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!
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.
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.
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.
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...:)
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.
Tips for waiters and waitresses from the ThriftyFun community. Have ever been a waitperson? Post your advice here.
Add your voice to the conversation. Click here to answer this question.