Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today's is written by ACM editorial trainee, and former hospitality professional Anna Houlahan.
Being a waiter in a busy restaurant is hard yakka.
You have to be in a constant state of alert while acting like the calmest person in the room.
In a busy metropolitan restaurant a waiter will be responsible for the dining experience of 15-25 guests, repeating the process two to four times per night.
Every second counts when you are juggling the needs of the business against the desires of the guests.
The business needs you to push harder, turn more tables, sell more food and wine.
The guest wants to relax into a banquette for the night and have all of their needs anticipated.
So how do good waiters manage it?
Being a waiter means interrupting conversations, so tuning in to the ebb and flow of chat at the table helps a waiter to avoid butting in before the punch line with an offer to help with a wine selection.
Wittiness catches demanding guests off-guard.
The worst kinds of diners size up their waiters and try to make them sweat.
Comedic timing can help a waiter project a sense of playful nonchalance that, coupled with diligent service and good food, rarely fails to win over a tricky customer.
Any fine dining waiter knows the pomp and ceremony of linen tablecloths and 'Denominazione di Origine Controllata' can alienate more nervous diners.
A dry joke and a wink can make the uncomfortable dad at the table feel better about how few Carlton United Brewery products are on the drinks list.
Have you ever walked up to a table of drunken larrikins and given a speech about seasonal ingredients?
Because good waiters summon the courage to do that every day.
There are many moving parts during a busy service and when things go wrong, like a missing order or a burnt steak, a little bravery goes a long way.
It's important to front up and readjust the guests expectations, an honest conversation early can save a dressing down in the long run.
It takes courage to advocate for yourself, an essential part of working in the hospitality ecosystem.
Recent years have shown the practice of underpaying and overworking restaurant staff to be widespread.
It takes a fair contract to make a happy worker.
Restaurants are in the business of selling revelry.
A good waiter will remember to leave perfectionism at the door and join in with the bump and grind of service.
In Melbourne, a typical restaurant bill totals 10-30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
The sums spent are not insignificant but a sense of perspective reminds you the stakes are lower than they often feel.
Unless peanut anaphylaxis is involved, in which case the stakes are very high.
A waiter can find themselves swallowed whole by the needs of the business and the guests, it's important to remember that your mental and physical health is the priority.
The 16 hour working days fuelled by cigarettes and panic will wear down any waiter, sooner or later.
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