When you go out to eat and have a good meal, you don’t notice your servers – that’s the sign of an efficient and effective service. But if your meal isn’t up to standard, the waiters and waitresses bear the brunt of your discontent, even though usually it’s not their fault. You often forget that they are people too, and they never intentionally spoil your experience. Trust me, they’re trying their best to help you!
This weekend, I went to work as a waitress at my dad’s Chinese restaurant Golden Kitchen in Canterbury. I did a couple of days last summer during my long holidays after GCSE (sort of equivalent to AP classes in the US) but it’s been a year so I had completely forgotten what to do. I want to share with you what I’ve (re)learnt.
The restaurant’s floor plan looks something like this:
The thing with services is that mistakes can happen so easily. Since there is a human doing most of the tasks, there is the possibility of human error everywhere which is terrifying. Type one digit in wrong, and you’ve got the wrong order (potentially losing a customer) or charged the wrong amount of money (potentially losing a customer) or got the wrong time (potentially losing a customer) etc. Attention to detail is crucial. There are so many systems that can go wrong that you have to familiarise yourself with. I’ve made an infographic to show you how they work.
Of course, it’s often not as clear-cut as this. There are so many nuances even within each type of order (no bean sprouts, curry sauce instead of sweet and sour, etc) and some customers are more difficult than others (more to come on this).
Not only that, but I swear that customers conspire to attack us all at once – my coworker and I will be standing there for a good fifteen minutes, bonding over Pokémon Go when suddenly the Just Eat machine will be printing an order, the phone will be ringing and a customer will walk in the door. Once we’ve processed the orders and the customer has left, there will be another half hour stall of nothing to do. Then another wave of customers hits. If you come into a restaurant and it looks like the hostesses and waiters have their hands full, do be patient, but trust that in 10 minutes they’ll be standing there with time on their hands again. So learning to prioritise the customers and juggle the orders is crucial, but finding something to do whilst you’re bored that you can drop quickly also becomes essential.
So there you have it, a behind-the-scenes take on what the job of a waiter/waitress is like. Although you might think that it’s a low-skilled job because there’s low pay, it’s actually quite stressful in its own right and requires a lot of different skills. Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that front-of-house staff at restaurants are also people – they make mistakes, can get stressed, can even be clueless about the selection of wines the restaurant serves.
Be patient and kind, and your dining experience will be all the better for it 🙂