Unlike many of my advice articles where I found my guidance through research, I happen to have some first-hand knowledge of the banquet and hospitality industry that allows me to share some tips with those hoping to break into the field. It can be intimidating working in a fancy environment, so I have decided to share what limited advice I can offer on the subject :
Banquet Serving Tips — #1. Somebody Has to Do the Heavy Lifting
First of all, I was the only male server at the country club where I was employed. At first, I thought that this was a coincidental stroke of luck. However, I soon learned that the country club made a habit of hiring one male server for the purpose of banquet setup, namely, heavy lifting. Still, I learned quite a few things that helped me along in both my serving and banquet setup duties.
Banquet Serving Tips — #2. If You Can’t Serve, You Will Do the Heavy Lifting
As far as the serving goes, I was never the best waiter in the front of the house. I learned a few tips that I never would have guessed. For example, if a man orders a cocktail and you serve it to him with a straw it can be considered an insult. This leads to the second lesson I learned serving tables at a fancy banquet hall: you can’t please anyone.
Banquet Serving Tips — #3. Presentation (cover up those old tables and chairs)
But, when it comes to dining room and banquet hall setup, there are a few things I picked up that were very helpful in making me indispensable despite my poor serving skills. The most important thing is the presentation of tables. At the place where I worked, the dining furniture wasn’t fancy at all. In fact, in the banquet room they used only wooden folding tables and chairs. The trick was to always keep them covered with table skirting, tablecloths, and chair coverings during the banquet. I had to remain vigilant that none of the wooden folding furniture was never exposed and the only thing visible to the attendees was the fancy dinner linens.
I imagine that the country club would have invested in fancier furniture if it weren’t for the fact that the table and chair configuration changed with every new event. Folding tables and chairs are easier to store and move into the right positions, especially if you have a male “server” to handle all of the heavy lifting. I don’t wish to suggest that the female servers lacked the strength to move the folding furniture, I think the management was simply playing to the strengths of their various employees. I was much more suited towards folding and moving furniture than I was at keeping food orders straight.
Banquet Serving Tips — #4. Keep Tables Clean
So, considering that the table linens played such a large role in creating the ambience of the establishment, keeping up with the cleanliness of the linens was an important responsibility when I was banquet serving. When bussing tables, it was important to go back over the tables with the crumb brush to make sure that the diners’ eating surface remained pristine. Another important task was to keep up with the soiled dining linens. We had a hamper for used linens, but it was the server’s job to keep track of how many items had been placed in the cleaning bin. This enabled the country club to maintain a realtime inventory of their clean tablecloths, table skirtings, linen napkins, and chair coverings. I learned this lesson the hard way by throwing all of my soiled linens into the hamper one night without marking them down. My punishment was to sort through the whole lot and get an accurate count of the dirty table linens. This is the kind of thing you will want to avoid if you manage to land a job in hospitality.
Banquet Serving Tips — #5. Learn How to Fold Fancy Napkins (or do the heavy lifting)
But, the worst chore with which I had to familiarize myself was creative napkin folding. At the end of each shift, every server was responsible for filling a box of creatively folded napkins before he or she could punch out. Creative napkin folding is definitely not my forte. I usually traded this task to someone who enjoyed folding napkins into roses for the place settings by offering to do some other chore. The one thing that did surprise me was the numerous napkin folding designs that were available to choose from at each event. There were roses, swans, and all kinds of other flowers, animals, and designs that some servers were able to fold our linen napkins into. If you have any interest in napkin folding, or want to know a few moves in preparation for a job in hospitality, there are countless online resources that give walkthroughs on a variety of designs.
Banquet Serving Tips — #6. Image is Everything
I guess if I have one important piece of advice to give about working in upper-class hospitality and banquets it would be that image is everything. If you have old wooden folding chairs, make sure they are covered with beautiful chair covers. Keep tablecloths on your tables and keep them clean. Keep your flatware spotless. Members of organizations such as the country club where I worked expected an unusually high level of customer service. So, even if you come across someone who can’t be pleased, do your best to smile and say “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” By maintaining a high-class ambience at fancy banquet halls it is possible to attract a high class clientele and, if you are working for tips, this can often be very beneficial to your revenue stream.