Looking Sharp while Waiting Tables


Dear Fellow Waiter or Waitress,

We'll start by stating the obvious: Always look presentable. From the minute you walk through the door, you should report for work looking your best by following your employer's dress code and wearing appropriate restaurant workwear.

Don't roll out of bed and head out the door without paying attention to your appearance. The clothing, hair, personal hygiene and general attitude of a waiter or waitress should: (1) make a good impression on customers (increases tips), (2) keep The Boss happy (influences job security), and (3) reflect a personal commitment to being a professional (builds self-esteem).

OK, here are some more obvious and not-so-obvious tips for looking sharp during your shift. These are from people who have been in your slip-resistant, restaurant shoes.

  • Check your appearance periodically to see if you look disheveled or have spilled something on yourself without noticing it. Make corrections, as needed.
  • If you have spilled something on yourself, wipe it off as soon as possible with a damp cloth using clear water or club soda.
  • If you have a locker at work, keep an extra uniform in it--just in case.
  • If an apron is part of your restaurant workwear uniform, make sure it's tied or otherwise fastened securely for safety. You don't want it catching on anything.
  • If you wear a uniform, make sure to keep it in excellent condition - ironed, stain-free and neat.
  • If you don't have a specific uniform requirement where you work, wear clothes that are neat, clean and don't stand out. Your goal is to look serious and professional.
  • Keep your nails clean and trimmed. If you wear nail polish, keep it subtle.
  • Restaurant pants should fit comfortably, resist stains and look professional without a lot of ironing.
  • Wear nice-looking, comfortable, slip-resistant shoes made with waiters and waitresses in mind--no tennis shoes or sandals. If you wear tie shoes, keep them tightly tied. Again, it's for your own safety.
  • Don't wear cologne or perfume. Some guests are sensitive to scents and may be allergic.
  • Keep jewelry and make-up subtle. You know you have on too much when it draws comments.
  • Don't wear scented hand lotion; it clings to glassware.
  • At no time should you chew gum or eat while you're in public areas. Never.
  • On the other hand, ALWAYS wear a smile. Customers, management AND the kitchen staff appreciate seeing it.

One last reminder: uniforms do wear out and get trashed over time. That means not only should you do a spot-check daily as you get dressed, you should also do a monthly uniform check that's more complete. Look closely at all your restaurant pants, shirts, shoes, ties, jackets, hats and aprons. Check for frayed edges, rips and tears, permanent stains, faded colors, etc. If you have some items that are still serviceable but on their last legs, relegate them to your “emergency” stash. These are items that don’t get used during your normal work week, but are there just in case you forget to do your laundry.

From all of us at Dickies who have been a waiter or waitress