So you got hired for the job, congratulations! and it’s your first day of training. Now in most situations when you get hired you will be given a brief overview of how your training will be structured. More than likely you will start off “shadowing” another server who will teach you the standards and procedures of the restaurant as well as how a normal breakfast/lunch/dinner service flows.
*Shadowing simply means to follow a server around as they work a normal service period while showing you and explaining things to you along the way.
What you should bring with you on your first day:
- a notepad/order pad
- a wine/bottle opener
- matches or a lighter
- a watch
- comfortable non-slip shoes
- breath mints
- a great attitude
- your smile
So I’ll briefly explain why I think that these are the tools you should bring with you to your new serving job.
Now I usually carry a minimum of 4 pens on me during a shift, and the reason for this is because during service your pens get used by yourself, other servers, guests signing credit cards or asking to borrow a pen and even sometimes managers. In hospitality, pens are like currency so you have to keep a tight hold on them so you don’t have to constantly keep buying them. I usually have 10 pens in my locker at work because also some people don’t give them back (guests, servers, and managers) or they just simply run out (or on 2 occasions leak all over me in my pocket).
So what’s the point of having pens if you don’t have anything to write on? Your notepad/order pad is your safety net, by that, I mean that if you write everything down then there is no room for mistakes. In my early days of serving I used to try to impress my tables by taking orders for tables of 6 people by memory, then I stopped doing that when one day I had to go back for to a table to confirm an appetizer for one of the guests and I felt like an idiot plus I wasted my time on something that could have been so easily avoided if I just wrote the order down.
Also if you write all your orders down and repeat the order to your guest(s) then you cover yourself if someone who gets their drink or meal says that it was not what they ordered. It also helps you if you have to set a table with meal specific cutlery (soup spoons, steak knives, oyster forks, etc.) or condiments like ketchup for fries, or mustard for a burger because you know who is having what meal, and what they need to go with their meal.
Sometimes you will be opening a bottle of wine for guests at a table, or there are some places that have standards of having to open a bottled beer or cooler at the table and either pour it out for them or just place it on the table. I’ve seen a few times where a server went to a table with 4 bottled beers and didn’t have an opener with him which meant he had to walk all the way back to the bar (while the guests stared at their unopened beers) and come back to open it for them. If you don’t have an opener there are some cheap ones on the “Server Store” page.
Matches or a lighter
You will have smoking guests who will get up and leave the restaurant to go have a cigarette. So if a guest has misplaced/lost/ran out of a means to light that cigarette they will most likely ask you for matches or a lighter (providing their friends don’t have one). It’s such a small thing but people really appreciate if you can help them out with this.
Also if you work in a place that has candles or serves flaming shots then obviously having the means to light them will be a lot easier than rubbing some sticks together and hoping for the best.
This one is pretty well self-explanatory. You can tell a guest the time if they ask, see how long until your break or finishing time, track meal times if necessary or if your section has reservations you know when they will be arriving.
Comfortable non-slip shoes
You will be on your feet and moving around for the majority of your shift so investing in some comfortable non-slip shoes is a must if you want to leave work with non-blistered/sore feet, or without slipping over and perhaps doing some serious damage. For me, having a good pair of shoes makes a significant impact on how efficiently and quickly I can move around a restaurant without any pain or slipping over and busting myself up.
How would you feel if you were out at a restaurant and your server came up to you and smelled bad? Your probably not going to have an entirely enjoyable experience and your probably not going to say anything because it’s not a topic which has an easy approach to talk about without either upsetting someone, embarrassing them, or having an extremely awkward moment. This is one thing that I fear the most because I would be so embarrassed if someone told me that I had an odor problem… especially someone who I’m serving.
If you’re a smoker or if you had a break to eat before you get back into your section it’s always good to come back not smelling like an ashtray or the tuna sandwich you just ate (sorry for the tuna lovers out there but I’m just not a fan:)). I recommend mints over gum because chewing gum at a table is not a good look nor is it appropriate.
A great attitude
Having a great attitude when you walk in the door will give you a great start to your first day. Others will notice your positive attitude and it will uplift those around you who might not necessarily be having such a great day, this also will make a good impression on your supervisors or managers. Not only will a great attitude make you feel good, but you tend to focus more and retain information better which on your first day at your new job is important.
(I’ve seen negative attitudes lead to people getting fired, lose friends, make colleagues despise them, arguments with guests which will in most cases lead to getting fired and also the dissolution of relationships outside of work)
Smiling is contagious and it makes you and others feel good. As simple as it is to smile (which requires less effort than frowning) it is such a positive and effective way to make your guests feel happy and welcomed, oh and let us not forget that for you, happy guests generally means a better tip.
To sum everything up.
All in all your going to be fine because you will be shown what to do every step of the way so be sure to act like a sponge and absorb as much information as possible (writing it down if you have to).
The last thing I will leave you within this post is to ask as many questions as you need to. Don’t be shy, you’re here to learn as much as you can about the industry and without asking questions your just going to make the work harder on yourself. Just don’t ask the same question four times :).
Cheers, and all the best to you!