21 waitering tips for a successful career in hospitality

By Indeed Editorial Team

8 November 2021

If you want to become successful in hospitality, it's important to know how to interact with customers daily. You may use customer service and interpersonal skills, such as communication or patience, to make ensure guests have a positive experience. Understanding how to do this for every customer can help you enjoy your job and provide better service. In this article, we discuss some tips that can help you become more successful at your job.

Waitering tips

Learning easy to implement waitering tips can help you become a skilful waiter who values their work and provides efficient service. This can also increase your earnings to supplement your income. Here are 21 tips to consider:

1. Be welcoming

Typically, you represent the restaurant as soon as a customer arrives at the venue. A good waiter is attentive, welcoming and smiling, so it's important that you have a pleasant demeanour to put potential customers at ease. Guests may feel content when they receive good service, so approach the table with an enthusiastic smile, greet your customers in a friendly manner and continue this treatment throughout their visit to the restaurant.

2. Be professional

Combined with friendliness, being professional can help you succeed in this role and potentially increase your earning. Professional skills and qualities that help in this role are courtesy, efficient customer service skills, patience, kindness and attention to detail. For example, during the winter, offer to hang your guests' coats before taking the order, so that everyone is comfortable and relaxed before they choose their food.

Related: Top 13 skills for waiters (with examples)

3. Be clean

Your appearance may impact what your customers think of the standard of the restaurant. Wear a clean uniform or an apron that is free of stains and make sure your hair is always clean and presentable. Before you arrive at the table, wash your hands and nails so there is no dirt or food clinging to them. Even when they are clean, avoid touching the rims of plates and glasses and the heads of silverware with your fingers to stop the spread of bacteria.

4. Introduce yourself

Introducing yourself with a genuine smile can set the tone for the rest of the interaction. Consider the customers as if they were guests that just arrived at your home. Thank them for coming and announce your name clearly in a brief introduction before offering drinks.

5. Accommodate your guests

The reason that waiters are employed in hospitality is to provide guests with the best dining experience possible. To do this, be accommodating and make sure your guests are happy. For example, if you have a request for something that isn't on the menu, see what you can do to help by speaking to the chef to see if they can accommodate off-menu items.

6. Know the menu

As a waiter, you understand everything about your restaurant's menu. You know what kind of food they offer, how much it costs and what special deals are available. The more information you know about your restaurant's menu, the better customer service experience you can give to your guests.

7. Be observant

A good waiter knows at-a-glance who is waiting for their order to arrive versus who is waiting to have their order taken. Try to stay alert and attend to customers before they ask. Taking the order and then bringing the food is the requirement, but look for extra ways you can help. Pay close attention in case your table requires refills of drinks or extra napkins. Also, be aware of problems that may have arisen during the meal, such as spills or messes on the table, so that you can resolve any issues.

8. Have great timing

Get used to performing certain tasks along with others and timing your service so your guest lacks nothing during their meal. For instance, anticipate guests may request water refills immediately after receiving their food on the table. Also, once you have served your guests, ask if anyone would like extra condiments and be ready to tell them which ones the restaurant has.

9. Practise patience

If you notice customers talking amongst themselves and reviewing the menu, wait until they finish and look up to approach the table to introduce yourself or go over items on the menu. Pass by the table once or twice in case you're wanted, and wait for the right moment to interrupt. Be patient, as many people come to a restaurant as much to have a friendly conversation as they come to eat. Let them take whatever time they want to decide on the menu, but stay near.

10. Listen actively

Listen carefully to your guests and show due consideration for any comments and requests. Pay special attention if they mention food allergies or special diets so that you can take precautions, if possible. When you ask, 'How's everything?' or 'How was the meal?', listen to the answer and fix whatever isn't right.

Related: Waiter cover letter: tips and examples

11. Stay organised

Sometimes an order isn't as accurate as it should be and you may occasionally miss a menu item. Write down the order carefully, including extra requests underneath the main order. You can record the order in which people at your tables arrived so you can deliver the food in order unless you've already explained that a certain dish takes longer to prepare than others.

12. Be genuine

Short of being perfect, being genuine is an endearing quality of this profession. It helps your guests become comfortable in the environment, even if you make a mistake or two. Be good-humoured, and if you do forget a special request, show you care by smiling, apologising and fixing the issue immediately.

13. Check on customers at intervals

Know which tables require more attention than others and provide it accordingly. When they lift their heads to look for you, already be en route and look out for those who seem to need less attention. Once or twice during a meal, say 'Do you need anything?' without interrupting their conversation: this is usually sufficient. If a customer has to search for your service, you likely could improve how often you check on your guests.

14. Highlight other items on the menu

By highlighting deals of the day, specialities, new additions to the menu and customer favourites, there is a possibility your guests may order more from the menu. If so, this could mean a larger tally for the restaurant and bigger tips for yourself. Give the guests drink menus first and when taking orders from the main menu, also ask about appetisers and dessert. If a customer orders a dish that takes time to prepare, ask them if they want a separate appetiser in the meantime.

15. Learn to multitask

A good waiter balances serving guests, taking orders, completing side-tasks, and maintaining communications with other staff members. While waiting tables, you might constantly perform different tasks at the same time. It's essential that you can do these tasks simultaneously to serve your customers in a timely manner, especially if they have many requests.

Related: How to write a waiter/waitress CV (with example)

16. Keep Calm

When you find yourself overwhelmed with too many things happening at once, it may be easy to panic and make a mistake. This is the time to stop multitasking, take a deep breath and focus on one task at a time. Try to remain calm during busy and noisy periods, regardless of what's happening around you as a customer's experience may be impacted by your demeanour.

17. Respond to criticism gracefully

Always apologise when there's a mistake, even if the fault is someone else's. You might get complaints from customers about meals being undercooked or overdone. Apologise quickly and address the situation with determination to fix it. This shows value and respect for your guests.

18. Invest in good footwear

Make sure that you invest in sturdy, comfortable shoes that are appropriate for the type of flooring at work. Good shoes make all the difference while standing and walking during your eight-hour shift. They provide adequate support and protection for your feet.

19. Be friendly with back-of-house staff

Engaging with back-of-house staff can help you learn the restaurant inside and out and how it functions. When waiters have a close relationship with their chef or sous chef, they can help each other work more efficiently throughout the course of a shift. Maintaining this kind of relationship might also help you see more detail about food preparation.

20. Always check before serving

Your customer's safety is always an important factor, so if the food has been in a warmer, make sure the guests can actually touch the plates before serving it to them. Similarly, if the crockery dish is straight from the oven, warn the guests that it's hot. If something appears undercooked, return it to the kitchen and obtain another.

21. Make single-eaters comfortable

Treat those well who dine in a restaurant alone. Instead of asking awkward questions like, ‘Are you waiting for someone?', begin your introduction and highlight menu items as usual. If they are waiting for someone, they might say so after your introduction, otherwise, assume the person is there to eat and drink alone. Refrain from commenting further to avoid offence and serve with the same attention you would at a full table.

Related articles

The Great Realisation: Is happiness at work possible?