6 Soft Skills that Define the World's Best Waitstaff

Just about anybody can learn basic hospitality skills, but it’s the soft skills and certain personality traits that set great waiters apart from the rest.

Most of the time, you as a waiter will need to learn these skills in your own time. If you’re someone who naturally enjoys serving others, it should come quite easily to you. If not, it’s going to prove exciting to watch how your career gets a boost by using these abilities. They will serve you well particularly in hospitality, but also in any other industry, and even in your personal life.

These are the soft skills that define the world’s top waiters:


1. Attention to Detail

The more prestigious a venue, the more your guests grow accustomed to being treated like royalty. In turn, the more a waiter progresses in their career, the more he or she needs to demonstrate attention to detail.

In a review for a fine dining experience, a patron wrote:

“...the smoking meat around a fire drew us in. The service was amazing and very detail oriented from the waiter mixing the salad and dividing it evenly to our individual plates to cleaning a drop of wine off the stem of my glass after he poured it... ”

They say the “devil’s in the detail”, and that is apt for the soft skills a waiter must have if they want to be defined as one of the world’s best.


2. Reading People

The skill - and the desire - to understand what people are saying beyond their words is essential for waiters. Reading people is a skill that the majority of the population struggles with, because your level of cognitive empathy is determined by how emotionally intelligent you are.

The younger you are, the less likely you’ll have the ability to read people. The UCLA Newsroom says this is because we are becoming more socially inadequate from our overuse of digital media.

The Ritz Carlton Leadership Center - and we all know how renowned the Ritz Carlton is at providing their guests exceptional service - says they “look for candidates with empathy and motivation skills because these qualities are critical for building strong relationships and providing excellent customer service.”


3. Speed and Efficiency

As a waiter, you work for an operator that exists to make money. They want you to make them more money. How do you do that? By enabling their guests with an awesome experience, and either influencing the table to order more, or managing their expectations for fast and efficient service so you and turn the table for the next guests.

Not only is speed and efficiency essential to the needs of your boss, but also your guests who don’t want to wait an unnecessarily long time for their food or bev to be served.


4. Product Confidence

To ensure you can serve your guests effectively, you must know everything about the restaurant, from the history owner, to what your favourite dish is and why.

Pay attention to what’s on the menu, focus on what the three main ingredients are in each dish, and try to set up your suggestions prior to service. If you are passionate about the menu, guests will lap it up and take on your recommendations.


5. Attentive Listening

Attentive listening doesn’t only involve fully listening to what people are saying, but also hearing what they are not saying.

When someone says, “I was not happy with the my meal”, it is not satisfactory to respond with a simple, “Ok”. Instead, you need to look for the reason they are telling you they were not happy with their meal, and respond to that in a way that will satisfy the guest.

Remember, don’t take it personally.

For example, you could say, “What didn’t you enjoy about you meal?” That allows you to find out what the problem was, and how to fix it.


6. A Desire to Exceed Expectations

People - like waiters who sincerely enjoy their work - who have an inner passion to serve, in general also have a deep desire to exceed the expectations of their guests. This is another rare trait, because it requires an outward focus to please others instead of an inward focus to please yourself. 

Technically speaking, it is the restaurant’s responsibility to empower their employees with the soft skills needed, but if you don’t see this kind of training where you work, we recommend looking for a hospitality mentor or learning tips about going beyond your job description.

If you’re a waiter with these exceptional skills, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your resume with us today and access the most exciting restaurants in Sydney.



About the author Marlowe Bennett

With 22 years of experience and over 23,000 professional hours working across Sydney’s hospitality industry, our content aims to inspire young candidates to pursue professional careers and to help operators grow compliantly.


Staffing Solutions: Temporary & Permanent

Discover our informative industry-specific fact sheets and how you can enable operational freedom.

Download your copy


The Intelligent Travellers Guide to a Working Holiday in Australia

Full of tips for making the most of this highly rated bucket list experience.

Download your copy

Discover More

2019 Wrap Up

Every year, we like to look back on what we’ve accomplished as a business and what we’re aiming to achieve moving f...

December 31, 2019

11 Free Online Tools to Create a Winning...

With countless free online resume tools now available, creating an eye-catching resume that sets you apart from the...

December 20, 2019

Restaurant Owners: How to Improve the FO...

As a restaurant manager or business owner, you play a significant role in employee satisfaction, retention and prod...

December 16, 2019


Submit a job vacancy

Got a position you need to fill? Please enter the job vacancy details below

Thank you your job vacancy has been posted


Submit your resume

Tell us a bit about yourself,
fill out the form below

Not ready to post a vacancy?

Subscribe to our newsletter instead to keep up to date

Not ready to submit a resume?

Subscribe to our newsletter instead to keep up to date