Top Five Lessons I’ve Learned From Being a Waitress

Top Five Lessons I’ve Learned From Being a Waitress

When I turned twelve I had an amazing idea; I was going to be a server at the restaurant owned by my mom’s fiancé! My mom said no. Without hesitation. However, me being determined, stubborn, and the favorite child, convinced my mom to let me be a hostess and busser. I started on opening day and it was slammed. We were short staffed, and my mom had to leave in the heat of it all. So like any sane woman, she looked at the able bodied twelve year old, threw a notepad at her and said, you wanted to be a server? Okay, go get ‘em, smiled and left. That night I was forced to sink or swim, and let me tell you what — I don’t think I’ve ever sunk so bad in my life. However, the moment that the notepad hit my hands, I knew I wasn’t going back. That was the day I started waitressing and even now, four years later, I still find myself learning from it. Here are the top five skills and lessons I’ve learned through serving.


There is a reason patience is in all caps and at the top of my list. Being a server tests my patience every day in a variety of ways. These include (but are not limited to), rude customers, lack of common sense, lack of shame, dirty old men, children, and laziness. However, I have to say, parents who don’t control their monsters..I mean children are the number one thing that makes me question if I actually like my job or not; but, on the bright side of things, I don’t think I will ever need a reminder to take birth control in my life. Another thing that tests me are people who shake their empty glass at me; they act  like I don’t have the power to spit in the next drink I bring them.  However, despite the plethora of people who test my patience, I’ve never stooped to the level of messing with their food or drinks. I have restrained myself from spitting in their glass. I’ve learned to let trivial actions or insults go, how to calm myself, and how to keep working. Patience is crucial to being a good server. As a waitress, I can’t let one table’s actions affect my patience and attitude with the next. I have to leave the bubbling anger and annoyance behind the moment I leave the table. 

Despite customers being 98% of what exercises my patience, they aren’t the only people to do so. There are plenty of things staff do to test my limits — laziness is on the list for a reason. I could care less if you’re slow and lazy, but the moment you are in my way, is the moment I consider jabbing you with a fork. I don’t care if you’re lazy, unless it affects my, and therefore the restaurants, performance. Ultimately, it all boils down to respect or the lack thereof. People’s lack of respect is what has thickened my skin and strengthened my patience.

#2 Controlling My Emotions

Controlling my emotions is one of the greatest skills I’ve gained from serving, and it goes hand in hand with patience. In my four years, I’ve had to work while struggling with life plenty of times. In any job, it’s extremely important to check your emotional baggage at the door. It’s a skill  that has been beneficial in many aspects of my life. I am able to still function even when life has knocked me down. It has honestly helped me have a higher emotional threshold. There are many nights where I have to control my emotions in response to different situations. People would be surprised how hard it is, to refrain from pouring a drink on someone’s head in hopes that they start using, so called head. Despite how worked up I feel, I’ve learned how to quickly control  my emotions. I’ve also learned how to hide and fake emotions. There are many nights where the restaurant is slammed, and I am STRESSED.  However, the moment I leave the kitchen, I present myself as if I have everything under control. Despite that not being the case, and me feeling extremely anxious and stressed, I still smile, and joke around with my tables as if they are the only people I’m serving. Being able to not only control emotions, but to hide and fake them as well is an amazing skill that I use in many situations outside of work.

#3 Functioning Under pressure

Learning how to control my emotions has allowed me to learn another crucial life skill: functioning under pressure. One night I was serving, and my mom was bartending. It was just us on the floor, and we were slammed. Every table was filled along with the bar; people were waiting outside for the next open spot. I find it hard to put into words the mixture of stress, anxiety, panic, and adrenaline I felt that night. Serving is not an easy task, and serving a whole restaurant with one other person is insane. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been under enough pressure to kick in my freeze, fight, or flight response over my four years. That night was one of them. There was a point where every nerve in my body wanted to flee, to just stop working and walk out the door. I fought that feeling all night, and kept myself focused and composed. Looking back, that night was one of the most rewarding nights I’ve had. It was also one of the biggest tests of how well I could do under pressure. Obviously it’s not everyday I’m faced with this level of pressure, but I find comfort in knowing that I can keep myself together in high stress situations, and to calm myself while facing things head on.

#4 Persuasion

I call it persuasion, but it’s the same as playing mind games or manipulation. Throughout my serving career, I have learned how to manipulate unfavorable sitions and people.  Now when I say,  “manipulation,” I don’t mean it in a malicious way. What I mean is I do things like mind games. When we don’t have the appetizer someone wants, I convince them to try “my personal favorite” or “our most popular” appetizer instead.  When a customer is frustrated, I control the situation by addressing it, while not making it a big deal. It’s similar to handling toddlers. If a parent rushes to their toddler when they fall, the toddler will cry; if the parent picks them up and acts like nothing happened, the toddler will follow suit: acting as if nothing happened. This ability to manipulate situations, or use mind games to redirect someone’s thoughts has proven to be useful to me in many ways, not just at work. I have used this skill to take people’s minds off of drama, or to redirect the conversation when I get uncomfortable. I am able to sell people on things they aren’t sure about. For instance, if I know a friend is struggling, I can convince them to spend a day with me despite not feeling up to it.  The ability to persuade is powerful and extremely beneficial in life.

#5 Communication

My last important tool I’ve gained is communication skills. You cannot be a good server without being able to communicate. This includes entertaining customers, describing food or drinks, explaining problems, asking for help, etc.  I am able to hold a conversation with anyone about anything. I’ve had whole conversations about topics I know nothing about, because I know how to ask engaging questions to keep people talking. I know how to clearly explain, fix problems or go about different tasks. I can know how to genuinely engage with people, and how to be personable. This skill has been hands down, one of the most rewarding skills I’ve gained. Developing strong communication skills has allowed me to form amazing relationships. The relationships I’ve built with people are the best thing about my job. I cannot describe how incredible it is, to go to work everyday, and to see people that genuinely care about me — whether that be staff or customers — and leave knowing I am making a positive impact on people. Ultimately, the things I’ve attained through hard work and communication are more than I ever imagined. It’s a skill that does nothing but benefit me in work, school, relationships, and life.