Thought Catalog
January 16, 2014

14 Things I’ve Learned From Being A Waitress

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When I was 16 I got my first job as a waitress in a small, locally owned restaurant/ice cream parlor located in the center of my rural hometown. It was an easy commute and I loved my co-workers, so I stayed there for probably a much longer amount of years than I could mentally handle after a while. But I can’t say it was a horrible job. I learned a ton and gained a whole new group of friends who have become like my second family. The lessons I learned there have been more valuable than I could have ever imagined.

I think everyone should have to wait tables at least once in their life, because it really puts a lot into perspective.

1. You’re not allowed to be in a bad mood. 

I’ve been to restaurants where the person waiting on my table has been rude and apathetic towards the existence of myself and party. Don’t get me wrong, I understand. I know waiting tables sucks a lot of the time and you have bad days, but this is your job. And even if the customers are horrible you are being paid to treat them like they have freshly descended from the clouds of heaven to eat at your restaurant, so you need to be as nice and as friendly as possible. It will usually pay off in the end.

2. Smile. 

Smile when you’re talking to people. Smile when they don’t smile at you. Smile when you’re having the worst time of your life because even if you don’t care about other people’s view of you, smiling for yourself when you’re upset will eventually life your mood. Plus if people think you’re in a good mood they’ll be more likely to be in a good mood themselves and hopefully overall be nicer to you.

3. Communicate clearly.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to bring food back when waitressing because the customer apparently “didn’t want onions” but failed to tell me that… I am not psychic. If you don’t freaking want something or if you want something a certain way, TELL someone.

4. If you’re going to point fingers, at least point at the right person.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to take shit for food that was made incorrectly by mistake, or food that was burnt or undercooked, etc. I never understand why so many customers get angry at the person bringing their food rather than realizing that it’s not actually their fault but the fault of the person in the kitchen who made the food incorrectly. Don’t blame the messenger.

5. Clean up after yourself.

Obviously I understand that when you’re out at a restaurant it is not your responsibility to do your own dishes or clean your own table, i.e. one of the main perks of going out to eat. However, if you’re going to come into a public place and let your child finger paint on the table with ketchup and ranch dressing and leave little balled up straw wrappers and shredded pieces of napkin all over the floor, you should at least apologize or try to maybe wipe up some of your disaster before you leave it in the hands of others.

6. Don’t let them see you sweat.

This kind of relates to the whole “you’re not allowed to be in a bad mood” thing, but waitressing has taught me how to keep calm in times of chaos. Not only will you reduce your own stress by pretending everything is fine and handling things as calmly as possible, but you will reduce the stress of your customers who probably would feel awkward knowing that their presence is contributing to the fact that you’re moments away from losing your shit in front of everyone.

7. Ask questions.

If you don’t know what something on the menu is, ask. It takes a lot less time for me to explain this to you right now than it will if you order it, don’t like it, and then send it back to order something else instead. Just ask.

8. Always be friendly.

You never know what people are going through. If you have a customer who isn’t as pleasant as you hoped they would be, be nice to them anyway. If anything, your kindness will most likely have a positive effect on them and may eventually life their mood as well, whether they show it or not.

9. Be interested, not nosy.  

It’s always nice to get to know people and make conversation, but there sometimes needs to be a line drawn when it comes to ~personal questions you should probably never be asking your waitress~ (my personal favorites: “lol so when are you gonna get a REAL job???”, “do you do well in school? what’s your average GPA”, “how much do they pay you per hour here?”) #stop

10. People who feel entitled to everything are the worst.

I have had customers storm into the restaurant, sit at a table and demand things from me. “Get me a Coke.” “Take this back I’m not paying for it.” ~emotionally replies “no FUK U” and wistfully rips off apron while storming out~ Some people be bat shit cray and they will boss you around because they literally think they are better than you because you work in food service. This is very incorrect. In fact, you are levels above these people in so many ways, one being that if you’re working in this position you are probably not a huge douche bag because you have to deal with people being huge douche bags to you for no reason, so you know that it sucks to be on the shit end of that. Just smile and pretend they don’t really think you’re their personal slave (they do).

11. Treat your co-workers with respect. 

These people will become your second family. You will need them to rant/complain to. You will need them to laugh with when everything is just absolutely ridiculous. You will need them to be there after your longest, busiest, sweatiest shift to throw back multiple alcoholic beverages with you at the nearest bar and talk shit about all of your mutually disliked customers. Trust me, even if you don’t like a few of them, these people are not your enemies. (insert hunger games quote ~~remember who the real enemy is~~) 

12. There ARE good people in this world. Appreciate them when you meet them.

As much as I complain about some of the customers I’ve had to deal with, working in a restaurant has also led me to meet some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. I’ve gotten to know families and couples and just overall great people who have given me life advice, and even the occasional gift (I’ve received birthday money, thank you notes, cards for when I graduated college, etc). Treasure these peaches.

13. Hard work does often go unnoticed.

Sometimes you will bust your ass for someone and they’ll act like you owed it to them. Ignore this and pretend they thanked you. Someday they will realize how lucky they were to have you and hopefully feel shitty about not appreciating it. (less applicable to waiting tables, more applicable to ~ * r e a l i t y * ~)

14. Overall, be humble. 

Thank people when they tip you even if you feel you deserve $20 more than they left. Appreciate when people notice that you went the extra mile for them, and assure them that you’re happy to help. Know that if you’re nice to people, it will come back to you. #karmaisreal TC mark

image – Two Broke Girls

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