5 Customer Service Lessons I Learned From Being A Waitress

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Shona

My new job as a customer service representative (which sounds menial, but really isn’t) has shifted my professional views a teeny-tiny bit. What is interesting is how many of my peers pity me a bit for having to deal with “the customers” so much. I on the other hand am not deterred by it at all. Yes, we sell a product, but it is the experience (service, relationship, etc.) with us that makes us noteworthy. 🙂

Like many couples, my BF and I decided to go out to eat for Valentine’s Day. Needless to say, it wasn’t the greatest experience; mostly due to the sub-par service of the waitress. However, I couldn’t get all out mad at her. After all, I was a waitress myself years ago. It made me think about how far I’ve come; and also at just how much things don’t really change…and there is nothing new under the sun.

Here are 5 things that I learned way back in my days as a waitress; yet are still very important to remember for the duration of my working career:

1. You have to be ok with wearing many hats. As a waitress, I not only had to know how to take orders and carry food and drinks to tables; I also had to have cleaning skills, be able to mix my own drinks and make my own desserts, be a cashier, be good at small talk and know how to entertain children. Any waitress…any good worker for that matter, cannot succeed if the refuse to step outside their comfort zone and not do things that are not “in their job description”. Make a habit of going above and beyond; it will pay off…trust me!

2. You have to think quick on your feet. When you are a waitress, things change by the minute. Your party of 12 that you set a table up for is now a party of 18. The kitchen just told you that they ran out of the special…and 3 of your tables already ordered it. You get the picture. If you are not solutions-oriented, then you are an inefficient worker…and an unemployed waitress!

3. Some of your customers are grumpy & flat out wrong — and that’s ok. Some people are just miserable and unhappy…even when you do everything right. Your job is to not take it personally; and to provide an excellent experience in spite of them. When you let them drag you down and upset you…then you’ve lost. On the flip side, do not put up with abuse. Respectfully decline the business if they are being completely unreasonable and inappropriate. No amount of money is worth personal disrespect and abuse.

4. Stay on good terms with all areas of your company. I’ll freely admit, I was not the world’s greatest waitress. I used to make mistakes ringing in orders, seating people in closed sections and dropping food a bit more often than I would have liked. But I kept on good terms, friendly even, with the kitchen staff, bartenders, buss boys and management. So when I needed a favor or just a hand, they usually had no issues helping me out. Not every other waitress or waiter had that going for them.

In a nutshell no one is mistake-free. But it makes a world of difference to the customer if you can get some help making it all right in the end…or if you have to do all of the legwork yourself; either because no one is willing to give you a hand, or your pride is standing in the way.

5. Always end on a good note. A personal trick that I always try to employ is to always try to end bad news on a good note. It doesn’t matter if it is written or oral communication. When I was a waitress, no matter how terrible the customers were or how bad the tip was, I would always thank them and tell them to have a good day/night. Was it just a habit? Maybe. But it is not the worst habit to get into. And outside of restaurants, in general, people almost never react well to a dead end negative answer. But if you are able to offer a good point, or at least an alternative solution, then you’ve turned the tables a bit (pardon the pun).


Good personal and professional habits will be an asset to you…no matter what your job title is. So the next time you are are on the receiving end of bad service, take a minute and make sure that you are not guilty of doing the same in your job.

Author:
Real estate professional with an MBA in Marketing ~ writer and multiculturalist.
  • Marcia

    Good points Shona, I’ve never been a waitress-thank goodness. I have a lot of respect for anyone that can balance a tray with food and drinks; each time I’m at a restaurant I say: “could never do that, my salary will go to replace the dishes I break”.

    But the lessons you mention can be applied to any customer oriented job. My experience was in retail stores and banking for many years and you definitely have to think in terms of doing onto others as you would want done unto you; from there on everything looks better.

    • Yes, the “golden rule” is key when dealing with customers. It shouldn’t be a you vs. them type of relationship. Instead, you should strive to build a mutually beneficial relationship. Thanks so much for stopping by Marcia!

  • Very good points! And great advice. I spent a good portion of my working life as a “Front Desk Agent” for a 4 star hotel. You have to utilize many of those same skills mentioned above. It’s not easy, but you definitely learn a lot about how to diffuse situations and interact with people positively; even when the situation is “negative.”

    • “Diffuse situations”….I like that phrase Karen! Thanks for your compliments and for stopping by my blog. Come back again soon 🙂

  • Great article, first person who I can agree with 100%. If you want to be a waitress or waiter, this is a need to know.