A waiter’s task does not end with just the knowledge of food presentation. Other aspects of food and beverage service include the interaction of customer and staff and the ability to handle other incidents that may occur during service.

The attributes of food and beverage staff discussed in lesson 1 and 3 articulate the waiters Etiquette. This chapter emphasis the need to use the correct language when serving a customer as conversation between customers and staff overrides conversations between staff and staff. When conversing with guests, it’s important to use the correct language.


  • Whenever serving or clearing, always say ‘Excuse me’ before serving or clearing and ‘thank you’ after you have finished with each customer.
  • Explain food and beverage items –use terms the customer understands (i.e. not technical terms such as maxim potatoes or turned vegetables)
  • Use terms which make an item attractive, e.g. instead of mashed potatoes, use creamed potatoes. Avoid using abbreviations, e.g. veg.
  • Address the customers by their names if they are known e.g. Mr.Kariuki, Dr. Saul
  • Greetings such as ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good evening ‘ should be used upon receiving customers.



It is possible that during the service of a course a few drops of sauce, gravy, or water may have dropped on the tablecloth. The following steps should be taken:

  • Apologise to the guest
  • If some has fallen on the guest’s clothing allow the guest to rub over the dirty   area with a clean dump cloth. This will remove the worst of the spillage.
  • If it is necessary that the guest retires to the cloakroom to remove the spillage, then his/her meal should be placed on the hotplate until he/she returns
  • If the spillage has gone to the tablecloth, the waiter should first of all remove any items of equipment that may be dirtied .If there is a need to change the linen then the guests have to be moved to another table.
  • Mop or scrap up the spillage with either a clean damp cloth or a knife
  • An old menu card should then be placed on top of the table but under the tablecloth over the damaged area
  • A second menu should be placed on the tablecloth over the damaged area (for gravy spillage) or the table cloth changed altogether if it is soaked with water spillage
  • If it is a small stain, then a clean rolled serviette should be brought to the table and rolled completely over the damaged area. The menu cards will prevent any damp from soaking into the clean serviette.
  • Any items of equipment removed should be returned to their correct position.
  • Any meal taken to the hotplate should be returned and fresh covers put down where necessary.
  • Again apologies should be made to the guests for any inconvenience caused.


A guest suggests that the dish served is ‘off ‘.The following should be taken:

  • Apologise to the guest
  • The dish should be returned to the aboyeur at the hotplate
  • The guest is offered the menu and asked to choose an alternative.
  • A special check ‘Retour En Place’ should be written and taken to the kitchen.
  • A fresh cover should be laid.
  • The new dish should be collected from the hotplate as soon as possible and presented to the guest.
  • Apologies should be made to any inconveniences caused.
  • The waiter should ensure that the aboyeur receives the dish being returned and checks it immediately, because it may mean that the particular dish concerned has to be taken off the menu to prevent the chance of food poisoning.


  • A check should be made immediately as to whether or not the guest has left the service area.
  • If the guest has left the service area, the waiter should hand the property to the head waiter or supervisor in charge.
  • If the guest is a regular guest, it is possible that his/her contact may be known and should therefore be contacted
  • If the guest is a regular guest and his/her contact is not known, then he will probably come for his property in his/her next visit.
  • If the owner has not been found or contacted, the supervisor should list the items. This list should be signed by both the supervisor and the waiter who found the property. The list must be dated and should specify the details of the items.
  • A copy should be given to the security in case any inquiries are received concerning the property, and another copy should be sited in the ‘lost and found’ book.
  • Before the lost property is handed over to any claimant, a description of the article concerned and its contents should be asked for to ensure as far as possible that it is being returned to the genuine owner. The officer should also see proof of identity of the person claiming ownership
  • Any lost property unclaimed for more than six months may become the property of the finder who should claim it through the head waiter or supervisor.


  • As soon as it is noticed that a guest is feeling unwell while in the restaurant, a supervisor should be immediately called to the spot.
  • The supervisor must enquire if the guest needs assistance
  • If the illness is serious, the guest should be taken to another room. If the guest recovers in a few minutes then he/she should be taken back to the restaurant.
  • If this happens the guest’s meal should be placed on a hotplate until their return
  • If the illness appears to be of a serious nature a doctor, nurse or someone qualified in first aid should be called immediately. The doctor may treat or recommend the guest to be taken to hospital.
  • Although this is a difficult situation to deal with in front of the general public, minimum fuss should be made, and service to the rest of the guests carried on normally.
  • If the guest falling ill is a woman then a female member of staff should attend her.
  • A detailed account/record of the incident should be recorded in an accident book. This facilitates investigations incase more details are required either by the police or relatives
  • If after a short period of time the guest returns and continues with the meal, a fresh cover should be set and hot meal presented.


Should children be amongst the customers arriving in your food service area then the lead concerning their welfare should be taken from their parent or accompanying adults. The following should be taken into consideration:

  • Provide high chairs/seat cushions
  • Provide smaller portions of food if there is no ‘children’s meal’ menus
  • Staff should always be aware of the children movement
  • Serve children before adults
  • Should the children be of a more mature child’s age then they must be addressed as either ‘sir’ or ‘madam’


Extra awareness is needed to meet the requirements of customers who may have a special need, such as mobility problems. The following steps should be followed:

  • Place wheelchair user at tables where there is adequate space for maneuverability.
  • Position him/her out of the main gangways
  • Position him/her with easy access to cloakrooms, exits and fire exits.
  • Ensure that menus, wine lists and the like are immediately available to any wheelchair user.
  • Never move the wheelchair without the customer being asked first.
  • Crutches /walking sticks should be placed in accessible and readily available positions.


  • Talk to and treat the customer with special needs as you would with other customers.
  • Remember it is ‘by touch’ that the blind people can “see” and they are made aware that they are involved in what is happening around them.
  • Prior to ‘ordering’ a gentle touch on the hand or arm attracts his/her attention to you. Read the menu to the customer and let him make his choice.
  • Offer to fillet fish or bone meat.
  • Offer to cut up potato and vegetable items should it be necessary
  • Never overfill cups, glasses or soup bowls
  • Consider whether to use ‘bowls’ instead of plate for certain foods, but always ask the guest first.


You may encounter guests with communication difficulties, that is, they are either deaf, or hard of hearing or have little understanding of the language being used. In this case, the following steps should be taken:

  • Speak directly at the customer
  • Stand in such a position that the customer is able to see your face clearly
  • Speak slowly and distinctly
  • Describe food/drink items in simple, precise and plain language
  • Seat customers away from possible excessive noise, as this is most uncomfortable for customers wearing hearing aids.
  • In this instances always read back the food or drink order received to confirm all requests
  • Listen attentively to what is being said to you to ensure you understand the customer’s requirements

Freda Murugi Muiruri


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