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Waitressing 101


Although notorious for hard physical work and long hours, the restaurant industry is an excellent source of income for many.� The food service industry is populated with savvy waitresses, servers and bartenders that make a lucrative income with some basic skills and techniques. So what differentiates good waitressing from the best?�

Power servers know how to handle even the most difficult customer, can think on their feet, and are well-prepared with knowledge of their establishment to learn all the tips and tricks to make every customer, a happy and returning customer. And what do happy customers equate to? Better tips! The income from a successful dinner shift at the restaurant can’t be easily matched by many industries, and the more skills the server acquires, the higher the chance of repeat successes!

If you are just getting into the food service industry, or just need to brush up on some of your skills, use these tips and techniques to help you succeed:

1. Know the menu
This may seem easy enough, but you will fare much better in the long-run and when time calls for even the most random questions. Know the menu through and through, and you may even have a chance to flex your mental muscles and show off a little. There is no such thing as too much knowledge about food, wine, or your restaurant’s offerings and specialities; stay attentive and well-educated on menu changes and other details and you’ll have the power of your product by your side at all times.

2. Learn to read people
This is a learned skill, nothing that can be taught in books or your training manual. Learn to pick up on cues when people want, or need something; as you get better at this, you’ll even learn how to surprise and anticipate your guest. This makes your work stand out and a good tip is sure to follow when the guest is exceptionally satisfied, even for the simplest event.

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3. The art of resilience
You’re going to have to learn to be tough, even when you know that the good tip is just within your reach. Sometimes even at the last minute, a major catastrophe in the kitchen, a spilled plate on a guest, or inadequate seating charts can result in major dissatisfaction. Live and learn from the random chaos that can occur in the typical restaurant, and come back stronger for your next table or round!

4. Don’t sweat it
Customers may be rude, complain all night, dislike you from the beginning, or just may be in a bad mood. Remember that this has nothing to do with you; the best you can do is make their hour or few hours with you as enjoyable as possible. If needed, show them that you truly are bending over backwards for them and they may just have a change of heart by the end of their dining experience.� Remember, you’re on their side no matter how you might ‘feel’�otherwise.

5. Learn to love The Complainer
You’ll always have the guest who dislikes just about everything; the food is too cold, the serving size is too small, the menu isn’t big enough, their seat is dirty, the wine glass just isn’t as clean as they would like. Learn to love even the slightest inconveniences; adopt an attitude to always be there to fix (as much as possible), and be ready for even more complaints! Remember, most guests have a �track record’ or script for their dining visits just as you do; they may have learned that this is the way to handle their dining experience, and are likely just re-living the moment. Take heed of this, and remember patience is a necessary skill of your job!

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6. Consolidate tasks and stay organized
Time is of the essence in this industry, and you will do well to consolidate your steps as much as possible. You will never have control over all areas of the restaurant, but you can be a smart navigator and reduce your trips from the kitchen to the floor as much as possible. This will enable you to truly engage your guests, read them for anything they may need, and anticipate your next move.

7. Learn to be a team player
Even though you may have bussers, hosts, and food runners to take part in the entire guest experience, you can play a strong hand by helping out. You’ll not only get on the good side of your helpful crew, you’ll speed up your table turn rate without even knowing it. Managemenet will love you for turning your tables this fast, and you’ll only receive higher sales at the end of the night.

8. Build your regular customer list
Customers love great service, and you can make your delivery memorable by dropping your name, including it on your check, and simply saying thank you. They will ask for you next time they visit, and you can count on them on any upcoming rough nights.

9. Stay on the bartender’s good side
You don’t have to be best buds with the bartender, but it’s helpful that you get along. Remember that this is a team environment and a large portion of your check will involve drinks from the bar. You’ll get great service yourself from the bartender, and even a good spot in the server aisles if they are in a good mood on a busy night.

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10. Ring up your tickets accurately
Nothing beats a bad night than mis-rings in the kitchen followed by the wrath of the Kitchen manager and staff. Check your tickets for accuracy, and make sure your order numbers and seat numbers are always correct. This will not only speed up your flow of work, it also won’t get you in trouble (i.e. losing time) in the kitchen trying to fix your mistake.

Try these ten tips and strategies to improve your serving skills, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of increased tip averages, better shifts, and an increased ability to work smarter, not harder!