, ask if they’d like another. I’m not saying offer it on the house or anything of the sorts, but if a customer stops eating and is looking everywhere for you to order another drink, it’s a waste of time. Think of it, you’ll be satisfying your customers needs before they even realize it and up selling.
3. Learn regular customer’s likes and dislikes
If you have a good memory, this tip will really come in handy. If you’ve been in a certain restaurant long enough, you start to get to know the regular customers that come in and out of the restaurant on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Learn what they like and dislike. If you notice that they always pick out the mushrooms from their pasta and you know it’s possible to make the dish without the mushrooms, suggest to the customer that next time they can order it without mushrooms. Better yet, then next time you serve them try to remember to order the pasta without it. It will surprise them.
For example, I served a couple once and they ordered the chicken. I remembered them saying they loved it, so the next time they came, I remembered and asked “Will we be having the chicken this evening?”. They smiled and said “How did you remember that?”. I just smiled and made a lame joke, but they laughed and looked impressed. Then I noticed that they ordered the same bottle of wine as last time. I added that to my memory so that when they next time they came, I asked them right away if they’d like to start with that bottle of wine. They were speechless and said that from now on they were going to ask to be served by me. Honestly, it’s a win-win situation. Learn your customer’s likes and dislikes.
4. Serve at the customer’s pace
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gone out to a restaurant only to have the waitress run up to me and ask if I want anything to drink before I even have a chance to sit down. That’s just annoying (“Can I at least sit down and look at the menu first?”). Timing can be difficult, especially since there are some people who know right away that they want a beer immediately (you know – it’s been a hard day). But at least give people a chance to sit. You’ll notice that guests who want a drink asap will settle in much faster than a couple dining in your restaurant for the first time.
Do not rush customers who are taking their time eating. Especially in a group, people will eat slowly while talking and enjoying their night out, so go at their pace. Instead of rushing appetizers, give your customers a chance to sip at their wine a bit or enjoy those few first sips of an ice cold beer.
When it comes to the bill, invite them to take their time so they don’t feel like you’re trying to rush them out the door. I understand needing to turn over your tables and that’s how you make your money, but most people won’t stay that long after receiving the bill unless they’re really chatting up a storm. That can be a problem when it comes to making money, but there’s nothing you can do to change that without obviously trying to kick them out (which is inappropriate). It’s annoying, but it happens. Don’t rush your guests.
5. Think of the little things
All the little things you can do to make your customer’s experience even better than they expected is a bonus. For example, let’s say you have a salad and the guest has 3 salad dressings to choose from. They seem unsure of which one to choose, worried that they may not like it, so why not try suggesting putting it on the side of the salad so that in case they don’t like it, they can change it. It’s a simple solution really and the guest will really appreciate the effort. All the little things like that add up and make for a happy customer.
Waiters, really make an effort to spoil your customers rotten. Give them the service they deserve and treat them with respect. They’ll definitely come back wanting more…and even ask to be served by you.
Throughout the year, and especially around Christmas time, people receive Gift Cards to either their favorite Italian restaurant or to a new Sushi Shop in town and are delighted by the fact that can use the Gift Card to either pay the entire bill – or part of it.
We all know that the standard tip a diner should leave the server is 15%. Now, there seems to be a lot of people out there who believe that if they have a Gift Card it means either
They get a free meal because of the Gift Card – in which case they don’t need to leave a tip or
Half of their meal has been paid – which means they only have to leave a tip only on the amount after the Gift Card amount was deducted
This is a big problem between Gift Cards, Servers, and Diners.
What is the protocol here?
1. Paying the whole bill with the gift card
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that your bill is $50 and you have a gift card for $100. You think “Wow, this is great! I don’t have to pay a cent for my meal plus I get to keep another $50 on my Gift Card for the next time I come to eat”. I know it sounds great, and it is, but you have to keep in mind that the waiter/waitress who served you is (in a sense) not working for free. S/he took your order, served your drinks, made sure everything was to your liking, cleared the table, brought you coffee and dessert, etc. Getting a “free meal” never means skimping out on the tip.
2. Paying part of the bill with a gift card
Let’s say that your bill is $50 and you have a $25 dollar gift card. You think “Wow! I only have to pay $25 for a $50 meal. This is great!”. And you’re right, it is. The thing is, when the waiter/waitress who served you takes your credit card and passes it at the remaining amount ($25) it doesn’t mean that your bill is suddenly only $25. The server doesn’t cancel half of your bill, they just declare at the end of the day that the bill was paid for by credit card and gift card. You must tip according to the full amount of the bill before the Gift Card amount is deducted.
3. Paying with a bank card and gift card
When using a gift card and a bank card to pay your bill, a problem can arise when using the hand held machine to complete the purchase. Let’s say that your bill is $50 and you have a $25 dollar gift card. The server brings the machine to pass your bank card and puts the amount at $25 (the remaining amount after the deduction of the gift card). The problem with this is that it will ask you what kind of tip you’d like to add (15%? 20%? Other?). If you choose the option of adding 15%, then it will add 15% of the amount put into the machine – which was $25. Now you’re leaving a lower than 15% tip on a $50 bill. Be careful to choose the “Other” option in order to add in the exact amount you want, or better yet you can always pay the tip in cash to avoid confusion.
A Note to Waiters: Be Kind
It is considered to be inappropriate to approach guests about the amount of tip that was left. Some mistakes are obvious and sometimes it’s easy to see when someone doesn’t understand how the system works, but please be kind. Don’t lose your cool and make a fuss about it, that won’t help anyone and is extremely disrespectful. Find a way to inform your customers of the original cost of the bill, or consult with the floor manager with the best way to deal with this kind of situation.
Have Any Questions?
Unsure of what to do when paying with a gift card? Feel free to ask a server (or manager). They should be happy to tell you the correct way to pay. If anything, feel free to ask by leaving a comment below.
Nowadays, there are such amazing varieties of restaurants you can eat at. Whether it’s for a business meeting, family get together, or a hot date the choices are endless. Anywhere from French cuisine to Fast Food! There are a lot of factors that make your experience at a certain locale either good…or bad. Music, ambiance, cleanliness, decor, seating, food quality, food portions, etc. The list goes on and on. But all of that means nothing if the service is terrible, right?
I think we can all agree that the most important factor, besides good food, is having a good waiter or waitress, right? No matter how much you love that cozy little breakfast place, you wouldn’t go back if the waiters didn’t even bother to refill you coffee. What a pain! As customers, we do deserve to be treated with respect and served politely.
It’s a problem, however, when people start to treat their waiters like their own personal servant. I’ve seen it many times, a gentleman snapping their fingers angrily at a waitress instead of politely saying “Excuse me, Miss?”, a woman calling out to a waiter while he’s in the middle of taking another guest’s food order, customers ignoring waiters when they ask questions like “Would anyone like some more coffee?”.
A little friendliness from yourself (as a guest in the restaurant) can go a long way.
Here are a few tips on how to treat your waiter with kindness and respect.
TIP # 1
Learn your waiter’s name. It’s encouraging for waiters to hear their name from their guests. It lets them know that you respect them (ex: Thank you, Jessica) and it also makes your dining experience all the better. You’ll know who your waitress is and be able to get his or her attention better when they are walking by your table. If you say “Excuse me, Michael” as they pass, hearing their name will definitely grab their attention!
TIP # 2
Smile. Many experienced servers can tell in the first greeting whether their guests are happy, nervous, angry, frustrated, etc. If you don’t smile at them, they may pick up on some bad vibes coming from the table and limit themselves to basic monotone service, anxious about upsetting you more. Smiling will let them know that you are open to hearing what they have to say (whether it’s about the evening specials or the daily desserts) and in the end your server will feel relaxed and give you an even better service.
TIP # 3
Be understanding. Waiters are first and foremost people and what do people do? They make mistakes. It happens. They order your steak Medium-Well instead of Medium-Rare (they sound pretty close in a crowded, loud dining hall on a Saturday night). They forget your refill of Pepsi. They order a small beer instead of a large. I’m sure it’s happened to you and trust me, it will happen again. The thing to remember is that people make mistakes. Now, I’m not saying that if your server makes 10 mistakes in a night that you should be 100% okay with it, but maybe that waiter just went through a divorce and has other things on their mind, maybe it’s just “one of those days” for them, or maybe their car broke down on their way to work. You never know what could be going on in their lives that could be affecting their work. It’s good to try to give them the benefit of the doubt. The only problem with that is that there actually are waiters out there who really just don’t care. You do have to watch out for that. But if you have a waitress who’s smiling and you can tell is doing her best to satisfy her guests, if she forgets to bring you bread …try to be understanding.
TIP # 4
Be polite. Say “Thank You” and “Please” when addressing your server. They are there to help you, and if you are getting good service then it’s important to let them know you appreciate it.
TIP # 5
Compliment them! If you just dined at a restaurant and had the BEST service you’ve ever had at that restaurant, or even any other restaurant you’ve been to, let them know! Don’t be afraid to tell them. You may notice they suddenly feel shy or even surprised. Many people don’t open up enough to let people know they are doing a good job. Hearing that from guests will give good servers a reason to stay that way.
TIP # 6
Leave a good tip. If you go to the same restaurant every other day, every other week, or every other month and the staff recognizes you, it means that you appreciate the staff, quality, and food the restaurant has to offer. It means that they must be treating you well! Make sure that you let them know that you appreciate their hospitality. When it comes to paying the bill, be sure to calculate your tip correctly. There are many apps for your phone that are designed for calculating tips. You can always ask your server to add on the correct percentage. The average tip should be 15% of the bill and an excellent tip for excellent service should be more if you really want to show your appreciation. Money isn’t everything, but you must remember that your servers are making under minimum wage and rely a lot on their tips as their income.
TIP # 7
Ask for your favorite server. When returning to a restaurant that you love, learn the names of each waiter you’ve had and ask the hostess/host in the front to be seated with your favorite server. If there’s one in particular that you trust to make your dinning experience a pleasant one, ask for them. They will feel ecstatic to know that they remember you. A bonus in asking for the same waiter/waitress every time is that they get to know your likes and dislikes and should know them by heart. If you order a beer to start every time you sit down and you ask for the same server every time, they may already order one for you so that it arrives as you sit at your table. They may give you something on the house. If there’s a problem with your meal, they will try their hardest to right it because you are now a regular customer. There are major advantages to asking for your favorite server.
All these tips can really help you with your dining experiences. Remember to recognize the difference between those servers who just think of serving as another job and those who do it because they love it! You’ll notice a huge difference. Be kind, understanding, and treat them with respect and they should do the same!