Working as Waiting Staff in a Coffee Shop

Next in our series on Working in Hospitality, we’ll look into training and working as part of the Wait staff in a coffee shop.

As always, the first step is getting the job, once you have, it’s important to know how best to go about the role.

What’s required of you will vary depending on the venue you’re working in, but the core principles will remain the same. We can’t tell you what it is like everywhere, but we can give you an insight into some of the things to expect. For sake of this article, we will use the term Waiter, in reference to the titles of waiter and waitress. It is worth noting that there is no difference in job function between these two titles.

The Role

Take a moment to think about your favourite cafe or restaurant. Why do you love it there? There’s probably a few reasons right? Good coffee, good food and a good atmosphere. One thing for certain though, it’s definitely not because of the terrible wait staff! 

Wait staff can make or break any customer’s experience in a coffee shop. No matter how good the coffee is, there’s nothing that keeps customers away more than bad service – no pressure! We aren’t trying to be dramatic, but it’s important to know how key the wait staff are in a coffee shop (or any other venue for that matter). 

As a waiter, your main responsibilities will be:

  • Greeting and serving all customers and patrons in a courteous and professional manner. 
  • Take orders and deliver them to patrons in a timely manner.
  • Know your products; this could be daily specials, knowledge of allergens in dishes and beverages, products available for sale, etc. 
  • Proving clear communication to management, baristas and the kitchen. 
  • Clearing and cleaning tables in a timely manner.
  • Ensure orders are accurate to charge customers correctly and take payments. 

These tasks will vary slightly depending on the venue, however these core responsibilities will remain fairly consistent wherever you work. 

What to expect

Now you have an idea of what your responsibilities are, the next step is learning what to expect. Coffee shops are fast paced environments, particularly for waiters. While other staff will be at home at their stations on the coffee machine or in the kitchen, you will be moving throughout the venue between these different spots and your tables. 

This means you will be on your feet constantly throughout your shift, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes that you can spend all day in. Typical shifts last between 3-10 hours, covering the busy periods. An average shift is 6 hours. Throughout your day, you’ll likely spend time in the kitchen or near the coffee machines. These can get hot so be sure to wear comfortable clothing where possible. Most coffee shops will have a uniform (this could be as simple as a plain black T shirt) and black trousers or jeans, often with an apron. You can expect to be on the go constantly during peak times so fitness is important – this will also make you feel like time is flying by! 

Customers will expect service in a reasonable time, so your communication with the kitchen and baristas is crucial. Be clear and efficient so they can make the beverages and food you need as quickly as possible.

Tips do happen, but aren’t the norm. Don’t expect them and be grateful should you receive them. Some venues pool tips and then distribute them evenly among those who are on shift whereas others will let you keep any you receive for yourself. 

Skills and Qualifications

There are no formal qualifications required to be a waiter in a coffee shop. Managers would prefer previous experience of course however this is also not essential. The main skills that will be required are: 

  • A professional and friendly manner
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Time management
  • Teamwork and strong communication skills
  • Organisation and good memory skills
  • Strong English skills
  • Problem solving skills

Tips and Tricks

As we touched on earlier, the most important part of this role is how you interact with your team and your customers. Regardless of how your customers behave, you must do your best to deliver the same level of service to everyone. This is how you can contribute to the success of the business. A smile goes a long way and always be as genuine as possible. 

Always have at least two or 3 pens in your apron for taking orders. You never know when they will run out and they have a tendency to disappear. Same goes for a notepad. Be sure to have an extra one and always learn where they are kept. For that matter, make a very conscious effort to take note of where everything goes. Putting things in the correct place ensures everyone else can find what they need as well. 

Be confident. Customers will ask you plenty of questions, including recommendations. Be honest and polite with your answers. 

Listen. Listen to your customers, listen to your team, listen to your manager. In a fast paced environment, you need to keep up with the pace. The best way to do this is listen to all of the information that is being given to you. 

Summary

Working as a waiter is exciting. You have a direct role to play in making someone’s experience at your venue truly special. Be as helpful and as polite as you can. Keep this article in mind and you’ll be ready for your next wait staff role!

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