As my first waitressing job in a restaurant, I had little no expectation, of course I’ve dined out enough times and in enough different places to understand the basics.
Step 1. Greet the table
Step 2. Take their order
Step 3. Bring food and drinks
Step 4. Clear food and drinks
Step 5. Present bill/ Thank you and good night.
Yeah, okay as if it’s that easy!
You could write a 10-page or a 100-page manual on how to be a waitress, but anyone in the business can tell you, that when dealing with other humans the variables make it almost impossible to follow those steps in order and get the expected outcome.
Here’s the truth in the matter.
- More often than not, you’ll end up getting in a big conversation about who you are and where you’re from, that you forget what you approached the table for.
- As much as people will often greet you back, be prepared to be ignored, you may even have to go away and come back to really get their attention.
- Okay this is your time to shine, you’ve studied for this, you know exactly what accompanies what dishes, you’ve memorised every side dish, every salad dressing. You’re ready to sell the nightly specials like your life depends on it. All of a sudden the pressure is too much you’ve forgotten the soup of the day and now your making things up and hoping to God the chef will say yes.
- Whether its food or drink orders, there is always at least 1 or 2 people that have spent so much time talking they haven’t even opened the menu. At which point, they will either tell you to ‘come back to them’ or talk you through they’re whole thought process on how they had salmon for lunch and can’t have it twice in one day.
- ‘I’m avoiding carbs’ is a common one, or ‘no that’s far too fattening for me’ comes up a lot.
- Other outcomes include ‘ummmm I think’, ‘ooooohhh maybe’, ‘orrrrrrr I could’ often followed with them changing they’re mind anywhere between 2- 9,999 times.
- Oh and I should mention that while all of this is occurring you’ve probably had a another two tables sit in your section.
Bring food and drinks
- You’re a pro, you know what Brenda in seat 4 ordered, Brenda in seat 4 knows what she ordered and you both know you got it right. But for some reason Julie in seat 2 finds the need to pipe up across the table ‘THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU ORDERED BRENDA THAT’S BEEF YOU ORDERED LAMB’. At this point politely reassure Julie that this is not your first rodeo and she should worry about her(damn)self.
- You should always be prepared for complaints or criticism but it’s not YOU personally its aimed at, so this is when you need tough skin to deal with the matter and avoid being sensitive.
- The previous point unfortunately does not apply to chefs when returning food to the kitchen. So be ready to have your sensitivity tested. Chefs somehow have all acquired the skill break even the strongest into a blubbering mess. At this point the key is not to cry in their presence, previous staff should by now have shown you where we go to cry.
Clear food and drinks
- This is the easy part, but make sure to ask if everyone is finished first. What you think is one measly grain of rice, to them is still food, so don’t assume they are finished.
- You can always carry more, so when you have six plates already, and the seventh person asks you to take they’re plate, simply balance it on your head to reach optimum capacity.
- Oh also it is common for people to ask you to wrap up a slice of tomato, the last bite of a burger or even a bone for their dog. These are not jokes they are statements that should be taken seriously.
Present bill/ Thank you and good night.
- This doesn’t mean that you’re done, I know you thought it did, but you were wrong. This actually commences the finally event for the evening……haggling.
- It is important at this stage to let Brenda know that you can’t charge her half the price because she only ate half. Happy hour doesn’t run all day and remind them that just because you sent the food back, they don’t get the meal for free because they licked the second plate clean.
- With that thank you for joining us this evening, enjoy the rest of your day, good night, see you in the morning.
- Nooow you’re done.
Hopefully you see the funny side to it all, but I can’t lie and say it is a challenging role. People are people and to be honest most of things that you see and deal with is nothing shy of what you yourself have probably done to some other waiter/waitress.
However, these events become few and far between when working in a country club. Seeing the same people every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you get to know what they regularly have, the types of things they enjoy and ultimately who the trouble makers are.
I can’t really imagine there are many similar scenarios in the UK to working in a country club, so comparison is hard. But then again that’s beauty of what this experience has been, I would say now my anticipation levels are currently A1. Like some members will look at me to come over and I know exactly what they’re going to ask for, so hopefully this new found super power is transferable.
For anyone coming out to America for your placement year, after two years of studying the industry by now you should have a little clue has to how things go. So I’m hoping you can understand the industry humour in this, like every job, task and day in the world, there are ups and downs. But you have chosen the hospitality industry, every manner of which fluctuates like no other industry, it no different. You’ll smile, you’ll frown, you’ll have good days and bad but that’s why your here. You don’t want the mundane 9-5 talking to Jack and Barb all day, you want change, excitement, see new faces and learn new things and I promise you, you’ll get all that and more.
Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.”
– Justine Vogt