Whether you’re a student looking to earn some extra cash, or you’re in the midst of a career change, knowing how to learn to be a waiter can be a great way to keep you afloat. In fact, there are many professional waiters who earn their sole income that way. Our quick guide on how to become a waiter will equip you with the skills needed to make it in any restaurant.
- Learn the Language of Food. We’re not suggesting that you take a culinary class or anything so drastic, but it’s important to brush up on some key terminology that will undoubtedly come up from time to time. There are plenty of food magazines out there—both in print and online—to keep you updated on the latest trends. Not to mention the boom of television stations like Food Network and hit reality shows like Bravo’s "Top Chef."
- Study the Menu. And taste the food whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’re working in a fine dining establishment, odds are that you’ll be required to attend regular tastings whenever the menu changes. It’s especially important that you pay attention during these sessions and take notes of your favorite dishes (why would you recommend it?). Patrons, especially those who consider themselves foodies, will often want your recommendations—if you haven’t tried something yet, do not recommend it!
- Respect the Chef. No matter how great the ambiance, every fine dining establishment earns its praise from the man (or woman) in the kitchen. It’s important to know his name, his history (where he’s from, past restaurants he’s worked for, his signature dish) and most importantly, what ticks him off (‘cause you never wanna go there). You will be expected—just like the line cooks—to call him Chef. It’s a respect thing—don’t question it.
- Know Who’s Boss. When an issue presents itself (and it most certainly will) it’s important to know who to report to. For all things involving FOH (Front Of House) you should report to the manager. When it comes down to a problem with the food, however, you should consult the chef in order to have the dish fixed immediately. Once you’ve taken care of that and have a minute to breathe, be sure to let your manager know about the glitch in case he needs to fix the unsatisfied patron’s tab.
- Flirt Like it’s Your Job. Because it is. You may think that waiting tables is all about getting your food orders right and meeting customer demands, and it is, but only to an extent. It’s your wit and charm that counts the most here. The more charismatic you are, the bigger the tip. And let’s face it, tips are pretty much your sole income as a waiter, so it’s essential you let that fantastic personality shine. You’ll also generate regulars this way; patrons calling ahead of time requesting to sit in your section.
- Write it Down. Too often we end up with the waiter who believes he has perfect recall. It doesn’t matter how impeccable your memory is, on a busy night when your section is full and you’ve got to greet one table after another you’re more likely to miss something if you don’t write it down. Whipping out your waiter’s pad doesn’t make you look like an amateur, it makes you seem attentive.
- Take One For the Team. No, we’re not talking about shagging the unattractive friend so that you’re buddy can score with the hot one. It’s about having the backs of your fellow waiters. While your section is top priority, it’s also important to keep an eye on the other areas. If you notice another waiter in the weeds and you’ve got a minute to spare, help him out. It can be something as simple as refilling a drink or dropping off a check. And you can be sure he’ll return the favor the next time you’re swamped.