This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The headwaiter's duties have now been pretty clearly outlined, his relations to the steward and chef having been defined in the first part of this book. And the difference betwixt a front view and an inside view may be seen by reference to the extracts concerning the foreign headwaiter, where the writers regard only the personality of the particular " Henry " or " Eugene," his pleasing presence and his chat, without the least intimation in their remarks that at the same time "Eugene" is chatting so pleasantly with them at their table, he is thinking, probably, about a waiter at the most remote table In the room, where perhaps a family just arrived has been seated and requires attention, and divide his thoughts with some other critical customer In quite another direction.
The first step In organization for the headwaiter is to dress his waiters all alike - they must have jackets, cravats, slippers and aprons. Ordinarily they have only one jacket, a black alpaca with bright buttons, but in some of the most stylish houses the waiters appear in white jackets at dinner and black at the other two meals. This necessitates their owning two jackets, and puts the laundry work of the jackets upon the hotel. For the waiters have to buy their jackets and own them. The hotel buys a lot of assorted sizes at the manufactories where all sorts of uniforms are made, and each waiter when he hires must buy one of them and pay for it In installments. If the jacket cost four dollars the waiter, when his time is made up on the time book, will have one or two dollars of his wages stopped each month till it is paid for. The same thing is done with light patent leather slippers, the hotel buying them by the box and selling to the waiters at cost. White cravats cost but little and are usually furnished free by the hotel, as well as aprons, which both go to the laundry through the same routine as other white goods, to be counted out and counted in each morning, as indicated above.
The waiters must provide themselves with dark-colored or black pants of decent appearance, but at the same time the waiters' aprons are made of such ample dimensions they almost entirely cover the wearer down to his bright slippers.
When they are all in uniform the head-waiter draws them up in line like soldiers in the dining room and assorts them according to size. The two tallest are told off, each to head a watch, then the next two and so an to the shortest, who brings up the rears of the two companies. After that each waiter has his number and always takes the same place in the ranks at the muster before and after each meal. In hotels where there are many waiters they wear their number either on a metal badge or ribbon, one intention of this is to enable a guest to identify any waiter he may have to make complaint of The captains of the watches are not choosen for their stature, but for their superior ability and reliability, their habitual punctuality and steady conduct. They receive one or two dollars per month more than the rank and file and get the best tables to wait on. They take their places at the head of the squad when marching to or from the dining room, except in the case of there being a second head waiter, when he heads one of the watches and the captain marches in his numbered place in the ranks.
There are other waiters under the head-waiter's control who do not come into these dining room watches; they are in the officers' dining rooms, nurses' and children's ordinaries, etc. They generally are required to wear the same uniform and are inspected and governed by the second head waiter or, in the largest hotels, by the superintendent of the particular department. In the dining room, if there be fifty tables in use, there will be about that many waiters in line in the two watches. As the business contracts some of the tables will be unused and the waiters are dismissed. In the greater number of hotels the waiters are from twenty to thirty - ten to fifteen in a watch.