Top Waiters / Tour Guides = Top Business Owners

Top Waiters / Tour Guides = Top Business Owners
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What a great experience when you visit a restaurant and are lucky enough to be served by a professionally trained, well-dressed, and friendly waiter. This scenario creates, not just a happy customer, but a returning customer! As we all know, it's not how many come through the door, it's how many come back.

With this in mind, I cannot understand why many restaurant owners spend very little time and energy in training and investing in their service staff. The waiters and waitresses from any restaurant are the 'customer facing', front line heartbeat of the restaurant industry! So, why is it that so many restaurant owners fail at training them properly and not paying them according to their worth?

In many cases across the world, waiters are the lowest on the pecking order of the restaurant team, and in most cases, they only work for tips from clients and don't receive any form of salary or commission. This does not make sense to me because they are the first and last contact point for the client. A waiter could make or break a special birthday dinner for a family.

Waiters should enjoy a high-ranking status in any restaurant, and if they are paid their worth, the industry will also attract more presentable individuals with lots of natural hospitality talent.
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In hindsight, I strongly believe that all young people should work a year or two as waiters. Why? It is known as the school of life. It will break the chains from the wallet of their parents, teach them crucial life skills and they will get to interact with people from all levels of society.

Each restaurant has got a handful of Top Waiters. The core team that knows the menu by heart, has been with the restaurant for more than a year, is super dependable, and always presentable. The regular clients love them and ask for them by name when making bookings. Why is this the case? Why does only 10% of the server team make it into the Top 5?

The Top Waiters see themselves as Business Owners. How do I know this? Because I was one of them. When my shift started, I would be allocated a certain section of the restaurant (usually 4 to 6 tables) and that would remain my responsibility for the rest of the evening.

Immediately I would make a mental gear change and tell myself that those six tables are now my own business. It does not belong to the restaurant owner anymore, it's mine. I then promised myself to forget about the potential money I could make from tips, instead, I was 100% focused on creating returning clients. By doing this, the money followed without me chasing it.

- My section of the restaurant was spotless.

- Silverware polished and glasses crystal clear.

- My uniform was pressed and clean.

- I was never without a bottle opener, pen or notepad.

- I knew the menu by heart.

- I was friends with the team in the kitchen.

- I was able to tell my guests if anything was out of stock before they asked.

- I was always on time for my shifts.

- I was always willing to help other waiters that were struggling.

I saw the value in creating a memorable experience for my clients. (note that I am speaking of MY clients and not the restaurant's clients)

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When clients experience amazing service when interacting with your brand, they will remember it and come back for more.

The fact that I saw the restaurant's clients as my own, helped me to consistently stay in the Top 5 group of servers for several years.

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If by chance you are working in a restaurant and see yourself as one of the top dogs of the team then I want to challenge you to start thinking out of the box and consider starting your own business. I know that working as a waiter could trap you in a vicious cycle as well as a hand-to-mouth existence.

However, you are not one of the Top Dog Waiters for no reason, are you?

- You have amazing people skills.

- You are not afraid of public speaking.

- You can multi-task.

- You can problem-solve under pressure.

- You can do budget forecasts.

- You have been creating return clients for the restaurant owner for years.

These are all the attributes of a successful entrepreneur!

I'm writing this blog to encourage all hospitality staff, that can identify with the above, to step out of their comfort zone and start thinking of their own business.

You see, I was a waiter for many years and, more often than not, I and the rest of the service team was treated like dirt while the restaurant owner's bank account was growing daily. We were the infantry soldiers meeting the guests on the front lines, fighting the battles of menu choices and out-of-stock items.

We were the ones walking around with a baby on the hip so that the mother at table 4 could enjoy her dinner. We promoted the restaurant name and wore the branded shirt with pride while creating returning clients daily.

Like the Israelite's in Egypt, we grew stronger every day. Every day we learned additional people skills, life skills, working under pressure skills, and most of all; budgeting skills. We were scraping a living from the bottom of the barrel, but we made it work! Our rent was paid, our clothes were washed and there was food on the table. However, we all found it hard to break free from the hand-to-mouth existence.

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A few years later I became a tour guide and enjoyed similar success while working for well-known tour operators around the world. The majority of the tour operators all managed their freelance tour guides in the same way as restaurant owners treated their waiters. Like an unfortunate necessity that they have to deal with to please their clients.

But, of course, there is always the exception to the rule and one company stood out from all the others. What did they do differently? They invested heavily in their tour guides. Why? Because from the beginning the owner saw the potential of well-dressed and trained guides being the first point of contact when tourists start their adventures. This resulted in a global brand that clients loved! They knew, that whether they book a tour in Australia, Bali, or Antarctica, the tour guide they get, will be of a certain standard. The guide will be dressed in a certain way and act according to a prescribed set of rules and regulations.

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When they book with other big brand tour operators, they never knew what kind of tour guide will lead their trip and it was some sort of a lucky packet surprise that waited for them at the airport.

Now, why am I highlighting this story?

Because similar to waiters, top tour guides already possess the skills and talents to start a profitable entrepreneurial journey!

If you feel stuck working in a restaurant where you don't feel appreciated, or you are a freelance tour guide trying to revive a guiding career post-pandemic style, then I want to encourage you to think out of the box and start a business. You Have The Skills Already!

At least start a side hustle with the intent to work at it as often as possible and then stop trading your time for money and create an automated income.
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If you are working in a restaurant where you are appreciated, then great, stick around. This is a restaurant where you get some form of basic salary, the owner is willing to invest in you via service training and wine courses as an example.

If you work for a tour operator where they treat their guides fairly and the daily rate is above average, then great, stick around.

But, if any of the above scenarios are not true where you work, then get out and look for other opportunities. Maybe it's time that you create your own 'opportunities'.

The online 'opportunities' are endless.

If there has ever been a 'right time to start an online business, then this is it.

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