Many individuals start their careers by waiting on tables or working in a restaurant. While getting into the serving industry can be fairly easy, progressing and becoming brilliant at your job takes a set of very specific skills.
Exceptional waitrons can juggle multiple tasks, keep their cool in the midst of a packed restaurant, anticipate what their customers need, and make great, lasting impressions. With over 16 years’ experience in placing young South Africans as servers at exclusive US Country Clubs, Workaway International’s Charlotte Quenet-Meintjes has picked up some valuable tips on how to go from being a good waitron to an exceptional one.
Be organised –“You need to develop a system for remembering orders, clearing tables, getting drinks out, doing table settings and getting the right food to the right people at the right time,” advises Quenet-Meintjes. Being a waitron is sometimes tough and often requires tremendous multi-tasking. With excellent organisational skills, your job becomes that much easier and you end up impressing your customers, colleagues and employers.
Be neat – personal cleanliness is a must in the hospitality industry and it is of the utmost importance that your appearance is neat at all times. Make sure your hair, hands and finger nails are clean, your clothes are fitted and crease-free, and that you wear comfortable, but presentable shoes. Quenet-Meintjes stresses that wearing minimal jewellery and using as little makeup, perfume or cologne as possible is also advisable. She says, “Remember that being a server makes you the first, and often the only, point of contact with customers. The restaurant will be judged by your appearance, attitude, manners and efficiency of service.”
Be polite and charming – being impolite to your customers is an unforgivable offence and one that might even get you fired. “Some customers will be rude, unfair and overly-demanding – just remember that they are only a small part of your day and it is not worth you getting riled up,” she says.
Be knowledgeable – one of the first things you are told to do as a waitron is to learn the menu. “As a successful waitron, you should know the ingredients to each dish, as well as how the individual dishes are prepared. This will make you a valuable addition to your customers’ dining experience.” Quenet-Meintjes also suggests going the extra mile by learning basic food-and-wine pairings and keeping updated with current affairs which will enable you to contribute useful information to your customers’ dinner-table conversation, if and when required to do so.
Be aware – being aware of people’s needs extends beyond what customers ask for – exceptional servers learn how to read customers’ body language and anticipate their needs. “Remember, you play a crucial role in the social experience of dining out, and you have the power to make the experience great or awful for your customers,” she says.
Be helpful – part of playing the role of a good server is to ensure your customer’s experience at the restaurant is a good one. If a customer is unhappy, find out what their complaint is and deal with it appropriately. Use positive, take-charge phrases which will help you gain your customer’s respect. “Always be polite, act friendly and stay positive, which will help make your customers feel as comfortable as possible,” advises Quenet-Meintjes.
Be memorable – with thousands of restaurants to choose from, your customers have to receive the very best service, food and experience to keep them coming back. This rests largely on your shoulders – by giving your customers exceptional service, remembering their names and what they like to drink, and always being there to assist, you help create an unforgettable dining experience for each of your customers. “In the end, this is what will make them come back each time, and what will set you apart from the rest,” she concludes.