There are two types of waiters in the world: those who can and those who think they can’t.
There are those who can quickly clear clutter from a table and balance towers of dishes in a calm, confident manner and there are those who, well, don't. Sweating and apologising their way through each shift - the tray, a constant balancing act, spills on the shoulders of any and all who dare enter their section of the restaurant. Starting to sound familiar?
Not to worry, I was without a doubt that second type of waiter when I started. But you don’t have to be. That’s right. With a bit of practice and the right kind of attitude, you can be the waiter/waitress that any business would dream of having.
We caught up with our recruitment team to find out what exactly makes a first-class waiter tick, and what you can be doing to earn your stripes ahead of your first shift.
Know Your Role
All waiting jobs will be different. However, you will be expected to know the basics when you clock in for your first shift. What side do the forks sit? Do you serve from the left or the right? What would you recommend off the menu? Make sure you spend the time to brush up on the fundamental knowledge needed before you start. If you arrive at the venue and don’t know what to do in certain situations, it’s important to speak up and raise this with your line manager.
Practice Makes Perfect
Are you making shuttle runs from the kitchen back to your table, one plate at a time? That other waitress makes it look effortless...
1. Take one plate and place it on your right hand, your three middle fingers should be together, and your thumb and little finger should be raised up. The three fingers hold the plate while the little finger and thumb keep the plate steady.
2. Take your second plate and rest the centre on the thumb muscle of your right hand. Try moving it around to see the best place to balance the plate on your right hand is, some people prefer balancing the plate on the wrist. You can use your little finger to help support the first and second plate.
3. Finally, pick up the third plate with your left hand.
Have a go at home and serve your flatmates. Then do it again and again (and again).
It’s starting to get busy and you’re rushed off your feet. You’re in out and of the kitchen, working your way around the tables, picking up orders, clearing cutlery and taking tips - it’s exhausting (working up a sweat just typing it all out), all of which brings us to the second point: Make sure that you’re prepared for the shift.
The hours can be anything from 3-10 hour shifts covering busy periods such as lunch and dinner, therefore, dressing appropriately and being clean is crucial. Hair should be washed, well-trimmed, teeth should be kept clean, and deodorant should be used daily. For the men, shaving may be necessary for some venues so be sure to check the job description.
Most of your time will be spent on your feet so wear smart, but comfortable footwear. Avoid anything that may hinder your appearance, such as sandals, sneakers or heels that are difficult to walk in.
The hospitality industry throws all sorts of craziness at you (most of the time all at once), and they usually go either one way or another. Handling interesting complaints such as, ‘my steak is too tough’ or ‘this Prosecco is flat’ all comes with practice so remember to stay calm. Remember: the customer is always right. Even when they’re wrong, they’re right.
You may be asked questions about menu items or other details, and you should be able to meet their needs simply and thoroughly, with little complication. First class waiters and waitresses are attentive listeners. They should listen carefully when taking orders to communicate clearly to the cooking staff.
Face of the Restaurant
There is nothing worse for a customer to walk through the front door of your restaurant and not feel welcomed. As a waiter, you must remember that you represent the image of the restaurant. Be pleasant, attentive and look happy. Then let the needs of the customer guide you through your table service.
An excellent waiter will always judge the situation. If a party of 10 do not want to be interactive, then use your initiative and let them get on with their night and do what they need when they ask. If a family of four are booked in and are looking for that waiter to make that extra effort, they will likely return (and leave a tip) if you put 110% into the service.
And there you have it, the five steps to waiting success! Still unsure about that first shift? GIG offers free hospitality service training at our HQ, Mon-Fri at 2 pm. Contact Recruitment@gigtogig.co.uk to find out more!