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Sep 6, 2006 04:27 AM

Professional waiter question

We hear a lot about professional chef in the media and our boards but what about the professional waiter? People of my parent's generation would speak in revered tones about professional waiters they encountered yet my generation seems un-phased, unless they get bad service. Are there still a lot of waiters who love the business so much they wait tables their entire lives?

I apologize in advance for my naivete. I don't get very many high end restaurants so I need to be educated.

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  1. I can't speak for any place other than Phoenix, but we have a classic restaurant here in Phoenix that has had professional waiters for years. That place is Durant's, one of the best restaurants in Arizona. Some of the waitstaff have been there for decades.

    If you go to and look at the "Faces Behind the Legends" section, you will see several people who have been waiting tables for a very long period of time and probably will work waiting tables until the day they die.

    1. Yes, there are still professional servers around. Unfortunately, the art of fine service has been supplanted by those who only wait table for the quick buck or to get through college. There's nothing wrong with that but when I tell somenone that I am a "professional server" I get weird looks. It's like "What? Don't you have any REAL skills?"

      I don't know when being a server became a second string profession. I enjoy waiting tables and have been in the restaurant business for over twenty years. I hope to be doing it for a long time to come.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kimmer1850

        i'm with you. recently i was pouring wine and one of the men at the table, trying to make conversation i guess, said "this can't be the only thing you do. you've gotta be in school or something.". it was pretty insulting. i just stopped and gave him a "why would you assume that you stupid jerk" look. i think it worked because he was incredibly nice to me for the rest of the night.

        1. re: rebs

          When I used to wait tables customers would often ask if I was a student, not an uncommon thing for servers to be. Sometimes they would ask more, about what sort of degree I was getting, etc. Once, a table asked me if when I finished grad school I was going to "actually work" (as opposed to waiting tables). I told him I was actually working at the moment (i mean, I was wearing a uniform, clocked in, and waiting on him), and he said, "you know, like real work."

      2. Free Sample, I have a theory about this. Have you ever noticed how trendy restaurants come and go so quickly? Meanwhile, every city has just a few restaurant "institutions" that have survived for decades. (Often never changing the menu.) While the food and menu certainly play a role, I believe the restaurants that make it to "institution status" do so because of their professional waitstaff. That staff is the key element to consistency, customer care and long term success.

        1. Definitely a dying art.

          One or two places in our area have OLD SCHOOL professional wait staff (the kind that can work a whole shift clad in a tuxedo, professional as can be) and you can tell the type right away, unfortunately the ones I see most often have been working for many years and are getting on in age.

          However, as someone said above. there is all too much LACK OF TRAINING and people who just wait tables while looking for a real job (the old joke about all the waiters being "artists" trying to make a buck is often true).

          I've seen one or two more modern restaurants with a younger staff, but with absolutely excellent training. The other nite we ate at a place where the service was darn near perfect... I watched waiters bring dishes to the entire table at once, in a line, all set down on the table at the exact same moment, and dozens of other "fine points" of professional service.

          Of course, the nite after, we went someplace where the waitress could care less to be bothered, never said hello or thank you, and barely brought our food without looking like she really wanted to be home watching reruns on tv and chain smoking.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Sethboy

            Well, there's certainly sometihng to be said for Carlton Club style service, but very few places do it these days.


          2. There are some out there, sure. However, most restaurants don't make it easy for waiters to stay in the business. There are very, very, very few restaurants that offer health insurance to service staff. Even fewer still offer other benefits that tend to come with "professional" jobs--retirement plans, paid vacation, maternity/family leave, sick days, etc. It's hard to stay in a position (permanently)where you have to either pay your own health insurance or do without (which is what most servers I have known have done), when if you get sick you lose a day's pay, and when taking a yearly vacation means losing a week's pay.

            I know there are some restaurants out there who do provide these benefits for service staff and I would guess that they are rewarded with some long-term, loyal, professional staff. Though none of the dozen or so restaurants I have ever worked at, nor the ten or so my husband worked at, have ever provided them. To be honest, I don't actually know anyone who has ever had a serving job that came with basic health insurance. (though, as I said, I'm sure there are some.)

            management positions usually come with some of these benefits, so it seems (from my experience) that those who want to stay in the business end up managing, in large part due to necessity. (It's one thing to forego health insurace when you're twenty-two, it's yet another when you're thirty-two or forty-two.)