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How to be a Waiter With No Experience

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Working in the food service industry as a restaurant server typically provides a chance to meet new people in a fast-paced environment, as well as providing some cash for your pocket at the end of the day. Many high school students will seek part-time positions as a waiter/waitress or a busser. If you have no experience waiting tables, landing a job as a waiter can sometimes be tricky. Wait staff require adequate communication skills and customer service skills that are often learned and developed through previous experience. However, there are a few simple tips you can use to land a new job as a waiter, even with no work experience.

1. Visit Before Applying

Go to the restaurants to which you'd like to apply.​ You should consider at least five restaurants, as the restaurant industry is very competitive. Taste the food and talk to your waiter about their experiences at the restaurant. Pay attention to how they're waiting on your table. Consider a few questions in your head. Are they a good server? If so, what makes them a good server? Are they making for a better guest experience and properly following through with customer orders? Make sure not to bug them too much, since they have other customers, but ask a few key questions about their experience working at the establishment. You could even exchange phone numbers or e-mail addresses if they seem open to this. You can then ask them more questions, but again, only if they seem open to talking to you. Making this sort of connection is helpful, as you could be talking to a future coworker!

2. Showcase Skills

Fine tune your resume to showcase your best skills.​ If you've had past jobs in customer service, list them, emphasizing your ability to work well with customers. Hiring managers look for polite, consistent waiters for their staff to enhance customers’ dining experience. They also look for those who are good at multitasking and being quick on their feet. Be sure to list your educational background, as well. Even restaurants sometimes won't hire someone without a college degree.

3. Time Your Application

Apply before busy seasons.​ Apply to the restaurant just before the busy seasons hit, like summer and Christmas. Restaurants often find themselves understaffed during these times and are more likely to hire you. Timing is everything. Plan on going to the restaurant after their lunch shift, and before their pre-dinner set up so the restaurant isn't too busy and you are more likely to get face-to-face time with the general manager.

4. Look Your Best

Go to the restaurant looking your best.​ Make sure your clothes are ironed, your shoes are shined, and you have washed your hair and shaved (if applicable). Walk in with a smile and ask a host or hostess to speak to the general manager. If the manager isn't available, ask if there's another time you can speak with him or her in person. Restaurants keep gigantic files of job applications which people drop off, but they hardly ever read them. It's vital to get face-to-face time with the general manager so they can get a better idea of who you are and if you would be a good fit for their waiter/waitress position.

5. Good First Impression

Make a good first impression.​ Look the general manager in the eye, firmly shake his/her hand, and state your intentions. You can even mention that you had spoken to a waiter who works there already about the restaurant. If the waiter said good things about the restaurant, mention this. It makes that waiter and you look good, because you're both complimenting the restaurant. Ask to fill out an application. Do so carefully, and take your time. When you're done, hand it directly to the general manager, along with your resume. If they have time to interview you right then and there, smile and answer their questions truthfully. The interviewing process is all about figuring out if you fit the job description well; hiring managers want to hire good staff for their restaurant, so there’s no need to lie or mislead them in the interview. Be confident in your answers and let your personality shine through! If they don't have time at that moment, ask when you could come back. Always follow up about a job interview, but never pester them.

6. Be nice

Be nice to everyone!​ If even one person doesn't like you when they first meet you, this feeling will eventually get back to the general manager. Make sure to be humble, to smile, and be polite. This applies especially for the general manager, but also to everyone in the restaurant. Nobody wants a negative or rude coworker in the workplace—especially when it comes to the food/hospitality industry. Make everyone want you to work there, and eventually you'll land a job as a waiter/waitress.

7. Practice

Practice makes perfect!​ Practice balancing dishes and glasses at home. Use a tray and balance several glasses and plates and walk across your room. It's vital to be able to carry large amounts of food and drinks through a crowded restaurant, so make sure you feel comfortable doing this. Practice opening wine bottles with a waiter's wine key as well, so you don't look like a rookie when you get to the restaurant. If you’re planning to work in fine dining, these types of restaurants will often have specific rules set in place for their waiters and waitresses to follow, so be sure to practice and remember these rules if they apply to you.

8. Basic Math

Brush up on your basic math skills.​ This comes in handy, even today with most restaurants using computers. You should be able to do simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in your head. This can save you time when you have several tables to look after.

Bonus Tips

Never call a restaurant to see if they're hiring. Go there in person. Bring pens to write down information they give you.

Restaurant staff are in high demand in most areas, so it’s wise to keep an eye out for any job postings from restaurants near you. There are several different job searching sites available to assist you with this.

  • Never call a restaurant to see if they're hiring. Go there in person.
  • Bring pens to write down information they give you.

Madi Reade is currently a student in her junior year at the University of Missouri studying Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communications. She lives an active lifestyle and maintains an organized weekly routine to ensure academic success. Throughout her academic career, she has remained committed to bettering her writing and editing abilities with a plan to pursue a career after university that will allow her to employ these skills effectively.

Photo Credits

Tom Werner/DigitalVision/GettyImages