A Server on Service

This week, we’re featuring Waiting at Table by “a Prosperous Head Waiter,” published in 1936. It’s a text-heavy, slightly-illustrated manual for waiters, impressing upon its readers a need for precision, cleanliness, and efficiency.

I’ll be honest: Up against a detailed manual like that of John B. Goins–The American Waiter, (which I’ve written about before) is probably my favorite guide for the servers–Waiting at Table feels a little generic. (Also, who HAS a favorite guide for servers? I may be spending TOO much time with this collection!) However, I think we could argue that is its intention. Our “prosperous head waiter”/author does know his stuff and if you’re going to focus on certain topics, I would agree that neatness, carving, decoration, napkins, glasses, etc., are the correct things on which to pay attention. I love Goins’ attention to detail, but in truth, we don’t NEED to read his views on tipping, or why waiters should know the recipe for possum served on a plank. The introduction to Waiting at Table reads that the book is:

a guide for all who have to serve at meal, whether in hotels, restaurants, private houses or other establishments.

The subject of waiting is dealt with in all its aspects and there are few engaged in this profession who would not derive some benefit by studying the fourteen chapters.

In other words, whether you’re new to the business or long-established, there’s something here for you.

I’m all for letting the text speak for itself this week, but I can’t post this without another comment or two. First, there’s the cover. If you didn’t notice it, I’ll draw your attention to it now: “Think–for the price of a packet of cigarettes you have a complete Guide to your future success.” What a tagline! Makes it sound almost as if they are trying to sell you something…Second, on the spine of the book, there’s a “No.32.” at the top, which made me curious as to what the rest of the series looks like. On the back, there’s a complete list, including books like Wedding EtiquetteFuneral Formalities and Obligations, Card TricksThe Various Dart Games, and 502 Practical Household HintsWaiting at Table comes from an eclectic series of titles…Practical in their own ways (even Tea-Cup Fortune Telling, I suppose)…Right?

Until next week, here’s hoping all your napkins are lily-folded and and your glassware is correct.


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