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The International Writers Magazine: How to Wait

Front of House in the Restaurant
Jeffrey A Kaufman
Having been in the industry for close to 22 years I know a bit about both the front of the house, and the back of the house. Starting as a dishwasher at 11, serving tables at 16, and well...yadda yadda I'm a chef.


The one thing I took away from being table side as an experience and knowledge is the less contact the better in a high end setting, and the more contact the better in a lower end setting.

It seems the less people are paying for the food the more they expect the server to be there for every single need. As if finding the bathroom would be dependent on the waiter showing them, and if the waiter wasn't there, he should have been. It's somewhat confusing, but honestly very true. Now in fine dinning it is almost the complete opposite. A few too many trips to the table may lead to bothering the guest, even if the trips seem necessary to the server. People need to be able to breath, and enjoy the quiet of their space in a fine dinning setting.

Reading the needs of each guest is more than just about watching for half filled glasses or quick eye contact. You need to be able to feel the energy of the people you are serving. In fine dinning, a couple may seem to be a couple, but are they there to enjoy each others company, or sign divorce papers? It can be hard to say, but it happens, and the atmosphere may change from time to time. One moment the table may be delighted and enjoying the evening, then you might return to find the table at odds with each other, or the temperament changed to the point that your approach needs to do the same.

Suffocation and satisfaction...over tending a table...yes it is true. Like I said before, over service can be a real tip killer and customer chaser. Give them what they want not what they need. Is the glass half empty or is it half full? The only way to tell is if the table rings the silver bell you placed on the table for them...just kidding, but there are clues that we all send out without saying a word to our server or waitress, that tells them they are needed. A simple heads up and a look around is one, or a single finger quickly pointed up, hopefully the pointy finger, is another signal. Sometimes you get the cream of the crop all time favorite..."Hey you!" Again this depends on the person sitting there. A true magpie flannel jacketed customer might just use the farmers whistle, while the who's who, who drives a BMW might just wait patiently forever and never make even the slightest gesture till you walk up.

The one thing I know will always stand true in this industry, the one constant constant is never know what to expect from a day to day business such as this. You never know. The gentleman in the suit and tie might be the most rudest person ever, while some rich country bumpkin might be more hospitable than the hostess at the front desk. You honestly never ever know what to expect from people when they sit down to eat, and even tho you might provide the very best accommodations, and give the most exquisite service, you can not make everyone happy, you can try, but there is a percentage that you can not win over, and the sooner a waiter realizes this the better.

So..just do what I learned over the years. Try to read your customers, try to feel them out, and oblige them with the excellence they deserve, but never try to out do yourself. Give,and give, but step back and observe.

How do I measure good service. If I toss a grape across the room, and nail the uptown blond in the temporal lobe, and my server points me out as the culprit....then he has done his job, but if he takes the blame for it? His tip just went up 12-30% for going beyond the call of duty. In all honesty......for me, the less the better, but when applicable, the smallest touch, the slightest extra amount of caring is worth every extra cent I can give. Just knowing when and how are the questions that needs to be answered, and when I spot this, I show my appreciation. A good server, waitress, waiter...whatever...knows how to read a table and the clients who are seated there. It takes a form of people radar, and experience, and self training, but if they breath you in, and try to set the pace for you, then you have a winner. Trying to remember their name is one thing, but excellent service will burn the image of that server into your memory!

I could go very deeply in to all the nuances, and proper etiquette, but honestly...feed me, hydrate me, tend to me, but don't bother me, and you got me
Add me on Facebook: Jeffrey Allen Kaufman


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