If you’re looking for a job in the restaurant industry, listen up. I recently shadowed restaurant veterans at Buffalo Wild Wings in Prescott Valley, AZ. They gave me some invaluable advice on what it takes to succeed in the restaurant business. I can sum it up in one word – personality.
“I’ll stop people in the middle of an interview and just ask them to tell me a joke,” Jamie, my supervisor, told me. “Just to see how they can handle the off the wall questions guests will ask.”
The most important trait you need to succeed as a server is personality. Your customers are going to keep you on your toes and if you’re not quick, watch out. Some tables you serve will want to visit with you, others will want you to take their orders and get out of their way. You’ll learn to tell in the first 15 seconds the kind of person you’re dealing with.
But the common problem with big personalities is a big ego. When I talked with Ceci, the hostess, she told me how she learned to humble herself and not yell at people. She’s a sweetheart, but she explained to me how you just can’t yell at people when they get on your nerves or mess up an order. “You learn how to manage people,” she said.
One aspect of your personality needs to be the ability to roll with the punches. When you’re waiting tables you will inevitably have people deal with you in a negative manner. You’ve got to be able to walk away from that negative table to another one filled with a big, happy family, and do so with a smile on your face. It’s easier said than done.
“Street-smart people do better than book-smart people in most restaurant roles,” Jamie told me. Jamie has managed this particular Buffalo Wild Wings for nearly 10 years, so she knows a thing or two about how to get around in this industry. She told me that when job seekers apply for a position at her location, she wants them to WANT to take her job. It’s a red flag for her when applicants are uninterested in internal promotions. If you’re ambitious and willing to climb the ladder, you’re exactly who she wants.
Most of the afternoon I shadowed Erica, a veteran waitress with a loud personality and welcoming smile. She’s been a waitress for seven years and I was in shock as the regulars flocked in and asked to be seated in her section. She knew most of them by name and what they were going to order before she handed them a menu. People seemed to want to stay longer just to visit with her.
How was she getting all this success? Being herself mostly. She loves her job, you can just tell. When she has people sit in her section who are slightly rude or short with her, she rolls with the punches and keeps smiling.
“It doesn’t faze me anymore,” she told me. “I would say 80 percent of the people I serve are happy and friendly, and the other 20 percent don’t want to socialize at all. It’s just part of being a server. Within 15 seconds, you know if it’s going to be a table you visit with or just serve.”
To be in the restaurant business, you don’t just need a personality in order to serve the customers. You need a personality to be able to work with your team. From the cooks to the servers, it really is a team–a family–in a restaurant. You work closely with everyone so if you are the one who doesn’t get along with others, it probably won’t be long before you realize that the position won't work out. I watched as they joked and teased each other, it was like a big family.
The restaurant business is fun and lucrative if you’re good at your job. Be nice to people, go above and beyond for them, and before long you will have your own regulars. If you decide to go to work at Buffalo Wild Wings remember, “If you’re not shaking your body, you ain’t spinning the wings fast enough.” (What I learned in the kitchen while saucing up the wings.)
Until next time,