"I would like the chef's salad, but I do not want the tomatoes. I want sharp cheddar cheese instead of the American, and I do not like that bread that comes on the side. Can I get a breadstick instead? Oh, and I would like the honey mustard dressing instead of the italian, as long as it is low fat, and I want that on the side, not on top. Are the peppers red or green?" Does this sound familiar? Waitresses will experience every kind of customer- from the man who intends to tip 2% from the moment he walked through the door, to the woman who brought her three crabby children to a late-night dinner, to the teenagers who are more focused on sitting close than on ordering their meals. But a good waitress has learned to adapt for every possible customer, and still go home at the end of the night with a pocket full of cash.
There are a few characteristics that make up a good waitress. In my opinion, the most important part of being a waitress is giving the customers exactly what they ask for. I realize that waitresses do not cook the foods, but writing down the order exactly how the customer says it, entering the order exactly how it was written, and communicating with the cooking staff about any oddities, allergies, or exceptions will drastically cut down on the mistakes. Once the cook has finished the order and you are ready to take it to the table, take a quick glance at what is on the plate and make sure it is correct. If the customer asked for a rare steak, does it look charred? If the customer ordered a salad with ranch dressing instead of vinaigrette, is the dressing the right color? If there are any mistakes, you can often run the plate back to the kitchen and make quick adjustments. Customers are at your restaurant because they want a great tasting meal- a meal that is exactly what they ordered. A good waitress does everything possible to make sure their expectations are met.
Another very important characteristic to being a good waitress is communication with your customers. Just like the old saying, "Ninety percent of communication is non-verbal," it is a good idea to read the mood of your customers. Are they in a hurry, or agitated? Are there restless children at the table, or crying babies? It is very possible that you can make a much more enjoyable experience for your customers by reading their non-verbal cues. I have been known to take a few crackers and strawberries to the table for a young girl who was "famished", or bring some crayons and a coloring book for a baby stuck in his high chair. Also, if you have guests who are in a "deep conversation," try bringing refills for their drinks and set at the end of the table without interrupting their conversation. By reading the mood of your customers and responding in appropriate ways, your customers can have a much more enjoyable experience, and you may receive a much larger tip!
The other ten percent of communication is important as well, and this brings me to my last important characteristic of being a good waitress. If you made a mistake, admit it, and apologize to your customer. Honesty is still the best policy, but not communicating with your customer can have very bad consequences. It is important to tell your guests if the food will be late, and when they should expect to receive it. Avoiding your table because of a messed up order or a delay in the kitchen will only leave them feeling angry and frustrated. Also, if a mistake on an order has been made and the customer confronts you about the mishap, be sure you understand the changes by repeating what the customer wants, and attend to the situation immediately. The customer will feel much more comfortable during their meal if you prove through communication that you understand exactly what they want.
Being a good waitress takes time. There is a lot involved in waitressing, from greeting guests, to writing down orders, to communicating any alterations to the cooking staff, to checking on multiple tables, to printing the bills correctly, to getting that twenty percent tip. But, by developing a routine that includes great verbal and non-verbal communication as well as listening to what your customers want for their dining experience, you can become a good waitress that is able to go home at the end of the night with a wad of bills, instead of a handful of change.