This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
There never can be very many of the highest type of headwaiters, the requirements of the position are such that not many men combine all the necessary qualifications, and when a pioprietor is preparing to organize a force for a new hotel or a resort house there is nothing gives him more anxious trouble, if he be not already acquainted with his man, than the selection of a headwaiter. The reasons for it will be apparent as we proceed. Head-waiters are officers in command of a number of hands and it is necessary that they be able to govern; they are like the centurions of old, commanding a hundred men. One of the large catering jobs mentioned in a former page required the employment of 26 headwaiters; each one had 150 waiters under him, and each had among them his lieutenants and captains. One London firm advertised for 4,000 waiters for some such a big transaction and received applications from 10,000, whether waiters or those who called themselves such. There are plenty of waiters, but only by selection from great numbers can the headwaiters be found.
The proprietor may have his dining room force well organized when something happens that the headwaiter leaves and in the ordinary course with almost any other line of business the second waiter would take his place, but it is seldom so here. The second may be able, but not good-looking. It is very desirable that the chief of the dining room should be of good personal apperance. He is the front sign of the house; he is the man the proprietor puts forward to represent himself in the first meetings with the guests; he is to give the first impressions, , and they may be lofty or low, buoyant or depressing, affluent or beggarly in a great degree, according to the condition of the official who either ushers or hustles them into their seats.
In the army there is a rule which shuts out all men below a certain standard height, and if it is bad for the little men, the rule is good for the appearance of the ranks on parade. Small waiters may do well enough, but if they run large It comes hard for a stumpy headwaiter to play the peremptory colonel over them. Then there are some men able enough whose countenance would turn milk sour if they looked at It; some so self-absorbed that nobody can receive good greating from them, nor catch their eye at table; some that look pallid and consumptive or pictures of grief; these are never chosen to stand at the dining room doors. Then some are built to be cowboys, to roam the western plains, rough in spite of themselves and their good clothes, loud and obtrusive without delicacy enough to be aware of it, and these are out of place on the carpet, however well they may do to marshal a battallion of waiters at some great festival in the open fields. It is not advisable either to have a man with a glowing red nose and coarse, blotched face trying the headwaiter's role in first-class dining room; his will may be good, but he is out of place also. And some who do not suffer under any of these disadvantages of a physical nature are deficient in other respects.
The too-good man will play with his waiters and loses his authority by placing himself on an equality with them. Or he spoils them by the promiscuous granting of favors, the letting them do as they please. .Others are crabbed, capricious and unjust. They make rules one day which they change the next day. A waiter may be blamed and reprimanded by them for doing something today, which was perfectly right to do yesterday, and thus they lose their influence and usefulness. For every sort of inefficiency results in injury to the hotel. Some hotels are so cursed with incompetency in this department in the midst of a busy season, when there is no time for changes, that the business suffers perceptibly and lasting damage is done to the reputation of the establishment. And because of the narrowness of the gate and the strict sifting of men the number that gets through into the first class head waiter's ranks is small and strictly first-class men are hard to find.