Essential Waitstaff Supplies Buying Guide
When considering the needs for professional waitstaff, start by looking at what you want your customer experience to be.
Waitstaff are the face of your business, and the most frequent point of contact with guests. Organized, properly equipped staff will allow service to shine and customers to enjoy their dining experience. Set them up for success with the right tools for the job.
Start with proper apparel
The image of your establishment and staff tells the customer what to expect. While the apparel for a fast-food business will differ from fine dining, there are some key elements that are fundamental to good service.
From casual to formal, servers should be confident and comfortable in a uniform that represents the business. Opt for darker colours to hide the inevitable messes that come with serving, choose comfortable fabrics and stay away from one-size-fits-all. Wrinkle resistant is always a practical bonus.
Even if your operation doesn't have "official" uniforms, having a staff style guide of what attire is appropriate (or not appropriate) is important for consistency in how your staff look. Make it easy for your customers to determine who works there. If you aren't providing uniforms, offering a stipend - even a small one - to go toward clothing is greatly appreciated and makes it easier for staff to follow your preferred look.
Aprons can be considered part of your front of house uniform in addition to clothing. Aprons give servers the freedom to have frequently used items easily accessible while keeping their hands free as much as possible. The type of apron that works for your waitstaff may depend on your establishment.
This apron is a favourite for many establishments as it provides the most comfort for walking due to its short length. With no upper body coverage, a shirt with a logo is clearly visible to patrons. Many include pockets, anywhere from one to five so servers have space to hold their essentials.
Not really an apron, a pouch or cash pouch is a functional and durable option for many serving staff instead of a classic apron. Sometimes with a zipper and containing various pockets, a server pouch can keep change, cash and credit card receipts secure.
In between a waist apron and bistro apron, a four-way apron is a perfect option for waitstaff (and kitchen staff) to maintain a clean look. With a four panel design, the aprons can be arranged different ways for a constant clean appearance.
An extra long waist apron provide extra protection for pants - important if your wait staff also clear and wipe down tables which can sometimes be a messy job. Like waist aprons, many include pockets for storing essentials on the go.
If you would like your staff to also have some upper body coverage - maybe you prefer lighter coloured shirts - bib aprons might be the best choice. A neck loop, sometimes adjustable depending on the manufacturer, and waist tie keep the apron in place during a busy service and many also have pockets.
A good server will introduce themselves to the table and a name tag allows the customer to connect whenever necessary without any embarrassing moments. Whether name tags go on a shirt or a bib apron, using a first name makes a personal connection between the customer and your staff.
Servers are go go go and always have a much better shift when their feet don’t hurt. There are some wonderful insoles on the market these days that will make any shoe more comfortable. Having comfortable non-slip shoes is essential in preventing workplace accidents and promoting safety. Happy feet make servers very sweet to your customers.
A clean crisp towel is a key piece of apparel for a server. For one that is prepared to immediately wipe up that spilled drink and will certainly leave the table with a much better impression than the one who has to run and get a towel. Provide a plenty of clean, absorbent cloths to quickly deal with drips, spills and hot plates. Also remember to provide table crumbers if your establishment utilizes table cloths.
Tools to have on hand
“Always be prepared’, motto of servers everywhere. Keep these serving staff supplies and tools at the ready.
Provide quality pens. You’d be shocked at the number of people who notice and admire good quality pens and how much servers appreciate one that lasts and won’t let you down by drying up mid-order or exploding in a pocket. Don’t miss out on a branding opportunity here, make sure your business name, website and phone number are on there!
No one trusts a server that doesn’t write down the order. Avoid errors and subtle guest mistrust with guest check books for your service staff.
The bartender’s friend is also the server’s friend. Simple sleek designs that fit easily in an apron pocket are the best choice for wait staff.
Server station set up
The set of supplies at any server station will depend on the distance from the back of house, kitchen, and bar, along with the speed and efficiency required for optimal service. Basic stations can include the following:
Keep menus straight, clean and in good condition with the right menu holder. Keep sanitizer close to clean between uses.
Trays are key for efficient service. The waitstaff should be able to bring a full table all of the beverages in one fell swoop. Non-slip coating on a sturdy tray is a must. The weight and materials of trays varies between manufacturers. A heavier tray might seem the best choice but could be too heavy for some servers during a busy service.
Consider the colour, size, shape and texture. Also look for additional features like dishwasher safe, scratch resistance, reinforced edges and stacking lugs.
An absolute necessity and a great investment if the bar and kitchen are a great distance from the guests or your service needs require larger trays that need to be set down and served from.
Quickly clear and turn your tables with bus bins. Make sure they are in good shape and clean if they are within view of customers. Pick a size that can easily tucked away if given an urgent request from a customer. Remember to also consider the depth.
Re-set tables in a flash with easily accessible organized cutlery.
Have commonly requested condiments close at hand and save even more time with condiment racks/holders that get everything you need to the table in one fell swoop. The type of condiment holders you need will depend on what you serve.
Reducing trips your serving staff need to take for all of the "can I have a glass of water" requests is appreciated by customers and staff. Have extra pitchers, water glasses and ice readily available at the server stations and save valuable steps and time.
If your operation is likely to serve tea and coffee as part of service, having hot water available or at the least the ability to store hot water and brewed coffee can make serving tea and coffee much simpler.
A happy ending
The table is sated and ready for the bill. End your transaction with patrons smoothly and send them out into the world ready to refer friends and family.
Check holders/bill folds – Let your servers discretely leave the bill in a neutral spot on the table using a check holder.
Portable POS or mobile point of sale system allows you to accept and process payments on the go. It can speed up checkout (and turn that table faster), is contactless and reduces customer movement through your facility.
Sanitizing hand wipes are a thoughtful touch at the end of a transaction, even more so in the post-COVID era.
Making sure the waitstaff are prepared with the essentials will allow them to focus on their top priority; connecting with customers and providing them with an amazing dining experience. Set your waitstaff up for success and watch them shine.
Written by Bre Baker