Welcome to Foodsteward.com,or the "Lost Art of Waitering" website. It is ground zero for all things culinary from a service standpoint.
As any seasoned fine dining professional will attest, communication is the key,followed closely by product knowledge. Whether describing food, wine, or spirits...or performing tableside food service tasks, facility with language will come into play. Speaking well is so elemental, it is often taken for granted. Don't. Cultivation of this ability can easily help you earn upwards of $40,000 or more.
The concept, though not simple is basic. All one needs to ask is: How would I treat a guest in my home or how would I like to be treated as a guest? Everything else is polish.
As a waiter you are in the hospitality business and will be providing service for which you receive 15-20% gratuities or "tips"(acronym: to insure prompt/proper service) based on the total of bill. Similarly you are a guest of my website and will decide what this information is worth to you after completion. Since there is no bill, let's assume it at $100.00 (dinner for two), and since you will receive exemplary service(in my humble opinion) 20% would be $20.00. However as in the marketplace that's at your discretion and I thank you in advance for whatever is sent; be it more or less. However, don't let the prospect of payment hamper your journey. Unlike other commercial sites, I will share all needed information with you BEFORE any remittance, and you determine the value. Feel free to browse through all the links and pages at your leisure.
Joie de vivre...and a nice income can be yours just by speaking the Queen's English!
Why I created this site.
For the guests, and prospective waitstaff.
Since I'm still in the restaurant business, guests I attend frequently tell me of other places they've dined, and recite various instances of receiving less than "stellar service"!
They wonder why this is so? In my opinion, it has to do with training and experience. Lack of exposure to other types of service(french, english, russian, etc...) can also play its' part.
The trend today seems to be chefs are opening the newer venues, which is great for the food, however if experienced dining room management isn't also recruited, some of the finer points of upscale dining can remain unadressed.
This website is my attempt at addressing some of these concerns, and your support is appreciated.
We will approach this endeavour as if you are a novice and have just been hired. You have two weeks(don't burn bridges with your previous employer, you may not like this place!) before you start. Obtain a copy of the menu and winelist. If the establishment doesn't serve wine,you might want to rethink this choice to a more upscale venue. While reviewing the menu, keep aware of things like what the check average might be. In other words, how much does the average guest spend here. Ideally, an average of at least $40.00 per person is desirable, focus on quality not quantity! Notice how the menu is laid out, in terms of creativity and/or simplicity. This is a direct reflection of the chef and his culinary vision. Speaking of the chef; who is he/she?,what credentials, experience,schooling etc. does the chef possess. This can be an invaluable guide in determing which venue to choose.
You will need to compile a reference "library" of sorts for personal use. In general I recommend:
Mr Boston: Official Bartender's and Party Guide
The Professional Chef/Larousse Gastronomique
The New Southeby's Wine Encyclopedia
Food in History
Buy them used or check them out at your local library,as they can be somewhat pricey.
A word of caution; the culinary world is vast and many faceted and there's no way you'll be able to digest everything in 2 weeks, so don't get intimidated. I've been a waiter(and still am) over 25 years and I'm still learning!
However,you will need to learn your menu!Product knowledge is key, from "soup to nuts" as one saying goes. Omit nothing. If it's not on the menu, get it from the chef. Write down any unanswered questions you may have.
If any of these items are unfamiliar, look them up! Once you finally get to see them presented it will all fall in place, so relax and enjoy the process.
In general these are examples of some of the essential behind the scenes tasks performed before opening,and after closing which vary from venue to venue.
Back of the House:
assorted underliner plates
bread and butter prep
flatware and stemware
service trays and trayjacks, service carts
carryout containers etc.
Front of the House:
table setting and polishing
salt and peppers
side station set-up
One of the last things done before opening is when the chef will describe any specialty items, soup of the day etc., being featured for the evening. Listen closely for any unfamiliar ingredients, processes, preparations,etc, and get a clear understanding. With all that said, LET'S WAIT TABLES!
This is the most crucial contact you will have is with the guest, for this is where the tone is set. You must attend the table as quickly as possible, and here is where the opportunity to "read" the table is made readily apparent.Introduce yourself along with a proper salutation, prior to taking the beverage order. Learn to listen and observe. Are they discussing business, is this a celebration, are they unwinding after a busy day, or do they just wish a pleasant dinner.Whatever the case you must glean the tenor of their needs. Even when busy, you must at least find the time to acknowledge their presence, and let them know you will be with them as soon as possible.
Let me say this at the outset. YOUR DUTY AS A WAITER IS TO FACILLITATE THE GUESTS DINING EXPERIENCE. You are a non-entity, and they are GUESTS. They are ladies and gentlemen, not" folks", "you guys", or "you all. Remain polite and cordial,but not overly familiar.
My rule of thumb is: If it's not a menu item, we shouldn't be discussing it. As time passes, you will have repeat guests that become "regulars/requests" and the above parameters will ease a bit. During this first contact with the guest, you will need to ascertain whether or not there are time constraints, if they want to relax awhile with their beverages,or move right on to appetizers or dinner.
The specialties need to be described,recommendations made, if they wish, as well as a brief overview of the menu in terms of what comes with the entrees,and any other available options i.e., a la carte(unincluded) items like soups, sides etc. Mentally, you are a WAITER(you too ladies), a waiter attends the guest,and sells via product knowledge. You are not a SERVER (although for ease of reference you may be referred to as such), a server just takes orders!
When describing "specialties/features", I visualize an empty plate and work my way up, with respect to its' contents. I include any preparation details given by the chef.
Cocktails/apperitifs/beveragesare the first items served after greeting the guest. This can change if the guest opts to peruse the menu,deciding on a complementary wine. Serving ladies first is preferred, especially during a formal dinner.
In most cases, dinner is served in 5 courses, excluding cocktails, after dinner drinks and formal dinners with more than one entree.
Appetizer, soup, salad, entree,and dessert. Guests having like courses should be served together.
The exception will be if a guest wants soup or salad or some variable thereof with which to start their meal.
When serving food, it should be to the guests left with the left hand,and the plate rotated in a way the protein(as opposed to the veggie or starch) is closest to the guest. Beverages are served from the right with the right hand, the rule being, whichever hand is the least intrusive,and makes your body most open to the guest is preferred, backhanded serving is hackish.
Soiled plates are cleared from the right. Whether handling stemware,flatware,china etc. one should only touch the stems,handles or rims respectively. In the case of glassware with no handle, by the center of the glass or lower.Coffee/tea/espresso/cappucino service, handle loop should be between 3:00-5:00 o'clock with respect to the guest.
In most fine dining venues, there is,or should be a reference point from which a guests position number is determined. It may be the seat closest to the kitchen, or when facing a specific direction in the dining room. Where ever it is, the order proceeds clockwise from that point,or the first seat to the left. All items consumed must be in the right seat number, thus, someone other than you may serve the table when the need arises.
Courtesy should be extended foremost to the guest, but also to co-workers as well.
When walking through the dining room, the guest always has the right of way. A simple "good evening" or pleasant expression upon eye contact can go a long way in making a guest feel at ease. Look for telltales signs of a patron looking around as if possibly in need of assisstance. FIND OUT WHAT IS NEEDED,rather than just telling the waiter they're wanted.
In the instance of co-workers, and due to the inherent sense of urgency,courtesy must be maintained.
When walking through the aisleways, always stay to the right as if driving a car. Yield the right of way to waiters carrying food. NEVER DUCK UNDER A FOOD TRAY. One should move with alacrity, but never look hurried; this tends to make diners uneasy.
When passing a waiter whose back is toward you, the verbal caution of "behind you" should be spoken. A similar caution should be used when turning blind corners i.e. "corner" or "coming around".
This completes my general synopsis, but is in no way exhaustive. There are still any number of subtle nuances to be explored. This is where the "artistic" aspect of waiting comes into play. A lot of the process is subjective, and depends on personal experience. Some approaches are regional, some may be international. But the basics remain the same, and the beauty is: these skills can go with you anywhere.
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Proven Tips, Tools and Tactics of Great Waiters for Novices. Pt.1.
Congratulations! You've been hired, As a novice you may be asking yourself "now what do you do?". Well now is when you consciously decide to excel. You ask yourself: "how do I become a great waiter?" Even more importantly, "what is great?". What skills should I possess?; here are some tips.
Good communication skills
Enjoy working with the public
Be a team player
Available for any shifts
Basic math skills
Here's a few more tips.
Keep your uniform in excellent condition - ironed, stain-free and neat,
creased pants,polished shoes.
Leave personal problems at home, or at least not at work.
Never sit around. If you have nothing to do, stand on your station, there's nothing worse than a hostess or manager having to find you when you've been seated.
Tools of the trade:
Pens and notepad
Any other items not listed particular to the unit.
So what else makes a waiter great. In my experience, that depends on who you ask. After all is said and done, it boils down to two categories. Guests and co-workers. Although, in the final analysis the guest is paramount, your first exposure will be to co-workers, so we'll deal with them first.
On your first day, you'll probably be assigned to a "trainer" whom you will follow in order to see how things are done. You should be given some kind of tour or overview of the restaurant, with respect to info you need to be familiar with. This is your training period, and varies from unit to unit depending on the service level to be performed.
You may be given materials comprised of menu items, wine list--by the glass and by the bottle. There may also be a basic liquor and beer list, after dinner liqueurs, dessert etc.
Depending on your experience, you may be familiar with a lot of this, but if not don't worry, ask questions, and the rest will come in time.
While training, be aware of details as you follow your trainer.Observe the food presentation, and develop within yourself how you would best describe it. Listen for exceptions, and write them down for follow up when time permits. A lot of items/preparations may be available just not listed.
Try to anticipate what your trainer may need without being intrusive. Display an eagerness to learn and be helpful. You may even want to use the tactic of asking if he/she minds if you perform certain tasks when the need arises,i.e. greeting a new table, taking a drink order, delivering food and so forth.
Table maintenance is another often overlooked aspect of a great waiter that is crucial.
Empty glasses,soiled plates and flatware should be cleared per course, and replaced with mis-en-place(settings) for the next course. In upscale dining rooms, one should wait until all diners are done, as opposed to clearing piecemeal, unless of course at the guest's request.
Be aware of mis-en-place, in this case tools for performing various aspects of service. Examples would be wine carts, decanters, coasters etc. for wine service, or items needed for french/tableside service.
From bosses to dishwashers, always be courteous. As the new kid on the block, keep your opinions and non restaurant related conversations to a minimum. Let your trainer or manager be your problem solver if the need arises. This is a prudent approach for your own benefit, as it will help prevent the impression of you being a bad fit.