What's it really like?
Kelly Day, 20, has been working as a Waitress in a hotel for three months, she gives us a glimpse of what life is like as Waiting Staff in a busy hotel.
'"My main responsibilities are to take customers' orders, deliver their meals, serve drinks, clear away their tables and then ready them for the next customer. The most challenging aspect of this job is the long and late hours, I am working until 11.30 most nights. At first I also had difficulty in dealing with unsatisfied customers. However, the people I work with have made the job pleasant and enjoyable. Through my work within the hospitality industry I have gained social skills and become more confident in interacting with other people. I have also gained experience in team work and found that duties are completed more quickly and efficiently when working in a team. My advice to people starting in this business is to be patient; it is sometimes hard work and there are customers who are not satisfied that you need to appease. Just smile and stay calm as this will help the situation. Also, try and keep a clear head when it is busy; think strategically about what you have to do otherwise you will confuse yourself and this will affect others. Finally, this is a good occupation to have experience in because it increases your confidence and there is a lot to learn from it."'
Waiting Staff are often the first port-of-call within a business in the hospitality industry, making this a very important role within the workings of the company.
Waiting Staff provide a link between the customers and the management, as well as between the customers and the kitchen/bar. The role is often fast-paced and tiring, you may be required to spend some time within the kitchen, which can get very hot and busy so you need to be prepared for this. There are perhaps more women than men in the profession and it is a very popular initial career choice for students as the hours are generally quite flexible. The hours can be anything from 3-10 hour shifts covering busy periods such as lunch and dinner, and more subdued periods. Much of this time will be spent on your feet so you must come prepared in smart, but comfortable footwear. The conditions are not particularly dangerous as long as you use your common sense within the kitchen and keep your wits about you. The work will mainly be conducted within the restaurant area, the kitchen and the bar; during summer if your establishment has an outdoor seating area, you may be required to take food and drinks outside to customers. Each establishment will have a different till system, and depending on how yours operates, you may need to learn the workings of this, but your superiors will ensure you are confident using this equipment when you start.
Salary is often measured hourly and can range from minimum wage to £10/hour if you have special skills such as Silver Service training or are a Sommelier (wine waiter), or if you are working at a private or public function, such as Royal Ascot. Full-Time Waiting Staff can expect to earn around £9-11,000 reaching to £13,000 with more experience; a Maitre d', or Head Waiter/Waitress, can earn up to£17,000. Aside from this, there is also the matter of tips. Each company has a different way of dealing with these; some establishments pool the tips and then divide them equally among those who worked that shift, while others allow staff to take home their own individual tips from the shift.
- Setting up the restaurant area, memorising any specials of the day
- Showing customers to their seats
- Take drink and food orders
- Take out the customers' food and ensure everything is satisfactory
- Clear away the customers' plates, ensuring they have not been left waiting too long
- Set up the table ready for the next party after your customers have finished
- You may also be required to help by preparing desserts or washing up to aid with the smooth running of the kitchen.
For most roles no formal qualifications are needed, but most employers would prefer if you had GCSE English and Maths or equivalent, a good command of the English language and some experience with customer service, although this is by no means essential, as a friendly attitude and willingness to learn are just as important.
- A good command of the English language
- The ability to stay calm and level-headed in a busy, and possibly confrontational, environment
- Good customer service skills
- Good organisation and memory skills
- The ability to work well within a team
Waiting Staff often spend a large amount of their time going from the restaurant area to the kitchen, which can be quite tiring, thus it is important to be quite physically fit and to wear comfortable footwear. The kitchen can get quite hot and crowded so you must be prepared for this and wear clothes that you feel comfortable wearing in humid conditions and for long periods of time. Shift hours can last from 3-10 hours, most lasting around 6 hours covering one of the key 'busy periods', usually the lunch or dinner period. The workplace is not particularly dangerous, although you must be aware that people will be walking round with knives and hot food within the kitchen. As long as you use your common sense within these areas you should not have any problems.
No real experience is needed, although some customer service experience would be beneficial. For more advanced roles such as a Maitre d' or Restaurant Supervisor, you will need extensive experience as Waiting Staff and possibly some vocational qualifications, such as NVQ 1 in Hospitality, BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Hospitality or the NVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Management, which includes some modules in supervision and management.
Major employers of Waiting Staff are large chain restaurants, pubs, hotels and event companies providing workers for establishments such as Twickenham and Wembley Stadium. Restaurants such as TGI Fridays, Frankie and Benny's and Pizza Hut are often looking for waiting staff. Large chain public house companies such as Beefeaters and The Spirit Group, which owns the Old Orleans chain, are also large employers of waiting staff. Hotels such as The Ritz and the Hilton chain are often looking for waiting staff to work within their restaurants, as well as to provide room service for the hotel guests. Waiting Staff are required at all kinds of sporting venues, such as football clubs, cricket clubs and for larger events such as the Regatta at Henley-on-Thames. For more information on companies, which provide for this kind of work, contact the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET).
Waiting Staff is generally regarded as the entry position into the hospitality industry, as well as bar-tending. This job can lead to roles with slightly more responsibility, such as the Maitre d', or Head Waiter/Waitress, who is in charge of all other Waiting Staff on the shift. This can then lead to Restaurant Supervisor and Manager roles, which are concerned with the entire running of the restaurant floor, taking in bar staff and kitchen staff as well.