Your Story: First Name Basis

 

cropped-thewaitressconfessions1.jpgLaCrecia wrote to us a few months ago about one of her experiences serving.  We’re sure that you’ve been through a similar situation, so feel free to write to us with your story here!


 

Dear Waitress Confessions…

I will never forget one of my cocktail shifts.

It was my first serving job. I always try to go above and beyond for my guests (we weren’t allowed to call them customers). So these 3 ladies were there after work drinking to unwind from a long work week. I introduced myself with a “Hi ladies my name is LaCrecia. I will be taking care of y’all tonight”. I was being my sweet ol’ Texas girl self when I asked “Is there anything else I can do for y’all? I would like for you to have the best experience possible tonight.”

Then that’s when everything went south! One of the ladies looked at me and said “Well we would like for you to go f**k yourself.” I was so mad that I cried. I went to my manager and told her I didn’t want to serve them anymore. She went out to check on them and they were deeply offended saying I was mocking their race (African american) because of what I told them my name was. I’m Caucasian. My manager assured them that was my name but they still were unsatisfied with me so they didn’t want me to serve them anymore. A nightmare!!!

-LaCrecia

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Customer Confession: What Is the Best Way to Tip a Server If You Are a Camper?

Dear Waitress Confessions…

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!)

 
Sincerely,
Happy Camper!
 
 

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!
 

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The Pros and Cons of Being a Waiter / Waitress

Serve chilled.

There are a lot of different points to think about before considering a job as a waiter or waitress. To some it may seem like a step back in their career, but don’t really understand that it has the potential of being an excellent line of work, whereas others may think it may be the best job without realizing the pitfalls.

So, no matter which attitude you’re starting out with, it’s important to consider a few things before getting to the Pros and Cons of being a restaurant server.

Think about the following:

  • What kind of lifestyle do you want?
  • What kind of pay/income to you need in order to feel secure?
  • Are you willing to give up your weekends?
  • Can you manage a customer service job?
  • Are you willing to go above and beyond for customers?

So, moving on along from that, let’s start off with the list of pros of being a waiter/waitress and serving tables.

PROS

  • Always having cash on hand. You make your money mostly on tips, so leaving with your cash after every shift can be refreshing and extremely motivating.
  • Working less hours, but still making money. A lot of times you have the chance to work busy shifts, but end up making a day’s pay in a few hours. Instead of a 9 to 5, 8 hour days, you can make your money in sometimes 5 hours or less.
  • Always active.   Serving tables means running around grabbing this and that, carrying trays, bringing plates to tables, etc. By constantly moving you are constantly keeping fit rather than sitting in one chair for hours at a time, staring at a computer screen. You’re always on the move.
  • You’re around people. Being around people means hearing interesting stories, interacting and laughing. You also get to witness some pretty crazy stuff (read our True Stories) because, let’s face it, there is always something interesting happening if you’re around people. If you’re a social person than this is your best opportunity because the friendlier you are…the better the tips!
  • You have the ability to control your income – a bit. Since most of your income depends on your tips you have a bit of control of how the customers will show their appreciation for your service. The better service you give, they better tips – or at least the better chance of getting a good tip. So if you can charm your way into your hearts and give them the service they need…ka-ching!
  • The ability to be replaced. A lot of restaurants will allow servers to replace other servers as long as they are equal in their capabilities and experience. Being able to be replaced for a shift is excellent if you want a night off or have plans with family. With other types of jobs sometimes you have to take a sick or personal day, whereas with waitressing sometimes you can just call someone up last minute and have someone work your shift!
  • You don’t have to bring your work home with you. Once you’re off the clock, you never have to take work home with you in order to meet deadlines or carry the worry of wondering if the stress of your shift that day will bleed into the next day. Once a day is over – it’s over. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to better your day!
  • Once you’ve worked as a waiter/waitress…you can pretty much work anywhere as a server. Restaurants are always hiring. It may not be the classiest of restaurants, but if you need to move or are stuck without a job you can always turn to serving tables. You can work in hotels, on cruises, fast food restaurants, family owned restaurants, diners…I mean the choices are endless. As long as there are restaurants, there are jobs for servers.
  • Extra money during the holidays and special days. Days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and around Christmas time you make a lot of extra money. Those times of the year bring in more people, bigger reservations, parties, etc. So there are times during the year where you make a little more than usual. Consider it like your bonus!
  • The good coworkers. What makes working as a server worthwhile sometimes are the people you work with. Your coworkers who have the same kind of work ethic as you will band together and create a strong bond. If you’re lucky, you’ll have other servers helping you out when you’re in the weeds, rooting for you to make more money, help serve your tables if you need a bathroom break, etc. Some coworkers will go above and beyond for you if you’ve got each other’s backs.
  • Employee outings and get-togethers. If you work with a good team, chances are you’re going to want to hang out with the people you work with. Sometimes people plan outings such as going out to a bar for a drink after work, playing team sports on your days off, paintball, going to see movies, house parties, barbecues, staff Christmas parties, etc. If you have good people you work with it’s like a second family where no one is left behind.

CONS

  • With experience and loyalty comes great responsibility. That basically means that the more you know about the restaurant, whether it be from hostess to the back of the house, the more work you may have to do compared to your coworkers. People will rely on you and expect more of you, which could make for even more stress from you. Will you get paid for the extra weight you pull? Maybe not.
  • Having to work weekends. If you’re working in a restaurant, there is pretty much a 100% chance of working weekends. While all of your friend, family and loved ones are off on weekend getaways and having dinner parties, you are the one “stuck serving” all the people out for a night on the town.
  • Always having money on hand. Yes – this is also a pro! But, people who are apt to spending the cash they have could have a major problem with managing their money. Cash is so easy to spend, especially if all the staff is going out for a drink afterwards.
  • After a while – it takes a toll on your body. So many times, servers who have been working for years will feel the effects of carrying heavy plates and constantly being on their feet. Back problems and knee problems are not uncommon. Being a server puts a lot of stress on your body.
  • No benefits. Whereas other companies give their employees benefits from sick days to dental, most restaurants do not provide that for their employees. Are you sick? You have to show up or you don’t get paid.’
  • Having to deal with @$$holes. Yup, I hate to say it, but it’s true. People can be jerks and you will deal with a lot of them. It varies from people who know nothing about the restaurant business, impatient people, people who think you’re their slave, and just plain down-right MEAN people. I’m not saying you have to take whatever crap people throw at you, but if you don’t have a thick enough hide to let some thinks just roll off of you…then this is not the job for you.
  • The bad co-workers. Oh my goodness…there are so many of them! Bad coworkers will ruin your day and can make you lose your mind. It’s always the co-workers who are always late, constantly check their phone in the back, sneak out a million times a night for a smoke break, ignore their customers, talk back to the kitchen, are rude to your tables, asking for replacements but never replacing anyone, and run around looking like they are busy but never actually lifting a finger. It can drive you NUTS!!! Sometimes it makes you think “Why do I bother working so hard?” and can make your motivation just plummet to the ground.
  • Having to work with a different set of “rules” than other jobs. What I mean by that is that the restaurant business has a different way of working. Sure you have the same set of work code and rules as other places…but sometimes not. Now, how shall I put this? For example, the busiest Saturday night you could ever imagine. There are people everywhere! A large party in the back corner is partying it up and talking and laughing loudly. There are kids running around the restaurant and their parents don’t seem to care. The ticket printer at the kitchen is running non-stop and drinks are just flying out of the bar. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. Suddenly, you make a serious mistake. You sent a table’s order, but they wanted to wait. Now the customers are furious that their food came out already and they want you to bring the plates back to the kitchen because they are in no way ready for their meals. You’re scared, because you screwed up and walk back towards the kitchen. Whoever is managing the kitchen is working in overdrive, trying to control everything. They’re sweating from calling out orders, yelling out directions and trying to stay on the ball…and now you have to tell them that you effed-up and throw their whole system off. They look at you at first like they don’t believe you…then you get the “Are you f*cking serious?!?!” look. Next think you know they kick a small garbage bin into the wall and call you an idiot. Is that the way people deal with mistakes in other jobs? No…not really. But, in the restaurant business there is a lot of frustration, especially when under the pressure of a jam packed restaurant. People lose their cool, managers yell, dishwashers quit on the spot with no notice, hostesses won’t seat your section if you do something they don’t like, people back stab and try to screw you over. That’s just the way it works sometimes.
  • The high possibility of becoming angry and bitter. Serving tables after a while can leave you feeling angry and bitter. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself constantly bashing your customers to other servers in the back, judging customers as soon as they sit down, getting down right pissed off about the tips that people leave you. It can get so bad that to a certain point there is nothing good about serving any more. You lose your faith in the good of the human race. The worst is that this kind of behavior is contagious. If you’re around other servers who are constantly angry and complaining about the little things, you’ll start to feel that way too unless you are of VERY strong character. You can turn into someone you don’t like…so be careful.
  • Dining out. Some servers aren’t able to dine out in the way people who don’t serve tables dine out. They will start judging their servers more, especially if they are horrible waiters, and constantly be cleaning up the table or stacking empty plates. They expect the same level of service as they give…and sometimes that’s just not the case. They’ll watch the way people work, hear the phone ringing, watch as their drinks just sit at the bar as they wait, and they know when their steak is over or under cooked. They know how things work and it can distract them from just enjoying their night out. That and sometimes being in a restaurant just reminds them of work.
  • Alcohol/drug abuse. Being in the restaurant business and serving tables can lead to all sorts of alcohol and/or drug problems. Where are you going to go to unwind with co-workers after work at 1 am? Most likely a bar or club. And what do people do at bars and clubs? Well, the answer is pretty obvious. Also, the stress of working in the business can lead to people looking for ways to relax and escape the realities of life. If you’re working as a server at a bar, people by you drinks, shots, and are looking for you to have a good time with them. Sometimes it’s just too hard to say no.

 Just remember…

Not all restaurants are the same.  Each individual restaurant has their own sets of advantages and disadvantages to working as a waiter or waitress.  Part of the decision is at least knowing what could potentially happen and having an all around idea of the good and the bad.  Take both sides into consideration when opting to serve tables and be ready for the best…and the worst.

Good luck!

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When Your Tips Just Don’t Add Up

tipsToday was such a great day.  I had an amazing lunch rush for a Sunday and everyone seemed to be in the best of moods.  And you know what good moods mean?  Good tips!  I won’t lie, I schmoozed a little bit, but was genuinely happy to be serving our customers today.  Life was good and the tips were generous.

The night shift was slow, but I had a couple of good tables that left me $20.00 so that helped me out quite a bit.  At the end of my shift, I tallied up the tips that I had made throughout the day (I keep a record so that I have a good idea of what I’ll be leaving with).  So, here’s the number all my tips added up to:

$173.00

I felt very happy about that.  I worked hard, served my customers well, ran plates and drinks, cleaned and helped other waiters.  Seemed like for the amount of work I put in…well it was fair.  When it came to doing my “reading” or my “report” (where the manager checks all my credit cards, interacs, cash, and tip-outs) I was left with $120.00.

$120.00?!?!?

It didn’t make sense to me.  Didn’t add up.  So when I checked how much I tipped out ($22.00) and deducted that from my total, I was left with $151.00 (which would make sense).  But where was that $30.00?  The manager checked everything again and even went as far as to go through all my bills with me in case another waiter was ringing up orders on my code and closing it cash.  Hey..it could happen.  But that wasn’t the case.  I was missing $30.00

What a bitch, lemme tell ya!  What happened to that money?  Other servers were asking “Did you put some money aside? Put it somewhere else by accident?” and the answer was plain and simple: NO!  I am very careful with my money when it comes to counting and keeping it safe in my apron. So what happened?  I honestly have absolutely no idea.  The only thing I can think of is if it accidentally fell out of my money clip.  But everything stays together in one place and it’s pretty secure.

So, I had no choice but to accept it.  Everything else balanced and the restaurant isn’t going to reimburse me for any lost money because it is…technically…my fault.  But, when you’re a stickler for precision and money, it’s really hard to believe that I misplaced it.  I just left.  Took the hit and left.

Getting home and opening a cheap bottle of wine to drown my sorrows in, I keep going over my day – wondering if I somehow miscalculated or put money aside without realizing it. But my thoughts also dance around the idea of relying on technology to calculate all of my sales, tips, taxes and discounts.  Could the computer I use somehow be deducting money without me realizing?  Is it possible that somewhere in the computer system there is a glitch?

The idea of the possibility of technology being the culprit scares me, because to be honest I have no idea how it works.  All the deductions and calculations it automatically makes.  As an owner or manager, you can set the computer to pretty much whatever you want, so in my mind…is it possible that something somewhere in the computer is making a deduction it shouldn’t?  Now…that’s a scary thought.

But us, as servers, how are we supposed to know this? Just take the word of the people we work for who are mostly there to make money?  Sounds like it could be fishy to me, especially when they are the ones setting the conditions for the computer system. We can’t exactly approach them and say “What’s the deal here? I’m missing money!!” and expect them to pay out of their pocket when they believe you’re the one who lost it somehow.  There’s no way to prove it, no complete record of cash (because a server could just pocket it), no way to show that you made the money you made 100%.

So it’s a problem – at least in my eyes.

I’ll take it as a bad day.  A day where I lost money somewhere and it cost me in tips.  There’s nothing more I can do except write about it and then move on.  But in reality – it does come down to money.  And I need money to pay for bills, food, rent, etc.  The missing money is almost my cellphone bill for the month.  When you look at it that way, when your tips just don’t add up, it’s not just a few dollars here and there.  It can be a whole big difference.

 

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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

Happy New Year!

Dear readers,

I hope this holiday season has been treating you well and all the best for the New Year.

I’ve finally finished working crazy hours and double shifts and am looking forward to some well deserved days off.  How about you? Was this holiday season a rough one for you as a server?

Please stick around for new articles and posts this upcoming month.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you all.

Here’s a little picture I thought might brighten your days.  As a server, I’m totally feeling this one.

Cheers!

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Surviving the Holidays as a Restaurant Server

DO_Lakeview Restaurant_ChristmasAS THE TEMPERATURE DROPS and December nears, you can feel it in the air that the holiday season is upon us.  Restaurants are a zoo this time of year and already you start to cringe at the thought of hearing those dreaded Christmas songs over and over again during your work shift.  Just knowing that this time of year brings throngs of family get-togethers and staff holiday parties will either make you ecstatic at the thought of all those tips you’ll be earning…or make you want to rip your hair out.

Before the holiday rush starts, you need to be mentally and physically prepared so that you don’t become (as my boss says) “burnt toast” by the end of it all.  Accepting the holidays for what they are is a big part of getting through it, but there are also a few things you can do to make this time less stressful.

Start shopping now.

If you’re giving gifts to loved ones this holiday season, do yourself a favor and start buying your presents as soon as humanly possibly.  The last thing you need is to scramble to find someway to get your shopping done on your break in-between shifts.  Just finding parking will take you at least half an hour!  Not to mention the lineups to pay and having to push through crowds of people at the food court.  You’ll end up feeling frustrated and rushed, which never helps when you have to get back to the hustle and bustle at work.  Getting this done sooner will help clear your mind while on the job, allowing you to focus less on all the things you need to get done for the holidays.

Accept that you will be working longer hours.

Sometimes it’s difficult to transition into the holidays as a server.  If you’re used to getting off work, for example, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday nights and then all of a sudden you’re staying past closing time, it can be quite a shock to your system.  Plans you make fall through because the restaurant is busier than usual, your feet and arms are even more sore from serving more tables, and you finish your shift feeling like you’ve got no free time for yourself.  It can leave you emotionally discouraged and possibly make you bitter towards your manager for keeping you longer than usual, but you need to accept that that’s the restaurant business.  The sooner you accept that you’ll be working longer hours, the less of a shock it will be when you do.

Get plenty of rest.

I know it’s the time of year where friends and family gather and you’re invited to parties every single weekend, but keep in mind that going to too many outings or staying out until the wee hours of the morning is going to end up catch up with you at work.  Try to get the best of both worlds without compromising your sleep.  Trust me, you’ll feel fresh and alert and keep you going strong rather than waking up with hangovers, wondering how you’re ever going to get through your double-shift.

Remember to stay calm.

We all know the holidays bring around many different types of guests.  You’ll get customers who have never been to your restaurant before and will ask a million questions in the middle of the rush, you’ll have guests who are unaware of proper dining etiquette and leave you feeling like there is no hope for humanity, and you’ll serve tables that seem to have no clue about how the tipping process works.  Just remember to do one thing….breathe.  Go easy on your customers because they are just as stressed about the holidays as you are.  Some people only go out to eat around the holidays in order to treat themselves or just going along with what their family and/or friends want, so it’s part of your job to make them feel comfortable.  Smile and be patient.  If you’re constantly getting frustrated, it’s going to wear you out and tear you down before you even realize what hit you. The calmer you are with “difficult” customers, the more relaxed you’ll feel overall.

Stay healthy.

The holidays bring along a huge assortment of mouth-watering feasts, tasty cocktails and decadent desserts.  Try to stick to your healthy ways by remembering to get plenty of exercise and make sure you don’t overindulge in food or drink.  It will help keep up your energy while serving tables.

If possible, celebrate the holidays on your days off.

Having to turn down holiday plans because of work can really take a toll on you.  You feel like you’re missing out on family time and never get to see your close friends.  While everyone is off of work for the holidays, we as servers are stuck serving.  Our loved ones tell us “Just take the day off!”, but we all know it isn’t as simple as that – but, oh how we wish it were!  Try to organize a dinner party or holiday breakfast on your days off so that you can partake in the festivities as well.

Rant about work with your coworkers after your shift.

There’s nothing like letting off a little steam with the people who understand your job the best.  If you have some coworkers that you really get along with, go out for a drink after work and let it all out.  Get mad, laugh, go on and on about how great or how bad your shift was and get it all out of your system.  Holding everything inside will eventually cause you to explode – possibly taking it out on a customer or causing you to quit in mid-rush.

Reward yourself.

While everyone has time off for the holidays, you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off at work.  So, after the holiday rush is done and before Valentine’s day rolls around, see if you can find some time to take a few days or even a week off for yourself.  Think of it like a reward for working your butt off.  Or, if your prefer, put aside some of that extra money you earned and treat yourself to something that will help you recharge your batteries.  You honestly deserve it.

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This Week’s Server Poll: When a Customer Snaps Their Fingers At You…

Share you stories with us!

We’d love to hear about what has happened to you when customers have snapped their fingers at you.  What did you do? How was the rest of the service?  We’re the customers really mean or we’re they just not used to dining out?  Tell us all about it in a comment below or feel free to share you story and be featured on our blog!

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How Being a Hostess Taught Me to Be a Better Server

For 4 years before I started serving tables, I was a hostess.  Not just any regular, everyday hostess…I was deemed Head Hostess.  This title pretty much meant that I was in charge of verifying all reservations, seating rotation, setting up large parties, organizing the wait list, and distributing tables evenly among the servers.  It was, in my experience, a difficult job.  The multitasking  and workload, however, was not what made it challenging.  It was handling the customers (along with their complaints) and most of all…dealing with the servers.

In my restaurant, the waiters and waitresses are not allowed to go up to the front desk and bother the hostesses.  Any problems with tables or fairness were supposed to be brought up to the Floor Manager and from the Floor Manager to the Hostess.  However, when the Floor Manager was busy chatting up a storm with regular customers or taking care of a customer complaint with a certain waiter, servers would flock to the front entrance like a bunch of vultures and harass the hostesses.  Why does he have more tables than me? What do you mean my reservation canceled…give me another one! I don’t want any more tables, I want to get out of here early.

On slow days, I would constantly hear their complaints about customers.  They would be all riled up because a table left them $8 on $102 or their table was just having two coffees and sharing a soup.  I’d hear all these horror stories about guests dining and dashing, dishing out impossible demands, and even belittling them as people.  After days of hearing all of these tales of woe, I decided then and there that I did NOT want to be a server.

But, when the time came that I had learned everything I possible could about being a Hostess, I figured it was time for me to learn something a little more challenging.  Knowing what I knew about the difficulty of being a server, I thought that maybe it would be different for me. So, I started learning the menu, how to punch in orders, and the timing of the plates.

As I started learning more and more and watched the best waiters work, I started to notice how horrible some of them actually were.  As I circulated within the restaurant, I was getting stopped by a lot of guests complaining that they had no utensils, were low on water, that their food was taking too long,  and that they couldn’t find their waitress.  Even though I was a Hostess and could have said “It won’t be long, I’ll get your server”, I stepped up to the plate and decided to handle these things personally. I would get the water pitchers and make my way through the whole restaurant filling up glasses.  I made sure everyone had utensils.  I checked with the Expiditor if food was taking too long.  If someone wanted another drink, I took their order and sent off the order to the bar.

Slowly I started to notice the things you need to do as a server…and the things you should NEVER do.  When it came time for my training, I already had a great overview of what was expected of me.  I never neglected filling up water glasses.  I never talked in the back, ignoring my customers.  I always made myself available to them and any other table in the restaurant.  I picked up visual cues and could tell when a customers was ready to pay or was getting up in search of the bathrooms.  Anticipating the guests needs became a strong point for me.

The hostesses loved me because I would never go up and harass them about getting more customers.  They would clear off my tables and reset it and sit more people all because I would watch the door for them when they’d run off to eat something in the back.  It was a give and take relationship with them and because I knew the challenges of being a hostess and how the servers try any way possible to get them to fold and give them new tables, in their eyes I was the best waitress to get along with.  Soon after, I became a bridge between servers and hostesses.  Complaints from waiters about hostesses started coming to me and instead of brushing them off I’d explain to them why their table changed places or why one waitress had more tables (because she had all the tables by the windows – customers love that section).  I took the load off of them for quite some time and I think they appreciated the silence for once.

Being a Hostess and walking around the restaurant taught me how to be a better server.  I was like a fly on the wall, learning the job from only the very best and learning how to take care of neglected customers from the very worst.  Without being a hostess, I’m not sure if I’d be the waitress I am today.  I may have started at a low end restaurant, without a decent training and no restaurant experience.  I could have been one of those servers, the ones who don’t give a damn about customer service…only the money in their pocket.  So, when I’m passing by the front desk sometimes and I see a girl applying for a job as a waitress (even though she has no experience), I wonder why they don’t apply for the Hostess job instead.  Maybe they don’t realize that sometimes that is the best way to get the job you want.  Start slow and work your way up.  Like I did.

So, my advice to anyone looking to get into the restaurant business for the first time is this:  take any job you can get.  Most places ask for a minimum amount of years of experiences in order to be a server, but can take you with no experience in another position.  You’ll have to work hard and prove yourself to the managers and owners, but from my experience a lot of restaurants like to hire within the restaurant.  We need new waitresses.  Well, how about Kayla over there? She’s been working hostess for 3 years, maybe she can handle it.

Any experience you can gather up will only improve your service later on.  You could go from dishwasher, to kitchen, to bar, to waiter and then… Voilà!  Your a waiter who knows how everything works and how things are run in the restaurant.  Are you in one of those positions now? Don’t sell yourself short, it may just be a stepping stone to yet another experience…serving tables and serving them well.

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MUST HAVE: For Waiters and Waitresses

Portable Coin Dispenser

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

coin dispenser

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

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

Cheers!

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The Waitress Confessions was featured in Total Food Service

Good Morning, Everyone!

cropped-thewaitressconfessions1.jpgI’m happy to announce that The Waitress Confessions was featured on another website!

Please check out Total Food Service at http://www.totalfood.com or click here to view the article “8 Tips on How to Train a New Waiter/Waitress

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True Story: The Cold Soup Conundrum

As I was closing up one night at the Hot Spot on a Wednesday night, I saw two last minute customers walk into the restaurant.  The manager on duty at that point was a little bothered by it.  We had no one in the restaurant for the past hour and the kitchen was closing in 10 minutes.  He was looking forward to getting home a little earlier than usual.

The Manager says to me “Go see them right away and see what they want to eat.” So I walk as quickly as possible and as I come closer I see that it’s a couple, a man and a woman, and their menus are closed, just waiting to order. I was glad that they knew what they wanted already.  I asked them if they were ready to order.

Woman:  We’re just here for a bowl of your daily soup. [laughs)

As she’s speaking, I can tell that she’s either extremely drunk or on some sort of drug.  She’s wearing a sloppy smile and slurring her words.  The man has a goofy grin on his face and looks like he’s trying not to laugh.

Me: Will that be all? The kitchen is closing in 5 minutes so if you’d like anything else I need to let them know.

Man: Nope. Ha ha ha……that’s it.

Woman : [laughs hysterically]

I walk away and tell the manager that they only want the soup and he tells the kitchen staff to start closing up.  I ladle soup into two bowls and take it to the table.  I put one down in front of each of them and they’re silent.

Me: Here we are! Enjoy!

Woman: We will! [mimicking my cheerful voice]

Man: [laughs]

I just walk away and let them eat their soup in peace.  I start finishing up my closing tasks when I see the woman get up from her seat and start waving her arm in the air.  I drop what I’m doing to go see her right away.

Me: Is everything alright here, ma’am?

Woman: The soup’s cold.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry about that. Let me warm it up for you.  Sir, would you like me to warm up yours as well?

Man: [half way done his soup] No, mine’s fine.

Me: Alright. I’ll be right back with your soup, ma’am.

I checked the temperature of the soup and it seemed quite warm, not scalding hot, but not cold either.  The only way for us to warm up soup is to nuke it for a bit.  So, I stuck her bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds.  I didn’t want to put it in too long because I didn’t want her to burn her tongue.  The microwave beeped and I stirred up the soup, changed the bowl and spoon, and brought the bowl back to the table.

Me: Here we are, ma’am.  I hope it’s hotter now.

No one said anything so I left the table as the woman was stirring the soup.  Suddenly I hear the woman trying to get my attention.

Woman: Uh….excuse me!

I turn around and head back to the table.

Me: Yes, ma’am?

Woman: It’s still cold. [laughs]

I kind of chuckled, thinking she was joking but she just kept staring at me.  I apologized and told her I’d warm it up some more.  The man was finished with his and I cleared the bowl from the table at the same time.  I headed back towards the soup station.

Manager:  What’s wrong?

Me: She says the soup is still cold.  I’ll put it in for another 45 seconds.

Manager: Well, she obviously wants her soup to be boiling hot, so just stick it in for a minute and a half to be sure.

So I wait as the microwave counts down the seconds.  When the soup’s ready I take it back to the table and place it in front of the woman.  I can see the steam rising from the bowl.  There’s no way that she can think it’s cold now.

Me: Here we are.  Just please be careful, I’m sure the soup is quite hot now.

She barely listens to me as she stirs the soup quickly and takes a huge spoonful.

Woman: Ugh! It’s too hot now! Take it away. I don’t want it.

Man: Baby, just let it sit for a bit and it will cool down.

Woman: [laughs]  Oh yeah! Ha, ha, ha! It’s okay. I’ll eat it.

I just stood there for a moment, trying to judge the situation.  Was this for real?  I started to walk away and kept looking back.  I could see the woman sitting with her hands on her lap, staring blankly at the bowl of soup just waiting for it to cool.  The weird thing was that the man was doing exactly the same thing.  They just sat there for 5 minutes, staring at one bowl of soup.

From afar I could see the woman take her spoon and start eating.  She was done in less than 2 minutes. I brought them the bill (about $10).  They got up to pay with a credit card, so I passed it and handed them their copy to sign.

Me: Thank you so much, have a wonderful evening.

They said nothing and just walked out the door.  I checked the bill.

They left me 25 cents.

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

fan4228379043Some servers have the amazing ability of listening to a table’s order and remembering every small detail without ever touching a paper and pen.  Some can take orders of up to at least 10 people without even batting an eye.  No matter how many exceptions, replacements, or changes the customers make these waiters will somehow manage to get the order rung up .Personally, that just boggles my mind.

As a waitress (and a person for that matter) who’s afraid to forget the simplest little thing, I am constantly writing everything down.  My fear is that I’ll carelessly make a mistake and forget to order a glass of wine or order a steak well-done instead of medium-well.  So, with that fear deep-rooted in my system, I make it a point to write down all my orders even if I’m taking the order for a table of one.

Every waiter and waitress has their own system of taking down orders whether it be just doodling on your order sheet while memorizing every point or penning every single word the customer says.  If you have a great memory and are just starting out as a waiter/waitress in training, you may want to consider the pros and cons of memorizing orders.

PRO

The eye contact that you keep with a customer while taking their order is extremely important.  Some waiters just stare at their order sheet the whole time while writing down orders which leaves the customers feeling short-changed on the “service with a smile”.  Some are capable of writing without looking down too many times, which is an improvement at least, but memorizing your orders can give you complete control over your eye contact with your guests, creating a very friendly and open service for them.

CON

If you’re planning on memorizing orders, keep in mind that you are more likely to make mistakes.  The amount of times I’ve seen a server run up to the kitchen and say something around the lines of “My bad, guys. It was supposed to be the salmon, not the tuna” is staggering.  It could end up happening more often than you’d probably like to admit and can maintain a certain amount of hostility between you and your coworkers.  Not to mention the managers will be wondering how all these mistakes are affecting their food costs.

PRO

With no pen and paper glued to your hands at every moment of service, your free hands allow you to do other things while taking drink and dessert orders.  You could be tidying up your tables of any clutter, picking up empty beer glasses, or picking up menus.  The ability to multitask in the restaurant business is a big bonus on your side if you are able to do many things at once.  Plus, the length of the service with diminish slightly by just having the free hands to clear the table and memorize coffee orders at the same time, making it easier to turn your tables and serve more customers.

CON

Sometimes, as you’re leaving a table to enter the order into the computer system, someone may stop you along the way preventing you from getting to the computer while the order is still fresh in your mind.  Maybe a customer will have a complaint and stop you for a whole 5 minutes before giving you a chance to ring up the order.  What happens then?  Your mind gets completely distracted by the complaint that you stand at the computer holding your head thinking “What did she order? What appetizer did he want?  Did he want fries or rice with his steak?”.  Sometimes you’ll remember…sometimes you’ll just forget.  Forgetting an order can be extremely embarrassing and seems pretty unprofessional if you need to go up to the guests a second time to ask that they ordered.

PRO

Memorizing your orders can save a lot of time when it comes to ringing up your order.  Instead of constantly referring to your order sheet, you’re simply punching in your orders without missing a beat to glance down at what you’ve written.  This can save time on your service and once again allows for a quicker service, which means your customers are receiving their orders sooner than other therefore satisfied with the fact that they aren’t waiting longer for their food to arrive.  Every second or minute saved counts for a lot in the restaurant business.

CON

Not writing down an order can make your customers nervous.  One night I went out to eat at a restaurant.  We were a table of 6 people and the waitress just took our order by memory.  I asked for a few things on the side since it was my first experience at that particular establishment and wasn’t sure about the sauces offered with my plate.  I felt worried that may order may be wrong, but decided to give her the benefit of of the doubt.  When it came time to the appetizers, I received a salad instead of the soup and my steak came turned out medium-well instead of medium-rare.  In my mind, if you aren’t going to write anything down then you’d better make sure that you’ve remembered everything 100%.  Sure, people make mistakes and I understand that more than anyone, but other guests may not be so forgiving.  When customers see that you’re relying solely on your memory for taking orders, they have that knowledge to use against you when things go wrong and may even approach a manager about it, suggesting that you write everyone down from that moment on.

CON

When taking orders, servers know that it’s best to repeat orders back to the customers as they go along to avoid any mistakes or misunderstandings.  When an order comes out wrong, your manager may ask you something around the lines of “Well, what did the customer order?”.  Your answer may be “She definitely said she wanted the mashed potatoes, but when the plate got there she said she asked for a baked potato.”  The manager might then proceed to ask what you had written down on your order sheet in order to see if you either a) punched it in wrong or b) wrote it down wrong.  When you’ve done everything by memory, the manager is then just taking your word for it and may jump to the conclusion that you’re the one who made the mistake.  If you’re repeating the order back to the customer and writing it down properly, he may then assume that it’s just the customer creating a problem for nothing and will be more inclined to believe you when you say you got the order right.

Remember…

Everybody makes mistakes, even if you’re the type of server to write each order down on paper.  The thing to keep in mind is that you’re only human, so do the best that you can no matter which order-taking process you choose to use as a server.  Think about what kind of waiter you want to be and go from there.

Good Luck!

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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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