As a seasoned waitress, I would like to think that I’ve seen just about all the restaurant world has to offer. I’ve seen people who make it as servers and others who have had breakdowns from the strain of waiting tables. Here is my hard-learned advice to anyone wanting to become an effective and successful server.
Expectations and Flexibility
Before guests walk through the door of a restaurant, they not only bring with them their appetite, but also, their expectations. It’s solely up to the server to pick up on subtle hints to fulfill these expectations.
Since every guest will have different expectations, a good server will need to be flexible. Some guests might be looking for a fun atmosphere while others may be expecting a relaxing dinner out of the house.
Given these two stereotypes, say you approach all of your tables in a boisterous and playful mannerism. This may work for the people wanting to jest with you, but it might disturb the table seeking a low-stress experience. Being flexible is the key to keeping your tables happy and your sanity intact.
The Airbag Smile
No matter if you are entertaining a serious crowd or a flock of clowns, remember, a smile is your best defense. Every server messes up on an order now and then, but if you keep good eye contact and smile at your guests from the beginning, the blow will be softened.
No matter how rude the guests are, they don’t particularly want to yell at you – you’ve been smiling at them for the past half hour of their lives. Muster up a little energy and crack a smile, it’ll be your airbag for future accidents.
The Fickle Pickle
Guests are often overwhelmed by the choices on the menu. It’s understandable, especially if they don’t eat out often. They want to make the best choice for their appetite and their money. When it comes down to ordering, you may have that one guest who is still, “waffling” about their choice.
“I would like the blackened salmon salad, no wait, better make that the blackened chicken penne pasta with the salad on the side. Please.”
So by now, you have written down several items but aren’t sure about what the person actually wants. In this situation, it is critical that you repeat the order so as to avoid the confusion that “waffling” creates.
The Awkward Check
As a server, the most dreaded part of waiting tables was bringing the check – especially if the table ordered three bottles a wine and a double order of goat-cheese pizzas. The amount of money people can dish out for one meal is absolutely astounding. Personally, I have always found monetary exchanges to be slightly awkward, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, dinner, desert, etc.
To make this part of the restaurant experience as smooth as possible, double check the ticket for any errors, and gently set the check in the middle of the table closest to the edge.
I use to always set the tab in front of the man (a good idea if it’s a date scenario) but if it’s a group of friends or several ladies, it can be difficult to pick out who’s paying. Drop the check off in the neutral zone, right in the middle!