Waiters stand as the primary point of contact when guests enter a restaurant.


Waiters serve as the food venue salesperson, regardless of the food venue type. Naturally, with this responsibility, they are required to observe specific etiquette standards.

How waiters approach dining guests typically help retain or lose customers as a result of their service. Often customers quietly leave and never return. Worse, they can make a bad review and influence people with their experience. 

Therefore, the dining guests must have a positive dining experience which can be helped by how waiters adhere to etiquette and hospitality standards. 


1. Pleasantness 


First impressions matter, and there is no second chance to get one. Waiters need to ensure that the first impression they give out is pleasant. 

Pleasantness is exhibiting pleasure or satisfaction. In this case, it shows people that their presence in the venue is very appreciated. It makes people feel welcomed and important.

  • Smile. It costs nothing, and a genuine smile sets the stage for a warm, sincere, effective greeting. How does one smile genuinely?  Researchers at Western University have shown that our brains are pre-wired to perceive wrinkles around the eyes as conveying more intense and more sincere emotions. This eye-wrinkle feature, called the Duchenne marker, occurs across multiple facial expressions, including smiles, phrases associated with pain, and — as found by these researchers — expressions of sadness. Of course, people will not be able to give out a genuine smile all the time. A sincere smile is a conscious effort, but if it is a struggle, check out this good read from smilesincluded.com on how to act on it.
  • Greet everyone who enters warmly. When approaching, the rule is to pleasantly greet guests at the table within one minute of them being seated.
  • Make eye contact as it typically conveys interest. However, it is interesting to note that eye contact does not always guarantee a positive meaning. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, in a competitive environment where negotiation takes place, looking at another person directly in the eye can be a sign of competition and hostility. Make eye contact but not in an intense and creepy manner.

2. Politeness


  • Introduce yourself. Giving your name suggests that you want to establish a relationship.
  • Request for the guest’s permission first to announce the day’s specials, including the price. 
  • Avoid being overly friendly or too familiar. It may creep out people and backfire. Use essential elements of courtesy, such as “please” and “thank you,” and address guests with respect.
  • A waiter’s job is to help. They should refrain from saying “I don’t know” to a guest’s question without immediately following up with “…, but I’ll find out.” Most guests may not expect the waiters to know all the answers, but they sure hope for any form of effort. 
  • Choose moments to speak. Avoid interrupting conversations.  
  • Avoid clearing any plates until everyone is finished.

Check out this list of polite phrases as well as the worst phrases to reply to guests. 


3. Promptness


  • Be prompt when taking drink orders and offer assistance with menu selections if asked. 
  • Refill empty glasses and bread baskets promptly. 


4. Grooming and Hygiene


Grooming and hygiene are essential when preparing or serving. The health department and your employer most likely require you to have:

  • clean hands
  • trimmed nails
  • managed hair 
  • pressed and well-fitting clothing


RELATED READ:  SOP: Employee Health and Personal Hygiene

5. Attentiveness


A waiter should be attentive but not intrusive. They should constantly scan the dining room, and if a guest needs attention, a waiter should either help them or say that they’ll send their server immediately.

It is through observing and staying alert that waiters can somehow anticipate what guests will need. And that can be an opportunity to offer dessert or coffee or process the bill without delay. Never stand over them as they eat. 


6. Proper Serving


For fine dining restaurants, it is a historical rule of thumb to serve from the left. This stems from the tradition of serving meals from a large communal tray. The waiter would scoop up food from a plate or bowl and set it on an individual’s plate. The theory is that many people are thought to be right-handed. Therefore it is less likely to interrupt the diners’ movements during serving.

But in modern times, almost all meals are presented on individual plates, and the waiter only has to place them in front of the guest. Serving it from the RIGHT this time makes it easier for guests to get to the food.

However, there are no hard and fast rules unless you are in a fine dining establishment that sticks to traditions. Instead, you want to serve from the least-intrusive side. 

Other serving etiquettes are as follows: 

  • Clear tables from the diner’s right side, using your right hand, but only after you have asked if the guest is finished with the meal. 
  • Do not reach across the guests to serve them. 
  • Warn diners when a serving dish is too hot and do not touch the food.


7. Exercise Good Judgment


The golden hospitality rule of “The customer is always right” can be challenging. Even if a guest is rude or unreasonable, a waiter should try not to lose their cool. Waiters are still expected to be respectful and allow the guest to express his frustration. Offer to rectify the problem immediately, and if things escalate, the manager is expected to step in to diffuse the tension. Training the waiters on conflict resolution will benefit the staff and the business. 


In Summary:

A waiter is a food business frontline. It is vital that they exhibit proper etiquette when facing and serving guests. Every establishment has a specific protocol for taking orders from the table and giving them to the kitchen and assembly areas. It is every waiter’s responsibility that they learn this. 

Anytime Chefs has been serving Perth and Western Australia food businesses and venues by providing waitstaff. Click here if you need assistance with your next event. 


That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!

Ciao for now,


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