DennisBeaverSeptember 29, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

Today we begin a series that will be of special interest to a group of people who have some of the most difficult jobs in the world and whose work is often underappreciated by their customers, as well as by those who employ them.

We are talking about waiters and waitresses who earn every dollar left on the table.

Regardless of where they work, there is nothing glamorous to the job of being a server. In North America, it has the highest turnover of almost any occupation, and often that’s the fault of management, not the employee.

All of that said, who can’t recall at least one waiter or waitress whose friendly attitude turned a simple restaurant meal into something truly special. We met one very special waitress recently in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the Fleuri restaurant at the Sutton Place hotel.

Should work or vacation bring you to Vancouver — this incredibly beautiful city on Canada’s west coast — you will discover no shortage of top-notch hotels.

The Sutton Place is one of the city’s best, with spacious, quiet, beautifully furnished rooms. While so many “hotel restaurants” are nothing to write home about, Fleuri is a game changer and you will look forward to dining there — but not just for the food.

It will take only one visit to Fleuri and you’ll be hooked, it’s all over, you’re done for, if Bridgit Martin is your server. This restaurant has been her first and only job for the past 23 years, having started fresh out of college, where she studied hotel and restaurant management.

“When she waits on your table, this happy, enthusiastic waitress will become one of your best memories of Vancouver. I have known her over 23 years. We routinely hear that one of the reasons guests return to our hotel is because of Bridgit,” hotel manager Navid Sariolghslam proudly told us.

‘These people become our ambassadors’

“She cares. It is in her blood. This makes you feel this is her house that you are in. I am certain that, were you to visit her at home, she would treat you the same way. Her character and personality are able to flexibly deal with all kinds of people who have different needs,” he pointed out, asking:

“What is it that makes a person want to come to work, doing the same job over 20 years, a smile on their face, and truly happy to be there? Take Mark, for example, one of our door staff. All they do is open and close doors. These people are the first contact with the hotel and become our ambassadors.

“How would you feel, if, during a job interview, you were told that all you will be doing is opening and closing doors? Will this excite me? Keep me interested?”

“If you observe Mark and speak with him, the answer is absolutely yes! It’s because the job isn’t about opening and closing doors. It is about the perspective they have about their professionalism and their career. I rely on our line staff, these amazing people who have daily, direct contact with our guests and who create this experience which makes the customer want to return to the hotel,” Sariolghalam notes.

Who you hire determines your success as an owner

“In the restaurant business, who you hire has an enormous impact on success or failure. The interview process is key to hiring the right person, and far too many restaurant owners or managers simply do not know what to look for,” Martin believes.

“What kind of personality do they have? Are they outgoing, smiling, positive in what they say or do, not overly laid-back, deadpan, ho-hum? You need people who are interactive. This person represents your establishment. You can have great food and a nice atmosphere, but a negative staff can put you out of business,” she underscores.

“A good server will make a connection with the guest, being personable, helpful, and will try to enhance the overall experience of being in their restaurant, be it a fine dining establishment or small coffee shop.”

“Anyone who equates easy money with being a server has never been in my shoes. But I can think of no other job where you control what you earn, and the recipe is so simple: care, attention to your guests, enjoy meeting people, be the best that you can and deeply value what it means when guests return to your restaurant because you are there,” she concluded.

There is a way for restaurant owners and managers to hire the people who will become excellent servers, but it won’t happen until they know what to look for and ask the right questions.  We’ll tell you next time what those questions are.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.