Dear Waitress Confessions : Applying for a Job as a Waitress Without Experience

Dear Waitress Confessions…

“Hi there!

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

 

Dear Kitty…

First off, thank you so much for taking the time to write!

Part time waitressing is great, especially if you are just looking for make some extra cash on the side.  Since this would be your first experience waitressing, you may have to opt for “less fancier” restaurants.  Higher end restaurants ask for years of experience and it is very competitive.

The best approach, in my own opinion, would be to look for places that are willing to hire based on your experience working in customer service.  Even if you have no servingg experience, they may be just dying to find someone who excels in that area.  That, in my opinion, is definitely worth a shot.

Your resume should reflect exactly who you are and what skills you believe you have in order to convince them to give you a chance.  Are you a good multitasker?  Are you active? Do you learn quickly? Are you great with people?  Take the time to think of the great qualities it takes to be a waitress.

As for the interview process, it could depend a lot on what type of restaurant, but I would always for for the professional look.  Wear your hair up in a very professional, clean cut way if you have long hair.  Working in the restaurant business, you always need to have your hair tied up.  It will give them the chance to see what you would look like that way.

Upon entering a restaurant, have a pen ready, ask to speak with the manager and be really nice to the hostess since they will be the one who is going between you and the manager.  If you’re rude to her and if she is very close and open with the manager, she may tell him that you aren’t worth his time and miss out.  Find out when the quiet hours are to go in order to meet the manager/owner face to face, because there is nothing worse to a manager than having someone come in during a rush. Do NOT be that person…shows you don’t know how the restaurant business works.  Call in advance to find out when the best time would be.

Smile…..A LOT!  But, you know, not in a scary way.  Ask questions and be honest.  If you’re concerned about what a restaurant would want you to wear, then ask them what the dress code is and if there are any ways around that.  If you’re not comfortable with the dress code then move on to another restaurant.  You’ll be saving yourself the trouble and won’t be wasting their time either.

Also, there is nothing that people in the restaurant hate more (ok—im exaggerating just a bit) than someone who says that they have more experience than they do.  Because they will be able to tell right away.  It’s just the way it is.

I wish you all the luck in the world!

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RELATED POSTS

Applying for a Job at a Restaurant: When To Bring Your Resume
Tip of the Day: Looking to Work in a Restaurant

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True Story: The Bacon Blunder

Sorry father, for I have sinned…

tmdsI live on the outskirts of Toronto, the most multicultural city in Canada, but I grew up in a village of 1500 white people. You can imagine there was a bit of a culture shock when I first moved there. One night, I had a family of brown people come into the restaurant and sit in my section. I say brown people because at the time, I didn’t know that they were Muslim, and I didn’t know that Muslim’s don’t eat pork.

So the gentleman orders a delicious meat-lovers Panini (one of my favorites) but without the bacon. “No problem” I say aloud as I write down NO BACON on my notepad. I always use big letters because I am a very forgetful person. I didn’t think much of it as I continued on, as usual, topping up drinks and removing the dirty dishes from my other tables.

By the time their dinner was over, I stopped by my Muslim friends and asked how their dinner was, as they seemed to have really enjoyed it. “Do you not like the bacon? I find it adds a great smoky flavor!” I said smiling. The man turned to me; “No, I am Muslim! I do not eat any pork!” He said sharply. “I have never had pork in my entire life and I never will.” He said, in a rather angry tone. Suddenly I began to sweat and swallowed hard as I removed their dishes in silence.

I walked to the back looking a little pale as one of the cooks looked at me. “Are you okay?” he asked, you look like you’re going to be sick. “Does the meat-lovers Panini have sausage in it?” I asked him, dreading the answer I already knew. “Yeah of course it does dude.” He laughed. I blinked very slowly. “And our sausage is made of pork, right?” I asked, even more worriedly. “Oh yeah baby,” he laughed, “100% pork. Why?”
“I think I just sent a man to hell.”

by: The Million Dollar Server

Website: themilliondollarserver.com
Twitter: @M_DollarServer
Facebook: fb.com/themilliondollarserver

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Reserve Responsibly: The Do’s and Don’ts of Reserving a Table at a Restaurant

resto mtl long
“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”
Will Cuppy

You may not realize it, but there are a number of things you should consider while booking a table at a restaurant.  Whether you’re a large party of 30 or more people or a table for two, there certain things to keep in mind that will make reserving at a restaurant easier for you…and for the restaurant as well.

When Making a Reservation Do…

Have all your information ready.
You will be asked the date (which is a given since you should know this ahead of time) and time you’d like to reserve.  They will ask what name the reservation will be under.  Full names are greatly appreciate to avoid any confusion or mix-ups, but Mr. Smith will usually do just fine.  Know the exact number of people in your party so that the restaurant will know whether or not they will be able to accommodate you.  Please be ready to provide your contact information (home phone number or cell phone number) so that the restaurant will be able to call you back to confirm your reservation.  Specify any preferences (i.e. : a table by the window, a booth, near the bar) and mention any specifications (i.e. : serious food allergies, wheelchairs, surprise birthday party) so that the restaurant is aware of your likes and needs.

Call if there are any changes or modifications.
As soon as the restaurant has your reservation, they will keep it exactly as is, never assuming that anything will change.  If you’d like to change the date, time, the number of people, or would like to cancel it all together the best thing to do is to call the restaurant to inform them of the changes.  The same goes for if you’re going to be late and believe you won’t make it there at the exact time of your reservation.  The sooner you call, the easier time the restaurant will have of accommodating you, even if you’re running late.

Keep your reservation time, especially for large parties.
If you’re a large group (let’s say 20 people or more – depending on the size of the restaurant), make sure that you keep your reservation time.  Restaurants have a certain number of staff members at certain times and if you make a reservation during a period where there aren’t normally a lot of customers coming in, they may have fewer staff members than on, let’s say, a Saturday night.  If you reserve at one of those quiet times, the restaurant will either add on more employees or keep them longer so that you will get the service you deserve.  The later you are, or if you don’t show up all together, you’re keeping employees at work longer (whether it be bar staff, waitstaff, or kitchen staff).  If you are going to arrive late, then call the restaurant.  They will really appreciate the heads-up.

When Making a Reservation Don’t…


Make reservations for more people than you really are.
On busy nights, restaurants try to maximize their seating capacity in order to accommodate anyone and everyone.  If you make a reservation for a party of 50 people when you know on some certain level that you’ll only be 30 people, it can create a lot of problems within the restaurant when your group of 30 arrives.  Not only are you taking away other guests chances at reserving a table that night, but the restaurant will be losing out on customers therefore having less sales for that day.  A restaurant is a business after all and although they are happy to have large parties, it’s a shame to lose out on other potential reservations because they don’t have the exact number of people for your reservation.  A difference of 2 or 3 people won’t make a big difference, but when it starts to get to 5 to 10 to 20 people, it makes a huge difference to the restaurant.  Also, for your benefit, having the exact number of people will be easier for the restaurant to organize your table/tables.  You’ll be more comfortable if you do.  If you are unsure of the number of people because you are reserving in advance, call the restaurant to give them daily/weekly updates on the number of people and inform them the day before of your exact head count.

Be wishy-washy about the time.
Be direct when choosing a time for your reservation.  Giving a time like “Around 7:00-7:30” or “At 6:05” is too vague for the restaurant.  Most places only take reservations on the hour or half hour (i.e. : five o’clock, six-thirty, etc) and some will take on the quarter hour.  Be prepared to pick an exact time.

Blame the Hostess for the restaurant’s reservation policies.
Some restaurants have restrictions and limitations for reservations.  They may warn you that you only have the table for an hour and a half or two hours because of other reservations or that there is no place at the time or day you are requesting.  As a customer, I understand that this isn’t always ideal, but it’s not the Hostess’ fault.  Getting angry at them will not help your situation.  Politely ask if there are any possible solutions and if there are none, you need to be calm and accept the situation as is.  Reserving in advance will certainly give you the upper hand, but reserving an hour before you’d like to dine out on a Saturday night will never guarantee you a table at a busy restaurant. It’s never the Hostess’ fault, but if you feel like they are not treating you fairly, calmly ask to speak with a manager to be 100% sure that what the Hostess is telling you is accurate.

Threaten the restaurant.
I’ve seen it happen many times where a guest will threaten to never return if we can’t accommodate them.  Words like “I’m coming to spend $200! What do you mean you don’t have place for me at 6 o’clock on Saturday night?” and “That table is already reserved? If you don’t move that reservation to another table, we’re never coming back!” are not appropriate when trying to make a reservation.  This tends to happen when people reserve last minute and are surprised that the restaurant is completely booked for the night.  There is no way a restaurant will ever call another reservation to tell them we can no longer keep their reservation so that the restaurant can take your reservation instead. Threatening the restaurant is in bad form and expecting them to bend over backwards for you when it’s impossible to do so is unrealistic.  Remember, you’re not the only guests hoping to dine there.

Hang up before giving all your information and expect to have a reservation.
Plenty of times, people are in a rush to make reservations.  It may be on their way home from work, or on their short lunch breaks, but it’s important to have enough time to complete the reservation.  Sometimes when guests call, they ask if there is place on a certain day at a certain time, they’ll give their name and then hang up.  This leaves the restaurant stumped.  What do they do? They don’t have the number of people or phone number and can’t possibly make a proper reservation.  If you want to be 100% sure that you’ve made a reservation, wait until the Hostess is finished asking all the necessary questions before hanging up.  If you call and say “I want to make a reservation for 2 people for tonight at 7 o’clock” and the Hostess says “Yes, we have a table available”, don’t just say “Ok, thanks!” and hang up.  They will assume that you are just checking the availabilities and will be calling later to take the actual reservation.  If you show up that night at 7 o’clock that night, the Hostess will not have your reservation, so make sure to give all your information.

Reserve Responsibly…

Making sure that you follow the do’s and don’ts of making reservations at a restaurant will help you to have the experience you deserve and keep you on good terms with the restaurant.  Proper etiquette, especially as a regular customer, can only benefit you at the end.  As much as you expect the restaurant to keep your reservation and follow your restrictions and preferences, the restaurant expects you to hold up your end of the deal and to respect their policies.

So, reserve responsibly and enjoy the experience!

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Tip of the Day: Don’t Judge People’s Food Choices

restaurants

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.

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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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Today’s Twitter Confessions : The Outside World Wonders…

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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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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Dear Customers: Taking Pens is Stealing

One thing that you should really know as a customer is that the pens that waiters leave you to sign credit card slips or lend you to write something down belong to the waiter.  They buy them with their own money.  Just because they leave them on the table for you, unfortunately does not mean that they are yours to take if you want.

I need to mention this because a lot of times I leave work with 4 pens missing and end up having to buy a whole new pack at the end of the week.  I have to admit, it’s a bit annoying because those pens belong to me and people feel that they can just keep them for themselves.  The restaurant does not provide the pens for their staff, so the money comes out of our pockets.

So please, on behalf of all wait staff…please do not steal our pens. And if you absolutely need a pen to keep, just ask.

Thank you!

The Waitress Confessions

True Story: Mourning Flowers

“Im down…”  she replied. “My husband is dying” 

A few months ago, a regular customer of mine ( a lady of around 60 years old) came to the restaurant to eat.  I didn’t notice her until another waitress asked me “Does she usually take the small order or the regular meal?”  I really had no idea what she was talking about at first.  I quickly finished cleaning my section so I could go over and say hello.

She’s only been coming every Sunday for the past 2-3 weeks, and every time by herself, and always orders a Bloody Caesar (with double vodka) to start.  Last time, she offered to buy me one!  I told her that was really sweet, but we aren’t allowed to drink on the job.  She understood and told me that she was really thankful for the wonderful service.  I was touched.  She said she would come back to see me because I was a really sweet waitress.
Yesterday, however, when I went over to say hello she didn’t seem like herself.

“Hello there! How are you today?” I asked.

She shook her head and played around with a magazine and bouquet of flowers she had on the table.

“I’m…down.” She replied. “My husband is dying…”

I didn’t really know what to say, except  that I was sorry to hear that.  I’ve never really been good at knowing what to say in those types of situations, especially with people I don’t really know.  She proceeded to tell me that she didn’t know what to do.  She was so depressed, even though it had been a long time coming.   The way I see it, no one can ever be fully prepared for that, no matter how long you might know it will happen.

The woman also told me that she had no family around, no friends, and that she was alone.  I told her that I work during the day on weekends and it’s relatively quiet (not too many people at that time), so if she felt up for having a quick bite to eat she could come to the restaurant and we could chat.  She said she would really love that.  She promised to bring me pictures of her grandchildren that live in Toronto.  I said I’d love to see them.

“Enough about this, I don’t want to burden you at all,” she told me.

“It’s not a burden,” I explained.

“I’m so glad I met you!” she said sweetly.  All I could do was smile.

Her waitress came by at that point and we all chatted for a bit.  A few minutes later we passed by the table again to check on her and she told us that she wanted us to have her flowers.  We denied them at first, saying it was too generous and she deserved to have some beautiful flowers around her house.  She explained that she already had too many.

“I’m an old woman!  Don’t argue with me!” she exclaimed as she thrust the bouquet into our hands.

So the other waitress and I accepted and thanked her for her generosity.  She headed home after…I hope that she got home safely.  She seemed pretty down.  I haven’t seen her since, but hope to see her once again to know that she’s okay.  I at least hope that maybe I cheered her up a little bit by lending an ear.  Everyone needs someone to talk to.

The Waitress Confessions

Forgot to Send a Table’s Order? My Bad…

A lot of servers go through this at one point in their career as a server.  It’s dreaded occurrence that will happen at one time or another, whether working as a server for your first time or if you’ve been doing it for years.

You will forget to send an order.

It mostly happens either when the restaurant is booming or when it’s disastrously quiet.  Is it your fault as a server when this happens?  Why yes, yes it is.  But we can come to realize is that we are people,plain and simple.  And what do people do?  Well they make mistakes.  It happens.  The best we can do is try to learn from our mistakes so as not to repeat them (hopefully) in the future.

I’ve seen a few different approaches as to solving this problem when it happens. There are a few that I find to be sneaky and deceiving and another approach I find is the best way to resolve the problem of forgetting to send an order to the kitchen.

So, imagine you’ve just realized that you never sent out a table’s order.  You scramble around to ring it up as fast as you can.  After the order is sent and you know it will be another while before the food comes out, so you need to decide what to do next.

Here are some different possible scenarios with different types of servers and let’s see which one seems like the right way to handle the situation.

1.  Skittish Steve – Avoiding the table until their food is served.

Skittish Steve is a waiter that will notice the customers waiting impatiently, looking around for their food and even stopping other waiters for information about when their meals will be arriving.  Skittish Steve knows that avoiding the table means not having to answer to the “We’ve been waiting half an hour for our food” spiel.  Of course, this type of waiter doesn’t want to confront that uncomfortable conversation, so even though they know it’s understandable that the customers will be furious, they’ll leave the plates on the table giving some half-assed apology of “Sorry, it was longer than usual tonight ” or even worse of pretending like nothing is wrong.  The customers now have their food and can hardly believe how long it took.  They’ll leave, reminding themselves never to return because the service was terrible and the kitchen was too slow at getting the food out.

2. Blamer Barbie – Blaming it on the kitchen.

Blamer Barbie, once realizing that she forgot to send the order, will proceed to approach the table in an apologetic fashion, informing the guests that the kitchen has somehow”lost” their order, so it will be another little while before their meals are served.  The customers will be slightly irritated at the kitchen staff for their lack of professionalism, but but Blamer Barbie knows that they guys in the kitchen will be none the wiser that she’s placed the blame on them and since they have no interaction with the guest and the diners won’t get up to voice their disapproval, no one will know that she forgot to order their food.  This leaves Blamer Barbie off the hook as long as no one finds out.  The customers finally eat, pay the bill with a decent tip (since they figure it wasn’t Blamer Barbie’s fault that the food arrived later than usual) and leave, perhaps only coming back to the restaurant when they know they’ll have a lot of time to kill.

3. Humble Helen – Explaining the situation to the customers

waitressOnce they realize that they forgot to place the order, Humble Helen will approach the table and excuse themselves for interrupting.  She’ll then explain that she accidentally forgot to order their food and promise that they are doing their best to rectify the error.  She’ll go to the Expeditor and tell them that she fucked up (and talk to the kitchen if need be) in order to try and get the order out as soon as possible.  Humble Helen will then offer to bring them some more bread while they wait and ask if they need a refill of their drinks in the meantime.  Sure, the guests will be a little put off, but they’ll appreciate the fact that their waitress is being honest.  Once they receive their food, they’ll realize that Humble Helen did the best she could in a crappy situation and they’ll appreciate the fact that everything was prepared as fast as possible to compensate for the error. Humble Helen will ask the manager what they can do for the guests (whether it be free coffee and/or dessert) and be overly nice to show the customers that it was not for lack of caring that they forgot to order their food.  The customers will leave feeling like they were not forgotten about and will return because of the honesty of the staff of the restaurant.

There are, of course, exceptions…

Waiters and waitresses will of course react differently in certain situations.  Mistakes will happen where the kitchen somehow loses orders, or technology fails and orders are erased.  That happens, in case you didn’t know.  But you can tell a lot by how servers approach you!  If they seem sincere and they really care about what’s happening, chances are that they are telling the truth.  If ever you’re unsure about what’s going on: ask to speak with a manager.  They should be able to tell you what’s what.

As a server…

You should do your best to treat your customers with the respect they deserve.  The best way to approach this situation is to tell your customers the truth. The honest truth.  If you’re a decent human being and an honest server you’ll feel much better to do the right thing.  Try it out and see what happens.

Think about it…

The Waitress Confessions

Dining Etiquette: Cloth Napkins

Have you ever been out to eat at a restaurant that had cloth napkins?  If you haven’t, then here are a few things you should know if ever you do step into a restaurant that has them.  If you have, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Cloth Napkins are NOT tissues

I cannot stress this enough.  I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve walked by a table only to see a guest blowing their nose into our cloth napkins.  To say it’s disgusting is an understatement.  As a server, I am obligated by the management to clear the table the best that I can after you’ve finished your meal – that includes taking off all the cloth napkins.  In all honesty, I do not want to touch a cloth napkin that has (for lack of a better word) gooey boogers stashed away in them.  It’s unsanitary.  So please, if you need to blow your nose, ask for a tissue or excuse yourself and make your way to the rest areas.

2. They are not free to take home

Some how, some way, cloth napkins seem to “fall into purses” or are accidentally left tucked in someone’s shirt on their way out.  Cloth napkins are not free to take home.  They belong to the restaurant.  Leaving with cloth napkins (or anything else of the sorts) is considered theft.  Please leave the napkins at the restaurant.

3. Cloth napkins will always be washed – even if you don’t use it

It’s very nice when guests inform me that they haven’t used their cloth napkin and I can reuse it.  But, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to.  Imagine you’re sitting at a table with your untouched cloth napkin on the table next to you.  Throughout the meal, people are talking with their mouths open, little bits of food may be flying off of forks or spoons, wine is spilled, and crumbs are scattered.  Would you want that napkin knowing it was on someone else’s table before yours?  I don’t really think you would.

You’re right, you may not have used the cloth napkin, but chances are that something has fallen on it.  We would never want to take that chance, so we throw them out to be cleaned no matter what.  It’s very nice of you to want to save us time and  energy, but we make sure they stay clean.

Please…

Remember these few things the next time you go out to eat.  Simple little things can go a long way and make your dining experience all the better.

The Waitress Confessions

 

 

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The Waitress Confessions

True Story: Why I Don’t Mind Serving a Table With Kids


Kids In Restaurants:  A Server’s Point of View

A lot of waiters think “Oh no!” when a family with kids is seated at a table in their section.  Other guests often complain that the children are too loud.  Some think that children should be left at home with a babysitter when parents wish to dine out.

I think there might be too much of a grey area there and that people are too harsh when it comes to whether or not children should be allowed in certain places like restaurants, museums, etc.

Being a waitress at a restaurant, I think it’s wonderful when parents bring their kids, teach them how to order their own food and say “thank you” and “please”. It’s important to learn these things early on in life.  I also have to admit that 85% of the kids that come into the Hot Spot are very well behaved.  Their parents know when their child is capable of behaving themselves in public areas.

Now that’s an interesting word.  

Public.  What is a public area?  Dictionary.com defines it as “open to all persons”.  What is a kid/child?  Dictionary.com defines them as “a person between birth and full growth; a baby or infant”.  Therefore, if museums and restaurants are open to all persons, children should be welcome as well.

Why I Don’t Mind Serving a Table With Kids

To be honest, one of my best memories as a waitress was when a family of 4 (mother, father, 3 year old boy and baby) came to eat at the restaurant.  The table was in another waiter’s section, but when it came time to serve the desserts he needed a bit of help taking the order.  I went up to the table and informed the little boy that he had ice cream included with his meal.  His eyes lit up when he asked politely for chocolate on top.  ”Excellent choice!” I said, I rung up his order in the computer.  I quickly went to get the small bowl of ice cream and when getting to the table I said “Here you go!”.

“What’s yaw name?” the little boy asked, unable to pronounce the letter R.

“Carrie!” I replied. (name changed)

“Cawwie?” he asked.

“Yes. Carrie.”

He paused.  Looked at the ice cream I had brought to him and then back at me.

“I love you, Cawwie!”

That comment pretty much brought tears to my eyes.  It was the best tip I ever got and it made my week.  I still think about it to this day and hope I remember it for years to come. Whenever kids are seated in my section, I hope they will be as wonderful as that little boy.

There’s just a few little problems…

The problem that I see as a waitress is when parents let their children run around screaming in the restaurant and are too involved in their “adult” conversation to keep an eye on them. Not only is it disruptive to other guests, but very dangerous as well.  It boggles my mind that they don’t see that waiters are running around with hot plates, trays full of drinks, and carrying orders that come with steak knives. It makes me incredibly nervous to see young children running around the restaurant because I’m so afraid that they’ll get hurt.

Do parents know how easily their child could get hurt?  I can’t stress this point enough.  I’ve seen waiters on a busy Saturday night coming full speed around a corner and walk right into a little child (all the while trying not to drop hot coffee on them).  There are many restaurants that have play areas for children and I think it’s such a wonderful idea.  A restaurant like that would be a lot of fun for kids and it provides a safe environment for them to play in!  They won’t have to be bored sitting at a table waiting for their food to arrive or run around in a dangerous area.

Another problem I see as a waitress is other customers telling  a family’s child to behave themselves.  This really upsets me.  Children automatically have a higher voice because they have not fully developed yet.  So, when they are talking excitedly about something they are passionate about, their voices get a little louder and also maybe a little higher in pitch.  While I understand it may be “annoying” to certain people, it is not a reason to turn around and shout out “Would you please keep your child quiet!”  It is a public place, after all, and there are many ways to avoid sitting in an area near children.    A good way to avoid any could-be-fussy children is to ask your waiter to change tables or ask to sit in the bar area.  That is a choice you’re allowed to make.  Insulting a family is not.

The Problem With Parents (sometimes)

Here’s a story about another problem I’ve encountered while working in a restaurant.  I’ve found that sometimes parents expect the staff to watch their children.  This baffles me.  One day while working as a hostess I was standing in the front lobby and a woman came in with her baby in a car seat (the portable ones you can carry around).  I brought her to her table, since she was waiting for her friend to arrive.

A couple of minutes went by and she came back with the baby in a hurry, placed the car seat on the floor next to me and yelled out “I’ll be right back!”.  Before I could say anything ….she just left her baby on the floor next to me.  I saw her run out in the parking lot and then lost sight of her.  My heart was racing.  Is she ever coming back?  This woman just left her baby on the floor with a complete stranger (a 19 year old stranger on top of it!).  I couldn’t seat other customers coming in because I had to watch this woman’s baby.  I waited for 11 minutes before she finally came back in saying “Thanks!” and went back to sit at the table as if nothing was wrong.  I was in shock.  First of all, the staff are not babysitters.  Second, what are you doing leaving your child with a stranger?  That is not okay by any means. Not only is it unfair to the child (to place them in the care of a stranger), but also unfair to put responsibility like that on a staff member.

 So, how about I turn it around and ask if certain adults should be allowed in restaurants?

I’ve seen a quiet family with four young children have to move to a different table because a group of 4 adults (all grown men) were stumbling around stupidly drunk and swearing like sailors.  I’ve seen a man throw a chair across the room in anger.  I’ve seen a woman stalking a man and yelling at him in front of the whole restaurant for not paying any attention to her. I’ve seen a teenage girl throw a glass at another girl’s face for just looking at her boyfriend.

I’ve seen a lady grab her little boy and carry him by one arm (body dangling), shove him into a bathroom stall and start slapping him silly (I intruded of course).  Then, carry him out of the bathroom the same way, out of the restaurant, and literally throw him into the backseat of a car and drive off like the dickens.

I’ve seen hurtful breakups, fits of anger, and loud arguments.  How does that type of behavior sound to you?  Pretty pathetic, I’d say.  If you’re so keen on worrying about children’s behavior, I’d say take a look at the way some adults handle themselves in public places.  That is all unacceptable behavior if you ask me.

What it really comes down to…

I believe if children are well behaved then it’s actually no problem at all. If they throw tantrums and scream at the top of their lungs, maybe a fancy restaurant isn’t the place to be. But, children are people too.  They deserve to be treated with respect.

Folks, we all have to learn to live together. No discrimination. People have families, families deserve a chance to go out to eat as well, and kids need to eat. Just like couples deserve to have a wonderful, quiet date-night. Of course, there are times and places for things.  You shouldn’t go to eat at McDonald’s if you’re expecting a quiet night out, just like you shouldn’t go to an expensive 5-star restaurant if you know your child is prone to tantrums.  It wouldn’t make sense to make those types of decisions.

Lastly, please be nice to children.

They are wonderful little human beings. Some are capable of behaving themselves in public, some are not.  Some children like to sit at the table with their parents and some love to run around and make new friends.  Adjust yourself accordingly and let kids be kids in areas where they are able to be themselves.

And if you are on an outing or eating in a restaurant remember that it is, in fact, a public area.  All types of people will “misbehave”.  Adults and children alike.  You can bet on that.

The Waitress Confessions