The first day at work often gives the direction in which your employment with the company will go! If you show yourself as a knowledgeable, hard-working, and friendly person you will have a chance to make friends and get accepted into the team much easier!
The other case is, if you are going to your first day at work with the mindset that none of the above matters, that you are part of the team by default, and that everyone has to give you respect because of what you have done in the past, etc. Then you are setting yourself up for difficult times because this is not the way life works!
Today I will give you a comprehensive guide on how to start your career as a waiter or waitress in the best way possible!
The goal is to minimize the stress, mistakes, and conflicts every new waiter goes through! We want you to succeed in this job, not quit after your first week!
My name is Ned, and I have been training young people to become great waiters for many years now all over the world!
I want you to know that every new waiter feels scared and excited for their first day at work. It is normal and even good that you feel this way! Use fear and excitement as motivation to prepare yourself!
It is also good to know that no matter how well you prepare for your first day at work, you cannot avoid the stress and the problems completely!
You will still go through hard and embarrassing moments, but those moments will help you learn faster on the job, so take them as lightly as you can. It is part of the process!
Let’s begin with preparing for your first day at work!
Do not wait to get to the restaurant and hit the floor to start learning everything you need to know about your new job! This is irresponsible to the company, but mostly it is bad for you because this attitude will bring you a lot of stress and suffering!
As soon as you know that you have the job, get the menu, the floor plan, and the wine list. No one will expect you to know everything perfectly but put an effort to learn the food and the wine you will serve and make sure you know the floor plan and the table numbers.
If you push yourself and learn the menu from A to Z, you will do yourself a great favor, and you will surprise everyone on your new team very pleasantly. Kind of became everyone’s favorite from day one!
Know your guests
Another thing you should do to prepare yourself is to learn about the people who visit the restaurant and the people who work there!
If it is a tourist place, where do most of the tourists come from? If they are Chinese, learn some habits and a few words in Chinese! This will impress your guests and your coworkers from day one! The same thing for every nationality that visits the restaurant.
Learn who is your head chef! You will deal with this guy a lot, and it is a good thing to know as much as possible about him! Use the restaurant website or ask some of the employees there. One thing you should know for sure: The chef loves the people who sell his/her daily specials, so try to do it from your first day!
As a new waiter, you will do a lot of clearing and serving. Practice at home how to carry two, three, or four plates and how to bus tables with a lot of dirty dishes and silverware.
Usually, the new waiters have a problem carrying trays! Drink trays and food trays are part of the food and beverage service, so you should be capable of carrying them! Get a tray home and practice! If you don’t have a tray, use anything that has similar dimensions and weight to practice.
The last thing you want is to drop a drink on your guest’s head on your first day at work!
Learn the F&B terminology used in your restaurant! If it is a French kitchen, a lot of devices and utensils will have French names. Same with Italian, Chinese, and so on. Once you hit the floor, no one will have time to teach you what is this and what is that! The chef will scream at you to do “Supplement Service” and if you don’t know what’s that…you are in trouble!
Until now, we have been talking about practical steps you can take to prepare yourself for your new job.
Let’s talk about the mental side of the problems a new waiter encounters.
Most people quit after the first week because their expectations are completely off!
Be prepared to run a lot! Your whole body will hurt badly, and you will think you are going to die right there on the floor. I am not kidding! I have seen so many young people crying on their first day after 9 hours of work and no end in sight! That’s the reality! Restaurants usually hire new people when it is the busy season and should expect the restaurant to be full and crazy, and the working hours to be well over 9!
Emotions run high during peak hours in our business, and the conversations heat up. Don’t be surprised if people scream at you!
As the newest member of the team, you will be an easy target! Plus, you will make mistakes, or you will be slow, and that will take an opportunity for bad-minded people to vent on you and hurt your feelings!
Be a team player, and don’t push back when someone is trying to take advantage of you! You are the new guy, and you have to prove yourself. So work harder than anyone else. That is how you earn respect. The time to push back and become a leader will come but not on your first day at work!
Setting the tables up! Be quick and efficient. With your first steps inside the restaurant, you should check a prepared table and quickly learn the setup!
Side work! Don’t bitch about it! Don’t ask stupid questions like: “Why do we have to do this?” – even if the old waiters act as if they agree with you that this side work is stupid, the next thing they will do is to go and tell the managers and the other waiters that you are a crybaby and you have a big mouth!
Learn fast – believe it or not, this is what your managers want to see from you. If you show them that you are a quick learner, they will be happy with you.
Try learning by observing other waiters. Don’t ask too many questions and if you have to ask, make sure you find the right person to ask.
How do you handle stress? – during busy hours, we all lose our cool at least a little bit. The thing is not to lose it completely, start screaming, start panicking, start blaming other people, and fight. No one appreciates that! At the same time, no one wants to see you walking around like you are in the park while everyone is running like crazy and trying to do their best. Find the middle ground!
There should be no screaming, no panic, and no running like a mouse. But make sure you are alert and working as fast as you can!
Sometimes in the middle of the rush, instead of running faster and faster is better to slow down and start thinking clearly! Prioritize and combine tasks, take a deep breath, and start executing.
Prioritizing is probably the most important skill you must learn as a new waiter. Who should you listen to, and what should you do first, second, and third? Our job is a multitasking job, and we have to know which task is more important or urgent and should be done first. You learn that with experience, but it is good to know something in advance! Food is always first! So when the chef tells you to run the food for table 5, you don’t tell him I have to bring bread to table 6 first, or I have to serve the drinks for table 3 first! Run the food!
Another example is whose orders you should listen to and follow! As a new waiter, you will hear a lot: Do me a favor and bring butter to table five. Set up table three! Pour some wine and water at table 8. Bring me the bread for table 6 right away! And the funny thing is that you will hear this in a matter of 30 seconds from three different people! What do you do?
First of all, remember your position and your role on the team! That is your priority! If you are a food runner and the kitchen is stuck with ready meals, would you go and pour some water and wine on table 8? It will be very unwise!
Concentrate! As a new waiter, you will be scared, insecure, and anxious most of the time, and that will make you think about thousands of things that you don’t need to worry about while you are on the floor. Concentrate on the job in front of you. Forget the problems with your girlfriend/boyfriend or the game last night. It is not easy but you keep reminding yourself that!
Mistakes – get this in your head: You will make mistakes no matter how well-prepared you are. The thing is to minimize them by being prepared. Then when you make a mistake don’t feel embarrassed and don’t blame yourself! Don’t even skip a beat! Take it as a learning experience. Apologize sincerely to the guest or to the waiter for what you have done wrong and move on! That doesn’t mean you can keep making mistake after mistake and not give an F about it! Or make the same mistake over and over again and go on with your business! Frankly said you will get fired on your first day if you do that! That will mean that you are simply careless, and you don’t put your heart and mind into this job!
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