I have served and worked in the resturaunt industry for almost the enirety of my college career. I try to make every situation that I'm in, no matter good or bad, into a learning experience. I will not be a waitress for the rest of my life, however, I have acquired a lesson or two that I know will aid me wherever life does take me;
1. How to work under pressure: breathe
After being a waitress, I can say with confidence that I am prepared to take any high-stress job, head on. When you have a wait at the door, a full section, orders that still need to be put in, a backed up kitchen and aggravated guests...you learn what pressure is. Being a waitress involves a lot of multitasking, a lot of running around, and a lot of stress. I am one that can sometimes crack under pressure, and when I feel as if I am reaching my tolerance level for stress at work, I am reminded by myself and coworkers, to take a deep breath. This usually helps me gather myself and keep it going efficiently.
2. Never judge a book by it's cover
People always assume that they can pinpoint what tables will tip and will not tip. For example, lets take the stereotype that black people don't tip. My parents (very black), tip a minimum of 25% every time that we eat out. With this being said, I treat every table that sits in my section as if they will leave me a 25% tip. I rarely am stiffed (left no money). If there is a party or group at the door that no servers wish to serve because they predict they wont tip, I am never reluctant to take them and 9/10 times, it's money in my pocket missed out on by others.
3. Don't run from your problems
I mess up a lot. Like a lot, a lot. I'm the server that can sometimes drop your food, forget to put in your order or refill your drink if I'm too busy. However, when I make a mistake I own up to it, am apologetic and work 100x harder from that point forward to fix it. I think this is why the tables that I mess up on the most often tip me the best.
4. Expect/prepare for the worst, hope for the best
When I first started serving, I would look at my schedule, look at the amount of shifts I had, and "guestimate" how much I would make that week and mentally assign that "guestimated" amount to bills, groceries, rent, etc. However, a problem that I ran into is thatwhen you rely on tips, your income can fluctuate drastically.When you work for a little over $2 an hour, basically only relying on tips, you never know what to expect.
One day, you can have 5 tables in a row each tip you $20 because you're "adorable" and "sweet", and another night you can have 5 other tables in a row that you give superb service to, but get nothing but exact change from. If it's cold and rainy one night, or you work a shift right after a holiday that still has everyone's fridges filled with left-overs, it's quite possible that the restaurant will be dead and that you will leave making little to no money. This eventually balances out with the busy nights that you work of course, however, I now have an emergency fund for those dead weeks and go into every shift almost expecting the worst. This way, I am not ever disappointed or left in a financial bind.
6. Nothing lasts forever
In my opinion, the best part about serving is that each shift is a new shift. New day, new orders, new customers. No matter how terrible or a shift you may be having, your customers will eventually leave, you will eventually leave, and your shift will eventually be over, just like all other tough things in life.