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20 Things Only Waiters And Waitresses Would Understand

20 Things Only Waiters And Waitresses Would Understand

Most people being seated and served have no way of knowing what it feels like to be a waiter or waitress – and while guests are being served, we all want it that way. We want guests to leave with an experience that would warrant the words “pleasant” and “enjoyable”, even “indulgent” or “fun”. Happy guests are happy tippers, and we love happy tippers!  

Having been on both sides of the counter, I cringe when I see guests get bent out of shape even when they think they are completely justified. Unless I actually see someone spit in my water, I have a hard time getting irate.

Only by being a waiter or a waitress could you ever know that tips are hardly a thank you and that your best days are still very trying. Maybe it would be a better world if everyone had to wait tables for some length of time, not just to make some extra money but to pay some bills.

Take a look at these 20 things that only waiters and waitresses would understand:

1. You know how irregular-shift jet-lag feels

You don’t get the same shifts every day, week, or month, but are instead plugged-in where most needed and in accordance with who has called out, who hasn’t showed up, what foot traffic is expected, and how experienced the other waiters and waitresses will be during the shift. Without a set time and set routine, irregular shifts make an already tiring job more tiring and stressful. Having someone inexperienced or uncaring assigning shifts can compound things and make it all worse.

2. You know what the financial drain of side work is

You don’t just grab your tips and go home but are required to assemble takeout boxes and roll silverware at the end of your shift – while standing, usually! It isn’t based on what your tables’ used, but on pre-set amounts. The manager is watching just to make sure that you are working fast and not milking the clock; or stealing from another co-worker’s already finished side work. This constant shadowing of management can make you feel disrespected and less of an adult.

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3. You know you are always on Candid Camera

You have no privacy because the security cameras are on and sometimes it will be more than the manager watching from the office. Adjusting your pants, getting teary eyed, mouthing off or making a face, tripping or slipping are all recorded, and sometimes watched and replayed by the staff. What was supposed to be installed to protect the owners from theft and fraud is instead turned into a venue of entertainment and sometimes harassment. Sure you have nothing to hide, but sometimes you forget that big brother is watching – so you might regret letting your guard down from time to time.

4. You know team building exercises are humiliating for older adults

If you are a more mature waiter or waitress working for an establishment that is designed to depend on youthful staff, you might find the clapping, singing, and sometimes dancing before shifts demoralizing, especially if this is a second job you had to take on because your primary job is not paying enough to make ends meet. Some can have fun with it, but for you this might just be more sour grapes to whine about.

5. You know about parking lot perils

You aren’t allowed to park near the entrance and are required to park in the deepest part of the parking lot to make parking available to customers. While this is great for the dining hoards, you (with cash in your wallet) are sometimes walking to your car alone and in the dark, presenting yourself as a tempting target. It’s always best to have a buddy, but sometimes no-one is available. So you’ll take your chances because you really want to go home now and not at the end of someone else’s shift!

6. You know it’s a hard knock life for all

You don’t get help or sympathy from your co-workers, and whining is not an option – most of the staff is not there at their leisure for extra money. Everyone is tired, everyone is stressed, and no-one chose to be a career waiter or waitress. Bringing your problems to work, or making a problem at work, costs money in tips. So as a considerate co-worker you keep your troubles to yourself. Enabling each other to make tips and work fast is real help. Taking twenty minutes to cry it out in the bathroom or to beg someone to take your slow shift so you can go out on a date is lame.

7. You know you will get blamed for everything

You didn’t cook the food, set the menu rules about sides or combos, and you didn’t bus the table or fill the dispensers before guests were seated; but you are the person the guest complains to and punishes with puny tips if the bathrooms are messy. You have little to no control, are paid little to nothing, and are dependent on those tips – and it can all go sideways just because the FDA recalled all romaine lettuce due to a listeria outbreak. Yes, guests can get bent out of shape fast, and then their bad day gets shoved off on you! You, who have been standing on your feet, lifting heavy trays, and taking complaints for hours (about lettuce… Seriously?) Don’t even get me started on the absence of sprouts or avocados! For shame!

8. You know you will get nasty notes on receipts

You will have a guest that is eager to leave a nasty note on the back of their receipt that will attack you personally. It isn’t always provoked, but sometimes you let your irritation show and they notice. You will of course shake it off and smile for the next guest. Sometimes you can afford a few tears or a curse in the back of the house, but most of the time you just have to shake it off.

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9. You know common considerations are thrown out the window at times

You would never leave trash and spills all over their table for your Mom, Dad, or spouse to clean up; or leave a wad of crinkled bills in spilled soda on the table – but for some reason, at the average eat-in establishment there will be a table of guests that will think that they are allowed to dine like a mythical rock star and dash leaving trash. Some guests stack their own dishes and wipe up their own spills, but other guests seem to delight in leaving it to you.

10. You know how the kitchen assault wrecks havoc on your nerves

While the dining area might be relatively quiet or pleasantly chatty, the back of the house is loud, steamy, clanging, banging and bright. While sometimes you’ll be wearing a headset that has the manager crackling out instructions, you are getting an ear-full of disturbance from the kitchen. This causes headaches and irritability, while at the same time you’re turning on a smile for your guests.

11. You know some co-workers eat off diner’s plates

It’s gross, but either you’ve done it or you’ve seen others do it – eating off diner’s plates. Sometimes it’s to try a new dish you would never order in a million years (like buffalo steak), and sometimes it’s because your budget is really that tight, and you had to get either gas or lunch. Maybe you are just that one young guy that does it to just gross out another co-worker! Yummy, yummy!

12. You know some co-workers drink left over alcohol on the job

As the shift progresses, some waiters or waitresses might finish off a glass of wine or other beverage when they clear the dishes. Sometimes a busboy might do it. By the end of the shift, that person might be a little happier or jovial than one would think they should be. There are others that managers watch out for who’ll hang too close to the bar, especially the underaged. This can be silly or annoying, or it can get really serious. With cameras, the practice won’t go on for long. You try to turn a blind eye and focus on your tables. Getting into other people’s business is not what you were hired for.

13. You know not to leave personal belongings around

It might be a $10 tie required by management for the staff, or it might be your actual cash. If you leave it laying around, it may be considered fair game to someone. Some staffers know the angle of the security camera and those co-workers will not be caught red handed – they might even consider it a game or get a rush stealing from you even if they don’t need to. You can’t let your guard down, because the one time you do is when your cash or belongings go missing. One big happy family…

14. You know practical jokes will be played

Sometimes it’s mean, sometimes it’s friendly fun, but practical jokes will be played. A co-worker may dramatize a nervous breakdown or suddenly a new voice will be on the headphones. If it is a funny voice with strange instructions then consider yourself lucky. If it is the screech of feedback or a scream, it might be time for you to plan some serious payback. When you are serving your last shift before leaving a job, you better watch out for being served yourself! Some places like to finish you off with a tin pan of whip in the face! Bon voyage!

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15. You know substance abuse is pretty common (even at work)

Some places are clean cut, but many are not. It is just reality. The dishwasher might abuse meth. Someone on the wait staff might be abusing Ritalin. Others might be drinking pure Mountain Dew concentrate! Whatever it is that is getting the staff by, it’s best for you to just note it, keep your distance, and move on. If you know that there is a permissive culture of drug abuse, you know it might just be best to move on.

16. You know there is a high turnover

It would be nice if there was some sort of routine, but you know here today is gone tomorrow. If someone isn’t well liked or is a poor waiter or waitress, they get few shifts or slow shifts. If someone is great, they are given too many shifts at the heaviest times and get burned out. Either way: a few months or a couple of years, there is a turnover. Management sometimes understands this and a great server will be welcomed back if they return after a hiatus. You’ll be used to saying goodbye, but sometimes you get to say hello again!

17. You know profiling is wrong but…

No-one you work with wants to say who they don’t want to wait on, but when people of certain demographics walk in, while the host or hostess is deciding where to seat them they will hear pleading from certain people on the wait staff to not seat the supposed “bad” guests in their section! If the hostess is lucky, you’ll be the seasoned waiter or waitress that doesn’t make a fuss who they can really rely on. If the hostess is unlucky, they’ll seat guests and receive payback –  like finding gum in their hair. You know this is all ridiculous, because while experienced waiters and waitress look forward to large business lunch and dinner groups, every other guest whether young or old, married or single, with or without kids is a pariah to some server.

Maybe you profiled when you were young and inexperienced because you had a bad experience or two, or you listened to some server and believed their prejudice. After a while you learned better. Poor tips can come from anyone, anywhere!

18. You know 20-somethings have the energy for waiting

You know 20-somethings have the energy for waiting, even the brain for multi-tasking, but they don’t have the maturity. Working with 20-somethings is likely to be high drama, like with ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends coming by unannounced and angry. Some young’uns just won’t stop talking about every unimportant thing in the world while you’re trying to deal with your table of twelve. Then there is the “who is friendly with who,” after work and then suddenly who isn’t friendly. Drama drama… You’ve been there and done that, and now just play spectator at the most.

19. You know sharing tips with the bar doesn’t feel great

It’s hard enough to earn tips, but sharing is the pits! If the drinks come slowly or not at all for your table, you are lucky – because the bartender is more interested in those actually seated at their bar or in their nearby tables. Bartenders are used to big tips and are hostile if they don’t get them from you in a timely manner. They are extra hostile if the drinks they are making are fancy, lady drinks that take a lot of time and ice but which result in poor tipping. Bartenders know they have more cleaning and more responsibility because alcohol can make or break an establishment, so you need to make bartenders your friends… Problem is, seasoned bartenders know this, too!

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20. You know you are supposed to report your earnings but…

You know you are supposed to report all your earnings (and you can’t avoid it when you are electronically tipped) but you LOVE LOVE LOVE getting cash! Have a guest leave you a twenty or a fifty and that guest has pretty much made your shift… at least for a few moments. Oh, those days of cash are quickly coming to an end….

So guests: be kind! Tip well and often! Show waiters and waitresses the respect and consideration that would make even a mother happy!

And servers: smile, smile, SMILE! At least for the next guests! The bad ones usually don’t return. Cultivate the regulars you enjoy!

Featured photo credit: Jusben via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples)

Think of your cover letter for a job application as an in-person introduction. Your resume outlines the facts—where you worked and for how long, along with your major accomplishments. But your cover letter also shows off your personality.

Your cover letter should outline the case for why you deserve the job without being “salesy.” How do you do that? Follow these 12 important guidelines.

1. There Is No Cookie-Cutter Cover Letter for a Job

Targeting your resume to a particular job may mean changing up your “Objective” section a bit or adding to your “Executive Summary” section. Cover letters, though, really need to focus on the particular person you’re writing to, the particular job, and the particular company. It needs to prove, with an economy of words, that your job experience fits the requirements of the position for which you’re applying.

Your letter should show that you have amassed the skills you need to succeed in that workplace. And, your cover letter should clinch your prospects by making the case that you are very excited about working at that particular company.

2. Always Opt-in to the Optional Cover Letter

Some job postings will give applicants the option of opting out of providing a cover letter for a job[1]. Don’t take the bait! Use the opportunity to further sell yourself in a personalized, well-crafted cover letter that creatively shares who you are and why your skills and personality align with the position and the company. Think of your cover letter for a job as an opportunity to describe your value proposition.

3. A Reference Goes a Long Way

Did someone recommend you for the job? Put that in the subject line of your cover letter if possible. If an online listing dictates what your subject line must be, cite the personal recommendation in the first sentence of your letter:

Dear Ms. Sanders,

Steve Smith recommended me for your Assistant Planner position. I worked with Steve at the XYZ company for four years as his assistant until he moved on, and I feel as though I learned from the best.  His high praise for you is the primary reason I am applying for this position, as I consider him an excellent judge of character. 

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You may want to bolster Steve’s recommendation with a short anecdote about working with Steve. Don’t be shy. Steve’s high opinion of you will likely mean that your resume gets a serious look.

4. Outline the Key Points You Want to Make

Company by company, your cover letter for a job application needs to be specific and bulletproof. Unless you have a great deal of practice in writing cover letters, it’s hard to just bang them out. So don’t even try. Instead, start with a list of points you intend to make. Generally, these would be a “grabby” introduction, a story or two about a particular accomplishment that is relevant to the job to which you are applying, a reason why you are the ideal candidate for the position, and a conclusion with a suggested next step.

  1. Intro – Have been familiar with the company since my father worked there in the 1980s.
  2. College Major – Majored in industrial engineering so I could get a job at CYY Building, Inc.
  3. Captain of Soccer Team – Prepared me to solve problems, promote morale, and coach a team.
  4. Ask for Informational Interview – 15 minutes to meet in person and learn more about opportunities.
  5. Compelling Close – Ask Hiring Manager to call me. Say I will call her in a week if I don’t hear from her first.

5. Moderating the Tone of Your Cover Letter

Some companies are buttoned-up. The workers wear three-piece suits to the office each day plus loafers. Other companies are more casual. The employees wear shorts in the summertime and skateboard through the hallways. In an in-person interview, you would never wear shorts to a company whose employees are sporting three-piece suits.

Similarly, your cover letter needs to strike the right note. The letter you write to a start-up should sound markedly different than the letter you would write to a white-shoe law firm.

For example, even using something as informal as “Greetings” for the salutation may not be appropriate at a more formal firm. And definitely don’t use the default “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, try to find the name of the hiring manager with an online search. If that’s not possible, you will want to begin with “Dear XYZ Hiring Manager.” The tone of your cover letter for a job starts at the very beginning.

6. Create an Attention-Grabbing Opening Line

Think of going to hear a presentation by a motivational speaker, only to have her open with, “I’m here today to present (fill in with title of the presentation).” What a let down! What if instead, she started with, “I just ran a half marathon. Now doesn’t that sound better than if I told you, ‘I tried to run a marathon but quit half-way through?’” See the difference? You want to hear more.

Craft the first line of your cover letter with the utmost care. It doesn’t need to be clever, but it needs to show your personality and your fit for the position.

Dear Mr. Stevens,

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I am committed to making the customer service experience better for people like my grandmother. At 87 years old, my Gram is lost in the digital world and reliant on customer service representatives she can reach by telephone to answer her questions and solve her problems. She regularly shares stories of frustrating dead-ends she experiences with people wanting her to “go online and make your selection.”  Yet, whenever she reaches someone willing to take the extra time to resolve her issue, she sings the company’s praises to everyone she knows. Based on Gram’s frustrations, I want to be that person who won’t give up or pass the buck with bewildered customers.  

With a strong, anecdotal opening such as this, you show purpose and passion behind your application to be a customer service representative.

7. Recognize the Value of Cover Letter Real Estate

Spare writing is key in the cover letter for a job. It is always best if your letter doesn’t exceed a page. Those reviewing applications appreciate a letter that is terse, yet provides useful information to evaluate an applicant. This means you have five to six paragraphs in which to work.

Repeating anything from your resume is a waste of real estate. Think in terms of describing why you are applying for the position and why you are the best candidate.

To best show your personality, avoid stale phrases such as, “I believe my experience would be a good fit in your organization.” Add punch to your statements that show off your accomplishments and your attitude.

I thrive in start-up environments where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to make changes on the fly. In one such instance, I uncovered better results from a pilot project and in under 30 minutes had updated the CEO’s presentation in time for his meeting with a venture capitalist.

8. Getting Creative

On the surface, a requirement is a requirement. Many online ads specify the number of years, and you might think they are ironclad. But if you count the number of years you amassed a particular skill at the job and add any volunteer work where you also used that skill, you might surpass the requirement.

Say that you are applying for a position in fund development. If your career experience in putting on charity fundraisers falls a little short, it’s certainly appropriate to add in time spent organizing fundraising events as a volunteer—as long as you indicate it as such in your cover letter for the job.

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I recently passed my two and a half year mark of employment as a fund development associate with Notable Events. Concurrently, I oversaw all aspects of two annual fundraising galas as a volunteer board member of Reach for the Stars Foundation, offering scholarships to first-generation college-bound students. These involved finding sponsors for more than 70 silent auction items, renting event space, working with caterers, recruiting volunteers and MC-ing both events, which each drew more than 200 attendees and, together, raised more than $250,000. I believe this intensive hands-on experience helps supplement my years of employment.

Showcasing your community ethos through volunteering could make up for the deficit in actual on-the-job experience.

9. Making the Case that You Fit

How will you fit in at the company? With some research, you can easily figure out the corporate culture of an organization. Many companies share their core values in job recruitment ads. But even if you can’t discern a company’s mission or beliefs from its advertising, you can learn it from articles you read about the company.

Is it employer-centric or employee-centric? Is the culture more traditional or more fun? And what are you looking for? When you find a company where your needs align with theirs, that’s an indication that you would fit in well. Take care to make sure that your cover letter reflects how you fit.

If you are a recent military veteran[2], consider which civilian positions lend themselves to the regimented culture of which you’ve become accustomed. For example, your occupational specialty while in the military could dovetail well with a company’s job requirements—and you have the added benefit of discipline, following instructions, and teamwork that you can apply to any future position.

10. Always Ask for What You’re Worth

If the employer asks applicants to share their salary requirements in the cover letter for a job, disregard what you made in your former position and look into the salary ranges[3] of the advertised position. You will want to adjust up or down within the salary range depending on your prior experience in the industry or in a similar role.

The key is to not undercut yourself by asking below the minimum amount, or to overinflate your worth by asking for an amount higher than the maximum pay in the salary range.

11. Show Your Cover Letter to Three People Whose Opinion You Trust

Once your letter is out in the world, it’s too late to tweak it for that particular job. You will dramatically improve your chances of having your cover letter “land” correctly if you’re proactive. Find a few people in the field, and ask them if you can show them your cover letter before you send it out.

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If you are starting out and don’t know anyone in the field, you may want to consider paying for a professional career consultant or coach to review your cover letter and resume. Remember that the care you demonstrate in your cover letter is that employer’s first impression of you.

12. End With Enthusiasm

You want to stay upbeat all the way to the end of the letter. Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the opportunity to apply and that you look forward to hearing from (or having a chance to meet with) them in person.

It would be an honor to be part of your team, and I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this role and how I could contribute to it in person.

This acknowledges that the organization gets to make the next move, but that you anticipate it will be in your favor.

Sign off formally (“Sincerely” or “Best regards”) or informally (“Best” or “Thank you”) depending on the tone of the letter. Also, be sure to include your email address and phone number under your name. This ensures that, should the reviewer wish to contact you, the contact information is easily accessible.

Final Thoughts

The best cover letters for a job are lively, authentic, and provide a memorable result, anecdote or example of your approach to work. By tying your approach to the requirements of the job description and revealing your personality as a fit for the organization, you will give yourself a winning chance for making the cut and landing that coveted job interview.

More Tips on Writing a Great Cover Letter

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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