The Top 5 Things I've Learned While Waiting Tables

A restaurant runs like a ship. Everyone has their separate jobs but if we can’t all work together we start to sink. If the host seats too many people at a time, the kitchen will fall behind. If the kitchen falls behind, the food will start to come out wrong because they are overwhelmed with tickets. If the food is taking a while, the servers can’t make as much money by flipping tables. In addition, when meals are taken off the bill by the manager because of guest complaints, the tip usually goes down. It’s important to do your part because if you are slacking off, someone else will have to pick up your slack. After a while, everyone knows who works hard and who doesn’t. Having a good work ethic affects more than just yourself. In not only team settings like this but in life, it’s important to be nice to every single person no matter what their role is. At some point, you might need their help.

When you wait tables, you meet a lot of different people. Most are genuinely nice and patient, but some are complete jerks. No matter what kind of people they are, they are in charge of how much money you make. Sometimes in your life, a jerk will have some control over you, and you’re going to have to deal with it. Don’t take how they treat you personally, the reason they are so rude is that they are most likely very unhappy with their lives. One of my favorite trainers told me once. “If your only problem that day was that your food was overcooked or wrong, you’re still having a very good day.”

This very same trainer told me something else that will always stick with me. He said, “The reason why waiting tables is fun is because there is stress. We like things that give us stress. It’s why we like video games and challenges.” I think it’s true. Stress makes the time go by quick, and I’d rather have the time go by fast than so slow I start to get bored. I like staying busy, multitasking, and trying to get things done as quickly as possible.

When they were training me to serve, the trainers always told me to tell people about the company when you greeted the table so when I first started out, I listened to their advice. I would have a few spiels I would use to talk about the food quality, the eco-friendliness of the restaurant, or the story behind it. Some people would truly listen to me, but a lot of them wouldn’t even look up when I was talking. That’s when I realized I should only give an effort to explain things to people who want it to be explained to them. From then on, I started greeting all my tables with a few jokes or just asking them a few questions about themselves like “How was your weekend? Did you get a chance to relax?” or “Happy Friday, we made it through the week.” When I did that, usually everyone would look up to join in on the conversation. It felt a lot more genuine.

A huge thing I was trying to work on while waiting tables was my charisma. I’ve learned how to read people so I know what kind of jokes to say or how sarcastic I can get before they start to feel offended. I learned how to project my voice and speak in front of groups, sometimes up to 14 people, with confidence. Sometimes my guests would ask me about myself and I’d pretend they were looking to hire me. I perfected my explanation of what I decided to do instead of college and the path I’m taking.

I"m glad being a server was part of my path and I think everyone should wait tables at some point in their life. It’s good to know how a restaurant works and how to be a team player.  It's good to know how not to come off as a jerk to people who are serving you in some way. It's good for learning about what kind of stress you like to work with. It’s good for developing your empathy and your ability to read people. It's good for building your public speaking and storytelling skills. Waiting tables was a great time in my life for me to focus on what I wanted to do next while saving up for when I get back out there.