This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
"When a waiter enters the service of the principal London restrarateurs he has to bring with him ten dollars for 'working money,' as it is called. He pays this in to the cashier and gets ten dollars worth of meal checks for it Whatever is ordered he pays for at the kitchen with checks. He is provided with a blank tablet which has manifold or copying paper between the leaves, and thus writing the bills in duplicate, he tears one out and gives it to the customer, and receives the customers money, and the copy remains in the book.
When business is over for the day, the waiter takes his book containing the duplicate bills to the office, together with whatever remaining checks he has; the totals of the different bills are then added up, and the grand total must correspond with the amount of checks used by him during the day Should the total be more than the checks, the Inference is that he has overcharged somebody, and he must immediately refund, whatever the amount is, to the firm or leave. He, of course, generally chooses the former alternative. If, on the other hand, the total should be anything less, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has lost it, and supposing either that somebody has gone without paying their bill when his back has been turned, that he has given too much in change, or that, in the rush of business he has given a three-shilling check for a threepenny, which, seeing they are marked pretty much alike, is not improbable. Three shillings and sixpence (nearly $1.00) per week is charged each man for glass breakage, and the firm I speak of pay no salary to waiters; indeed, few restaurateurs do, and where they do it is but a mere pittance. What a waiter mainly depends on for his living is his tips.
His makings, assuming that he works fifteen hours, average as a rule from five to seven shillings per day ($1.25 to $1 75) and' considering the great disadvantages under which he labors, and remembering that he has to bear a smiling front through it all, this is not after all such a fabulous sum. Of course it is only right, and proper too, that a large firm like the one I have spoken of should have such strict rules; but I have shown that the waiter's lot, any more than the policeman's is not always a happy one.
By the return call of the electrical system, with tiny bells, the guest can telegraph all ordinary orders to the kitchen and receive answers both of the sonorous and the solid sort with the speed of lightning.
It is a mistake, however, to suppose that there is anything in this more like magic than the practice of the most expert of human waiters at the great resorts, where waiters as well as guests are counted by the hundreds, and therefore cannot be individually known nor very perfectly watched.
It is doubtful if the new automatic waiter will ever come up to the sleight-of-hand pro ficiency of the human waiters who do such neat tricks as that which they call the two-by-four, by which they sell the employer's goods for him and returning perhaps the cost price, putting all the profit in their own pockets, and make the employer think that he has-been watching them at the same time, exactly as a slight-of-hand performer does upon the stage; and this is only one of the many tricks which the automatic waiter can never do. In a large restaurant the waiters must buy with their own money the dishes ordered at their tables, paying for them at the cashier's desk, half way between the dining-room and the kitchen. Spring ckickens are charged at seventy-five cents for single orders, but two orders are $1.25 and four orders at once are $2.50. The waiter goes to the kitchen with four dishes and orders four chikckens, gets them, and starts for the cashier's desk, but when he arrives there he has only two chickens; he shows them, pays for two, and starts for the dining-room. When he gets there he has four chickens, as he had when he left the kitchen. He sells them and clears $1.25 by the opera ion. Like all those conjuring tricks it is easy enough when one knows how it is done.
In the first passage the waiter sticks a chicken in each breast of his jacket and turns the empty dishes upside down on the remaining two on his tray, "to keep them warm, because his customer ordered them so," and in that style appears at the cashier's desk. In the next passage he replaces all as they were before.
A novel check on both visitor and waiter is in use at one of the American hotels. On entering the dining room a boy hands the guest a card, upon which are printed amounts up to about $2.00. On one corner is the consecutive number stamped upon it by an automatic numbering machine. When the visitor gives his order, this ticket is taken away by the waiter, and when the latter receives his order at the kitchen the card is returned to him with the amount punched out. If anything extra is ordered, another sum, representing the aggregate of the two orders, is punched out, and the customer pays the total sum punched at the desk. The consecutive numbering denotes the day of issue.