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Waiting on Tables - How to Wait Tables

Updated on January 25, 2011

If you're considering waiting on tables, it's important to know how to properly handle this demanding but ultimately rewarding job.

There are many different little techniques that increase your attractiveness as an employee, make a customer's dining experience more enjoyable, and increase customer generosity when tipping. In this hub we look at some vital techniques on how to wait tables.

Dress Approptiately:
Present cleanly and professionally in the atire the restaurant management provides or recommends. Uniforms should be cleaned and pressed, hair should be neat and shoes polished. As a waiter/waitness, always stand erect and walk briskly. The appearance of the waiter/waitress should not distract the customers, and so things such as wearing flashy ornaments, or chewing gum should not be allowed.

Know the Menu:
Take time to learn the menu and dietary content of each meal. It is important to undertand the menu's rules in relation to substitutions and special requests. Before each shift, memorise the day's specials, and know the current meal recommendations of the chef. If the restaurant is licensed to serve alcohol, learn the wine list as well.

Greet the Customers Appropriately:
Be aware of the seating layout of the restaurant, and any reservations. Greet customers politely and coridially and direct them to their seats beofre providing them with the menus and taking their drink order. Do not engage in excessive or unnecessary converstaion with customers, and never interrupt a customer's discussion with other diners.

Anticipate the Needs of your Diner(s):
If a customer is handicapped, move furniture appropriately and place their meal and cutlery so that it is easily accessible to them. If small children are amongst those dining, ask the parents or caregivers if they'd like high chairs or booster seats, and provide crayons and paper for them to occupy themselves. When serving, bring the childrens food first and subtly provide extra napkins if necessary.

Be Concise when Taking Orders:
Listen carefully to the customers orders, and be clear on what they are ordering, particularly if they ask for substitutions or have special cooking requests. Attempting to memorise the order is not impressive, and increases the risk of incorrectly taking the order. After they've ordered read it back to them to ensure you are correct, and give them an approximate waiting time.

Serving the Food:
Re-examine the customers' order again when their food comes out to make sure that it's correct. Serve from the left and place plates gently on the table. If you must shift cutlery, excusing yourself politely. Avoid reaching over customers; move around the table if you need better access to something.

Pass by their table about two minutes after they start eating to make sure everything is to their satisfaction and their food was cooked to order.

Monitor the Needs of the Customer:
Keep watch on your customers' drinks. If they're consuming soft drinks or water, pass by every few minutes to see if they are getting low, and provide refills accordingly. If they are drinking alcoholic beverages, ask if they would like another before their first drink is finished.

Clearing the Table:

Without distrating the diners, remove finished plates and glases from the right. Always ask the customer if they are finished with the plate or glass before clearing it from the table.

Presenting the Check:
Before presenting the check, inquire about desserts and offer to provide take home containers if a significant portion of the meal was not eaten. Once you've presented the check, let the customer know if you'll be serving at the cashier or if they should pay at another desk. Never make the customer feel rushed once the check has been presented, and still continue to monitor their needs.

If you handle the check, offer to be back with their change. This presents you as humble and unpresumptuous, making it more likely you'll receive a larger tip.

Farewelling the Customers:
Thank the diners before they leave and invite them to come back again. Before they have left the restaurant, casually investigate their table to ensure that they haven't accidentally left anything behind.

Waiting on Tables - Video


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    • The Pink Panther profile image

      The Pink Panther 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving this insightful comment!

    • cabmgmnt profile image

      Corey 6 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Good hub. Like anything else, waiting tables can be a fine art. The fine art of juggling comes in handy. I have been in the food and beverage business for 20 years and I find myself critiquing servers when they wait on me. For the most part, I am satisfied but there have been times when I found myself thinking "what were they thinking when they hired this person?"

      Your tips could surely be used by these few who have failed in my eyes.

    • sin_min profile image

      sin_min 6 years ago

      That is sooo true

    • The Pink Panther profile image

      The Pink Panther 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hey Magdelene4, excellent tip on bar waiting - I imagine that happens a lot :P

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Magdelene profile image

      Magdelene 6 years ago from Okotoks

      Hi Pink Panther, I served for many years in upscale dining and coffee shop... also worked as a lounge and bar server. Great hub and good pointers for those that are just learning or long timers that may need these valuable tips. If working in a bar tell them not to rook the customers on their change after they get a bit tipsy.

    • The Pink Panther profile image

      The Pink Panther 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hey TheListLady, I'm sure you'd be a great server. Some customers can drive you up the wall though :P

      Thanks for commenting and rating! :)

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 6 years ago from New York City

      I've often wondered if I could be a great server. I mean I would follow everything on your list and no doubt for years be perfect. Even work my way up to owning a restaurant. And then one day some twit will come in and annoy me and then I have to wonder if I would wrestle the customer to the ground or rub the food in his face. It takes a rare person to be a great server.

      I enjoyed your hub and rated up.

    • The Pink Panther profile image

      The Pink Panther 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      That's some memory attempted humour! You should try remembering my dad's booze order on a big night out on the town ;)

      Thanks for commenting!

    • attemptedhumour profile image

      attemptedhumour 6 years ago from Australia

      Some handy tips there PP. I used to be a drinks waiter on the Gold Coast and could remember multiple orders. I took twenty five orders one night and remembered them all. Cheers.