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Susie Ross
Susie Ross

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The Art of Front and Back Waiter Systems

It takes two to tango, two to make a marriage work and two to ride a tandem bike.  What does all this have to do with the front and back waiter system?  Well, have you ever tried to ride a tandem bike?  As in tango, marriage and the ever-frustrating tandem bike, someone has to take a back seat (you know it had to be said).  In other words, someone has to cede his control to his partner.  There is a certain amount of compromise for both people.

I believe, and you may agree Servers, that the most successful of you are control freaks.  You can admit it - it's actually ok to be a bit of a control freak in this business.  It's your business!  Someone had better be controlling it!  Who better than you?

Back to the tandem bike...if you have ever tried riding one, you know that the person in the back has to trust the "driver," knowing that she will be steering you and her on the bike path, through traffic and other sudden obstacles and foreign objects.  If you're in the back, you can't see what she sees.  You have to rely on her judgment and abilities to get you through whatever comes at you - unscathed.

If you're the back waiter, or the server assistant, it's kind of the same thing.  The front server is selling, talking, maneuvering and guiding your guests to either a wonderful dining experience or a mad trek through back yards and across crazy busy intersections.  All you can do is sit in the back, keep your balance and pedal assist your fearless leader through good and bad.

And it is all based on the communication and direction you receive from your front waiter.

It sure is great to have a team of strong, confident and well-organized servers.  Are they the best team for the front and back waiter system?  That is the question.  Someone has to cede his control to someone else.

Understand that you don't give up total control.  You can stop pedaling and demand that your driver tell you what the #$*&$%@ is going on.  You can stop the flow of service by doing so; just so you know you have some control over the situation.  So trust is an important issue here.  Everyone's performance and income is reliant on the others to give the best service possible.

I expect that Ginger Rogers fully trusted Fred Astaire while dancing.  Let's face it - he could have let her fall so many times!  A back waiter has to trust that the front waiter can time her tables accordingly and not make him look like a fool when he brings the entrees out while guests are still eating clam chowder.  Fred drops Ginger...Sylvia Server drives you through the busiest intersection in town...you get the picture...

It boils down to communication and control from the front server.  She has to be able to time the courses of all her tables efficiently.  The server assistant will try to combine his steps and courses based on the information given to maximize the efficiency the front waiter has established.  A very graceful dance indeed.

Back (way back - almost the dark ages) when I was starting out in the fine dining world, I was a back waiter, of course.  We didn't really have bussers; therefore, back waiters were sort of glorified bussers.  I didn't mind; I was learning from the older, more experienced servers and had a great time because of it!  I agreed to cede my total control to someone else and stuffed a sock in my ego's big mouth.

I was usually back waiter to a server named David.  David was from Iran and had a wonderful accent that people just loved to listen to.  We made GREAT money because he was good at what he did - and he used his accent as a tool - always use what you have to your advantage!

Eventually we began alternating front and back waiter positions.  No one minded because we worked as a team and made great money together.  In fact, it can become a real treat to be the back waiter if you truly trust your front waiter.

I watched, listened and followed the examples set by the other waiters.  They took me under their collective wing and made sure I was as good as they were.  By being a back waiter, I understood the organization and preparation necessary to be successful on the floor.  It helped me be a better front waiter when it came time for me to step into that role.  I understood what I was leading and how to steer better.

We all knew our primary duties; we all knew when it was necessary to get off the bike and switch seats.  I credit that team of professionals for some of my best training and skills.

In short, a great front and back waiter team can create a smooth ride through a beautiful park or perform a graceful tango together without tripping and create a seamless dining experience for their guests.

And the marriage analogy I threw in at the beginning?  You're on your own with that one.

Whether you're riding a tandem bike, dancing the tango with your Fred or Ginger, or serving guests in tandem, best of luck out there!

Training and information is the key!  Contact me, Susie, at Waiter Training, either by phone or email.  My business number is (720) 203-4615, and email address is Susie@waiter-training.com.  Web address is http://www.waiter-training.com.

Excellence is an act won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but rather we have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
                                                                                - Aristotle

 

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