Watching Waiters Work
by Joe J Thomas
My wife and I are “foodies”… that is, we eat at restaurants quite a bit. To be fair, her palate was miles beyond mine when we met, but I am gradually catching up. Naturally, over time I’ve become more discerning – of the food, the atmosphere, and especially of the service.
Good service can keep me coming back just as sure as bad service can drive me away. And that’s what led me to the following introspective question:
“Am I a Good Waiter?”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that being successful in business hinges on many of the same qualities I admire in a good waiter.
- Friendly, Happy People
Happiness is contagious. When one is happy at their job, it has a tendency to spread to others, especially customers. There’s no guarantee, of course, but choosing to be friendly and happy whenever possible can make your day all by itself. For waiters it can mean a bigger tip, and for business people it can mean repeat business or unsolicited referrals.
- Anticipate Needs
When a waiter is able to think ahead and prepare for the customer needs, it not only makes for a better experience for those being served, but also helps to make the entire job more efficient. Noticing when they are ready to order, or when it’s time to serve the next course or bring the final bill – all of these save time for everyone, and also keep the customers happy. In the same way, being prepared for customer needs helps keep customers satisfied, and keep projects on schedule.
- Checking That All Is Well
Periodically checking that the food is to the customer’s liking, or asking if there are additional items such as wine or dessert desired shows that the waiter is invested in the customer having a good all-round dining experience. In business, we also need to check in from time to time to ensure that things are proceeding as the customer would like.
- Fixing Mistakes
When mistakes happen a good waiter will do their best to fix things, without making excuses or blaming the customer. Even if it was the customer’s error, it’s best for all to correct the problem and move forward. When it’s not possible to fix a mistake, a good waiter will offer a free dessert, or even comp the bill. In the same way, our business mistakes need to be corrected, or adjustments made when needed to appease the clients.
- Assure All Is In Order
Good waiters are attentive to customer needs. water is filled, dirty plates cleared, dropped silverware picked up and replaced, and generally ensuring that there is nothing the customer needs to worry about except having a good time at the restaurant. For business, this can be about ensuring that nothing falls between the cracks during the life of a project, and all client needs are promptly fulfilled,
- Be Unobtrusive
Although being attentive is important, it is equally important not to intrude too much in the customer’s dining experience. Being courteous and attentive should not give way to being annoying or getting too personal. Business people need to have an intuitive sense for their clients. Some will be all business, where as others will want to be more personal and friendly. Always best to be flexible and take cues from the client – follow their lead on how much is enough.
Final Lesson: The Customer Is Not Always Right
Sometimes you’ll have to accommodate difficult customers. It’s part of any human interaction. But that doesn’t mean there’s no limit to what crapola you have to take. A good waiter knows when a customer is disturbing others, being unreasonable, or just being an a-hole. These customers harm the business overall, and affect relationships with other customers. Even if it’s indirect, the time wasted on bad customers and the mood they put you in will affect the customers you want to keep. At times like these, you just gotta call the bouncer and give ’em the bum’s rush! Just be sure to do so in a tasteful and courteous manner.
Are You a Good Waiter?
Each of us has many chances throughout the day to improve ourselves and our relationships with our clientele The first step is recognizing where we can apply each of these skills. Like many good habits, the more often we practice and perform these deeds, the easier it becomes. The goal is to have it be second nature to be a “Good Waiter“.