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How To Survive Waitressing

Updated on September 20, 2016

Relieve Food Service Stress in Five Simple Steps

Sometimes waiting tables can be more stressful than waiting in the dental office knowing you've got to get a tooth canal. Really. As a waitress for going on five years, I'd like to share some of the waitress / waiter advice I've learned from being a waitress in the weeds Saturday night after Saturday night. Although this might not be a step by step guide on how to be a great waitress, hopefully the basic food service worker advice that follows will help you to get better tips and manage the stress of waiting on tables.

1. Share with others

Use the waitress forums and waitress blogs on the internet! Talking about the horrors and occasional triumphs (be they financial or interpersonal) of the art of food service (and it is an art!!) is a positive way to deal with table 59 who told you how great they thought you were after they ran you for two hours as they hand you three bucks on a seventy dollar bill. Really, talking helps. And livejournal has the answer in these communities:

2. Take A Moment and Figure Out How Much You're Actually Making An Hour

This technique is a good way to calm down... and when you are a calm waiter or waitress, you actually might find you can increase your tips.... Think Jackie O. Calm. Grace under pressure....

Ok.... you're just getting out of the "weeds" and you've been spoken to like a servant by children, had that experience where you're at a table full of teenagers and none of them do much other than quietly giggle (at you???), and you're thinking about why the hell you're actually waiting tables. Closing duties are ahead of you, and an overall positive feeling of calm is hours, maybe many drinks, away. Take a minute and do the math. Divide your average nights tips up into an hourly wage, and hopefully this will provide a moment of immediate relief from that "run far away" feeling. Hopefully. Most of the time. Note: THIS METHOD WORKS BEST ON BUSY SHIFTS AND IS TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS DURING EXTREMELY SLOW SHIFTS EXPERIENCING OCCASIONAL TURBULENT, CHEAP CUSTOMERS.

3. Be PROUD.

Really. Feel Proud. You are a waitress. Or a waiter.

And even if most other people don't understand what it is that you do, you know what you do. You know how hard the work can be. The psychological twists, the occasional nausea (at customers treating you like garbage, or at the garbage the customers leave behind at their table after they've left you with no tip and a headache), the aching muscles after you've walked how many miles? and you still have to mop and then roll silverware.... You are an incredibly strong person to do what you do. The things you learn in food service will help you throughout your life. Really. Think about it. It's true.

4. Develop "F*** It Mode".

I just recently learned about this, being a little neurotic myself, and it really helps. My boss Lindsay, a seven year veteran of waitressing at the children's themed restaurant where we both earn a living, said to me, "Sometimes you've just gotta go into F*** It Mode". I thought about this for a few days. Wasn't quite sure what it meant. And then it hit me. There I was in the Party Room with a group of twenty or more of our community's less polite members. I had finally informed them that they needed to stop flagging down our bussers to place their every-three-minute food orders (and yeah, i was making myself more than available to them but it didn't matter) and go through me, when a wave of calm came over me. I stopped worrying about everything going perfectly. I didn't really care if they left happy or not. I was one person, in a room full of twenty chronically angry people. There wasn't much I could do but my job. And so I carried on, taking orders, explaining that we were a simple pizza restaurant and that we didn't offer Philly Cheese Steaks on Whole Wheat (hmmmm....), sorry.... telling them to wait one minute, please, and smiling, and not really letting them get to me all that much. And at the end, I added my 18% grat, and gave them their twenty separate bills. And guess what? A lot of them came up to me, thanked me, and gave me extra tips. Yeah, sometimes you've just gotta go into "F*** It" Mode.

5. Sometimes, with some tables, let go of the tip.

Tipping. Arghh...Sometimes, you've got to forget about the fact that they really should tip you. Because sometimes they're not going to. And like there are a number of factors that make someone a sociopath that are out of that person's control, there are a number of factors that make someone a non or a bad tipper that are out of their control. Some examples off the top of my head:

poor breeding, no education, flat out broke but for whatever reason they needed to take someone else out to eat, they simply forget about it, and poor breeding.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Also you have to stayin control of your tables, you do that by letting them know what you are doing next, as honestly as possible, and in a few words as possible. Dont give them room to tell uou whatvto do. You are performing a service for them, you are not their servant. Alway learn from your mistakes. How would I do it differently next time.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm sorry to all the customers who were victims of my FUCK IT mode! But sometimes you just gotta. When you run for 12 hours in a continuous hell of screaming managers and babies, you just gotta fuck it.

    • bluewaitress profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Yes, in Europe.

      In America, there is a minimum wage and a minimum servers wage. Minimum wage is 7.24 $ , minimum server wage is 2.13 $. In America if you choose to go out to eat, receive good service and don't leave a tip - it is poor breeding. If you really are that hard up for cash, buy a loaf of bread and a can of beans instead. Just saying.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      "poor breeding" as a reason for not tipping. Wow. Ok, maybe in America where tipping is essential to waiters/waitresses because your system means they get paid less them min wage, but in Europe, if you don't tip, it's simply because you don't have the cash not because you come from 'poor breeding' which is horrendous stereotyping. It's a 'bonus' to get a tip, not essential, but then waitresses are paid the min wage, and tips normally get shared throughout all the staff not just to the person who served you.

    • deidrelei profile image


      7 years ago

      I consider myself to be a good server, not (servant) as some customers seem to treat us. I enjoy the job and love meeting people from all over. Overall , my experiences have been great. Although, about a year ago..I had the customer from HELL! She walked in with bad attitude and continued to give me a verbal abuse that caused me to doubt my ability as a server. She didn't like the option we gave her for a starter for her entrée..soup or salad? She asked what I was going to do for her. I listed the juices we had to offer..she told me she wanted tomato juice. I went to get it and discovered we were out of it. I told her, whereupon she demanded that I do something. I then ran to our dry storage and found a can of tomato juice.. told her I had it. She then said..well, you did good, are you over your blonde moment? From there on it was a total disaster..her calling me a bimbo and saying to the other server that I finally turned the table over to..that I needed to learn a lesson and "that bimbo needs to be fired". I learned a valuable lesson from that woman and I now try to mollify when possible but, when rudeness turns to abuse I say....F*** you!! (In my head)

    • Jenny Casidsid profile image

      Jenny Casidsid 

      7 years ago

      Being a waitress is indeed a very stressful job: you can met different personalities, different status in life and different problems encounter. But being a waitress or waiter is very decent and very challenging job on how to handle different problems on the floor.

      I agree with the author when she said that BE PROUD of your job. Give the best service that you can give to your customer and surely they will reward you with a tip. Don't be discourage if they didn't give any, remember that every waitress has had their fair share of rude customers and poor tippers. visit for some helpful waitressing tips for any person who is already a waitress, or for any person who is considering a waitress position. How to Become a Better Waitress Leave your feelings, bad day, drama and other negativity at the door, as this will only spill over to your customers and cause them to have a bad experience

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This hub is very useful! I have done waitressing on and off in the last 12 months I enjoy communicating with customers in a relaxed atmosphere but like any job that involves people I hate rude customers!

      For instance I remember i was serving cups of tea to a group of women, the tea the women requested was the wrong tea. I did not prepare the tea therefore I was not aware. One of the women was being a smart arse to me and said 'I don't understand how you can get the teas wrong?' even though it wasn't my fault.

      That's probably not a good example of rude customer behaviour but I what I'm saying is why do customers think they have the authority to boss waiters/waitresses etc around? I mean were not their slaves and were only human so its natural to make mistakes

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I went back to serving because I couldn't get back in the office (even with all of my credentials). I've been doing this now for about 3 months and was at my wits end. This has helped me so much!!!!!!!! I wrote down a few things you had said and put it in my server pad for the times when I'm losing my mind. I also have a picture of my son in there.

      If I can survive the physical ailments of the job, I'll be golden. I just need to remember to slow down and to stop trying to please everyone. I'm just hurting myself (literally).

      Thank you so very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • ahostagesituation profile image


      8 years ago

      I LOVE this!! Number four has helped me in so many ways and I learned it, as you did, from waitressing. I'll never forget the large party I had that wondered why our restaurant charged for gravity. (Lord, please give me the strength not to hurt stupid people). "Sir, that would be gratuity. Here at TGIFriday's gravity is a free service we provide. Waiting on your slow, backwards, arse for 2 hours, not free." Going into the number four you described has helped me in being a nurse, running my company and even the Christian ministry. Number four is really is a timeless, undervalued skill. Voted UP!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I like this, especially the f*** it mode. I'm 17 and just started waitressing 2 weeks ago and tonight will be my first weekend night to do and I am oh so nervous about it, and just needed to look up some kind of advice before I go in to do this.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      There are some other good tips over at I like these though. So true.

    • profile image

      chuys grl 

      10 years ago

      wow this helps out o much omg i remember the other day my sister n lay and her friends came to my restraunt and i was their server they gave me hell their food wasn't right or they diddnt want this drink and it was so horrible they were so rude and so i accidently dropped a glsaa of ice watter on them oops i tripped lol shhhhh our secret!!! and they tipped me a penny. why my brother married her i do not know!!!

    • amit luthra profile image

      amit luthra 

      10 years ago from New Delhi, India

      very nice hub. Although I am not a waiter, but the part that says " be proud what you do" applies to all.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      The pleasure is all mine for having read a great one. Us customer service folk have to stick together lol!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      New fan here! LUV IT. Serving the public is a topic close to my heart (both the customer and the employee side) and you did all "servers" proud. My mom raised me waiting tables and I know the waitress's plight lol. I did it myself. And I l wish all those table 59s out there could read this because they need to be shamed somehow, running servers ragged and proudly handing over the monetary equivalent to NOTHING like they are doing them a god&*#$ frickin' favor lol. I luv it when they apologize for being a pain in the a** as they hand you three bucks. Yeah. Three bucks should cover it.

    • profile image 

      11 years ago

      I have a friend, I saw his tax return, he makes 127,000 a year waiting tables. Except he waits tables like a pickup artist picks up women. He read some book called tip science. I work at wells fargo and make less than him. he read a book called tip science and he uses all these strategies to get people to tip him.

      i think he has an addiction to strip clubs though

    • trish1048 profile image


      11 years ago

      Great hub!!! My dear mother, may she rest in peace, waitressed/bartended for 40+ years, in the same restaurant. She weathered several new owners during that time. Her and my dad at some point even had the opportunity to buy the place, but they didn't. I believe every owner was of the same ethnic background, and they were all tough taskmasters.

      My job as a teenager, was to wash and iron her uniforms. Since this restaurant was a mostly seafood establishment by the water, I loved when she came home on Friday and Saturday nights with tons of crabs and lobster claws. At the time, I would never dream of eating those creatures, but how I loved to shell them, with the little seafood fork. A very fond memory,,

      There were times her boss would get her so angry, she quit several times during those 40+ years, but they always begged her to come back. She had a great following, everyone who knew her loved her.

      Did I ever stop to think how hard she worked? Sad to say no, I didn't. At 17 your mind is elsewhere usually. Do I appreciate it? Absolutely!

      So, thanks for sharing this post, and bravo to all wait staff everywhere!


    • jboland profile image


      11 years ago from Chico, CA

      I learned the "F**** It" mode when I was in high school working bussing tables, tough thing was it stuck. . . in all areas of my life lol. Very cool hub. Jesse

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      12 years ago from Sydney

      I did waiting part time for same restaurant.

      18 months down the road I inadvertantly tipped tomatoe juice down a ladies frock.Man was I embarrased.

      Restaurant bought new frock and I was reduced to pot scrubbing.

      First night back aiming to please adopted your favourite attitude, (more like to hell with you)

      A private part of 30 put down on the cleared Table cloth THANK YOU IN $1.00 COINS. i WAS VERY IMPRESSED. tHAT WAS APART FROM A 10% TIP PAID ON THEIR CREDIT CARDS. gREAT NIGHT.


    • MrMarmalade profile image


      12 years ago from Sydney

      I did waiting part time for same restaurant.

      18 months down the road I inadvertently tipped tomatoe juice down a ladies frock.Man was I embarrassed.

      Restaurant bought new frock and I was reduced to pot scrubbing FOR TWO WEEKS..

      First night back aiming to please adopted your favourite attitude, (more like to hell with you)

      A private part of 30 put down on the cleared Table cloth THANK YOU IN $1.00 COINS. I WAS VERY IMPRESSED. THAT WAS APART FROM A 10% TIP PAID ON THEIR CREDIT CARDS. GREAT NIGHT.


    • Jade's Journal profile image

      Jade's Journal 

      12 years ago

      I like the part that talks about being proud of what you do most. I think it is important for people to have dignity.


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