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Waiter and Waitress Tips and Advice

New Server Advice

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?
  1. Always smile with your heart even if a piano just fell over you. But don't be too cheesy.
  2. Always be nice to the kids. Smile at them like they are the cutest creatures you've ever seen. Parents like that. Especially the new parents.
  3. Do it before they ask. Have the check before they ask.
  4. Ask if they need a chair booster or a high chair.
  5. Know the menu! You must know the menu.
  6. Look the part. Make sure your clothes don't smell like 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.
  7. Don't ever say "My, what weather we're having". No 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 course.)"
  8. There is always that person that doesn't know what to order because it's their first time in the joint. So advise the cooks specialty.
  9. Take the unwanted dishes as soon as they are finished. Don't let them tell you when to take them.
  10. If you have a big table of 8 or more. Do the "clock". 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 food.
  11. When the guest request something, give them the "anything is possible" look. They love that look.
  12. Never count your tips in front of guest. It makes one 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.

By Jenn

"Be On Stage" And Other Tips

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!

By Madelynnsmama

8 Tips To Successful Waitressing

I waitressed for about 7 years:
  1. Know your menu frontwards and backwards and drinks, salad dressings, # of wings in a lg order vs. a small etc.
  2. If the order is taking too long don't hide from your 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 boss.
  3. Drink refills -keep up on them, bring it before they ask if you can.
  4. You can ruin the whole experience by making them wait a million years for their check, but also don't make them feel rushed and ask if they want dessert.
  5. Upsell. The bigger the check the bigger the tip. Offer 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 than buy.
  6. Invite them to come back and remind them of your name. They may ask for you again.
  7. Depending on the party you might save time and frustration later buy confirming at the beginning if the bill will be all on one check or not.
  8. Always smile and keep a sense of humor.
Good luck!

By Jamie

Tips For Happy Customers

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 financially rewarding.

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.

  1. Keep a positive attitude. This means smiling and being upbeat and friendly.
  2. Let no step be wasted and never go to or leave your 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.
  3. Work with the rest of the staff, not around them. This 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 too.
  4. Anticipate the guests needs before they have to ask you. 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.
  5. When serving a drink (martinis especially), if it's 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 works.
  6. Adhere to the timeline for steps of service as much as 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 back somewhere.
  7. Never auction off food. Meaning, if you're the one that 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.
  8. Know everything about the menu. And know the wine and 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.
  9. Watch yourself when it's not that busy. That tends to be 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 quite true.
  10. Treat the back-of-house staff and support staff (bussers, 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.
  11. If something does go seriously wrong with a table, 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.
  12. Don't get too fired up if you have a couple tables that 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!

By ServeThis

Good Waitressing Advice

Here are some things I've learned:
  • If you make a sale with a credit card, thank the guest by name when you bring it back to them. It's a "Higher Touch".
  • Circle your name at the top of the check if it prints this way, and write "Thank you!" Smiley faces help, too.
  • When talking to a guest, it's always helpful to squat near the table. This works for our taller servers, but also helps the guest realize you're there to help them.
  • Repeat the order back to them. Repeat the order back to them. Repeat the order back to them. I cannot stress this enough. It will cut down on your errors in a major way, and helps in environments when misrings are common because of loud music, etc.
  • This is sad, but true, girls, if you wear makeup, it helps. Take care of your appearance; this is a very shallow job where attractiveness is a big benefit.
  • Make the guests laugh. This might be the most important thing.
  • Stand up for yourself! If a guest treats you poorly, 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.
  • When serving alcohol, remember that police do stings. Always ID anyone who looks under thirty, or there is a slim chance you could actually go to jail.
Hope those helped!

By Crystal

Seventeen Years Of Experience

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, 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 hand.

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. 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 know it know it! And then upsell it.

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" 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 back!"

Got a bad customer? It happens. First try to fix the meal/drink, cook it more/cook it less, more alcohol, 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. 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 its you. But ask. Don't just take money and walk away thinking it's all yours.

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 the 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 sake 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 off.

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 flower.

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.

By Carrie

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.

Recent Answers

By peanut201311/17/2013

I would like to ask a question. This is my 1st server job. It's Japanese food. All servers split the tips and we tip out bar, Busser, hostess a mandatory percentage. If I have my customer hand me a tip and say this is for you, does it go in with all the tips?

By Dexter H.06/19/2013

I love all the advice you guys have! I've been in the game for twenty five years and I think you are right on!
I just published an in-depth easy to read guide about the secrets of restaurant service and how to double your tips. If you want to preview it for free, go to lulu.com and search under" The Ultimate Tip" you can click on "preview" and read the first ten pages for free! lol. Can't wait to hear what you guys think about it...:)

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