I waited tables for many years — in all kinds of venues, from a Country Kitchen to a country club. One of the things that annoyed me most was when a diner would compliment my serving skills, and add, “You’re way overqualified for this job.”
Hey — this is a lot harder than it looks. Most people have jobs that allow them to space off at their desks if needed; servers during a dining rush are always “on” — upholding grace under pressure while unflappably going between overburdened bartenders, stressed-out kitchens and customers who just want to have fun.
To do the job well takes organization, a great memory, fluid social skills, decorum and — especially in these food-loving times — a thorough knowledge of food and wine. The job also requires an often-tense balance between pride and humility. You may be justifiably pleased at your expertise in all things food, but you find yourself biting your tongue when a diner mispronounces a foreign foodie term.
Waiting tables also takes something even less tangible: a certain joy of life, generosity of spirit and a deep desire to show diners a great time for their hard-earned money. No training manual or script could ever drill such a spirit into a staff. Yet somehow, these five top front-of-the-house teams have gotten to the heart of what the restaurant business is all about.