Cover image for The waiting game : the essential guide for wait staff
The waiting game : the essential guide for wait staff
Kirkham, Mike.
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Publication Information:
Berkeley : Ten Speed Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 198 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Understanding the house -- Setting the scene -- Owning the menu -- Serving and clear properly -- Completing the dining experience -- Alcoholic beverage service -- All about wine -- All about food -- Sanitation, safety and liability -- Finances and tips -- Finding (and keeping) your job -- Waiting attitude and intelligence test.
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TX925 .K5697 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this indispensable training manual, the authors draw from more than 40 years of restaurant experience to present a succinct, highly informative guide to the art and science of waiting tables. Brimming with professional tips, on-the-job advice, and practical definitions, THE WAITING GAME covers all the essentials of waiting, including wine service etiquette, fine-dining protocol, and how to deal with difficult customers.

Author Notes

Mike Kirkham has over twenty years of experience in all aspects of the restaurant industry
Peggy Weiss is co-owner of the Shoreline Grill in Austin, Texas, and a founding partner of the highly acclaimed Jeffrey's Restaurants in Austin and Washington, D.C.
Bill Crawford is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and longtime commentator on American culture



UNDERSTANDING THE HOUSE * * * People in the restaurant business usually refer to a restaurant as the house . It makes sense to call it that. When you invite friends to your own apartment or house, you try to make them feel welcome. You try to make sure they have a good time and want to return. You do the same thing at a restaurant. You welcome guests, make sure they have a good time, and hope they return. In many houses, we learn to live with other people. We rely on them to do certain jobs, tolerate their weird habits, and enjoy their amusing eccentricities. We have our own jobs to do in a house, and if we do them well, the house is a pleasant place to be. A restaurant works much the same way. Each person there has to perform a job and get along with others. Job titles and responsibilities differ from restaurant to restaurant, depending on the size and the nature of the restaurant itself. Here's a basic roster of players and how these players relate to you, the wait person. A restaurant is divided into three sections: ò The owners or chief executive officers (CEOs) ò The front of the house (FOH), or the dining room ò The back of the house (BOH), or the kitchen Owners or CEOs The owners of the restaurant are the financial backers, the people who put up the money for the restaurant. In smaller, independent restaurants, the owner or owners may also work as managers or chefs. In bigger restaurants, you may rarely or never see the owners. It is important to know who the owners are and what they might expect from you if they show up at the restaurant. The general manager runs the house for the owners. If a corporation owns the restaurant, the general manager may also be the CEO of the corporation. As with the owners, it is important to know who the general manager or CEO is and what he or she might expect from you when visiting the restaurant. The Front of the House The front of the house (FOH) is commonly known as the dining room. Front-of-the-house employees include managers, wait staff, bar staff, bus staff, and hosts. Managers Managers make sure that everything in the restaurant runs smoothly. The manager has to juggle several things at one time, including staff problems and emergencies. This job can be stressful and managers may sometimes be curt, but remember: The better you get along with your manager, the more you will enjoy your work. Here are a few things you can do to help your manager: ò Be on time. ò Act professionally. ò Be a team player. ò Leave your personal problems at home. ò Have a positive mental attitude. In addition to a manager, there may be an assistant manager. Larger restaurants may have a sommelier [so-mel-YAY], who is the restaurant's wine specialist; a headwaiter, who is in charge of the dining room or a particular section in the dining room; and a maître d'hôtel, or maître d' [may-truh-DEE], who manages the front of the house and supervises the dining room during service. The maitre d' knows how to be everywhere at once: greeting guests, sending out complimentary appetizers or desserts, taking wine orders, assisting servers, and thanking guests as they leave. Hosts The hosts are responsible for seating the guests. If the restaurant accepts reservations, the hosts must honor the reservations while seating as much walk-in business as possible. They also maintain the waiting list and answer telephone inquiries. Hosts are the first and last people guests see at a restaurant. They must be friendly, helpful, and upbeat. They have to seat guests in such a way that each wait person has an equal amount of business (but not a huge crush!). And they have to give guests seats that please them. This is sometimes an impossible task. You must work with the hosts to maintain a pleasant and inviting atmosphere for the guests. Wait Staff This is you! You've got to work with the kitchen and bar staff to place orders and serve the food and beverages to the guests. You have to work with hosts and managers to make sure that guests are seated promptly. You also have to work with bus persons and other wait staff to make sure that tables are cleaned promptly and that all table responsibilities are clear. Teamwork and efficient communication are essential. You're all working together to please the guests. Don't take an "It's not my job" attitude. If the guests aren't pleased, everyone loses. Bar Staff All alcoholic beverage service comes through the bar, whether it is a service bar or a dining room bar. The bar manager handles everything related to alcoholic beverages at the house, including ordering, preparing the drink list and sometimes the wine list, and planning drink specials. Many bar managers also have the responsibility of drawing cash to make change for servers and guests. Usually, the bar manager works as a bartender. A bartender should work fast, have a good short-term memory, and have a pleasant disposition. A bar back is a bartender's assistant. Remember, bartenders are usually very social people. When things are slow, chat them up. You need the bartender on your team in order to please your guests. If you spill a drink in the bar area, clean it up. As a wait person, you are generally expected to tip bartenders a percentage of your beverage sales. Bus Staff Whether they are called bus staff, bussers, bus persons, or waiter's assistants, these folks are key players on your team. Each restaurant has different duties for their bus staff. These duties include: ò Sorting and polishing silverware ò Folding napkins ò Serving bread and water ò Clearing and resetting the tables ò Helping the wait staff The bus staff does a hard, physical job. Usually, bus people don't get much reward for their work. Remember that the bus staff is there to help you; they are not your servants or slaves. You should always speak to your bus person with respect. That means "please" and "thank you." Most restaurants require you to tip out your assistant or bus person, and they have guidelines to determine the tip-out. Don't forget to include some verbal gratitude with the cash. Take care of your bus staff by: ò Helping them bus tables if they fall behind ò Pre-bussing , or clearing tables of used silverware and other items as guests finish with them, whenever possible ò Thanking them The Back of the House The back of the house (BOH) in a restaurant, also known as the kitchen, is actually a factory. This is where food is prepared and processed for sale. The kitchen is the busiest part of the restaurant, but it is also one of the smallest. Space is always an issue in the kitchen, so watch your step when you're working in the back of the house. Back-of-the-house employees include the chef, the sous-chef, line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers. Cooks are notoriously creative and temperamental. Your job is to keep them happy. During busy times, keep idle chatter to a minimum. Keep mistakes in ordering food to a minimum. Communicate any special cooking requests clearly and articulately. Pick up your food promptly. Repeat: Pick up your food promptly . Some restaurants have either an expediter or a food runner, or both. The expediter works opposite the chefs, combining plates to complete orders for individual tables and coordinating interaction between the back and front of the house. A food runner delivers orders to the wait person or directly to the table. Chef Chefis French for "leader" or "chief," and the chef is definitely in charge of all the kitchen activities. The chef's most important job is the selection and planning of the menu. Restaurant chefs are either trained at culinary schools or learn their skills on the job, moving up to work with better and better chefs. This is usually the highest-paid position in the restaurant, and for good reason. The chef is responsible for the food, and the food is the reason for the business. Discriminating taste and physical stamina are important traits for any chef. A larger restaurant may also have a chef de cuisine , or executive chef, who establishes the menu and style of the cuisine. In addition, a larger restaurant may employ a pastry chef, who is in charge of all desserts, and a baker. Sous-Chef A larger restaurant may also have a sous-chef . This term is French for "under chef." The sous-chef is the number-one backup person for the chef. He or she cooks alongside the chef or in place of the chef. When the chef is not around, the sous-chef is in charge of the kitchen staff. The chef (or chef de cuisine) sets the style of cooking; the sous-chef follows this style. Sous-chefs share and assist the chef in administrative duties. They also do actual cooking and supervise the other cooks. Line Cooks The section of the kitchen where the grill, stoves, fryers, and pantry are located is called the line . The people who work here are called line cooks . Some line cooks are specialized. One may be the grill cook; another may be the sauté cook. The chef sometimes "works the line" to speed things up. The section of the line where the cold foods are prepared is called the pantry , or cold station . These foods include cold appetizers, salads, and desserts. The cooks who work there are called pantry cooks , or garde mangers [guard mon-JAY], another French term. Burns are an occupational hazard for line cooks. Be sympathetic when you see one of your teammates with a bandage. He or she might have been injured while helping you make money. Prep Cooks Kitchen employees who prepare the food to be cooked are called prep cooks . Prep cooks chop vegetables, make salads and salad dressings, thaw foods, and so on. They do all of the preparation of the food before the cooks actually cook it. Knife wounds are an occupational hazard for prep cooks. Again, be sympathetic. Dishwashers Dishwashers are critical members of the house team. They load plates, glasses, and silverware into the dishwashing machines and scrub pots and pans by hand. They make sure the dishwashing machines are working properly, and they usually take out all of the kitchen trash. Dishwashers are usually the most under-respected and lowest-paid kitchen employees. But without the dishwasher, you would not be able to deliver good service. The best way to show your respect for their efforts is to follow the restaurant procedures for the dish area carefully. Sort silverware properly. Load glass racks correctly. Don't send trash into the dish area for the dishwashers to dispose of. And, of course, thank the dishwashers when they do a good job. Never, ever discuss your tips with or in front of the kitchen staff. If a back-of-the-house employee helps you out of a bad situation-say you forget to turn an order in and he or she rushes the food out for you-it's a good idea to thank that person with some cash. Consider it an investment. As we said earlier, it's a tough job to understand the house. Each restaurant has slightly different responsibilities for different jobs. The most important thing to remember is that the other people in the restaurant are your teammates. You have to know them and work closely with them to win the waiting game. ON YOUR OWN Visit a restaurant and observe the staff. Can you identify their jobs? Who is the host? Is there a sommelier? Does the bartender have a bar back? Excerpted from the waiting game by Mike Kirkham, Peggy Weiss, and Bill Crawford Copyright © 2002 by Mike Kirkham, Peggy Weiss, and Bill Crawford Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Forewordp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Understanding the Housep. 7
Chapter 2 Setting the Scenep. 15
Chapter 3 Owning the Menup. 29
Chapter 4 Serving and Clearing Properlyp. 39
Chapter 5 Completing the Dining Experiencep. 57
Chapter 6 Alcoholic Beverage Servicep. 67
Chapter 7 All About Winep. 81
Chapter 8 All About Foodp. 109
Chapter 9 Sanitation, Safety, and Liabilityp. 141
Chapter 10 Finances and Tipsp. 149
Bonus Chapter: Finding (and Keeping) Your Jobp. 159
Glossaryp. 167
Waiting Attitude and Intelligence Testp. 175
Selected Bibliographyp. 183
Indexp. 185
About the Authorsp. 197