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How to Wait Tables in a Restaurant

Learn how to wait tables from restaurateur Paul Bolles-Beaven in this Howcast video.


How does one wait tables? It's an interesting thing that it's called waiting, because you're rarely waiting. In fact, I think you're always moving if you're a good server. I prefer to call it a server, because that's what you're doing. You're serving the guests. You're serving their needs. It is both the technical aspect of service and also the feeling aspect of the hospitality.

Service, for a service person, is usually described in what's called the sequence of service. That, simply put, is the steps that you take from the moment the guest sits down at your table through the moment that they leave. It's everything that needs to be done. You might greet them first. You might bring them bread first and greet them. You might take a drink order first. Then you might deliver menus. You might deliver the drink after the menus, and then take the food order.

There's a sequence of events that needs to occur with every table, and you need to be able to follow that sequence but also change it depending on the guests' agenda. Every table has a different agenda. This table wants to cut a deal. That table wants to be entertained. Another table is on a first date and wants a second. You have to determine what their agenda is and provide it for them. Some people want to see more of you. Some people don't want to see you at all, and that's fine.

Once you have the service sequence down and you're doing that, you need to be able to juggle that. You are never going to have one table as a server. Every table is going to be at a different point in the sequence of service. Great service persons are able to juggle all of those different simultaneous sequences of service and do it in a way that they know exactly where any table is in their meal.

Now, in addition to all of that technical work, you need to make sure they have what they need when they need it. They need to have their steak knife before their steak arrives. They should have their wine poured before their food arrives. You need to make sure they have the condiment they need to go with the dish that they're having. You're not just delivering things. You're also consulting. If they order two things that have the same ingredients you need to know that, and you need to let them know. You need to guide the guests through their dining experience.

With all that done you need to do it with a warm, caring, intelligent persona. Service without hospitality is not enough. I guarantee you that every person has experienced a restaurant where they have very technically proficient service, very well prepared food, and no joy. And they don't go back. There has to be a complete experience of feeling, the spirit of the endeavor, the enjoyment of service. The guests need to feel like the staff is glad they're there, on their side, and wants to make them happy.

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