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The Standard Operating Procedures for Waitresses

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If you have ever been unfortunate enough to have a bad waitress, you know what a damper that puts on the whole experience. Although the duties of a waitress vary slightly from establishment to establishment, standard operating procedures help to make her a successful server.

The First Contact

A waitress should approach new customers promptly. It takes only a few minutes for customers to begin fidgeting and getting angry if someone does not acknowledge their presence at the table. If a waitress is in the middle of taking an order or running something to a table, she should take the first opportunity to stop by the new table and pleasantly say, “I will be with you shortly.” Menus should be delivered with water as soon as possible.

The Drink Order

The first order a waitress usually takes is a drink order. She usually puts something on the table to indicate to other servers that the drink order has been taken. Depending on the individual restaurant’s procedure, this may mean putting down coasters or a cocktail napkin in front of each person at the table. This is especially important if a section of tables is being worked in pairs or teams. Having more than one server ask for a drink order causes patrons to feel the service is unorganized and tends to irritate them.

The Food Order

When the waitress returns with the drinks, she should then take the food order. This gives the customers a moment to review the menu and decide what they want or to come up with questions about meals that interest them. Depending on the restaurant’s policy, she may make recommendations or offer appetizers. Once the waitress takes the table’s order, she takes the menus away and places the order with the kitchen promptly.

Delivering the Food

Waitresses should follow the serving etiquette of the restaurant when bringing food to the table. Some higher-end restaurants require waitresses to use a tray for any item being brought to customers. Some more casual dining establishments allow servers to bring items in their hands.

Bringing the Check

When a diner has finished his meal, the waitress should clear the empty plate and ask if anything else is desired. If not, she should present the check along with instructions on how to pay. Some restaurants have a cashier who collects the patrons’ money, so the waitress points them in the correct direction to pay. Sometimes the waitress processes the payment; she indicates this by saying, “I will be your cashier.”

  • “Serve 'Em Right: The Complete Guide to Hospitality Service;” Ed Solomon and Shelley Prueter; 1997

Heather Mckinney has been writing for over 23 years. She has a published piece in the University Archives detailing the history of an independently owned student newspaper. Mckinney holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from University of Texas at San Antonio.

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