Introduction: How to Wait Tables

While eating out, many people may wonder how their waiter or waitress manages to take care of their table, plus all the other tables in the area without messing up. Some of them may have also become angry at their server because they messed up a drink order or forgot to bring a side of ranch, and they had to ask twice for it. What they may not know is that there is a lot that a server has to do, and there is a specific order that it has to be done in. Learning everything that goes into waiting tables would help some of these people be more understanding when their server does not have time to bring them a third cup of coffee when their restaurant is packed. While every restaurant has different ways of doing things, the following steps are an example of how the servers must work in at least on restaurant.

Step 1: Care for New Customers First

A server’s first priority should be any new customers that sit at their tables. If a new customer has to wait too long with no service, there is nothing stopping them from just walking out, and any possibility for a tip is gone. Even if the server is busy at the moment customers come in, they should at least be acknowledged and told someone will be with them shortly. This way, the customers know that they have been seen and their server is not ignoring them, nor have they have forgotten about them. However, the server will still want to go to their table as soon as possible when they are done with whatever they were working on when the customers entered the restaurant. While at their table, the server should bring menus and silverware, tell them about any specials for the day, and if there is time, drink orders should be taken. If they are in a rush however, they should wait to take the customers drink orders until there is time to get them immediately, to avoid forgetting who had what drinks.

Step 2: Serve All Food Immediately

It is very important that all food is served hot, or there may be a lot of complaints. The only reason that a server could have to not get food out as soon as the bell in the kitchen rings is if they are taking care of a new customer. When there is more than one server working, someone else may be able to help deliver food, but do not assume that they will. If the server is too busy to carry out their own food, they need to communicate with other staff, asking if they have time to help and assuring that they know what table the food needs to be delivered to. This is important because it is very awkward for the person helping to carry food to a table if they have to ask the customers if any of them ordered what they are carrying, especially if they say no and it ends up being the wrong table. There will also be sometimes when only one server is working or all other servers are busy, and no one is available to help others carry out food. In this case, time will need to be made to get the food out right away.

Step 3: Taking Orders

After the hot food is out, drinks should be delivered to any tables who do not have them yet. Also, take the table’s food order at this time if it has not yet been done. When the order is brought back to the kitchen, make sure the correct table number written on the ticket. This will help the server stay organized and is also important if someone else must bring the order out to the table. Also, if there are any special requests on the order, make sure the cooks know how to make it and are clear with what the customer wants to avoid frustration and problems later.

Step 4: The Fine Details

When all of the previous steps are done, there is now time to go around to the tables and make sure everyone is happy with their food. While at the table, ask them how everything is and if they need a refill on any of their drinks. This should be done several times while they are eating. As they finish eating, go back to the table and clear any empty plates and ask them if there is anything else they would like. This is important to do before their ticket is totaled so that it does not need to be redone if they add more. If they say they are done and there is nothing else they would like, ask them if they would like their bill together or separated and bring it to them in whichever way they ask for to avoid confusion at the cash register.

Step 5: A Job Well Done

This may seem like an overwhelming amount of things to do in a short period of time, but if a server is organized and stays calm, it will not be so bad. Follow the order of priorities to keep customers happy. Also, understand that there are some people who do not understand these steps and what needs to be done, so they may be crabby no matter how good their service is. Do not let these people add stress to the job because this will make it more difficult for any server to do well for everyone else. Communicate with the customers and fellow servers so that everyone knows that there is a plan on how to take care of the tables. A server has a lot of responsibilities, but if they know how to do the job, they can hang up their uniform with pride at the end of the day!