Waitressing 101: Tips for Starting a Waitressing Job

Over the summer, I worked as a waitress for the very first time. As you might imagine, hearing the news that I had gotten the job was exciting, but once reality began to set in that I was starting a brand new job in an unfamiliar environment, so did the nerves. Change is a big stressor for many, but for a shy and inherently anxious person like me, the mere thought of greeting parties of 15, messing up an order, or (knock on wood) dropping a plate, quite honestly had me practically shaking on my first day of work. As the fall semester begins, many students are starting new jobs, and perhaps you scored a great waitressing job in Campus Town. If this is you right now, then first off, congratulations! I promise that half of the worries you have won’t even occur. If they do, remember that you are new at this and are learning! After successfully waitressing for three and a half months, here are some tips that I live by.

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1. Ask Your Trainer Questions 

On your first day of work, your manager should most certainly have an experienced employee train you and answer any questions you have about the job (which is probably a lot). Do not be afraid to ask them any/all of the questions you have! Your trainer will most likely be personable and prepared to give you advice, and you will feel a lot better afterwards. Plus, you might get some insider tips on how to navigate the POS system, where to get free snacks in the kitchen, and which staff members to avoid. 


2. Get Accustomed Beforehand 

Most restaurants have their menu posted online, and a big tip for getting ahead of the game is to familiarize yourself with it ahead of time. I cannot stress how many times customers will ask what sides come with a dish, or what is in a dish, even though they have the menu right in front of them (which is really annoying, by the way). If you study the menu before starting and get familiar with what you will be serving, it will not only impress your tables, but also your boss. Now, you’ll be able to have an answer ready for your needy tables instead of having to resort to the dreaded long and awkward pause that makes you look unprepared. 

3. Work Efficiently, But Do Not Rush 

It is no secret that restaurants and kitchens are fast paced environments. That being said, you’ll have to learn how to move quickly and multitask. At some times, your section of tables will be dead, but at others, you could have 10 tables at a time to serve. This is stressful for anyone, but especially a new waitress. Breathe. You’ll get through it. Make sure you are getting all your tasks done and making mental checklists, but do not rush. Rushing might lead to mistakes, and you do not want to be that one girl that made someone drop their plate because you were running around the restaurant trying to get everything done.


4. A Smile Goes A Long Way 

This may seem like a given, but when approaching your tables, make sure you are smiling and at least pretending to have a good time. Think about when you are being served at a restaurant; would you want a grumpy waitress with RBF so bad that you are scared she might do something to your food? There are going to be difficult customers anywhere, and sometimes a bright smile and friendly demeanor can change their mood (and their tip!) from awful to amazing. 


5. Customers are Frustrating 

Okay, not all customers, but a lot of them. Whether the person you are serving is in an awful mood, wants to order something complicated that is completely off the menu, has a whiny baby with them who won’t stop crying, asks for 10 more things every time you bring them something, or all of the above, you have to not take their actions to heart. When I first started and a customer would be blunt or rude with me, I took it too personally and felt that it was a reflection of my performance. If you are serving your tables to the best of your ability, then the customer’s attitude or overly complicated needs are their problem. Don’t harp on them, and carry on! 


6. Remember, You Will Make Mistakes 

Like I said, a generous amount of the things you are worrying about may as well happen, especially if they are realistic worries. Things like getting an order wrong, approaching a table in an awkward way, and spilling a drink happens to every server at some point, even those who have been working for years. It’s important to not harp on these mistakes, though. If the mistake involves a customer, apologize and move on. Do not dwell on your error and convince yourself that you are not capable. This is a learning process, after all, and soon you will be a whiz at this. Until then, embrace the mistakes and learn from them!