Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Waiter Project Part 2

So I have completed my training and I have my first day as a waiter on this coming Thursday. If you are new to this project click here.

Training is minimal for a server in a restaurant. For those who have never worked in a restaurant before, I will explain that the hours you are supposed to get will be most likely cut in half, unless you are in a restaurant that is consistently busy. This includes training. So the trick to being a successful server is to get what you can, while you can, as fast as you can.

The first thing I learned (and each restaurant may be different so don't take my 4 days experience as law) is that the tables are divided into sections. Each server is assigned a section. I like that because it lessens the contention between servers. Guests are seated according to a rotation. So if Server A just had guests seated in her section then the next guests go to Server B and so forth. The only time I have known this to change is if a guest decides they want a certain table or booth. The hosts try to keep it fair though.

The server then goes through this process more or less:

  1. Greet the guests.
  2. Offer drinks and appetizers.
  3. Put drinks and appetizers in the computer.
  4. Serve drinks.
  5. Take orders.
  6. Place orders in the computer.
  7. Serve appetizers (if applicable) and garlic biscuits.
  8. Check for drink refills.
  9. Serve food.
  10. Check for plates that need to be cleared and drinks to refill.
  11. Offer Dessert.
  12. Present the check.
  13. Process the payment.
  14. Report your tip.
  15. Thank your customers.
  16. Clean and set your table.
It's not too bad with one or two tables. But with five or more guests in your section, challenging is an understatement. The whole time you have to smile. Generally, I am a friendly person so I don't mind smiling, but I can't stand forced smiling, it feels fake. However, I learned that the staff I work with are all comedians in their own right, so it's kind of hard not to smile.

In studying the performance charts I learned that most servers on the floor generally make $2-$3 per table in tips. So the real money comes in how many tables you can serve in your 4 hour shift. I have only seen one really busy shift but I calculated that 20-25 tables is reasonable; maybe even 30 if you're that good and the restaurant is ever that busy. So in a 4 hour shift it is reasonable to expect between $40 and $60. With a base salary at 2.13 per hour, that makes your actual earnings roughly $12 - $17 per hour. Not bad for a part time gig.

In a perfect world, this would work just fine. However, you aren't generally scheduled for a 40 hour week, or even a 20 hour week. Your hours, for the sake of efficiency, are determined by how busy the restaurant is. So if you come in on your scheduled hours you will most likely work half of them.

But there are some servers who still manage a good living at the craft. I found out who the top server was at my restaurant and picked his brain. The qualities he exhibited were straight out of Napoleon Hill's lessons (which is why he makes twice as much as anyone else). The one's I could readily identify were that of a Definite Chief Aim, Initiative, and Imagination. He probably has more, but I recognized those right off the bat.

I learned from him the secret in boosting the hours that you work: Just show up. He explained that many times he has shown up to work dressed and more times than not somebody who was scheduled wanted to go home anyways. Therefore, he gets more hours and more tables.

My Definite Chief Aim is to double his numbers. I plan on showing up whenever I am available and making at least 50 dollars a shift. If I can pull off 40 hours (10 shifts) then I will gross $500 a week in tips as well as 85.20 in salary. That will place me at a yearly earnings of  $30,000, possibly more since I also learned that top performers get base salary increases. At any rate, 30k a year places me in the top 10% of servers in the nation (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Then I will use the flexibility of my work schedule to finish school and work on my blog.

Day 1 is coming up in two days, I'll let you know how it went.


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