How to Be a Good Waitress When Busy: 7 Tips to Know 

You always strive to be the best waitress you can be, but you get so busy at the restaurant somedays that you feel like you have to make sacrifices. How do you juggle your workload and still meet customer demand?

Here are some tips for being a good waitress even when busy:

  • Use HIHO
  • Stay calm
  • Address the tables that need the same service in one trip
  • Keep supplies handy
  • Know the menu well
  • Have good recommendations ready
  • Smile

Ahead, we’ll talk further about each of these tips so that no matter how much work is on your plate when you sign into the restaurant today, you’ll be ready to handle it!

1. Use the HIHO Technique

The first tip we have for you is to follow the HIHO technique. 

What is HIHO, you ask? It stands for hands-in, hands-out.

In other words, you always want to keep your hands busy when waitressing, especially if you’re short-staffed because your restaurant hasn’t hired enough help or several employees called out sick.

When you venture back to the kitchen, you don’t want to leave with empty hands. Even if your customers’ orders aren’t ready quite yet, surely, there are other tables where delivering something to them would be beneficial.

Whether that’s menus, drinks, utensils, napkins, straws, an appetizer, or the check, you want to keep your hands full.

Then, when you turn around to leave after serving a table, you want something in your hands to take back to the kitchen.

Maybe that’s empty plates and cups, used napkins, or silverware.

By using the HIHO technique, you slowly chip away at your responsibilities for each table, which in turn prevents you from feeling overwhelmed. 

2. Stay Calm

Speaking of feeling overwhelmed, whatever you’re feeling, you need to keep it on the inside. 

Your customers can read your demeanor, and if you’re stressed and harried or even sounding panicked and sad because you’re overwhelmed, they’re going to notice. 

They can see it on your face and hear it in your voice. This will, in the end, affect your tip.

Although when you’re overworked, the tips are plentiful, you still don’t want to undercut your tips if you can avoid it! 

Do what you can to stay calm even when you’re facing great pressure for the next couple of hours left of your shift.

Go to the kitchen and take a few deep breaths. Step into the breakroom or the bathroom and give yourself two minutes to decompress. 

Find your center, remind yourself that this shift isn’t forever, and then get back out there and do what you do best!

3. Address the Tables That Need the Same Service in One Trip 

If you’re juggling five or seven tables at the same time, which can happen if your restaurant is having an especially good night, it’s easy to begin running around like a chicken without a head trying to serve everyone.

However, not only are you needlessly wasting your energy like this, but you could also get confused. 

You don’t want to bring out apps or entrees for a table that didn’t even order yet or get one table’s order mixed up with another. 

How do you prevent these kinds of mishaps? It’s easy. 

Keep track of the tables that need the same service and then provide that service for those tables before moving on to a different service for another group of tables.

In a way, it’s like serving one big table even though the patrons don’t know each other and technically aren’t dining together.

As an example, if you were delivering drinks to three tables, then you’d wait until all their drinks are up and serve those three tables (not necessarily at once if you’re worried about spilling that many drinks!).

Then, if the next group of tables had their entrees ready, you’d deliver entrees to those tables.

Perhaps the third group of tables is ready for dessert or the check, both of which you can provide to the tables as they need them. 

Doesn’t that make so much more sense than grabbing apps for Table 1, an entrée for Table 2, and dessert or a check for Table 3? It certainly does! 

4. Keep Supplies Handy

Your waitress apron should be fully stocked with everything you’ll need to serve a large number of customers so you won’t have to keep running back and forth to the kitchen.

We’re talking simple but integral supplies such as spare straws, pens, and even extra silverware. 

The less time you waste running back and forth, the easier it is to remain focused. You’ll also be able to expend your energy more wisely.

On top of all that, you’ll look like you know what you’re doing in front of your customers. Even if you feel like the shift is spiraling out of control, if you look like you’ve got a handle on things and you stay calm, then your customers don’t ever have to be any the wiser. 

5. Know the Menu Well

You never know when a customer is coming into the restaurant for the first time. You’re going to be the first one they’re going to ask about what’s on the menu.

If you don’t know what’s on the menu, you should never say as much. In fact, saying, “I don’t know” in the restaurant industry is a great way to cost yourself a tip, as you’ll look bad in front of your customers.

You should always tell a customer, “I’ll go ask the kitchen,” and then get back to them.

As you first get started with waitressing, you might ask the kitchen often, but you eventually have to learn the menu inside and out. Even if your restaurant’s menu is like a novella, you still have to know what’s on there.

This way, you don’t have to go back and ask the kitchen, which takes a lot of time. Your customers, in the meantime, are left waiting for you to come back before they can place their order, which doesn’t exactly make them happy. 

When you learn the menu, you’ll expedite the ordering process so you can get more orders back to the kitchen faster. 

6. Have Good Recommendations Ready

As a first-time customer browses through your restaurant’s menu and asks you questions, one question that they’ll naturally have is what’s good? 

They expect that since you’ve worked there for a while that you will know. 

This isn’t one of those questions where you can go back and ask the kitchen. You work at the restaurant and must have sampled enough of the menu right now, so the customer wants a recommendation from you

You should always carry a menu recommendation in the back of your head.

Actually, make that two. You never know if your restaurant will sell out of something or if someone has a food allergy or an intolerance or simply doesn’t like whatever your first recommendation will be.

The recommendations should be for every food category your menu offers, such as appetizers, sides, entrees, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and desserts. 

You should change up your recommendations periodically so you don’t become like a broken record. Suggest the daily specials at times, especially if you truly love them personally.

That’s our last point to this end. Please only recommend the menu items that you’ve tried and really enjoy. The conviction in your recommendation will come through and you could inspire a customer’s ordering decision! 

7. Smile!

Look, when you’re stressed out at work, the last thing you feel like doing is smiling. We can understand that completely. Even still, it’s worth doing!

Smiling can reduce your stress levels and actually make you feel happier. 

Your brain doesn’t understand the difference between genuinely smiling and smiling just because you want to or have to, so the effects are the same.

There’s also evidence that smiling can increase your tip, sometimes as much as doubling it. 

Everyone wants to be served at a restaurant by a person who looks like they’re enjoying themselves and doesn’t hate their job. Smiling will make you look far more upbeat. 


Being a good waitress when busy means serving with a smile, keeping track of your customers and what they need, reducing needless trips to the kitchen, and always having your hands full when you do make your way to and from the back.

We hope these tips help you improve your waitressing game! 

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