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Waiter Training Guide : Learn F & B Service A to Z

June 26, 2012

We have published a Waiter Training Manual. It is a Complete Food & Beverage Service guide. Click HERE

Who is Server or waitstaffs


The staffs or the employees who work in the restaurant or hotel assigned to serve food and beverage to the guests are known as waiter, waitress, waitstaff, waiting staff, wait staff or server. Besides serving meal some waiters are also assigned to observe the operational activity of production department to smoothen the hotel operation.

However, waitstaffs are responsible for performing the following functions:

  • waiter training guide food beverage serviceWelcome the guest cordially
  • Bring a dining familiarity
  • Taking orders carefully as requested
  • Serve the meal as requested
  • Clear the table after  having meal
  • Setting the table after guest departure for the new guests

Preparation Before Guest Arrives

Every server is basically assigned with a particular service area or table to perform his/her duties. Moreover the waiters have to be well educated about the duties and responsibilities that are included in side work (do not directly associated with guest services) or “mise en place” (put into place). For example opening (dining room preparation, menu study) and closing duties (hand over the duty).

Waitsstaff have to go through some procedures and perform certain responsibilities before guest arrives to ensure smooth guest service, which are as follows:

Assigning Stations

The assigned areas for servers are called as station which is the section of hotel dining room. Generally experienced and senior servers are assigned to sought-after and larger station whereas the new waiters are assigned to smaller and less popular station. Each station should occupy a seating arrangement for 12 or more guests at tables, booths, or counters. Though it is very difficult to manage equal distribution of the dining room for station but it is considered as the standard procedure in every hotel.

To maintain the efficiency of hotel service, the F & B servers sometimes have to perform service on a rotational basis. Station assignment is processed according to the total number of table in the dining room and number of table which are assigned to the servers to ensure proper order given to right party.

Table Reservations in Restaurant

table reservation restaurantTable reservation is very important concept in restaurants. Guests often come with prior reservation in large restaurants to confirm their table. Through the reservation list, the waiters will be able to know the schedule of their station assignment and possible number of guests on a particular day. Table reservation (book a table in advance) is generally executed or handled by one member of the restaurant staff, a receptionist or reservationist.

To precede the reservation process, the reservation staff has to record guest’s name, phone number, or credit card number including any special requests (for example: server-of-choice, table-of-choice, high chair,  birthday cake etc.) through Computerized reservation system.

Before guest arrival, the reservation staff should confirm the reservation over the telephone prior to the reservation date. The guests with reservation should be seated instantly after arrival. Even some small and fine-dining restaurants also require reservation where guests tend to remain for the evening.

Dining Room Preparation

Preparing the Tables

Prepare the dining table, before guest arrival is one of the prime duties of restaurants waitstaffs. A well organized and presentable dining table increase the eye appeal of the restaurants as well as works as a tool to makes the guest as repetitive client.

To prepare the dining table or to set the table, a server has to accomplish the following steps:

  • First be assuring that your station is appropriate and workable to set up for service.
  • Set up a number of tables that are enough to occupy both probable numbers of guests with and without reservation.
  • Before setting the table, properly wash the table with a clean cloth or sponge after soaking it in sanitizing solution.
  • Clean the chairs and rub the spot or sticky dirt by using a separate clean cloth.
  • Select the right size of table cloth (if it is used) so that all four corners of the tablecloth hang equally and the edges touch the seats of the chairs after spreading.
  • To place the tablecloth more perfectly and quickly, you can position the center fold just on the center area of the table and then open the cloth to cover the tabletop. This process also very effective in replacing soiled table cloths even in presence of guests.
  • For better protection and better presentation you should use a silencer (pad or tablecloth) under the top cloth.
  • To replace the soiled linen, move the centers items like condiments, candles, and flowers to one half of the tablecloth. To do so safely, fold the soiled cloth and keep the items on the open half part of the table or silencer. Remove whole part of the soiled linen after carefully enfolding the crumbs.
  • Time to time you will need to replace the cloth which is complete reverse task to perform.
  • You should always clean the table if there is no tablecloth. In case of placemats, properly arrange and set them on the clean table.
  • After placing the tablecloths or placemats set up the cover (include china, silverware, napkins, and glassware).
  • Use clean trays to carry service ware like chinaware, glassware, silverware, and napkins to the table.
  • Follow the right or standard procedure for handling the service ware and to set the cover. For example: chinaware by the edges, glassware by the bases or stems, and silverware by the handles.
  • Never place the soiled service ware in front of guests. Check properly and remove damaged or broken glassware or chinaware if there any.
  • Finally check and adjust (if it is required) the center items and service ware after setting the cover.
  • Present menu by following the hotel policy.

Folding the Napkins

table setting procedureTo make the cover more presentable and to provide a complete table setting, stylish and attractive napkin folding is essential. Though a formal napkin fold is highly required in restaurants but napkin also could be presented in both simple and complex fold. For example: you can simply make a pocket with the napkin for silverware or you also can create a flower fold and use it in formal occasion.

It was just an example. There are numerous tasteful and elegant designs and uses are available to fold the napkin. Such as:

  • Large laundered
  • Starched
  • Ironed napkins etc.

However it is very important to balance the number of folded napkin in each station in dining room. Always try to fold extra napkin that it can be used in rush hour.

Preparing the Sidestand

You may wonder what is sidestand in restaurant. Generally a sidestand is an essential part of the restaurant, positioned near the service area or dining room to store service items. Basically it works as a storage and service unit.

A waitstaff always should be capable of instantly providing all necessary service items that are required by the guests which could be possible by arranging a well stocked sidestand.  Therefore, it is the duty of a server to maintain its cleanliness, appearance and to ensure proper stock of sidestand.

Basically sidestand are stored with serviceware, supplies beverages and garnishes. The number and nature of service items that are stored in the sidestand is usually based on the size and form of the restaurant.

However in most of the restaurants sidestand comprises or stored with the following items:

                                      Supplies
Clean and folded napkins Tip wallets or trays
Order pads Extra pencils
Sponges Clean placemats
Towels Children’s bibs and favors
Guest checks Pens

 

                                        Service Ware
China Silver
Glasses Iced tea spoons
Seafood forks  

 

                             Beverage
Coffee warmers with fresh coffee Carafes
Lemon squeezers Water pitchers
Jugs Straws
Drink coasters  

 

                                       Condiments
Salt Steak sauce
Mustard Pepper
Ketchup Horseradish in containers

 

                                       Garnishes
Lemon wedges Tortilla chips
Coffee cream Preserves
Fortune cookies Jelly

 

Menus

Dinner menus Specialty menus
Children’s menus Dessert and wine menus

Know your Menu

Menu is the printed list of food and beverage that are offered by the restaurants. There are several types of menus which are as follows:

  • Static menu
  • Cycle menu
  • Market menu
  • Hybrid menu
  • Du Jour Menu
  • À la carte menu
  • Table d’hote menu.
  • Prix-Fixe menu
  • Fixed menu

Different restaurants could have different styles of menu. For example, printed on the hard paper, printed on the placemat or attested on the wall above the counter.

Why Studying Menu is Good for a Waiter

As a server you should be well knowledgeable and aware with every details of menu of your restaurant including menu changes, price changes, special dishes etc. Good command over menu will help you to qualify your service by suggesting dishes, suggestive selling or answering question that are derived from the guests.

Here are few key points that will help you to understand why you should study the menu in details:

  • waiter show menu restaurantYou should be update with the menu due to changes in prices or dishes according to the increasing ingredient cost or seasonal availability of food items.
  • Learn about the special dishes that you would be able to fulfill guest’s query and help them to choose right food. Ask for help from the chef if it is required.
  • Getting detail idea about menu will help you to provide accurate information of any meal and to suggest side orders to the guests.
  • To provide authentic suggestion, know the food by own tasting.

You can also help the guests through having particular information about food and beverage items of the menu in the followings cases:

  • Some guests may have prone to allergies to the availability of certain foods or ingredients in the menu items. Knowing the menu could make you capable of answering their questions or queries regarding those certain ingredients or foods.  
  • Vegetarian guests are strictly reluctant to have non vegetarian foods. Become well-informed about the vegetarian items and help them in selecting right choice.
  • Know well about the prices and suggest them according to their budget.
  • Learn which food are containing low calories or low fats and suits best with the diabetic person or heart patients.
  • Children are very sensitive about food selection. Know about the kid’s choice or items in the menu and suggest them in selecting appropriate food for them.

Preparation After Guest Arrives

greeting seating guest restaurantA server or waistaff has to perform the most crucial and significant duties when a guest arrive. The ranges of services and procedures of serving a guest could differ in restaurants. However the typical preparations and procedures that a waiter has to execute after guest arrival are given below:

Greeting and Seating the Guest Perfectly

A guest always comes in the restaurant with an expectation to be cordially welcomed by the restaurant staffs. All the hotel or restaurants staffs should be well trained in welcoming the guests with proper etiquette and manner. In some properties host or hostess generally welcome the guest, but sometimes the servers are also responsible to greet the guests. A waiter could precede the greeting procedures in the following ways:

  • Welcome your guest with a welcoming phrase.
  • Make first contact pleasant that it could contribute in the long term relationship.
  • Greet the guest according to the time.
  • Make guest comfortable with the atmosphere.

After welcoming the guests the server should make guest seated. Though some restaurants do not demand waiters to seat guests, but in most cases especially in some fine-dining restaurants require the waiters for guest seating. The server always must take certain actions for seating a guest. For example:

  • First ask the guest whether he/she has reservation or not.
  • The guest with prior reservation should be seated immediately.
  • Ask for the number of guests and organize seat according to the number.
  • Do not let your guest for a long to get seated even the guest is without reservation.
  • Always pull the guest’s chair and help guests in keeping their coats or other objects.
  • Common visitor or regular guests may have particular choice for seating. Try to manage their desirable seat.
  • Arrange kid’s chair, if family come with their children.
  • If there is lady guest then first pull her chair.
  • Some restaurants have separate smoking and nonsmoking zone. Get seated your guests according to their preferences.
  • Take special care to make seated the old and disable guests.
  • When your guest seat, serve complementary snacks (if it is provided) along with water.

After proper guest seating, introduce yourself (unless it is prohibited by your properties) to become familiarize with the guests. For example, say “My name is X (your name). I will serve you today.”  If you are busy with another task then apologize and ask for some time to become free.

However before approaching and seating guests you must make your stations free and ready to serve new guests. Center items should be properly placed and condiments items should not be placed before guest’s order.

Though some small properties often allow the presence of condiments items in the guest table.

Presenting Menus to Guests

If guest seating procedures are completed then menus should be provided instantly following the standard method. In some establishments menu is presented after taking order of pre-meal beverage. Server always may not be assigned in presenting menu. The manager or host might be responsible for handing out menus.

The following customary procedures could help a waitstaff to present the menu in right way:

  • Hand out the menu at each cover before guest arrives.
  • Present the menu after the beverage order has been given.
  • Give the menu at guest’s hand.
  • Never drop the menu at the table in front of guest.
  • Present the menu from the left side of the guest.
  • It is courteous to hand out the menu first to the lady guest.
  • Explain or describe the food and beverage items in the menu along with prices.

Sometimes the wine list is presented by the waiter or a sommelier.

Taking the Guest Order

how taker order restaurantIt is very much essential for the server to take order effectively. Proper order taking is the prime task of the waiter as the sole purpose of the guests is to have meal according to their choice. After presenting the menu or serving the pre-meal beverages, the waitsatffs should have to give some time that the guests could make selection. Sometimes it may happen that guests are confused in choosing meal or they may seek for waiter’s suggestion or they find the menu complicated to select any item. A waitstaff should always be prepared to take care of guests’ needs and help them in making their selection.

You must take the order carefully, note down every single details that a guest dictates during giving order. There are some common abbreviations (for food items) are used in hotel or restaurants, use those abbreviations to save time.

Examples of some common abbreviations are:

  • Very well done VWD
  • Chicken fried Ch f
  • Chicken sautéed Ch saut
  • Medium rare MR
  • Rare R
  • Medium M

After taking order properly, repeat the order back to the guests to avoid any mistake and get back the menu from each guest. While taking order you must consider certain things. For example:

  • Always stand left side of the guest.
  • You are fully knowledgeable about the menu.
  • Provide suggestion according to the types of guests and their budget.
  • Ask the guests whether they have any food restriction or not.
  • Inform the guest about food preparation time.
  • Be sure about particular things. Such as choice of salad dressing, side dishes, coldness of water, doneness of any meat item, when to serve beverage etc.
  • Note down any special requests.
  • Ask who will pay check.

A waiter has to take the order in an organized manner that nothing could go wrong. To take the order effectively some methods are basically followed in formal establishments. Among them four widely used methods are as follows:

  • Guest-check order system: this is the most common system in restaurants especially in the single kitchen section. Guest check order system works best when the establishments offer numbered meal combinations (breakfasts and lunches) in the menu. The front side of the guest-check order system is used for taking meal order and the back side is for bar order (also could be in separate check). The server will hand over the guest check to the chef which he/ she get back during picking the order.  Before giving it to the guest for payment the waitstaff will add the bar total (if any) to the food total.
  • Checklist order system: this method is used where there are limited foods items are offered, such as short-order, fast-food restaurants. Checklist order system is a very simple as with this system the waitstaffs only have to select the food item from the menu. According to the size and unit of purchase server calculate total price that guest needs to pay.
  • Hand held computer order system: this is the quickest and advanced method for taking order. Under this system the order will be taken by writing on the screen which will automatically sent to the kitchen and bar.
  • Notepad order system: the establishments providing multiunit kitchen including separate chefs usually exercise notepad order system. This system is best when a guest comes to have full course meal and the waitstaffs are assigned in providing side dishes.With a notepad order system, the server includes the meal according the category, for instance appetizer, beverage, main course etc. by creating a chart on a blank pad of paper. The waiter often makes a double copy or the food items are processed into the computer for the kitchen staff and keeps one copy for giving other appetizer or beverage order.After finishing meal the waiter will fill the guest check according to the food and beverage order and give it to the guest for payment.

Use of Suggestive Selling Techniques

The waitstaffs also have to be skilled in suggestive selling (suggesting food and beverage items from the menu to guests) to improve their restaurant experience and to increase the size of the guest check.

They can play role in generating revenue through suggestive selling. Sometimes guest may become confused in choosing food or they may not be aware of the quality and taste of all the food items in the menu. In such situation waiter’s suggestion often work greatly and to make the guest satisfied about service. The server can also attract the guest to have special dish of any property through suggestive selling.

Don’t forget these points of information in order to make better suggestive selling to your guest:

  • Well mannered behavior is must to influence your guests.
  • Before suggesting any beverage or appetizer you must be well informed about that item and it should go well with the main course.
  • Suggest pre-meal beverages and appetizers before having main course.
  • Suggest side dishes with the main course.
  • Suggest your guest to have appetizer if the order require time to be made.
  • After finishing of main dish, suggest the best desserts of your property but of course according the budget.
  • If the guest does not want to have dessert then suggests fresh fruits.
  • If your guests are celebrating birthday or any event then suggest the wine list or a birthday cake.
  • But never push selling.

Placing the Order to Kitchen

To effectively place the order in front of guests the waiters should be careful about certain things as follows:

  • First give a glass of cold water (ask iced water or normal water). Do not full water to the rim of the glass (fill two-thirds to three-fourths).
  • Provide a water jug or carafe. Place the carafe two to three inches away from the glass rim to avoid any collision.
  • To carry a tray, uses your palm of the hands. The traditional approach to carry the tray is using of left hand. If tray jack is not attached then use extra tray jack. Read this tutorial: Learn how a waiter should carry a tray in restaurant.
  • Placing guest order table restaurantKeep away the hot and cold food items from each other on the tray. Set the weighty items on the center part of the tray and lighter items on the outside.
  • While carrying keep your body straight and try not to get touch with the tray. Careful about the surface and cover your items if it is required.
  • While carrying chinaware and glassware, keep your fingers off to the rim of the dish.
  • Use an underliner to place cold and hot beverage.
  • Use a double folded serviette or napkin between the thumb and index finger in case of very hot items and warn your guest from touching it.
  • During carrying flatware use a plate and fold the flatware with napkin. Hold the lower part of the flatware with your fingers.

If the order is taken by computerized process then the server don’t have to worry about the order. But when it is done manually, then servers must place their orders in the kitchen.

Some restaurants may have particular staffs for placing the order rather than waitstaffs. For example some fine dining restaurants assign a separate checker to place the order after checking the order in the kitchen or in formal dining establishments an expediter may be responsible for placing the order.

The order could be communicated to the kitchen through various methods. However the methods for placing order could differ according to the size of the property, type and nature of the kitchen, type of service, availability of a computer system and so on. Basically the following three methods are adopted worldwide:

  • Oral method: this is most traditional method of placing order. Under this method server directly enter the kitchen and clearly describe the order to the responsible kitchen staff.
  • Written method: this method leads the waiter to write the order on a checklist or guest check. After taking the order the server then handover the written order to the chef to take further actions for placing the order effectively.  In large restaurants the waiters keep a notepad to note down the order and make double copy of the order (one for the server another for the kitchen) to avoid any mistakes.
  • Entered: this method is the fastest method. Under this method order is entered into a computer terminal and sent to the chef electronically who will execute the order.

Picking up Orders from the Kitchen

Here are some commonly used ways to inform the waiter in order to pick the order from the kitchen:

  • A lighted number on the wall of the dining room which is only used to let the waiter know to pick the order.
  • Through the oral communication between the chef and the server.
  • A large wall clock which will light up a particular number of a server after the order is prepared to be picked.
  • Some establishments provide pagers (electronic devices) for the servers through which information is communicated to pick the order.

While picking the order you must maintain the following things:

  • Make sure that right order has been prepared and garnishing is done in an eye appealing way.
  • Check the food dish properly if there any food spills or not.
  • Never serve your order in soiled dish.
  • Use a clean and double folded serviette or napkin to pick up hot dishes.
  • Place the order after the table has been cleaned.
  • Use a tray to carry your order.

Serving the Guests Properly

To make the serving procedure appropriate and to acquire guest satisfaction the server must ensure certain things before serving the guest. For example: the table has properly set and ready for serving meal, all mise en place has done , all complementary serviceware are accurately placed at the server station etc.

serving guest restaurantBasically there are no strict rules for table setting procedure or to place the foods in the table. Standard table settings procedures are followed in restaurants or hotels to make it easily handy to the guests which are as follows:

  • Place the appetizer in the center of the table just before guests.
  • Put the soup bowl directly in front of the guest.
  • Set main course and entrees directly in front of the guests.
  • Put salads in the left side and breads in the right side of the guest.
  • Place serving flatware and beverage glassware on the right side of the dish.
  • Set condiments in the center of the table.

Most of the establishments set some general rules for serving the meal perfectly that a server has to follow. For instance:

  • It is customary to serve meal to women and old guests first.
  • Start serving food with your left hand from the left side your guests (but if you are standing at right side of the guest then use your right hand).
  • Serve food according to the standard category (ex-appetizer, main course and dessert) along with all necessary supplementary serviceware.
  • Place beverages with the main course but serve when it is ordered by the guest. Also serve coffee and tea according to the guest’s demand. Use your right hand and serve from the right side of the guest during serving beverage (do not pick up the cup or glass from the table to serve).
  • While serving dessert and beverage refill coffee or tea and other beverage glasses until the coffee pot or the water carafe or the wine bottle is completely emptied.
  • Make sure that all accompaniments and serviware are placed appropriately.

Serving at Booths

Serving at booths is quite different and difficult from serving at table. For example,

  • The waitstaff has to serve guests at the widdest end of the table in booths service.
  • The waiter has to use left hand when guest is right side of the server and use right hand when guest is on the left side of the guest.
  • The server should instantly clear items and ready for next after serving the current guest as booths often have less space than tables.

However whatever the approach you will follow always consider the guest’s ease. 

Clearing the Tables After Having Meal

The waitstaff should go forward for clearing table when guests set their eating utensils down on the plate or may ask them whether they have finished or not. To clean the table after serving and finishing meal a server usually perform the following tasks:

  • Clear all soiled dishes and serviceware and keep them on a tray from the right side of your guest with your right hand in a counterclockwise direction.
  • Do not remove beverage glasses until completely emptied and guest exit. Recommend guests to have after dinner drink.
  • Clear other miscellaneous items from the table to give some spacious space on the table.
  • Crumb (sweeping loose food particles into a plate) the tablewith the crumberto make it ready for dessert or after dinner drink.

Presenting the Check and Saying Goodbye

There are some signals by which you can understand that the guest has finished his/her meal and waiting for bill such as: reaching for coats, purses, or packages, or the guest may ask for the bill or the check. For better & clear understanding on how to handle guest check we would request you to read these 2 tutorials:

get tips from guest restaurantAfter paying bill the guest usually leaves a tip (an incentive for effective service) for the waiter. Providing tips is customary rather than mandatory for guests. Guest generally provides tips to the server on the basis of certain factors. For example:

  • Efficient and well-mannered service.
  • Quality of the food.
  • Appearance of the waitstaff
  • Effective suggestive selling

A lower amount of tip also can indicate that the guest is not satisfied with the service. A waiter always should provide his/her best service to make guest satisfied and to get a smart tip. It would be a wise idea to bring guest’s change in some single dollar bills rather than in larger bills.

Guest could provide tips to server either directly or leave it on the table. Even in some operations the tips automatically added to the check by the restaurant which is received by the waiter from the cashier or included in his/her paycheck.

However the server should not expect that the guests will always provide pleasing tips. Some guests may not be aware of the tipping system due to difference in tipping system in different culture. Such as:

  • In USA all guests usually provide tips after paying bill.
  • In Europe tips are included automatically in the check total.

Sometimes the waiters have to equally share the tips if they are assigned in one table. Some establishments also set a rule for the waiter to share a percentage of tips with the bussers, drink runners, expeditors, and other assistants.

You must thank to the guest for coming and providing tips and genially invite them to return. Say goodbye to the guest with a pleasant smile and give a warm feeling to the guest to make it long term relationship.

Get our Waiter Training Manual. It is a Complete Food & Beverage Service guide. Click HERE

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