Serving others, as front of house wait staff do, takes a special person to do well. Yes, your day-to-day role will be serving guests and contributing to the healthy functioning of the venue. But beneath the surface, a lot of your work is about sacrificing your own desires for the sake of your guests.
So how can front of house wait staff put themselves second, avoid simple mistakes, and create an exceptional dining experience for guests? Here are seven mistakes to avoid.
1. Handling the Top of the Glass
You picked up a pen off the floor, wrote your table’s order down with it, scratched your arm, fiddled with a greasy lock that wouldn’t open, then brought a glass to the table, holding it by the rim.
All with a hand that had been who-knows-where. And someone’s mouth needs to drink from the rim your fingers touched… It also leaves finger prints. Always pick up glassware from the base.
2. Sloppy Appearance
Dirty, limp hair, chipped nail polish, sagging pants, one piece of a shirt sticking out, a marked top, a dirty apron - any of these portrays an appearance of overall sloppiness, and it’s a given any restaurant would not want their patrons thinking their restaurant is sloppy, just because you are.
No one who is paying for food or drinks wants to be served by someone who couldn’t be bothered with cleanliness. Take pride in your appearance, check the mirror before you clock on.
3. Bringing Food Before Cutlery
It’s a common mistake in casual dining, but one that can ruin an experience... The waiter brings the piping hot food to the table. And then it sits, the steam rising, the fragrance tempting your guest’s noses. But it can’t be eaten, because you forgot to first bring the cutlery.
Your sequence of service should include preparing and replacing cutlery for each course or pre-setting cutlery for the entire meal.
4. Forgetting the Water
Out of a table of five, four order wine and one orders a glass of tap water. Promptly forgetting the tap water because it’s not billable, you collect the billable drinks but no water, quenching everyone else’s thirst.
Just because they’re not paying for the tap water, doesn’t make it any less important than the billable drinks.
5. A Party of… Waiters
Most people who go to a restaurant do so not only for the food, but also for the ambience. When a group of waiters are having a great time on the side, all by themselves, chatting up a storm, gossiping and laughing, it destroys the atmosphere.
Avoid gathering with other staff members in front of restaurant guests. When you need to communicate with others, keep it quiet and professional. Keep chatter for the back of house.
6. Abandoning the Table
After the first course hits the cloth, careless waiters abandon the table, thinking that the food is delivered. After all, what more could the guests want for a while? Ensure you return promptly in between courses to find out if they need anything, and if everything meets their expectations.
7. “Sorry, We’re Understaffed Today”
It has to be said. You may be busy running around, serving double the amount of tables you would usually be serving because Kim and Jane and Bob never arrived, and John called in sick, but that is not your guest’s problem.
Whatever you do, do not apologise for poor service, with a “sorry about that, we are understaffed today”...when you do so, it puts a sense of obligation onto your guests that should not be there and reflects poorly on the restaurant operations.
Try not seating all the walk-ins and manage the seating and guest orders as to not flood the kitchen all at the same time.
Read about the soft skills that define the world’s best waiters to learn more about how the pros do it.
Drawing on 22 years personal experience and over 23,000 professional hours working across Sydney’s hospitality industry, these articles intend to inspire young candidates to join our industry and support aligned operators in building positive employment environments for the aspiring hospitality professional. Please feel free to contact me directly if you feel I could help or if you would like us to cover an important topic or industry matter.