In today's fast-paced, ever-evolving work environment, employers constantly seek reliable and successful employees. Surprisingly, one of the best predictors of professional triumph and dependable coworkers can be found in an unexpected profession: waiting tables. Ask during an interview if the interviewee has ever been in the service industry. Skills and experiences acquired by wait staff can shape individuals into exceptional contributors.
I know firsthand!
After graduating college I had to wait tables to get by, a humbling experience for a college graduate expecting doors to fly open with endless opportunities! I value my restaurant experience. It taught me how important service to others is in one’s happiness. Waiting tables taught me communication skills, providing daily practice in communicating with a diverse client base. Most importantly I learned how to communicate my clarifying questions. Also, If I was not humble, I was a college graduate I knew how to place an order for a hamburger! Or when I was not brave enough, I needed this job and this couple has already complained to my manager so I'll let this one thing go... I learned the hard way, the consequences of poor communication are always negative.
Service helped tune my emotional intelligence, reading customers’ reactions or nonverbal communication and then acting appropriately. Waiting taught me how valuable each team member is in achieving client satisfaction; from the manager to the hostess to the bussers, everyone working together and sharing rewards was central to a restaurant’s success.
Not yet convinced to add this question to your interview process…Here are a few more skills waiting tables provides:
1. Multitasking and Time Management: Waiting tables requires managing numerous tasks simultaneously, from taking orders and delivering food promptly to addressing customer queries and ensuring a smooth dining experience. This demanding environment cultivates exceptional multitasking and time management skills, both of which are essential in any profession. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, individuals who excel in multitasking and time management are more likely to achieve success in their careers (Morgeson et al., 2018).
2. Exceptional Communication and Customer Service: I've already mentioned above how service greatly improved my communication skills, and effective communication is the backbone of any successful venture. As waiters interact closely with diverse clientele, they develop strong interpersonal skills, active listening abilities, and empathy. These qualities are invaluable in building positive relationships with colleagues, clients, and superiors. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review identified that employees with excellent communication skills were 50% more likely to be high performers (Goleman, 2016).
3. Adaptability and Problem-Solving: The restaurant industry is known for its unpredictable nature, making adaptability and problem-solving crucial skills for success. Waiters constantly face unexpected challenges, such as handling difficult customers, resolving conflicts, or adjusting to last-minute changes in the dining experience. These experiences foster resilience, flexibility, and the ability to think on one's feet. A research study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that adaptability and problem-solving abilities significantly predicted job performance and career success (Hannah et al., 2011).
4. Teamwork and Collaboration: Teamwork makes the dream work. Waiting tables often involves working in a fast-paced, team-oriented environment. Waiters rely on effective collaboration with their colleagues to ensure a seamless dining experience. This experience helps them develop a strong sense of teamwork, cooperation, and the ability to work harmoniously towards a common goal. Teamwork is a highly sought-after skill, with 86% of employees and executives considering it a top factor in workplace success (Boskamp, 2023).
While waiting tables is a highly skilled profession, it may be viewed as a temporary job or stepping stone for many. The skills and experiences gained in this profession are invaluable predictors of success in any career. From multitasking and time management to exceptional communication and adaptability, waiters possess a unique set of qualities that make them reliable and valuable contributors to any workplace. So, the next time you are planning a round of interviews, consider adding a question or two about experiences in restaurant service. Respect those in your professional circle with this history, rest assured that their past experiences have likely shaped them into exceptional colleagues.
Goleman, D. (2016). The Focused Leader. Harvard Business Review.
Hannah, S. T., Avolio, B. J., & Walumbwa, F. O. (2011). Relationships between authentic leadership, moral courage, and ethical and pro-social behaviors. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(4), 555-578.
Morgeson, F. P., Campion, M. A., Dipboye, R. L., Hollenbeck, J. R., Murphy, K., & Schmitt, N. (2018). Are we getting fooled again? Coming to terms with limitations in the use of personality tests for personnel selection. Personnel Psychology, 71(3), 511-560.
Boskamp, E. "35+ Compelling Workplace Collaboration Statistics : The Importance Of Teamwork" Zippia.com. Jul. 6, 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/workplace-collaboration-statistics/