Why two new books that cover the basics of waiting tables are so necessary.
You have to figure the local restaurant industry is desperate for employees when women of my generation are working as carhops at Sonic, when restaurateurs encourage their cooks to take second jobs in search of waitresses to pirate away from other eateries, and when cafes are completely staffed with obnoxious, gum-snapping teenagers who gleefully answer questions by saying, "I just got here five minutes ago, I'm completely unprepared for my shift!" I witnessed all of these atrocities within the past couple of weeks, and it got me wondering just where restaurant owners can go in search of reliable waitservice employees and what standards are being used to train the ones already in place. Though I haven't magically located any hidden pool of service talent, I have recently received two very impressive training manuals that should be of tremendous assistance to any restaurant owner, manager, or waitperson who is concerned about improving the quality of service in their establishment. After all, industry surveys consistently report that the public ranks good service as a major reason for repeat business. The first book, Remarkable Service (John Wiley & Sons, $29.95, paper), is a product of the Culinary Institute of America and features a foreword by restaurant guide owner Tim Zagat. Zagat makes the point that "as culinary training in this country has matured, so has the professional standing of the chef" and insists that "the same standards for professionalism and training on the service side can and will make an enormous difference to the entire restaurant industry." The book itself is grounded in what the authors call the "Nine Basic Principles of Service." Remarkable service, the book explains, is welcoming, friendly, and courteous; is knowledgeable, efficient, and well-timed; and is consistent, communicates effectively, and instills trust and exceeds expectations. After each of these principles is explained thoroughly, the book goes on to provide a short history of dining table service and then sets out chapters with detailed information on every aspect of restaurant service, from dining room organization and personnel, to beverage and wine service, to money handling, safety, and sanitation. No aspect of service is overlooked, and the appendices offer glossaries of culinary terms and restaurant slang, sample forms, as well as other training resources. The second manual was produced much closer to home. The Waiting Game: The Ultimate Guide to Waiting Tables is a locally self-published volume written by highly respected Austin restaurateur Peggy Weiss, co-owner of Jeffrey's, Shoreline Grill, and Cippolina, longtime Shoreline manager Mike Kirkham, and author Bill Crawford. While somewhat less formal, The Waiting Game is no less informative than Remarkable Service. It offers a very accessible format with chapters on the fundamentals of American service, service techniques and table maintenance, winning strategies for great tips, effective ways to handle complaints, sanitation, basic restaurant finances, wine and alcoholic beverage service, and knowledge of food being served. The Waiting Game features a no-nonsense, nuts-and-bolts approach to successful restaurant service and is the kind of manual any food service manager could utilize in staff training or that any waitperson interested in increasing their take-home pay could use as a primer or refresher course. The Waiting Game is so highly regarded, in fact, a major publishing house, HarperCollins, has recently purchased it with plans for national distribution. Both books are available locally at BookPeople.
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