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Get out of the weeds!

in the weeds

We’ve all been there, but there are some tricks of the trade to help you get ahead and out of the weeds.

I’ve been in the weeds more than I can count, but there’s one time that haunts me to this day. I was just promoted to a waiter at a bustling establishment. One Saturday night, we were packed — and although I was new to the job, the manager had no choice but to seat my section all at once. A six-top ordered a bottle of wine for the table. Panicked (as is typical when in the weeds), I managed to break 2-3 wine glasses directly over my head while pulling glasses from an overhead wine rack. Back at the table, I noticed a stream of blood coming down my arms midway through opening the bottle. I had broken glass caught between my arms and torso, and whether it was from the motion of corking the bottle or rushing over to the table — I’d been cut and mortified. Long story short — ‘in the weeds’ is nowhere you want to be for long! With a few helpful tips and tricks, you don’t need to stay there. Here are a few ways to get out of the weeds.

Greet tables right away. 
Even if you’re extremely behind, it’s best to take that extra couple of seconds to great new tables and set expectations — plus, you gain a lot more patience from a customer when you’ve at least acknowledged their presence. It’s totally acceptable to greet a table and let them know that you will be right back to take orders for appetizers and drinks. Now, you’ve just gained a few more minutes to complete whatever tasks you need to do before taking new orders.

Anticipate guests’ needs.
Anticipating guests’ needs is not only crucial for getting out of the weeds, but it will likely keep you from falling behind to begin with. By staying two steps ahead of your tables at all times, you have better control over your section and time management. For instance, if a customer orders appetizers — immediately set them up with shared plates and condiments or whatever they need. It’s far more time-consuming to be flagged down by a customer because they need something when you’re in the middle of rushing to put out another fire. Try and organize your section, so you’re always ahead of the game.

Utilize your teammates.
Sometimes, you just can’t get to everything at once, and that’s where your teammates come in handy. It’s essential to learn when to ask for help. If you feel like you’re falling behind, look around and ask if anyone is free to greet a table, stock plates, and silverware, or run something for you. In restaurant work, we all are working toward the common goal of providing stellar service, so asking for help is not only okay — it’s encouraged.

Never leave a room empty-handed.
Try to constantly bring or take something with you when leaving the dining room, bar or kitchen. During a rush, it’s more than likely that something needs to be refilled or removed. For example, if you’re heading to the kitchen, look for full bus tubs or dirty dishes you can clear from a table. If you’re leaving the kitchen, check for food to run in the window, or clean silverware, plate, or glassware needing to be replenished at server stations.

Breathe and stay hydrated.
Nothing impacts your performance more than being completely stressed out. It’s entirely more challenging to strategize the next steps to get ahead when you’re stressed — and more likely than not, your tables can feel the chaotic energy pulsating from your impatient smile as you’re waiting for them to decide if they want fries or a salad for their side dish. Take a moment to breathe, take a sip of water and gather yourself. A moment’s reprieve can go miles toward clearing your head so you can map out what steps you need to take to get out of the weeds.

There are many more ways to prepare yourself to stay ahead of the storm, but these are just a few foundational steps that will set you up for success. Once you’ve gathered what works for you, you might even find yourself more confident to handle larger sections and parties — increasing your skillsets and work experience!

Ashley Lange

Ashley Lange likes to cook, loves to bake and is always day-dreaming of her next meal. Ashley has spent the last 10 years in various roles within the food industry and is currently a server in Portland, Oregon.

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