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How to Be a Great Waiter/Waitress

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Being a great waiter or waitress requires more than memorizing wine pairings and serving the customer’s food accurately and on time. What distinguishes the restaurant’s high tip earners and the rest of the staff is a combination of factors. The service workers that earn good tips have loyal customers, enhance the business’s reputation and most significantly, improve the restaurant’s bottom line.

Get drinks on the table immediately. Ensure that patrons have at least water while waiting for their menu or for you to take their order. If you notice the bus boy has not delivered a beverage to your table, take it upon yourself to perform his task.

Respond to the mood of the table. Adapt your demeanor to the demographic of the table. Keep your service pointed, matter-of-fact and professional for a table of professional businesswomen and have a friendly, warm attitude for a table consisting of a family with young children. If you work in a tourist area, ask where diners are from and provide recommendations on attractions and surroundings. Inject personal touches by explaining the places you enjoy visiting as a local. That makes the customer feel as though they are getting valuable insider information.

Appeal to children when possible by providing crayons to toddlers and crackers to infants. Do this without the request of the parent as a way of showing responsiveness. Add playful touches to meals and drinks, such as putting a maraschino cherry in a soda. Unless the parent orders for his child, treat kids as a valued customer by kneeling to her eye level and directly asking what she would like to eat.

Memorize suggestions for alternative diets. Have a list of meals that are gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, low fat, low carb and low sugar. Endorse these meals as being just as delicious, if not more so, than standard meals on the menu: People with such dietary needs often come back to establishments where they feel their diet is respected. A 2008 Chef Seattle article suggests complimenting a person’s choice of dish upon ordering as a way of affirming his taste.

Unless explicitly stated in the menu, never respond, “We can’t do that” with respect to a customer modifying a meal. Ask the chef whether she can accommodate special orders before denying the customer what he wants. If you know the management team has a policy against modifying orders, apologize and explain why the request cannot be accommodated.


Develop a positive relationship with your coworkers. They will be the ones to serve your orders of bruschetta and refill your table’s round of vodka cranberries if you are too busy. Additionally, customers can sense unappetizing discord between coworkers. The a webpage on the University of Nebraska website explains that a sign of great service is taking orders without writing them down. Though it’s better to get the order right in writing, strive to take orders by memory. Practice on slow days with a table of one and gradually work your way to memorizing the order of five on a packed night.


Leave your ego at the door and offset rude customers with apologies instead of retorts. For truly unruly customers, have your supervisor handle the issue.


About the Author

Since 2008 Catherine Capozzi has been writing business, finance and economics-related articles from her home in the sunny state of Arizona. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in economics from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which has given her a love of spreadsheets and corporate life.

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