So I start a job as a waiter today - any advice?

I was recently hired at a Mediterranean restaurant and I go in for my training today. Back on May 20th, it was my dad’s 50th birthday, and this restaurant did the catering for the party. While flirting with the young women who worked for the place, they asked me if I wanted to work there. I said yes and they introduced me to the Israeli woman who managed the place, who was also there to help with the catering. So, like most of the jobs I’ve worked, I got hired by sheer luck.

The thing is, I have absolutely no experience as a waiter. Nearly all the summer jobs I’ve worked in the past have involved trucks, red cans of gasoline, and guys with lots of tattoos. So I’m not sure what to expect. The restaurant is not that big, so I’m not really worried about being overwhelmed by the number of orders. But it’s a classy place, fairly expensive, and I want to be the best waiter that I can be and get good tips. I’ve been a diner a million times, so I know how I like to be treated - I like to have my drinks refilled regularly, and I like it when the wait staff is friendly. That much is obvious. But I want to know if there are other things about waiting that I wouldn’t immediately think of, that I ought to know going into this job.

Any advice from former or current wait-staff?


Really, I’m a server (that’s the preferred term these days :)) and I am so on the verge lately I don’t think it will be much longer. (Just coming in and saying I quit just doesn’t seem right to me. I want to go out with at least a light flame trailing. I’m just waiting for the right moment)

Actually, that only applies if you are working at the restaurant I am. Which, from your description of the place, it is not. Maybe your experience will be better than mine. There will always be great customers and horrible ones, but the way the managers run the place and treat you makes a big difference as they are the ones you have to see and deal with every day, while the customers only stay for an hour or two and then you get new ones.

So I guess my real advice is: get to know your managers and communicate with them regularly. If they treat you poorly, don’t put up with it. You don’t need that.

This is absolutely true. I worked as a cook in an Italian restaurant and was moved around to work in other areas of the place as well. Up front with customers is never the best job (IMHO) because you always have to be on. You have to smile, be friendly, hospitable, and helpful no matter what. This is not true of the kitchen, which was my favorite place to be.

The biggest thing that made working with customers bearable was a great GM and several good managers. There were a few I didn’t know that well after the first month, and when I worked with them they went by a decent rule - if he isn’t screwing up, let it go…

There are customers that make you want to go home right then. There will be people you can not stand whatsoever. There will also be nice customers who order the same thing everyday, always ask how you are doing (in a serious manner), and generally make you feel better about being at work. Just remember to smile and enjoy yourself. Laugh and have fun. Don’t be a jerk (having so much fun you forget to work) - but if the customers see you are enjoying yourself, it helps them enjoy them selves as well.

Also, get to know at least 2-3 co-workers very well (try to get to know everyone, but at least 2 or 3). Spend some time with them outside of work, invite them out to dinner and whatnot, because while you are still new they can save you if things are going horrible. Also, when you are not so new, they can save you when you’ve slipped up and made a mistake.

Brendon Small

Learn to anticipate what your customers might need, say extra napkins with a particularly messy dish fr’instance. The more things that you can bring with you to the table the first time, the less trips back and forth you’ll wind up making. Having what they need available before they have to flag you down and ask for it = bigger tips.

Teaching yourself to memorize who ordered what will set you far apart from normal servers and certainly boost your tips. It’s obvious that few even attempt this, but it can be done - I’ve seen servers take orders from a table of 12, never write anything down (not sure I can recommend that) and never get anything wrong.

Queen Tonya’s advice is sound: Most of people’s needs when eating are predictable - if you get good at this sort of prediction, it will certainly influence your tips.

Witty banter is surprisingly not a valued trait in waiters–not by customers, in particular. I, a wiseass 17-year-old during my first waiter gig, learned this the hard way.

And if you have celebs in your sector, do not ask for an autograph. I really embarrassed myself when Benny Goodman sat in my section in 1977. Just be the kind of courteous professional you’d want to be served by.

Offer to work a few shifts for free just so you can shadow an experienced waiter,

Don’t you dare ask me if I need change. You just bring the change. You even say “I’ll be right back with your change!”, if you like, and then I can say “I don’t need any change” or just leave, but you don’t ask me if I’m tipping you. Waiters these days have no manners!

Take care of your cooks, your bartenders and your busboys.

They are the ones who can make or break you. Off the sweaty hot guys behind the line a cold drink. Make sure you time your tickets so you don’t kill the cooks. Take very, very good care of them.

Never leave a table waiting BEFORE giving their order. They are much more likely to get up and leave at that stage.

Wear really comfortable shoes.

Flirt mildly with older folks of the opposite gender. They like that and will give you money.

Read back the order to make sure you have everything right.

You are there to serve, not to chat and make friends. Get in and get out, unless the table seems to like flirtiness in their waiters.

Try not to take it personally if someone leaves a crappy tip. (This one is hard for me, and one of the reasons why I don’t work that field anymore.) Some people are just mean, or can never be satisfied, or are truly clueless. I once served a 12-top and got $0 in tips…I don’t know if they thought the tip was included or not in the bill. It wasn’t. :frowning:

I ditto Zsofia with the tip thing. *Never ever * assume you will get a tip. Always say, “I’ll be right back with your change” then you can be bowled-over grateful if they say “Keep it.”

Learn how to “read your tables.”

By this I mean, by the time you’ve walked away from your initial greet of the table, try to figure out how much attention they’re going to be needing from you.

Some tables like it when you’re charming, funny, and interactive-- especially one person dining alone. Many, many tables do not. Lots of people really just want you to be a polite but invisible order-taker, stuff-bringer, occasional item-suggester, and cashier. EVERY table wants you to anticipate what they need before they have to ask for it (refills, more bread/chips/butter/whatever, CLEARING THE TABLE for the next course-- that’s HUGELY important), so do that as much as you can.

This will come with time, but the sooner you learn it, the more professional you will seem, and the bigger your tips will be.

If there are specials for the night, memorize them (as opposed to writing them down and reading them off) before your shift. Again, more professional.

I’ll second Zsofia’s comment: ALWAYS assume they’ll need change. Even if they gave you a 20 and the bill was $19.97, tell them, “I’ll be right back with your change.” Many customers will stop you at this point and say they don’t need it, but some won’t. Either way, it is IMPOSSIBLY rude to ask if they need it or not, and will likely result in a lower tip.

NEVER argue with a customer. If you disagree on something and the customer is getting agitated, remain calm and tell them you’re going to go see what you can do about it. Get a manager if it’s something you can’t handle, but above all, never phrase things such that you are putting the blame on the customer.

Finally, leave your problems at the door. Don’t bring an attitude to work. Hangovers, breakups, insomnia… they’re not your customers’ problems. Plaster on the happy face.

Have fun!

As a customer, I can offer this

  1. Regardless of everything else, keep my glass (of whatever) full & you will likely get a great tip. Let me have to flag you down for it & you will get only a nominal tip.

  2. Don’ t try to impress me with you memory as you take the order. My family orders enough things that are “special” that when you get it wrong because you did not write it down, it really screws up my evening. This also leads to a marginal tip.

  3. Get the order, bring the food, check back to make sure everything is OK, come back only to bring more drinks and ask if we want desert before you bring the check. Don’t hover & do not just drop the check in passing before asking if we wanted desert because (a) we do & (b) see my comments above about having to flag you down.

But remember that you can absolutely shake down a customer for a tip if they’re shorting you. Don’t be rude, but be assertive and explain that you were not tipped and ask if there was a particular reason or if they weren’t satisfied, etc. I had a server friend who followed people into the parking lot - a table of 20 - when he was completely stiffed. It turned out that they had had an internal miscommunication over who was tipping, and he ended up getting something like a 30% tip in their embarrassment. :cool:

Ignore all advice about food service that you receive from VCO3.

Shaking down customers for a tip is pathetic. I don’t care if it’s a table of 20, you just suck it up and get on with your day.

Be friendly, look your customers in the eye, and make sure when food gets to the table it’s hot (well, assuming it’s a hot dish!) This makes 99% of people happy and the other 1% you grit your teeth and chalk it up to them having a bad day, or just generally being assholes.

Wrong. Especially with larger groups like that or with extremely high tickets, it’s absolutely acceptable and expected to confront the customer. 9/10 times, there was a mistake or confusion on their part (thought it was included in the price, mix-up between members of the large party over who was handling it, confusion over cash vs. credit), and they’ll fix it. Why work for (all but) free?

In addition, you can even bring the manager with you - the key is to not appear angry that you’ve been stiffed, but to make it appear that you’re genuinely confused and worried that there was a problem or something that they’re unhappy about and want to fix.

If a couple tells you they are trying to make a movie and they’ll need their bill, don’t make them sit there forever waiting for you. It seems like anytime we are ready to pay and get out we have to wait and wait because the server has gotten busy with other tables. Hardly anything will make me tip less, but that is one thing I do take off for.