How to Wait on Tables in a Busy Restaurant

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Waiting tables in a busy restaurant is a challenging profession, but if you have an organized mind and a little patience, it can be very lucrative. Finding a way to balance everything may take some practice, but in the end, you may find that you're more organized than you thought!

Prepare yourself before you set foot on the dining room floor. The French have a saying: Mis en place. It means "set up," and it is in reference to the prep work that a chef must do to be prepared for an evening's work. So must you, too, be prepared before you set foot on the floor. Depending on how your restaurant works, have your supplies on you, or in your locker (should your restaurant use lockers). Pens, dupe pads, an extra clean apron... carry whatever you need. Center yourself, then enter the floor.

Make lists in your head. Multitasking is the cornerstone of good restaurant service. You not only have multiple tables, but multiple tasks that need constant attending to. If you work in a restaurant where there is little or no assistance with breaking down and resetting tables, you have that to worry about as well. A quick moment of reflection in order to collect yourself and order the list in your head in a way that makes sense may be the difference between a 15 percent tip, and a 20 percent tip.

Do one thing at a time. While you must worry about multiple tasks at the same time, you can only realistically DO one thing at a time. Don't be a hero. If you need help, ask for help--especially if your restaurant pools its tips. In this scenario, it is in every waiter's best interest to help out everyone else on the floor, because your tips are as important as theirs. Keep your list in the forefront, but remember that good service is better than rushed service.

If you are carrying more than three items, always use a tray. Otherwise, you will look like a performer in the Cirque du Soleil, and may end up spilling a martini all over Table 12.

Treat the kitchen staff well. Remember, these are the men and women who will be preparing the food you will be serving. A restaurant where the kitchen and floor staff don't get along is a terrible place to work. Be considerate of their needs and think about what you say before you say it to them. Sometimes, in the heat of the dinner rush, you run the risk of saying things you don't mean.

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