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?
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:
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.
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:
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 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, 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 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, 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 back!"
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 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 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 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 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. (05/31/2008)
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 they hate.
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 server:
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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