I’d like to share what I learned in my two-hour waitressing career. It was an early Saturday morning many, many years ago and I had volunteered to work at a March of Dimes charity pancake breakfast.

We were expecting a big crowd and even had the Easter Bunny for kids to take pictures with. I had never waitressed before, but I brought my smile and thought I was ready to go. I mean, how hard could it possibly be to take orders for pancakes with bacon or sausage and a drink?

Allow me to set the stage: Soft background music plays as the curtain raises at 8 a.m….

Volunteers: (Volunteers greet as many patrons as possible and get them seated quickly in the designated area you will be serving) “Good morning!  We are so glad to see you and look forward to serving you!  Do you have your pancake ticket?”

Patrons: (Moving as a giant herding stampede making as much noise as possible as you all talk at once; kids crying or pouting) “Did I really have to bring the ticket?” “I have one extra person so I’ll need another ticket”  “Where’s the restroom?” “Hi, thanks for taking time out of your day to do this.” “WAAH! I don’t want to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap mom!”

Me: (Smiling on the outside, but thinking on the inside…) “Oh boy, this is going to be an interesting morning. Is it appropriate to laugh out loud?

What happened during the next two hours was both rewarding and enlightening. It infinitely increased the respect  I have for all servers as I can now say that I’ve walked in their shoes. I’m definitely now a much more prepared and observant patron.

Here’s what I learned from this experience:


  • Did you know that there are at least 10 drink options at every restaurant between the soda machine, coffee, water, milk, and juice selections available?
  • Did you know that grace and balance are required skills to carry trays of food or carrying a tray full of glasses? (Well, that’s just awe-inspiring, gravity defying, miracle work.)
  • Did you know that every kitchen has a one-way flow to prevent disastrous collisions? (It only takes one time forgetting that to learn your lesson.)
  • Non-slip, non-skid soles on your shoes are a good idea.
  • Crime rates must be on the rise in the restaurant business. (I had no idea my pens were so valuable.)

What I learned as a waitress:

  • Smile and welcome your guests. Charm their socks off to keep them happy.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and an apron or full body tarp. It’s amazing how much food you end up wearing.
  • Write down the order along with those special requests and repeat the order as many times as you need to until the guest is satisfied you have it right (and you are certain that they really did say “two glasses of chocolate milk but sugar free syrup please”).
  • Keep the glasses filled. No one likes to hunt around the restaurant and waive you down for a refill.
  • Thank your guests and SMILE.

What I learned as a patron:

  • If you visit a restaurant that has volunteer workers performing fundraising, PLEASE be patient.
  • Make any special requests up front…not after the order is in. The server and chef will both appreciate it.
  • Thank the server each time they visit the table, especially when they are thoughtful enough to bring extra napkins and keep your glasses full. It will encourage them to do it again and others will benefit as they learn.
  • If the manager stops by your table, praise your server if they’ve earned it. You can also take your receipt and go online to the company’s website to put in a good word for outstanding service.
  • Tip your server above the minimum for great service and even more for outstanding service. Trust me, they’ve earned it.

So think about these things the next time you’re at a restaurant or any event where there are servers waiting on you. Actually, think about these things no matter where you are. Kindness and patience are traits that work well anywhere!