Thursday, December 28, 2006

How to Be a Great Waitress

Whether you are just getting started in the waiting industry or you need to brush up on your waiting skills for a return to the industry, these tips are aimed at helping you reach your goals!


1. Learn everything you can. The point of doing this is to become indispensable. Once your boss realizes that you can do the other things that are not normally considered a part of your regular job (for example, bussing, peeling garlic, pouring drinks, making desserts, all of it), you will be able to get as many shifts as you want.

2. Never fight over tables with other waiting staff. Be gracious. Focus on delivering the best possible service to the tables you do get. Set the example to the remaining waiting staff by creating a sharing and supportive environment.

3. Learn the menu as soon as possible. This way, when people ask questions, you'll have a quick answer. Nothing makes a customer happier faster!

4. Learn your regular customers' names as soon as you can. People love having a regular place to go to, where you know what they like to eat and you call them by name.

5. Develop a file system for your regular customers. Keep track of their favourite foods, their allergies and any special requests (for example, "Sue likes her water with no ice", "Alex always orders coffee and he takes cream"). This file system is best kept in your head, as it could be construed as "stalkerish" unless you can keep it very discreetly.

6. Do one thing at a time. Don't count on finishing writing the order down as you walk to the order counter. Do it now! Chances are, someone will stop you on your way over and ask for more coffee, and you'll forget the first order.

7. Break down the "wall" between you and your customer. Depending on the situation, sit down at the table to take an order, squat down to take a child's order, shake hands, give hugs (use this one with caution!) or crack a joke and have a good laugh with the customers. Do any of these actions only when appropriate - be guided by your commonsense and feel for the people you are serving. The extent of your friendliness will be dependent on the type of place where you work - some things that might not be appropriate in a diner or a restaurant might be fine in a theme bar or pub.

8. Always be clear about your order. When taking the order, take time to clarify that you've written it down or heard the request correctly. If there is a choice of selection, ask. Don't simply present the diner with white toast because they didn't ask for rye, unless the menu states that a certain item will be given unless otherwise requested. Also, be aware that taking down orders by memory often worries customers because they think you will forget something. Unless you have a brilliant memory, don't do this and even then, reassure them that you have an excellent memory track record!

9. Be tactful about questioning customers. If you feel you must question why a customer is making a special request, be tactful. Keep in mind there are many reasons for menu change requests, such as religious, vegetarian/vegan and cultural dietary restrictions. If it is not an unreasonable request which can be simply accommodated, don't ask why!

10. Remove the plates, glasses, and other used items from the table as they are finished. Having to manuever around used dishes doesn't contribute to a nice dining experience. Be careful not to swipe plates while customers are still eating though - always ask if they have finished if any food remains on the plate.

11. Don't just assume when the diner is finished and wants the check. Ask if there is anything more you can get for them, and that will open the opportunity for them to ask for dessert, a take-out item/bag, or the check. If they state they need nothing else, then ask if they are ready for the check. Never wait for the diner to ask for the check; if they have to ask you, it generally means they are in a hurry, or you have waited an excessive amount of time since you last checked on the table.

12. Be polite in the face of irritable, difficult and unfriendly customers. When you have difficult, high maintenance, cranky, or downright mean customers, (and you will get them), let the old saying be your motto "Kill 'em with kindness". Always keep your cool and never argue with a customer. If a customer starts to get worked up into a tizzy for whatever reason, send a manager to the table because that's their job and what they're there for.

13. Don't let a bad tip ruin your shift. There are people out there who either don't know or refuse to accept that a standard tip for good service is 15% and 20% and above for great to exceptional service. And sometimes, there are people who really cannot afford much more than the meal. Never complain to a table about a bad tip when you've given great service. Not only could you get yourself fired but it sets you up as the complaining type and creates bad relations with the other waiting staff. Just let it go and be content in the knowledge that a really good tip can balance out the bad.

14. Check back often with your tables. You'll always have that table who always seems to need something extra. It's a good idea to ensure that they don't sit around needing anything, such as more ketchup or napkins, or another fork because a fork has fallen on the floor, or a refill on their drinks etc. Be alert to these little things and make the dining experience more pleasant by supplying the extras promptly. It keeps customers happy and prevents them from asking you for too many additional trips.


* Dress just slightly "better" (more formally) than the other waiting staff, no matter what the "minimal dress code" is. It sets you apart and sets the standard for others to strive for.

* If you wear a uniform, keep it in excellent condition - ironed, stain-free and neat.

* Leave drama, bad moods and personal issues at the door.

* Never sit around. If you have nothing to do, clean!

* Be honest about the food/kitchen practices when asked by the customer. Serious consequences can result from mis-information. Allergies and intolerance to food products or practices could result in death. A diabetic given an item containing sugar, a person with peanut or shellfish allergies, or someone with heart disease being told the baked potato is coated with vegetable oil when lard is actually used etc. - all these slip-ups can result in wide-ranging negative results.