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waiting tables

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Questions [Dec. 11th, 2007|02:59 am]
waiting tables
I've been serving/doing restaurant work for two and a half years, working for the first two years at a small sushi restaurant, and then I've been hopping jobs for the last six months (for a variety of reasons - moving around/going to college/leaving college, or just bad jobs that I quit because I hated). Because of the sorts of places I've worked, I feel really insecure about whether I have "real" server experience. There's two places I've worked as a server - both small sushi restaurants that were sort of informal places with mostly regulars. And then I've bussed/hosted at a couple other places, Macaroni Grill (a franchise/family restaurant type place), a sort of casual vegetarian restaurant, and an Indian Restaurant that was more fine dining-y.

I've just spent my first semester at college and am leaving again to work full-time for a while, and want to, of course, serve (although a part of my heart is with bussing, because sometimes I love the straightforward activity with less human interaction, but serving usually pays better, so...) But I'm nervous about my experience. Having worked in small places with only one or two all-purpose "servers" on a shift, I know how to be the server, busser, hostess, cashier and POS system all rolled into one, and to juggle tables and all that. But I don't know how to do any of the "little things" that really make good service - I've just never learned it because the places I've worked never really cared/taught me. So, I suddenly have all sorts of random questions:

-What kind of places should I apply to make the most money? I read some controversy about the bar&grill type of place vs. fine dining in terms of pay on the FAQ post... I've been thinking I'd like to go for fine dining if possible, because I'm not an incredibly extroverted person and tend to lean towards a more minimalistic service style but am good at noticing things like tables needing more water, etc. Anyone have info on the advantages/disadvantages? Feel free to expand beyond just bar&grill vs. fine dining, like franchises vs. independent, large vs. small, etc. Also, is it a lot harder to get a job at a more upscale/fine dining-y place (I'm not talking hardcore fine dining, but places that are sort of nicer than like, family franchise type places) without upscale/fine dining serving experience?

-I always find it so awkward to approach a table to ask how everything is, because they're almost always talking to each other, and I feel like I'm interrupting. Is it okay to interrupt to ask, or should you wait till they're not talking? If that opportunity never arises, is it better to interrupt and ask than to never interrupt at all? Or am I overly worried about something totally trivial?

-How frequently are you supposed to approach a table and ask how everything is/if they need anything else? I generally ask how the appetizers were when I bring the entree, and then try to ask sometime during the entree. Should I generally assume that they'll catch my attention if they need anything, or should I approach them from time to time asking if they need refills, etc, and if so, how often is enough/not annoying?

-How much are you supposed to talk to customers? I guess this depends on the place, but I sometimes feel a little robotic ("hi, can I start you off with something to drink, are you ready to order, here's your food, would you like anything else, thank you, have a good night") but at the same time, I'm not really sure how to be friendlier... things like whether I should be using more colloquial, or how I can change up the phrasing?

-What are little things I can do to make my service better?

If anyone has partial or complete answers to any or all of these questions, I'd really appreciate it! I'm sure I'll be back with more after I work my next shift and remember all the little recurring awkward moments where I'm not quite sure what to do, haha.