Being a waiter can be a tough job. Everyone remembers bad service, but be too nice or attentive and you can be annoying. Unfortunately, not a lot of people will remember when table service is just right. So how does one walk the fine line between being agreeable and invisible?
Some will try and tell you that being a waiter is easy – what could be simpler than asking people what they want for dinner and fetching them a few drinks? This is usually said by people who have never experienced the stress of waiting on hungry humans. Of course, it can be that simple, but if you approach it this way you will find only pocket fluff when looking for the evening’s tips.
The qualities of being a good waiter usually fall into three categories: Time management, multi-tasking and people skills (which means killing them with kindness).
Greet your table within three – five minutes. If you take longer, make sure the first thing you do is apologise. You may be in the middle of juggling multiple tables, trying to fix an overflowing sink and remembering a drink order, but that is not the customer’s problem. Some may be understanding but everyone will have a tipping point where their patience runs out.
Keep in mind how long certain foods take to cook and how busy your kitchen is. Take notes if that helps.
Especially during a busy dinner service, make sure your hands are always busy. If you’re not taking an order, you should be taking dirty glasses and plates from tables – a clean table will keep the customer happy and distracted. The more productive you can be on each trip between tables, the easier the shift will go, reducing your stress levels.
To be a great waiter you need saint like people skills – and that does not mean being chatty or over-friendly. The job is to walk up to a table of strangers and make them feel at ease without being intrusive. Be personable, but try not to make too much small chit-chat unless the situation calls for it and you have the time. Different tables will like different types of service, so be pleasant until you a sure what kind of diner you are dealing with.
Never act as if you are better than the guest. If they act like they are better than you, it is the time to keep your mouth shut and play through. This is one of the “perks” of the job.
Comment if they have ordered one of the best things on the menu or honestly recommend a better dish. If they ask your opinion of something, be genuine. It will earn you a lot of points and this will be reflected in your tip.
You should know everything that goes into the dishes – if you want to be a great waiter. You can be the friendliest person in the world, but your job is to serve not to entertain. People may have allergies and it is your job to give the best advice when this is the case.
Similarly, having a good idea of what the food tastes like will ensure you are best placed to give the best recommendations. Pick the chef’s brain when they are not too busy or stressed. Getting along with the kitchen staff is equally as important as getting along with the guests.
Lastly, no matter how hard it is, please resist drawing smiley faces on the bill. It looks childish and people will hate you. Good Luck!
By Simon Arnold, a veteran in the restaurant business and a lover of food. Think you got what it takes to wait? If you are interested intaking a crack at it you can find many a catering job from Blue Arrow .