How to be a good waitress
Be a good waitress.
Over 20 tips for servers that will help you become a better waitress.
Sometimes our experience keeps us blind to the fact that we may be doing something the wrong way, and sometimes that wrong way gets taught to other waiters and waitresses. In fact, if you are doing something the wrong way, chances are it was taught to you. Well, the cycle ends here!
The following tips aren’t the be-all-end-all of restaurant service, but they are basic actions that when done wrong, in front of a knowing guest or co-worker, can show your amateur background. These tips for servers will make your job easier and help you to become a great server. Add any missed ones to the bottom in the comments below.
Want to measure your “Basic Server Knowledge“? Take the quiz. Click on the link.
- Handle stem-ware from the stem not the globe! You spend a lot of time polishing your stem-ware so why would you negate the job by getting your beautiful and unique fingerprints on the globe before it even touches the table? It’s just a habit that good waiters tend to do–but it’s totally breakable
- When clearing glasses from a table DO NOT GRAB FROM THE RIM. Palm the glasses in your hand or use a tray. Don’t know how to palm glasses? You can learn. Can’t carry as many that way? That’s okay. It’s better than spreading germs, hepatitis and looking bad on the floor.
- When you go to your table, return to the same spot every time. People are creatures of habit. By returning to the same spot every time you gain the tables attention much faster because you have “trained” them to notice a presence in that particular spot.
- Folding napkins? Doing roll-ups? Seams down, seams in. It’s a simple thing to do and creates a much more polished look.
- When putting linens on the table, make sure the seams are down. It may seem like a simple thing that doesn’t mean much but it does. Have you ever put your shirt on inside out? It’s not a huge deal but it’s kind of a stupid thing, isn’t it?
- Do not carry your server book in your butt. Can you believe this is even on the list? Some people do it and those people shouldn’t.
- Do not carry your serviette over your shoulder. It’s by your hair. Your serviette should be no where near your hair, even if it’s beautiful! Good servers carry their serviette in their hand and/or pocket when it’s not in use.
- Do not point in the dining room. Pointing is rude, remember, you were taught that when you were little. Well, that rule applies in the dining room as well. A flat hand or pointed fist is how you should show direction.
- Waitresses, waiters: Don’t call a female guest “Mam”. Mams hate that! Even if you were raised that “Mam” is a salutation of respect like I was, it’s hayday is over. Some woman hate it so much that they become rude. (Find out the other reasons some guests can become rude and find why it normally has nothing to do with you.)
- Don’t stand akimbo at a table. Don’t stand with your hands in your pocket. Stand with your arms at your side, clasped in front of you or clasped behind you. Too formal? Well remember, you’re an actor and sometimes actors play a part that they personally are not.
- Present food open handed. What is open handed? If you could immediately and easily hug your customer after you set down their food that is open handed. If when you set down their food you could immediately and easily elbow them in the face, it’s not.
- Do not auction food. Even if the restaurant you work at doesn’t use position numbers for ordering food, you an create your own system. Auctioning food is lazy. Create a system and know where the food goes.
- Don’t tell a guest how you are unless you are doing good. If they say “how are you?” DO NOT tell them ANYTHING negative. No paying customer should ever have to hear that your house burned down, you’re tired, you’re having a bad night or that you were supposed to have the night off. When they ask how you are, treat it as a nicety and nicely reply.
- Don’t touch your face in front of guests.
- Don’t touch your hair in front of guests.
- Don’t begin speaking to guests without waiting for a break in their conversation, don’t interrupt. If they are in conversation, go to your “speaking spot” at the table, count to five, if they don’t give you attention then walk away and try back in a few minutes. Do this as many times as it takes. That’s no biggie though. You have other things to do anyway.
- When asking permission to remove a dinner plate from someone, do not ask the guest if they are “still working” on their meal. Remember, dining on the food that your restaurant serves is not work. Instead, ask if they are finished “enjoying” their meal.
- When bussing a table, don’t stack plates on top of food or silverware. There is a correct way of stacking plates. Hold one plate in your hand, this plate is for silverware, share plates, bread plates and food scraps. Place the next plate on your forearm, balancing it. From that position add more plates to the plate nearest you and the food scraps, silverware and small plates to the plate in your hand. When you have stacked all you can, put the plate from your hand on the top of the plate stack nearest you. You are left with a nice, neat, manageable stack of plates.
- When carrying plates out to guests you should not have your thumb on the plate. Carry with the meat of your thumb/palm as much as possible.
- “You guys” isn’t an acceptable way to communicate with your guests. I bet you know that though. As a fun game keep your ears open and listen to your co-workers. I bet you hear someone address guests in that way.
- If you didn’t catch what a customer just said, don’t say “what”? Say “excuse me”, “pardon me”, or “can you please repeat that”?
- When possible, remove from the right, deliver from the left: MYTH (What a silly girl I have been! This way of serving is Butler Style and is only the correct way to deliver food when you are the one putting the food onto your guests plate for them or when offering a tray of food for them to take from. When the food is already plated in the kitchen, the correct way is to deliver from the right, remove from the right. I believe that restaurant conformity is even more important in food delivery so get with your fellow servers and decide what your protocol is.)
- Restaurant traffic hierarchy: Do you follow a set direction on the floor? Developing a traffic map will make service more seamless and less clumsy. When everyone flows in the same direction the whole energy of the room changes and becomes less cluttered. There is also more sense to what has been done. As an example, if you go to water the room and see that tables 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are watered but 6 isn’t, that indicates that neither is 7, 8, 9 or 10. Knowing simple things like that can save you time on the floor.
- When presenting a bottle of wine for a table, remember to place the cork on something, never just place it on the table. Also, place the cork on the table with the wet side away from the customer. That way if they reach for something on the table the wine has less of a chance getting on their shirt cuff.
- Do you leave the cork on the table? You shouldn’t…unless they want to keep it. A good server always asks their guest.
- A great idea is to agree with co-workers on where to put the cork if the guest does want to keep it. So, maybe you agree to move it to the center of the table. That way there will be no confusion and your co-workers won’t feel obliged to ask the guest (again) if they would like to keep the cork, they’ll undoubtedly know that you have already asked.
What did I miss? I’m sure there is something or maybe many things. Please add your knowledge to the comments below!
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