Whether you're a professional waitress or an amateur, waiting on tables is a constant learning process. Being slammed with tables is the ultimate test you will face as a waitress and maintaining your calm during a rush can mean the difference between mediocre and exceptional tips. Whether you simply want to hone your serving skills or take the next step in your career, knowing how to navigate through a busy service will pay rewarding dividends.
Know your menu. If you know the menu backward and forward you will be able to answer any menu query a guest might ask you. You will also be able to make quick recommendations that can entice a guest, speeding up the time it takes for them to order.
Be prepared. You will need plenty of pens for guests to sign the check. Carry straws in your apron in case a guest requests one. Familiarize yourself with the daily specials and the ingredients that go into them so when a guest asks for them you can quickly inform them. The point is that when you are busy even the most seemingly frivolous needs or requests from customers can put you in a jam if you are unprepared.
Stay calm. Guests can sense your demeanor and they often tip accordingly. Staying calm will give guests the impression you have everything under control even when you might not.
Use the H-I-H-O technique, which stands for hands in, hands out. This means every time you leave the kitchen, have something in your hands that will serve a guest. The other half of this technique means every time you make an appearance at a table, remove used silverware, plates, trash and any other item the guests are not using or will not need to use. This technique will save you precious time when you have to perform functions such as serving additional courses.
Treat all of your tables as if they were one table. This is the quintessential technique you need to know to handle a fast-paced serving environment. Even though you may have a bunch of different tables, visit the tables you know need service on the same trip to the restaurant floor. For example, if one table needs to place a drink order and another table needs to place an entree order, take both orders before fulfilling one order over the other. This trick will save you a lot of time and make a busy shift fluid and efficient.
Make sure you liberally tip your busboys after every shift as they can be your saving grace during a busy service, and it will establish a rapport with them that will benefit you during future busy shifts.