OK. You're new at this! Great fun! I have been a waitress for
like 2 and 1/2 years and I love being a waitress because I know
what to do. And can you believe I'm just 16?
you. But don't be too cheesy.
the cutest creatures you've ever seen. Parents like that.
Especially the new parents.
smoke or something weird. I have seen this all too many times, a
fellow waiter will smell like something gross and the guest make
a face when the waiter is not looking.
matter how nice or how terrible the weather is simply say "I
heard Friday is suppose to be nice and sunny." (with a smile, of
order because it's their first time in the joint. So advise them
of the cook's specialty.
Don't let them tell you when to take them.
Quickly stand in front of the table and mark the across from you
(mentally) as number 12, then the next one to number 12's left
as number 1 and so on and so forth. So when you serve their
drink you have them in the "clock" order. Same goes for their
"anything is possible" look. They love that look.
look like they are greedy and we don't want greedy.
Anyways, I hope these tips are of use. If I remember anymore I
will send them to you as soon as possible.
After waiting tables, bartending and managing the "front of the
house" for years, I echo all the great tips offered here so far.
I would add a few tips for anyone out there and they're the
first ones I tell anyone I hire.
The first is to always be "on stage". I know it's been
mentioned in previous posts (and a cheesy way of thinking of
it), but when you're on the floor you have to portray the bubbly
friendly server that everyone would like to have serving them.
Next and most likely the most important in my book is to
always treat your kitchen staff well and with respect. They're
working just as hard as you are and often in worse conditions.
Plus they control your food, it's not a great thought, but if
you get on their bad side your orders could take longer and not
be of the best quality. I would always thank the guys and after
a busy or hectic night I would buy a pitcher or two for them
(you'd tip out your busser or bartender, right?). It's so nice
when they're totally willing to help you out when you mess up an
order or need help!
And lastly, never judge a book by it's cover. "Rich" looking
people tend to be the worst tippers and the most demanding
customers while the couple in torn jeans and sweatshirts will
leave a 30% tip!
Good luck to anyone out there and remember that you just as
good as anyone else whether this is a part time job during
college or turns out to be a career!
I waitressed for about 7 years:
dressings, # of wings in a large order vs. a small etc.
table. If your manager is OK with it I would always offer my
customer like a cup of soup on the house if things were taking
too long. If they know you are trying to keep them happy they
will appreciate it even if they decline the soup. (Or free
dessert, or salad, or say I won't charge you for your Coke since
it took so long, etc. Of course make sure its OK with your
if you can.
million years for their check, but also don't make them feel
rushed and ask if they want dessert.
appetizers, salad, dessert, etc. and be specific. Say "Would you
like to try our buffalo wings or an order of our famous onion
rings to start off with tonight?" not "Do you want an
appetizer?" Asking if they want to try something sounds better
They may ask for you again.
frustration later by confirming at the beginning if the bill
will be all on one check or not.
Hang in there. Serving can be a stressful, difficult job, but
once you've got your systems down, it can be a lot of fun, and
So, a list of tips and advice? Many servers have posted tips
before me, but I'll give you the most complete list that I can.
(I've been serving and bartending for 8 years, and as of 6
months ago, I'm the proud owner of a restaurant/bar; just so you
know where I'm coming from.) These are not listed in order of
importance, just as they come to me.
upbeat and friendly.
section empty handed. Basically, be efficient. Do not make a
separate trip for each task you have to do. Consolidate. i.e.,
after you greet one table and are on your way to ring in their
drink orders, bus or pre-bus any tables along your way. It will
save you (and your customers) time, and most customers will
appreciate your efficiency and promptness.
means, when you're refilling water/coffee for your section, if
you have a moment, take a walk through the rest of the dining
room. This also goes for pre-bussing. If you see an empty plate,
regardless of who's table it is, you can pick it up. Your
coworkers will appreciate it and be more likely to help you out
If you think they may be done, have the check on you (so you can
offer it, or when they ask, it's already right there.) If they
are almost done with their drink (alcoholic or non), ask if they
would like another. The less they have to ask for, the better
server you are in their eyes.
really full, avoid spilling by not looking at it while you're
walking. Whether it's on a tray or in your hand. I swear this
possible. For example, tables should be greeted within 1 minute
of sitting down. Tables should wait no more than 2 minutes for
their check once they've asked for it. Ask your manager if your
particular restaurant has specific guidelines about this. Often,
they will just have the generic, industry-wide poster in the
took the order, you ought to know who's getting what dish. Don't
walk up and say, "who had the halibut?" or whatever. If it helps
you, use a seat numbering system (starting from your left - seat
1 - and going clockwise). Write the order down that way, and if
you can, ring it in that way. It will help others if they are
running your food as well.
beer lists and what's in the cocktails, etc. Be able to answer
any questions the guest may have. A server being knowledgeable
is at the top of many people's lists of what they look for in a
good server. If there is something that you don't know, tell
them that you're not sure, but would be happy to find out, or
happy to get someone that does know to talk to them.
when even the best servers begin to forget things. For me, give
me 10 tables at once and 5 more waiting at the door, and I'm on
my game. If I only have 1 or 2 tables, I get distracted easily.
It seems backwards, I know, but many servers will tell you it's
hosts, etc.) with the utmost respect. Their jobs are difficult
too. If your places requires that you tip these positions out,
do so generously. The nicer you are to them, the nicer they'll
be to you.
apologize, stay calm and never make light of the situation. The
guest may feel that you are making fun of them. Do your best to
fix the problem, and if you can't, explain the situation to your
manager and have them fix it. If this means comping someone's
meal, so be it. Better to have the guest leave happy and come
back than to make the $20. Also, if they feel that you've
righted a bad situation, they are much more likely to be
forgiving and still tip you.
don't tip well. We all know those people are out there. But
there are many decent, nice, generous people out there as well
that will make up for it.
I'm sure there's much, much more, but hopefully it's been (or
will be) covered by my peers. Just remember, we all have good
days and bad days, but the better you get at the job, the fewer
bad days there will be. Good luck!
Here are some things I've learned:
name when you bring it back to them. It's a "Higher Touch".
this way, and write "Thank you!" Smiley faces help, too.
near the table. This works for our taller servers, but also
helps the guest realize you're there to help them.
enough. It will cut down on your errors in a major way, and
helps in environments when misrings are common because of loud
helps. Take care of your appearance; this is a very shallow job
where attractiveness is a big benefit.
although, use discretion; you will be held accountable for just
being rude, gently stand up for yourself, excuse yourself, or
get a manager. You are there to serve them, but it does not give
anyone a right to treat you disrespectfully.
Always ID anyone who looks under thirty, or there is a slim
chance you could actually go to jail.
Hope those helped!
I've been waitressing/bartending/managing for the past 17 years.
And still going strong.
For those of you with weak wrists: first of all, practice
carrying the plates with no food on them. It sounds stupid, but
there are all sorts of ways to balance them. I use the wrists,
holding one plate in a pinch between my left forefinger and
thumb and another "pinched" underneath with my bottom 3 fingers
and another lying across the top of my wrist/forearm. Some
waitresses carry one dish in their left hand, another on their
left forearm, braced against their body and a 3rd in their right
Click here for wrist building exercises. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/md55.htm
If you are right handed, carry heavy plates in your left, and
set down with your right. Set the edge of the dish down first on
the table so it doesn't clatter, set the rest of the dish down
and slide it gently. Grab the next dish from your left arm and
do the same. If left handed, reverse it!
If you're new, tell the customers. They won't think you're
stupid and don't feel stupid. And for Pete's sake never cry at a
table because something went wrong. People have much more
tolerance when they know they are dealing with a "rookie" and
will remain calmer than they normally would if things go wrong.
Waitresses, know your menu. I cannot stress enough how
important this is. Know your salad dressings, know if the
hamburger comes with Cheddar or American cheese, and know how
the halibut is cooked. Someone will ask. if you don't know, say
I don't know, but I will go find out! And then do so.
This leads into know your drink menu. Someone order a
martini? Vodka or gin? Up or on the rocks? Any particular type
of gin? Show your knowledge, if not ask the bartender for
recommendations. Same with the wine. Know it! And then upsell
Be prepared to make every order special. Thousands of people
ask, can I have that with no onions? extra black olives? more
lettuce? find out from the cook/manager ahead of time what is
allowed and what isn't.
Be personable 'smile smile smile'. I can't emphasize it
enough to let your personality shine through!
Dress appropriately. If the crowd is older, the older men may
appreciate your short shorts and bra straps hanging out, torn
holes in your jeans, but their wives who hold the checkbook?
Nope. Never wear flip flops to work. Ever.
Do you have an older crowd? They might call you sweetie,
honey, darling. Do not lay into them for it. Do not take it the
wrong way. They mean nothing bad by it, just the opposite. These
are sweet people, who yes, might not tip very well, but by golly
they'll become your favorites if you just listen to them a bit.
Take time to listen to your customers. Sometimes they have
stories/jokes they want to tell, listen, and then
laugh/commiserate and move along. Don't spend a long time
chatting with one customer. They know you have other tables to
see, but they just want someone to listen a bit. Sometimes you
just say, "Oops! There goes the bell. I'll be back in a minute."
Or "Oh dear! My drinks are up I have to run, but I'll be back
when I have time".
Never, ever blow off customers at the door waiting to be
seated. I don't care that you're discussing the latest
hairstyles with waitress #2. I don't care that you're on the
phone. These people have taken the time to come into your
restaurant, and they deserve to be noticed. Even if you're
walking by with 3 margaritas balanced on your head and steaming
nachos in both your hands, you still say "Hello! I'll be right
Got a bad customer? It happens. First try to fix the
meal/drink, cook it more/cook it less, more alcohol or less. The
last scenario to fixing the problem is to offer a gift
certificate. In this way, at least they'll come back to your
restaurant again. Do not lose patience, do not roll your eyes.
Offer to fix it, then check back and make sure it's right.
Drink refills, sorry, I wait until they are about 1" from the
bottom of the glass if it's wine or alcohol. There are too many
problems with drunk drivers to force them to drink faster. If
it's pop, ask about 1/3 of the way from the bottom unless they
are close to finishing their meal. It drives me insane when you
are trying to get a table to leave due to a waiting list at the
door, and someone refills their coffee/tea cup all the way to
the top. If they've paid their bill and you need the table don't
offer a refill. Sorry, sometimes life is harsh.
If refills are free, just ask if they want a refill. If not
say "lemonade refills aren't free, would you like another? Or a
glass of water?" offer them a free alternative. But tell them
it's not free!
I don't ask if a customer wants change, I phrase it thus "do
you need change on this?" when they have their money out.
Sometimes people are confused as to who is their waitress, and
will ask for their change back, and leave it all on the table
for 'their' waitress whomever she might be even if it's you. But
ask. Don't just take money and walk away thinking it's all
Try to remember your regulars. Randy always has ice tea, no
lemon. Al never wants garnish on his plate. Ed hates salsa,
always wants ranch dressing. The more you know it, the less
trips to the kitchen/bar.
In regards to 91 chevy (in feedback) "No" we don't train
people to ask in the middle of a conversation "anything else?",
neither does the waitstaff have time to stand there while you're
finishing a discussion on world peace in Iraq before you'll
acknowledge us. Most times if your customers are busy chatting
you can stop by the table, hold your arms out in a gesture of
'anything else?' and if they don't, they'll shake their heads.
If they do, they'll take a break for a moment and tell you. And
sorry, it's not all the waitstaff's fault'. Please acknowledge
that sometimes there are further problems with the bar or
kitchen staff. Don't blame it all on your waiter. And if you
want a peaceful, quiet environment? By all means, dine at home.
We do to-go orders as well. Enjoy.
Organization is the key, how do you do it all? And do it all
right now? Sometimes you just rely on your back up people. "Can
you please take tea to A3 while I take A4's order?" and remember
that at the end of the evening when tip in time comes. Get
drinks first. Most people are happy for a few minutes when they
have drinks and a menu. Try to take little orders before a big
one. Tell them something like "no pressure, but if we can get
your order in before this group of 30". And most times they'll
order quickly and thank you for it. On your way to the back, ask
tables how they are doing, and then on your way out front, take
it back with you, ketchup, Heinz 57, more napkins, tell the
float A6 needs more tea, then go take your big order. Warn the
rest of the staff that you'll be busy for a bit, can they get
drinks for you if anyone new sits in your section? Think ahead.
Have fun. Show your personality. It will make all the
difference in the world.
Sharing out the tips. People who help you share your tips. If
the bartender hadn't made the best old fashioned B4 has ever
had, if the T-bone to C1 hadn't been cooked just perfect, or the
kids meals to D1 came out quickly so they quit screaming. You
wouldn't have gotten that tip, so share it out on those who
help. On the owner who is sitting at home watching TV? Nope.
Newbies, oh boy, do I have advice for you.
One, at the interview. First of all discover what type of
restaurant it is. If it's a 5 star, and you show up for your
interview in the latest style of babydoll top with bra straps
hanging out, 2 holes in your jeans and flip flops, don't even
bother. Even your personality and beautiful smile won't get you
a 2nd interview. Expect to have your references checked on, so
make them good.
Two, if you are hired. For Pete's sakes make sure you are
available for at least the next 2 weeks no matter what. Don't
apply for a job, then tell them that oh, by the way, you can't
start until 2 weeks later because of dance camp. Restaurant
business is tough and weekend oriented. Give up your weekends,
give up your nightlife for a few weeks before requesting time
Three. Know it! Know your menu, know the seating, know the
drinks. Take some time and learn it! When you get the job, ask
the boss for a copy of the menu.
Sorry, I'll disagree with the squatting next to a table. Yes,
it's more intimate, but in today's fashion statement of low
slung jeans, I've had to intervene and stand behind waitresses
to cover their underwear/crack hanging out in the middle of
their order so the rest of the restaurant doesn't realize they
are wearing pink thongs with green flowers.
Additional tips? Keep them. The customer means for you to
have it, and you alone.
If you as a waiter are vegetarian? I don't eat seafood, but I
make sure I tell my customers "*I* haven't tried it, but I've
sold 3 this evening and everyone said it was awesome", "I don't
eat Reubens, but when anyone asked how they were? I said best in
the world", based on other peoples opinions of them.
Sorry. Am I rambling? Waitressing can be the most fun job of
your life if you let it. Have fun, smile, and count your tips as
they roll in.
Editor's Note: This is one of our most popular
subjects and many people have provided advice from their own
experience. Thanks to all who have posted. Check out many more
tips below in the feedback.
When the food is sent out to the table, it is always nice to ask
if their food turned out the way they wanted and it there is
anything else you can get them.
"Hi everyone! How is everything tasting? Is there anything I can
get for all of you?" (07/19/2007)
Ive been serving for approximately 3 months. I've noticed that
tips go down or up according to how you greet your tables. You
have to learn to read people. For example:
If a couple comes in, young or old, and they look like they
are on a date, or out for an evening together, always address
the woman first and look very little at the man. Make eye
contact while speaking with him, but always keep your body
slightly angled towards the woman. It lets her know that you
aren't there to impress. You are there to serve. Period.
Body language is key, too. Make sure you aren't sending your
tables the wrong message by crossing your arms while talking to
them or looking around at other tables while you are with them.
Always be attentive to the table you are at.
When I bill my customers I always fold the bottom edge of the
bill up over the total and write a little message or thank you
and a smiley face on it. I've noticed that many people fight
over who is going to take care of the bill. Usually they don't
want the other person to know how much it is. Folding the bill
up over the total helps with this.
Hope this helps someone! (09/01/2007)
There isn't really anyway to strengthen your wrist quickly so
that trays become easier to carry. My advise is to instead of
holding the base of the tray over the palm of your hand, move it
back so it is resting on your forearm.
If you can balance it OK, the weight will be taken off your
weaker hand and onto your stronger arm.
Gay as it sounds, practice makes perfect - you should not spill
anything from a tray, even if it's a full martini glass.
Contrary to what was posted earlier, don't ask, "Do you need
change with this?" This makes them feel like they're on the spot
and have to say either yes or no.
Smile and say, "I'll be right back with your change." This
way the customer can say, "Oh no, honey, keep the change!" or
they can say, "Thank you." As a manager, I teach all my servers
this trick. (06/09/2008)
I am a server at a family restaurant and, in my opinion,
carrying your tray on your shoulder, balancing with your
fingertips is the easiest way to deliver. It makes it so the
tray is higher up so as not to whack a sitting customer on the
head and I think it provides more stability. But everyone has
their own personal way. I have a manager who carries trays level
or sometimes "over" her head! (06/23/2008)
Good tips are earned not guaranteed! My wife and I go out to eat
often to average mid priced restaurants and I can't remember the
last time we received exceptional service. Good service is
probably about 60% and poor service is about 40% of the time.
One thing I find very arrogant is when the server takes your
money and asks: Do you need any change? If I have change due
bring it. I will determine the tip you earned. I always leave a
smaller tip when a server asks this question! (07/19/2008)
By John N
A lot of the advice is geared towards American service. The kind
of service you get in the UK, and most of Europe, is a lot more
unobtrusive. You operate in the background, and interrupt the
customer's evening as little as possible. (10/08/2008)
As a seasoned server, the advice I would give to anyone in the
business is to care. I always look at my guests as good people
who just need their night to go well. Look at the tired mom's
and know you can help them. Look at the elderly and take your
time. Let them know you care and that you understand. Sincere
100% commitment can make anything okay. You don't have to sweat
it so much.
One more tip that has helped a ton. I work at a wine bar with
some tables and some couches. If customers want a relatively
quick meal, we try to give them that. If they want to sit for
hours, drink wine, and chat with their friends or listen to live
jazz, we realize that they probably don't want to be bothered as
much as those in for a quick meal.
So, my advice for any type of restaurant is to always be
present in your section/by your tables, but never hover.
Customers hate it when they need something and you are nowhere
to be found, but then again they hate it when you are constantly
checking if you are "doing OK". So always be walking by your
tables and glancing, If they need something, you are there, but
you are not hovering over their shoulder.
Also, another great tip that many servers ignore is the "5-
minute check back". As you deliver their food, ask if there is
"any thing else you can get them at the moment" (like if they
need salt, a water, etc). Then, 5 minutes later, come back to
check if their food is cooked well/tastes good, etc. 5 minutes
gives them enough time to have tasted their food, but waiting
any longer is pointless because they may feel stuck with food
Also, be able to give recommendations when asked. And just as
important, be genuine with your recommendations, don't just
recommend the most expensive food/drink, customers will see
right through this. Plus, customers will be more likely to tip
you better if you give them a recommendation that they love,
rather than an expensive item that is just OK.
When you make recommendations don't just say, "the trout is
good" or especially, "that entree is very popular" be specific.
For example " the stuffed crab is our chef's own creation and
the lemon glaze is amazing." But also, don't assume that because
you like something everyone else will. Like, if you love a
really spicy entree, by all means, recommend it, but be sure to
warn them that it is pretty spicy.
Lastly, to reiterate what others have said, but is super
important: always present yourself well. Fix your hair, put a
little make up on, make sure your clothes fit well and aren't
stained or wrinkled. And don't smell like smoke! I used to
smoke and after I quit I realized how bad I smelled of smoke at
my tables after coming back from a smoke break.
One more thing, serving may seem like an individual job, but
actually, team work is a must if any server is going to make
money and get along well with co-workers. Always tip out a
little extra. If a bartender knows they are going to see a
little extra from you than the other servers, they will probably
make your drinks a little faster/better. Also, it is super
important for be friendly/tip out hostesses and bussers. They
can make your job bad if you don't. (think being seated with the
family with 5 kids, of sat 4 times in a row.)
Serving can be very frustrating, but don't take it out on
hostesses and bussers. When I hosted, I was often the whipping
-boy for angry servers. And just as important, treat the
kitchen well. Don't ever yell about food taking too long/being
cold, etc. Also, if you are in the weeds and the kitchen is on
the ball and helps to get you through a sticky situation, buy em
a round of beers after work.
They are more likely to make an order on the fly next time
you mess up. And last, but definitely not least, get along well
with other servers, working as a team makes serving way more
fun, easier and financially rewarding. Do little things like
fill their table's waters if you are filing you own. Ask them
if they need anything when they are in the weeds, or help bus
their tables if you walk by empty-handed.
Serving can be very fun and financially rewarding. I have made
by best friendships serving. Good luck! (12/23/2008)
I've been waitressing for only a month and I made a lot of
mistakes (dropping glasses, getting wrong orders, forgetting to
put in orders, etc). I was getting so upset with myself, but as
I talked to more experienced workers, I realized that a lot of
servers make the same mistake or even more starting out. I'm
getting a lot better and I'm learning these tips as a new
learn it as you go along.
pens when giving people their checks to sign. When I ran out of
pens I thought I could memorize one table's orders. It ended
middle to attend to another task, before you know it, things
will keep piling onto your to-do list and you will forget what
you first started out to do.
Some people tip over 20%, but might have disliked the service and
will never come back again. Some people will have a great
conversation with you and will compliment you and the food, but
tip less than 10%. Don't think too hard on how you are tipped.
Take what they gave you and move on.
Don't take anything personally. Just do your best, always have
a smile on your face, and realize you can't make everybody
happy. Again, move on.
hostess, and busser and if you have phone calls coming in for
take out and delivery, you have a lot on your plate at one time.
Usually the guests inside the restaurant are top priority. Make
sure everyone is seated. You can wait to answer the phone or
put the caller on hold. Then bussing tables is usually last
This shows that you are attentive if they need something at
the moment. And it also shows respect. At first, I would zoom
past tables and not look at anyone until I got to mine partially
because I was scared. Now I feel like I'm getting more tips by
letting guests know that I am not being rude by ignoring them.
Also this way, you can check which tables need what refills.
refill a person's drink. There were too many times I poured
water in a customer's 7-up.
So waitressing is definitely a lot more work than any retail
job I've ever had. But it's definitely do-able. (07/17/2010)
44 years and still at it! Never bring your problems to work,
ever. Treat your boss with respect. It was said in an earlier
post that Europeans do it more unobtrusively, learn to do most
of it without the customer having to notice. Establish a rapport
early and then work quietly. If you're focused on giving
service, the tips will take care of themselves. I never count
till the end of the shift. Make eye contact with the person
ordering. You'd be surprised how much easier it is to remember
who had what when you look in their eyes.
And, yes, I still freak out on busy nights. But they never
see it on my face. All they see is a smile. I think the computer
senses my emotions, because that's usually when it refuses to
let me sub Swiss, or hold tomatoes. I'm sure it's laughing at
me, but I can't prove anything. (10/10/2010)
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