Thought Center


How Waiting Tables Set Me Up for Success

I have always said that working as a server (it was called waitressing back then) was one of the best learning experiences of my life because it taught me important skills that I use in my job every day.

Serving was a desirable job in my youth because you had the opportunity to make money instantly by earning tips. waitress But little did I know that slinging hash would set me up for success all these years later. Below are some of the ways waiting tables made me a great consultant.

Getting slammed. This is restaurant lingo for having multiple tables sat in your section at once.  It’s never ideal, but when it happens, you must jump into action and take care of every party with a smile.  This taught me tremendous project management skills, including stress management and prioritization. The funny thing is, I still have nightmares about being slammed to this day.

Recovering from mistakes.  Who hasn’t had their food order completely botched?  Well, imagine being the person responsible and having to correct it so that you earn your tip. My income depended on customers’ satisfaction so there was no choice but to acknowledge the mistake, apologize for it and react quickly to fix it.  This taught me that everyone makes mistakes, but owning up to them and having a plan to fix them, is always the best solution and will almost always ensure a positive outcome.

The customer is always right. Even when they are wrong. As a server, you are responsible for whether a customer has a good or bad experience. The owner of the establishment is depending on you to make a good impression.  This taught me the importance of customer service. Always make sure your clients feel heard and understood; make sure you communicate clearly, in writing, and focus on solutions rather than excuses.  

Would you like fries with that? Upselling is common practice in food service.  The more the customer orders, the higher the bill, and thus the higher the tip! This taught me how important my current client base is to growing my business.  Never miss an opportunity to provide “extra” services to a client you are already working with.

Communication.  Your food is coming right up. Is everything tasting good? More coffee? Giving status updates plus asking about and anticipating needs, are great ways to ensure good communication with clients.

Working for tips. A server’s income is based on performance. The same is true for consultants. We must either get results for the client or they will find someone who will.  

The usual. Having regular customers is money in your pocket as a server. The same it true for repeat business. Nurturing relationships is beneficial to growing and sustaining a business. Always treat clients like they are valued and they will always come back.

I have held other positions in my professional career that have contributed to my success, but serving, for me, has been one of the most impactful.  

What former jobs have set you up for success?