How to become a Waiter/Waitress - Waitress taking order of couple

What's it like to be a Waiter/Waitress?

Blessing’s story

Blessing has worked as a waitress for the past six years. Here’s her story.

What do you like about working as a waiter/waitress?

Working as a waitress, I get to meet new people every single day from all over the world. Striking up conversations with people who have very different life experiences to myself is especially pleasing. Everyone has a story to tell and you learn so much every day, even though you’re only waiting on tables. I also feel like I’m making a real difference, providing a valuable service to people’s enjoyment of life.

What happens in a typical day working as a waiter/waitress?

Though most people think waiting on tables is a boring job, what they don’t realise is that every day is different. When I walk into work I’m never quite sure what the shift is going to be like, which can make itexciting. For example, I went into work last Wednesday expecting a quiet shift and it ended up being the busiest day of the week.

Obviously, the main part of the job is to serve food and drinks, take orders,etc. But there’s also a fair amount of running involved and we often help out in the kitchen when it gets really hectic.

What qualities would you say makes a great waiter/waitress?

I’d say the most important thing is having a friendly, open and chatty personality. Our job is to interact with people and make sure their experience is as positive as possible, so these skills are essential. As waitresses, we also need to be able to improvise -- there are so many new experiences that this job throws at you, and you need to be able to think on your feet.

Of course, this isn’t an easy job, so you also need to be a hard worker and have a can-do attitude. Being clean and smart is important too. No-one wants to see a dirty t-shirt when they’re getting served a £20 steak.

What are the biggest challenges you face in a typical week at work?

I’d say the biggest challenge for all waitresses is dealing with complaints from customers. Where I work at the minute, we don’t get as many as we did in my previous jobs. But you need to be able to remain calm and friendly even when faced with someone being aggressive about their fried chicken coating not being crunchy enough. Being on your feet all day is also quite hard , though I’d rather do this than sit at a stuffy desk.

What are the hours like?

The hours I work are different from week-to-week. Some days I work 7-10pm, other days I do double shifts, and sometimes I stay late to help with the clearing up. Double shifts are obviously the most difficult. Being stood up so long is never ideal, especially when you’re understaffed. I like the variety and the flexibility though this does depend on where you work.

What types of establishments do you tend to work at eg. hotels, restaurants, gastropubs or others?

I’ve actually worked in pretty much all of those you mentioned. At the minute, I work in a hotel restaurant. It’s fairly posh but the people are really nice, especially those I work with. But to be honest, I’ve not had any really horrible experiences -- and I’ve worked in everything from business centres to hotels and pubs.

What advice would you give to someone trying to get into your line of work?

I’d say don’t be nervous. When I first started, I was absolutely terrified, but everyone made me feel really welcome and you work out the menus pretty quickly. And remember, customers are out to have a good time, not to make your life difficult.

Of course, you’re going to make mistakes, but managers expect this. As long as you keep a good relationship with them, you’ll be absolutely fine. Avoid trying to handle too much at once, be strong, and try and enjoy it. It’s not for everyone, but if you love people and you’re adaptable you’ll be absolutely fine.

Why have you chosen to work as a temp in this line of work?

I personally prefer working as a temp because it gives me more flexibility. I have children and it allows me to pick and choose where and when I work, which is ideal with two kids running around the house. It also means I can spend time with them during the holidays.

I can also pick up different experiences as I go along. Like I say, I’ve worked in pretty much every sort of restaurant and bar, which not only helps me to get the best jobs now but also means I can be picky if I want to get a permanent job in a restaurant.