Don’t Discount the Inexperienced

This past weekend I helped a friend of mine and served as the maître d for an event of 200 people that he was hosting (it was great to get back to my “banquet” roots). Shortly after arriving and meeting the service team, I realized that many were inexperienced and for a few of them, this event would be their first time working as a waiter. I got that deer-in-the-headlights look from some. WHEW, I knew I was in for a challenging night.

It was easy for me to get in the frame of mind that these “servers” would do a terrible job and the party’s attendees (our customers) would suffer. But, as the optimist that I try to be, I started from the beginning and got into my service-trainer mode.

Don’t Discount the Inexperienced Waiter

I showed them the basics, explained exactly what was expected of us and what I expected of them. I described how, when, and WHY we will be operating the event, used respectful language, offered encouraging words, and gave plenty of smiles throughout the evening.

Then it happened…

They turned into waiters. Now, don’t get me wrong, they were far from perfect. But they went out and did a great job! They set a nice table, folded crisp napkins, and placed the glassware exactly where instructed. After I supplied them with pens (a MUST HAVE for any waiter) they took food orders tableside and served the 4-course meal with enthusiasm.

As our guests left, I saw their smiles and took their “thanks for a great night” comments as a measure of a successful evening. The guest of honor was happy as well as our host. We did our job and we did it better than I expected. Next came my thanks to the team and a show of appreciation for their fine efforts.

Are You Right for the Job, Even When You’re Inexperienced?

Sure, some were better than others and some were less attentive to their guests than I wanted. In time, this will improve with more confidence and training. But for a group of inexperienced waiters, they took direction well, responded to the guest’s needs, and made me proud. What more could I have asked for?

The moral of this story…

Never discount the ability of someone who hasn’t done it before. With proper direction, plenty of patience, and endless optimism, you’d be surprised what is possible.

Image courtesy of