A day in the life of a waitress…
According to The Morning Advertiser, half of British teenagers would not consider a career in hospitality. I am entering my fourth year now as a waitress at the Cartford Inn. It's a love hate relationship - the praise and politeness of one table counteracted by difficult requests of another. Yet in light of the transferable skills I have taken away, the confidence I have gained and the friends I have made on my journey, I would ask 50% of our young population to think again about treating the role as a means of gathering a bit of spending money. What the Cartford offers is a sense of community. You are not just a cog in a machine but a vital and amiable face that local customers will soon put a name to if you put time into them.
The ideal shift will begin with a freshly washed and ironed apron, the trade mark navy polo and the walk past a bustling outdoor seating area in summer, or the twinkling fairy-lit trees in the winter. A typical evening in the Cartford Inn is one that always has a potent sense of excitement, a vibrant atmosphere to match the eclectic and hand selected décor. There are the usual suspects drinking amongst friends at the end of the bar, the weekly frequenters sitting at their customary table, the new visitors gushing over the menu, the beautiful view from the river lounge, questioning what those two huge wooden structures are at the end of the car park (the answer, our luxury pods, and well worth a visit). It is the job of a chef to cook the food perfectly, to construct art on a plate, but it is the job of a waiter or waitress to create and cultivate an experience, to read a customer and know exactly what they want, be it a more relaxed approach or a more informative one. A person can visit us and enjoy one of the greatest meals they’ve ever had but if they receive the dish without a smile, they sit down to their table without genuine and thoughtful small talk or are left unattended, deposited and forgotten, they won’t return. The front of house team at the Cartford Inn are essential in bringing back business. In four years, some of the regular customers I have met I would now consider not just familiar but friendly faces. They remember what I am studying at University, they are interested in what I’d like to go into at the end of my degree and underneath all their questions there is a genuine care about me as a person, not just as their accustomed waitress. New faces may join our floor team but what remains unchanged is the professional but also considerate service we provide, and we reap the rewards for an approach that many chain restaurants could only hope to emulate.
Of course, the job is not always easy. The mistakes you make are always noticed, be that with a shake of the head, a bitter muttering under the breath or a delivery of some choice words, all dependent on the scale of the crime (a spilled drink, for example, warrants the first reaction, a dropped plate the latter). In the service profession, it can often be forgotten that we are human. When a staff member forgets an order or smashes a glass he is warmly and gently reminded that he is not the first nor will he be the last to make a error. I will never forget emptying calamari dipping sauce on to a male customer’s cream chino trousers. I CURSED the day I'd ever claimed to be without fault, my sleep that night filled with-nightmares of table five’s tomatoey nether regions.
The comeback is what matters. The genuine apology, the quick slap on the wrist and the determination to concentrate more, to make amends and not to repeat the same accident. Knowing that of the twenty tables you’ve visited that night, there is at least one who you’ve loved talking to or whose night you have improved with your smiles and attentiveness makes it all worth while. I love the friends I have made amongst my team, allies in the face of complaints and shoulders to cry on when confronted with slip-ups. More than anything, I love how waiting on allows you to become a reader of people- a public psychologist. Expressions are identified, studied and contingency plans developed. Loneliness can be spotted, and a warm chat delivered. Table 40 wants to talk, table 26 want colder professionalism. Baby news, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, the restaurant, and you, see all stages of life, a study of humanity in its little quirks and idiosyncrasies.
P.s. How was everything for you? Would you like to see the sweet menu?