What tools must every server have when showing up to work?
At most catering companies, banquet facilities and hotels — there’s no list.
You will find at better run, finer, high-end catering & banquet operations there is a list.
Let’s start with basic essential tools; a polishing cloth, waiter’s cork screw, flashlight, pen and notepad, a cell phone, and a can-do good positive attitude.
When working with catering companies to improve service, a recommendation to management usually includes this short list of tools as “conditions of employment” for the serving staff.
Notice is given to the staff, with time to conform, and then “inspect what is expected.”
If staff arrives at events without the proper tools — they can leave, get the tools on their own time, and then return prepared to work. You might be staff tight on an event or two. However, word will spread quickly among the staff and suddenly the “I forgot” excuse disappears and service improves!
If the catering company never serves beverages in crystal, glasses or stem ware – skip the polishing cloth.
If wine is never served at your events, drop the cork screw opener and replace with a basic pocket knife. A Swiss Army knife with a cork screw is a better tool of choice. Here’s why:
Years ago at an event, a guest showed up unplanned with several cases of wine. Being the only server on staff with a cork screw, the host gave me an extra $80.00 tip for opening the wine bottles with my Swiss Army knife cork screw.
Rethink the glass and wine service aspect, because there’s huge opportunity for increasing revenue proving these services.
Besides the perception of quality of an event with wine service, glass, or crystal vs. plastic cups is much higher.
Magical Polishing Cloths - Flour Sack
1. Magical Polishing Cloth
The high concentration of polyester and little if any cotton in table napkins doesn’t work for polishing silver, stainless, glasses, flat and stemware.
The best tool is a 100% cotton polishing cloths, AKA “Flour Sacks.” Yes, Grandma was “correcto mundo” on this point of using a good dish cloth.
If you don’t have the flour sack type polishing cloths — Bed, Bath and Beyond and Williams-Sonoma are great sources to get them.
Cut the cloths (32″ Width x 38″ Length) in half; hem the cut ends and you have twice as many polishing cloths. Add your name to the cloth with stitching, or a marker.
Once a fantastic member my staff Julie, dyed her polishing cloths orange, resembling her brilliant hair color. There was no mistake the orange colored cloths belonged to her.
Color coding like a name on the cloth helps with easy owner identification.
When placing flatware, use the polishing cloth to polish-wipe-buff out any water spots, or film residue.
The trick is to place the flatware, in the polishing cloth, while holding the cloth in your hand. Buff out the flatware and gently “Push” placing the flatware onto the table, in the correct position.
This method leaves no finger prints or smudges on the flatware and knife blades sparkle. A little practice and you’ll get it.
A polishing cloth is the bomb to “polish-wipe-buff out” any dust, residue water spots on crystal, glasses or stemware that’s not up to par.
Have cloudy or water spotted glass and stemware?
Steaming or boiling hot water with a shot of white vinegar is part one of the trick here.
Use a thermos, a small pot of boiling water or even water glass full of steaming hot water for the wetting powers of steam.
Expose the glass in question to the steaming evaporation for a moment, then wiping with a polishing cloth — usually does the trick.
If the servers setting up need to to use stronger methods such as a full vinegar dip or making a paste from baking soda and water several glasses, then some one needs to addrss the problem be getting on site.
If the glass has lipstick on the rim, have the glass cleaned again.
If dusty, dirty, spotted, or cloudy glasses with mineral deposits are constantly arriving at your events — then you need to have a serious chat with the rental supplier or dish washer.
Staff should not have to polish, wipe out every glass.
Polishing Is Attention To Details
Clients, planners, coordinators, photographers, and guests who arrive early are always impressed when they see serving staff polishing various items.
Later comments heard include,” This is an excellent caterer. You know — I saw the staff polishing the forks, knives and glasses when we first arrived.” They figure if you pay attention to the flatware — the food and service will be “A Game” quality.
Step Up The “Bling” At Buffets & Stations
Polishing cloths can add last minute luster and shine to silver service buffet chafer dishes, serving utensils or an elaborate silver urn coffee station.
If you are using stainless steel chafer dishes, the water spots, finger prints and smudges can be buffed-wiped away with the polishing cloth. A little stainless polish helps too.
A polishing cloth has many uses including; insulating hands from hot entrée’ plates during service delivery.
Once a guest fell during an event and fractured her arm. I fashioned a splint and made a sling out of polishing cloths. Her family drove her to the hospital. She returned later to join the party — giving a few hugs and a generous tip to the staff.
Waiter's Cork Screw
2. Waiter’s Cork Screw
A Waiter’s Cork Screw aka “pull or lever type wine bottle opener” is next. Carry the opener in your pocket all the time when working on events. Use the foil cutting blade for opening packages during setting up.
Try out a few different types. Some openers are small, stainless gracefully adorned with rosewood handles.
A few are big, plastic and easier for newbie’s to handle. Find one that feels comfortable to work with because some day the opener and your hand will get a real work out.
Avoid at all costs the F-18 drone wine bottle cork extractors, you know the ones where the arms like wings are pulled down to extract the cork.
Staffs often earn extra tips for opening bottles of wine table side providing they know how to provide wine service properly.
Mini Mag Pocket Flash Light
3. Flash Light
Carry a small flashlight. Read the “Be Ready For Service” blog post “Let there be light.”
Pocket Note Pad
4. Pen and Pocket Notepad
A pen enables you to write information, special orders, directions, and changes.
A small (3”x5”) spiral top pocket note pad works best for easy quick reference and keeping track of details while nesting in a pocket.
Think of the small expense as an investment in yourself.
You may be able to deduct the expenses from your taxes. Your tax advisor can best
advise you on this.
Besides staff will make more tips!
5. Cell Phone
Nearly everyone has a cell phone these days. Often the cell phone is glued to fingers or ears.
Serving staff need one for especially for communicating. If staff is late to an off-premise event, staff needs to call and let the lead-captain know what’s going on.
Some times incorrect addresses or directions were given to the staff and the cell phone is the life saver.
Walkie-talkies are the tool of choice and need to be used on events for communicating among the staff. A cell phone works in pinch.
Staff needs to put away cell phones while working — so they are not making, taking cell calls, updating face book and twitter or checking the Nikkei Index for stock prices. When guests observe staff texting and talking they feel “dissed” and ignored.
I have been known to collect cell phones from offenders and return at the end of the event along with a stern warning.
6. A Can-Do Positive Attitude
A good positive attitude is the most important essential tool to bring to every event.
A good attitude will get you through rough spots and challenging and unexpected moments that crop up in catering.
There are millions of pages, thousand stories and books written on the importance of, and having a good attitude.
I encourage you to read them often as they provide inspiration and assurance — a sorta’ “charger” or pick me up.
What it boils down to is; make a decision to have a good attitude and doing your best!
When you excel at any thing and do your best — there’s personal satisfaction.
Some times going home tired after an event where you gave your all and made a difference in some way, is a great physic payoff — even though there was no tip.
“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiseling and scraping and polishing.” –BC Forbes
Polishing Your Brand
Keep doing great work and find ways to turn your work and style into something outstanding, over-the-top, sensational service. Let’s call it “Your brand.”
Set an example, help other staff members out. Many will balk.
Ignore them and keeping pushing your limits, style and techniques. Others will take up the challenge and collectively most of you will get even better in small subtle ways. Remember, “All boats rise with the tide.”
Some one will notice your actions and with that comes acknowledgement and more opportunities and better financial rewards.
Basic To Basics
This list here of serving essentials covers the most basic items.
Depending upon the season and locale bug spray, sun screen lotion, a snack, some bottled water, a lint roller and shoe shine brush, plus a few other items might be in order too.
Since I don’t know it all – and if you have a suggestion for the list – let me know.
Keep polishing and hold on to your aprons,