7 Truths A-Waiting by Lara Britt

Today’s Monday Discovery brings you a guest post by Lara Britt, the entrepreneur of MNINBers who has encouraged and wrangled the group—she calls it “wrangling butterflies”—beyond Robert Lee Brewer‘s original My Name Is Not Bob April Platform Challenge.

Welcome to The Writerly Life, Lara!

Laura Britt

Lara Britt writes from her Honolulu home near Nu’uanu Stream. She enjoys morning strolls through Lili’uokalani Botanical Gardens and late night walks along the beach. Between times you will find her in her favorite Writerly Nooks which she catalogs in her blog, Writing Space.

Lara is the übermom to two fully-grown, adult daughters who heeded her advice: “Degrees, before children.” She is, therefore, without grandchildren, but will be celebrating the delivery of a doctoral dissertation in the very near future.

Community organizing, gardening, travel, music, art, food, and all things that give life meaning are common threads in Lara’s work. When she isn’t wrangling butterflies in her efforts to birth a community blog or raising her Klout score to stratospheric heights, Lara is working on two related mystery series and a memoir. And she still has two pairs of slip-resistant shoes in her closet.

7 Truths A-Waiting

Most writers have difficulty in pronouncing themselves authors. They usually couch self-description with softening words like “aspiring,” “up-and-coming,” and “break-out.”

You can bet these folks never worked a 14-hour shift in slip-resistant shoes.

Talk to many servers, and you will find that they are, in their real lives—whatever that means—in fact, an actress, a poet, a philosopher, a student, a singer, an artist, a creative [fill-in the blank with highest of aspirations]. Only temporarily are they inhabiting a Swiss-Miss uniform or donning a work-shirt only a Fauvist could love. The apron, only until they get their big break. The button blinking the day’s special, yeah, one day they won’t have to wear that either.

They are waiting tables waiting for their lives to begin.

You all know what it’s like to work in a restaurant. You’ve eaten at them hundreds if not thousands of times. You’ve imagined what it takes to be a server. Or perhaps for the briefest of stints, you put on the mandatory cap and asked customers if they wanted fries with that.

No, it’s not that.

The Naked Truth About Our Waitresses

You’ve seen it in the movies. How many thousands of reel feet have been devoted to the angry chef, the obnoxious customer, the hormone-crazed dishwasher or was it the busboy, the good-hearted hook…er…waitress, well, aren’t they the same thing?

No, no, no and no.

And no, in the 35 years I’ve been a part of the food industry, I have never witnessed a chase scene through the kitchen except on the silver screen.

If not that, then what?

Waiting tables is in actuality a highly skilled profession. Like teaching and parenting, there are a thousand ways to be terrible at the job and hundreds of ways to be terrific. Like many traditionally female occupations, it is underpaid and undervalued.

But it also has its benefits. Sure, schedules are flexible. Daily cash flow. But specifically, serving is ripe with benefits for writers and other artists dealing with the human condition.

Job Description: Welcoming customers, suggestive-selling of food and beverages, order-taking, order-inputing to computerized system, salad-making, food and beverage delivering, cash-handling…

Yes…technically correct…but…

Serving is live theater meets applied psychology.

And that is exactly what I tell the new servers after about a month of training when at the end of the night, after everyone is talking about tables that stiffed them, the ten-percenters, and the other horrors of the shift that just ended, I count up my 20+% tip average after tip-out.

Here is my not-so-secret recipe.

And why do I share? Because they are in my neighborhood; as the price of their real estate rises so does mine. A direct corollary applies to the blogosphere: better blogging raises all of our boats.

  • Learn Your Craft
    “Kill” the technical aspects of your job description. Carry that tray, high and fast. Learn how to multi-task. Learn how to pace the service. Learn how to manage your time. Exceed your guests’ expectations.
  • Sh*t Happens
    The more complicated the execution, the more opportunity for things to go awry. It is how you handle them that matters most. Don’t offer excuses; offer solutions.

  • Experience Rules
    Directly related to sh*t happens: People visit a restaurant, not because they are hungry. They visit for the total experience of the evening. Food is only part of it.

  • Servers Are Responsible for the Guests’ Experience
    It isn’t the kitchen’s fault. Food is only part of it. Develop that tool-bag so when sh*t happens––and it will––you can still give the guest an exceptional experience.

  • Understand the Guests’ Needs
    The guest has two sets of needs: 1) one he thinks he has, and 2) one he really has. Your job is to address the first and satisfy the latter. Sound insulting? Think different. Think Steve Jobs. He gave us want we always wanted, but didn’t know it. Great servers do this every day, all day.

  • Match-Make
    At the end of the evening, the guests should think that the person they are dining with is the most interesting person in the room, not their server. Help them be entertaining, do not make them dependent on your presence at table’s edge. No showboating.
  • End on a High Note
    No matter what went wrong, make sure the end of the night is pleasant. This is when they figure out your tip. But this is also when they make their final assessment on their choice in coming. Make them want to make that choice again, soon.

So whether you are delivering food for thought as a blogger who aspires to be an author or you deliver food from the kitchen as you await your big break, apply these seven basic tips from a seasoned professional. Stay in dialog with your guest, but stay confident in yourself. The outcome will be something you can take to the bank.

As you have guessed, these 7 tips also apply to blogging. Which one speaks to you and your experiences? What are you wrestling with? Tell us your stories in the comment section. Gerry and I are eager to hear all about it.

13 thoughts on “7 Truths A-Waiting by Lara Britt

  1. Fantastic, Lara! I know first-hand what you’re talking about, as I’m both a writer (there – I said it!) and WAS a waitress for more years than I like to think about. Well written….

  2. One of the things I look for in a blog is solid writing that has an artistic style. I’m also demanding. Very demanding. I expect to read writing that is stellar and entertaining or informative. This blog post delivers. This line: “Live theater meets applied psychology” hooked me immediately. I knew I was going to be entertained and I sure was. Excellent introduction, Gerry. Clever post, Lori. Although I had a very short sting as a banquet server on New Year’s Eve only once and not the full throttle of day-to-day waitressing experiences as you, I can still relate to the expectation that customers (ie, those who read your writing) have with regards to quality writing. Blog readers are fickle. Social media participants are even more fickle. We must constantly top ourselves with the written word to make sure that we are fully appreciated. I enjoyed your analogies.

  3. Lara, my middle daughter was a waitress for more than 10 years when her kids were small. Some weeks she made more in tips than I made as a computer operator for an interstate trucking company. She fully indoctrinated our whole family into appreciation for a good waitress or waiter. Great analogy.

    1. Sometimes I make more money than I did the year and a half I drove a big rig…I feel another story coming on. But it is very unpredictable. I usually waited tables and did another gig in raising kids as a single mom. Most all the servers I’ve worked with did something else as well.

  4. Lara, my daughter was a server/bartender and I know there is far more to the job than anyone imagines. In high school, I was a server on Saturdays and it was one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve had. I enjoyed the energy of the rush hour, getting to know the customers, and I liked that I could totally leave the job behind when the shift was over. I’m a big tipper now because I know the valve of your service. Great post, Lara and Gerry.

      1. I’m not sure how it influences me in my writing now, but I could use the experience to write stories…just haven’t.
        I could write about the inside workings of a restaurant and its interesting customers. It exposed me to almost every kind of worker
        in the town. I was in a small town in north Georgia and could write about my experiences there during the Civil Rights Movement. I served the first black (don’t know if they were African American or not) customers in the front of the restaurant. They were not locals. Well, I could go on and on, but bottom line is I could write lots of stories about the restaurant, its employees, and customers. How does it influence your writing? That might give me an idea of how I could allow it to influence mine.

      2. How does it influence MY writing. I deal with that a bit in the post on my blog today. I see a lot of parallels to giving good service and good writing. There are definitely many stories that happen each and every day, but I tend to focus on the universals and use specific concrete examples to hint to the greater arc. That quick back and forth between attention to the tiniest detail and the get’r done due to time constraints. The ability to get in a flow and not over think. The list is really quite long. No surprise I have a series of blog posts on the topic with more in the queue.

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