How To Be A Good Waiter

During my career I have often been asked by my students  “What do I need to do to be a good waiter?”

John Savage Avatar; Pointing up

Well, there are basically two choices available for waiters and waitresses.

You can be a Good Waiter.

Or, You can be a Bad Waiter.

Choice One: The Bad Waiter

You stand around the restaurant doing the bare minimum. Maybe you will do a little clearing or cleaning, here or there. 

You don’t worry about watching your tables because they will call if they need anything.  You don’t worry about checking that their meal is to their satisfaction. Because they’ll tell you when you go to get their empty plates. 

You don’t bother to learn the menu.  Or try any of the dishes yourself.  You have no idea which of the dishes can be adapted for people with allergies. Or adapted for people who want a vegetarian version.

You have never bothered to learn how long certain dishes take to cook.  So, when a customer asks which is quicker because they’re in a hurry, you just fudge your answer and hope for the best.

You don’t bother taking water over to a table of newly-arrived guests. Because they can just order drinks when you go over to take their food order.

You make it clear when you think customers have given you a poor tip, by being moody and refusing to say goodbye.

You often spend time agonizing, with your work colleagues, about how long there is still to go until you can clock out.

Now, obviously this is not being a good waiter!

Choice Two: The Good Waiter

You talk to and entertain your customer. Even if you are personally having a bad day, your customers wouldn’t know it.

You are attentive to all of your customers. And watch for signs that they need something.  This might be a fresh water jug or extra cutlery. 

You not only know the menu, but you have tried every dish at least once!

You know how long each dish takes to prepare. And you can advise your customers accordingly.  You are even confident about recommending beverages which will complement a dish.

You use salesmanship to upsell menu or beverage items. Or promote dishes on the Specials board. 

You show professionalism in everything that you do.  And you take pride in your job. 

I recommend you try the second option as it will be far more rewarding and enjoyable. 

Even on ‘those’ days, when it truly feels like it’s YOUR customers who are the loudest or most arrogant. Or, the rudest people in the Restaurant.  Like it or not, he/she is the most important person in your Restaurant or Function Room. 

Angry Restaurant guests shouting at a waitress. Article How To Be A Good Waiter by MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine
Even on days, when it feels like it’s YOUR customers who are the loudest or rudest.

You must do your best to turn around that customer’s attitude with exemplary attention.  Or, at least, not make their attitude worse because of how you react to them!

To be a good waiter your goal should be to make sure that all your guests have the best experience possible. And that they have enjoyed themselves enough to recommend your establishment to their friends.

If you work on developing these three qualities, you will be able to achieve this: 

  • Personality 
  • Professionalism 
  • Knowledge

The chances are your personality was one of the reasons you were hired for the job.  And the Restaurant or Hotel will teach you how best to use it.

They will also teach, and help you develop the professional approach you need to be a good waiter.  As well as the knowledge you need to have, to be the very best at satisfying their customers.                                                                                                                        

To be a good waiter you need to be visually impressive and highly efficient at what you do. You need to work hard to develop a comprehensive knowledge of your trade and product knowledge. 

You need to become proficient at organizing your guest’s table, taking their orders, liaising with the kitchen on the progress of their order, and then delivering the order with flair.

To be an excellent waiter you should be constantly developing your professionalism. And seeking additional product knowledge and presentation standards.  Some of this you may learn from your own dining experiences.  


All of this = a good waiter.  It results in the best possible service towards the customer. It also results in returning customers and new customers who have heard about a friends experience.

A good waiter will also, often, receive larger tips. Given in recognition of their service excellence! Now there is an incentive!

Of course, a restaurant won’t succeed on the reputation of just one of its waiters.  So, it is important that each member of your team can be considered a standout teammate.  A good waiter will help any newbies to be the best waiter they can be too!

What do you think?

Written by John Savage

John H V Savage, is the Executive Director of International Hospitality & Tourism Educational Programs (IHTEP Asia) has spent over 55 years in the International Hospitality Industry and worked in over 45 different countries for Multi-National, National & private owners.

John is a highly entertaining motivational lecturer, as well as a TV star in China for his 5Star Butler Course. John is also the author of the What They Can Never Teach You At Hotel School eBook series

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