9 Life Changing Lessons I've Learned As A Waiter

I’ve been relatively quiet in the online world the past few months. I’ve been heads down working on making the small changes stick, which fortunately have had some pretty awesome results. I’ve lost 20lbs, I’ve quit smoking (for good), I’ve meditated daily, and have also made going to a gym a regular habit.

It may sound silly, but I genuinely believe one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to make so many positive changes in my life is because I became a waiter.

9 Life Changing Truths I’ve Learned As A Waiter

Effort Matters

The energy and effort you put into your life directly correlates to the results you’ll get. Sure, luck certainly plays a part in many areas of your life — but if you put in the effort, over time trees will grow.

When I first started waiting tables, I was constantly frazzled, running around like a chicken with his head cut off. I’d mess up orders, forget to bring refills, and on a few occasions spill drinks on unsuspecting guests.

It wasn’t pretty. And I wanted to quit.

Despite a rough first few weeks, I started to notice something. People were understanding of my rookie mistakes. My mangers new I was giving it my all. Guests knew I was trying my best. Some weren’t nearly as understanding as others, but the majority of guests knew I was working as hard as I could. And it made all the difference.

Your effort is contagious. Whether you’re starting a new job, trying to raise money, or looking to improve your relationships, your effort plays a significant role in how things play out. Of course, results matter in the end. If I continued to make mistakes, I probably wouldn’t have a job. But when you give it your all people take notice.

No one likes a person who phones it in, and unfortunately that’s quite common these days. But if you embrace any challenge or new adventure with a mindset of growth, you’re sure to leave a mark.

You can’t always control the result, but you can always control your effort….

Focus on What You Can Control

As a waiter you quickly learn that you have to focus on what you can control, or you won’t last a week.

You can give the best service ever and still have the one guest leave upset.

You can take the order perfectly, but if the kitchen runs low on food, your guests will be left waiting.

You can suggest a great dish that your guest ends up not liking.

It can be frustrating at times, not being in control, but that’s just life.

Instead of worrying about the thousands of things you can’t control, focus on the things you can.

  • You control your effort.
  • You control your attitude.
  • You control your preparation.
  • You control how you respond to adversity.

When you zoom in on the things you can control you set yourself up for success.
Focus on what you can control, and safely ignore everything else.

Do Your Condo’s

After being hired, I noticed that I was scheduled to come in a few hours before the restaurant opened. What?

Turns out, there were hundreds of salt,pepper,and condiment containers to fill.

Oh boy.

It’s not the most enjoyable line of work, but I soon realized it was necessary. The little things are almost always overlooked.

We hear a lot about overnight success stories, where the entrepreneur or media phenomenon comes out of nowhere. But what we almost never hear is the stories of the men and women putting in the working and doing their condos — the little things — years before anyone hears of them.

  • Little tweaks to your diet add up.
  • Reading 10 minutes of uplifting material each day positively transforms you.
  • Drinking more water helps you feel better.
  • Talking to just one customer each day helps you better understand your business.
  • Having those “small” but difficult conversations matter.

Like many, I’ve fallen into the trap of looking for the sexy “magic fix”, but nearly 100 percent of my successes in life came as a direct result of doing the small things.

As you study more and more successful people from all walks of life you’ll find that the common factor in nearly all of them is that they are willing to put in the work.
Do your condo’s. Plant seeds. And you will prosper.

Control Your Time

One of things I struggled with most when I first started waiting tables was thinking I had to respond to whatever was in front of me.

A guest would ask me for a refill and I’d completely neglect the other dozen (more pressing) issues at hand. As a result, I was running around and not getting much done.

Tables got frustrated, and I didn’t leave a good impression.

But thanks to my excellent management, I had a little more training and it made all the difference.

The bottom line is you have to control your time. You have to prioritize. You have to make calls and then do your best to execute.

Each day there are literally hundreds of things you can be doing, but how many of them are really moving you forward? How many of them are really helping you reach your goals?

Controlling your time makes all the difference. Making a conscious effort to take care of what needs to be done matters.

Sure, there are things that pop up every now and then, but if you’re always playing defense you’ll never give yourself the opportunity to score.

Your time and focus is your most important asset. Choose wisely.

Be A Team Player

On a busy night, as a waiter you can literally be in charge of more than ten tables at any given time. Talk about overwhelming.

But I’ve found the more I would go out of my way to help my colleagues the easier those tough times would be.

Don’t show up expecting to the do the bare minimum. Unless of course you want bare minimum results.

Going the extra mile and being a team player not only helps those around you, it builds a foundation of trust which helps everyone in the end.

Notice a coworker swamped with the latest report? Offer a helping hand.

A friend going through tough times? Genuinely be there for them.

I get it. Sometimes you have your own “life” going on. Sometimes, you just need to focus on yourself. But in my experience it’s precisely those times that you can go beyond and step up and help a friend of coworker in need.

Success always tastes better when you enjoy it with company.

You Don’t Get What You Don’t Ask For

I quickly learned, that one of the best ways to increase tips was to be suggestive when taking orders.

“Do you want anything to drink?” Generally ends in your table ordering waters.

Compare that to “Would you like a diet coke or glass of wine?”

Big difference.

What areas of your life do you just get by?

Being specific and asking for what you want almost always results in progress.

Looking to get a raise? Set up a meeting with your boss!
Thinking of asking that girl out? Go up to her and ask!
Want your friend to lend more support? Tell him!

Asking for things can be difficult. Many times it’s downright uncomfortable. But when you don’t ask you’re leaving so much opportunity and experience on the table.

As the hockey great Wayne Greksty once said “ You’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Everyone Is Just Doing Their Best

I’ve been fortunate to connect with a lot of great people during my time waiting tables, whether that be colleagues or chatting with guests with fascinating stories.

One common theme I’ve discovered is: Everyone’s just doing their best.

What an empowering thought!

Whenever I get frustrated at a low tip, or someone cutting me off in traffic, I immediately tell myself “they are just trying to do their best.”

Whenever I get frustrated with a coworker or a friend making the same mistakes, I try to to inject as much empathy as I possibly can.

Of course, it doesn’t always make things better. Some people truly are employed as a full time grouch, but giving people the benefit of the doubt puts a positive twist on an otherwise negative experience.

Most poor experiences are the result of bad communication not downright malice. So whenever you’re tempted to unleash your fiery rage, remind yourself of this little mantra.


Serving tables is called serving for a reason. Your primary job is to serve your guests. It’s the same for your job, your business, and your relationships.

If you want to be ahead of the game you must adopt a mentality of service. Quit thinking about what’s in it for you!

Your product makes the world better! Your positivity can have a tremendous impact on the person you least expect!

When you operate from a serving mindset doors you never knew existed will one day fly open and beckon you to walk through.

Recently, we introduced a premium priced item on our menu. I was in a “what’s in it for me mood” and suggested the item when I knew it probably wasn’t a good recommendation.

A young child decided it sounded good and placed an order. When I went back to ring it in, something just didn’t feel right. I knew it was a premium priced item and probably wouldn’t make mom and dad happy when they got the bill.

Fortunately I did the right thing. I went back out to the table and explained the cost of the item and suggested a tasty alternative.

Mom left happy.

No matter what you do in life make sure you’re serving. And the rest will take care of itself.

Have fun!

The first few weeks of my job were quite stressful. I was overwhelmed and felt like I wouldn’t last.

I started being overly hard on myself and as a result began dreading work.

It wasn’t until my manager pulled me a side and reminded me that it was just food — and that I should be having fun!

I still have some stressful shifts, but that one piece of advice made all the difference.

Not everything in life is going to be fun. You’re not going to jump out of bed for every single thing on your to do list.
But you can always try to inject more fun and purpose in your life!

Work to minimize the amount of doing the things you dread.

Yes, put in the work. Yes, do what needs to be done.

But don’t forget to have fun along the way.