As we creep towards the much-anticipated end of the pandemic, the increased demand for waiters and waitresses is inevitable. Waiting staff are a vital cog in the machine to promptly get food to tables and ensure customers’ wishes are heard and responded to.
What’s the Role of a Waiter/Waitress in a Restaurant?
Before we dive into individual skills, let’s explore the essential duties a waiter or waitress is expected to handle on a day-to-day basis:
- Seating customers at tables
- Taking their orders
- Delivering food and beverages to their tables
- Checking in on the dining experience to ensure guests are comfortable and have everything they need
- Taking payment at the end of the meal
In high-end restaurants, waiters may also be required to make menu and wine recommendations and inform customers about each item. This requires in-depth knowledge about what the restaurant serves and what allergens might be included. No matter what type of restaurant you work at, waiting tables are a customer-facing role. They can make or break the dining experience.
Now that we’re familiar with the typical responsibilities of waiters, let’s take a look at the required skills:
1. Conflict Resolution Skills
There may be times when you accidentally take down the order incorrectly. Or, the kitchen gets confused, meals are delayed, the food’s gone cold, or something else entirely has disappointed or upset the customer. While many restaurant visitors tend to be polite, conflict occasionally arises.
A high-quality waiter/waitress has the skills to diffuse heated scenarios and remain calm and composed even when a customer takes a more hostile tone. Often, this involves apologizing for whatever mistake you/the restaurant has made and proposing suggestions to remedy the situation in line with its policies.
2. Multi-Tasking in a Fast-Paced Environment
Often, waiters have several tables to take care of, and others still might stop you on your way to ask for extra sauce or another drink order. The server for the average seated albeit casual restaurant will have to manage 5 – 6 tables per shift. In fine dining restaurants, where more attentive service is expected, a server will work 3 – 4 tables per shift.
A top waiter can keep track of their diner’s requests and fulfill them in a sensible order to ensure everyone’s kept as happy as possible. Often, this involves hurrying from one task to the next without a moment to think. As such, time management is a crucial part of the job.
3. Teamwork Skills
Unless it’s a tiny restaurant on a quiet night, you likely won’t be alone on the restaurant floor. Working with other waiters and kitchen staff is crucial for ensuring a seamless workflow. As many as 3/4 of employers rate teamwork as ‘very important.’
As you rise through the ranks, you’ll also need to effectively delegate when there’s too much on your plate and help others when you see them struggling.
You’ll also have to take instructions from the kitchen and communicate with them in turn.
All in all, being a respectful, capable, and pleasant coworker is vital if you want to excel as a waiter or waitress.
4. A Good Memory
Aside from remembering your diner’s wishes, you’ll also be required to recall lots of menu items. Customers often have questions about food and beverages, specifically their flavours, ingredients, and allergens. The latter is especially important, with as many as 240 million people (3%) worldwide suffering from food allergies (World Allergy Organization).
5. High-Energy – A Glowing Personality
While at first glance, this might not seem like a skill per se, rather a personality trait, you can indeed train and practice how you interact with customers. You can do certain things to create a good impression on diners. For instance, smiling, making eye contact, going the extra mile to help, demonstrating good intercultural competence, etc.
To excel in this arena, not only do you need to be polite, but you also need to exude enthusiasm and bring energy to the table. Customer service is part of the restaurant’s brand, and a smiling face can go a long way.
6. Quick Decision Making
With so many moving pieces at play, it’s easy for something to go wrong in a restaurant. As someone who’s in the front of the house, you’ll have to make quick and effective decisions. This could pertain to risk management or deciding on the appropriate cause of action when a menu item runs out, or the chef can’t meet a specific request for some reason. Top waiters and waitresses can’t freeze up in this fast-paced environment and fall to uncertainty. Instead, quick decision-making is an absolute must.
Browse our Career Tips section for more guidance with your career in the hospitality sector!