This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
It has been mentioned incidentally that the headwaiter has something to say to his men when they are drawn up in a line before him. This is the custom not universally followed. Some headwaiters have little or nothing to say, call it "old-fashioned" "don't believe in it" and so on. Others have "the gift of the gab," and love to talk even too well. It seems very sensible, however, for a chief having such a good opportunity before him to remember the faults, of service he may have seen or heard of on the previous day, and reprove and caution his waiters Accordingly. The following does not purport to be the straight continuous talk of the speaker, but is a selection of pithy remarks:
"Mr. Geo. F. Betts, headwaiter at Young's Hotel, Boston, gives his men a lecture on their duties every Monday morning. These are among the best things he said at a recent lecture: 'The first requirement of a waiter is a gentlemanly bearing. No one but a gentleman can be a good waiter. I want to speak now about this habit of passing around subscription papers among the guests in aid of the sick employse". You must stop that. Never beg from anyone but yourselves. Now, in this matter of serving wines, if you don't happen to know what glass to use for a particular wine ask some one. I will gladly tell you. The trouble is that some men can't be told anything, They'll never learn to be waiters. Now, if a person orders a pot of coffee, don't bring up cold milk unless it is called for. Bring up hot milk with coffee and cold milk with tea. Always serve pulverized sugar with tomatoes, lettuce and cracked ice with cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, cantelope, and muskmelon. Berries of course need milk or cream and pulverized sugar. A dessert knife and fork and powdered sugar should go with all pastries, while a small piece of American cheese is in order with all kinds of pie. Many men never think of such a thing as putting mustard on the table. Some people like it.
This matter of laughing and fooling don't make a waiter. I should stop it. Never chew tobacco and spit on the door mats, and don't gather in groups arond the corridors. Sleeping on watches must also be stopped. All cold meats ought to be garnished with parsley, lettuce, or celery. Be careful about leaving your side towels around. Another man comes along with something to wipe, and he don't know whether it has been laying there for twenty seconds or twenty years. It is a good plan not to wipe your face with an apron nor towel, nor be too familiar with the proprietor. I never allow myself even to drink a glass of lemonade with him. Do your drinking in the proper place. If you don't study these little things you'll always be down, as sure as you're born. Always remember that I'm the boss, too. I'm hired to be headwaiter, and I mean to act it out. If I refuse to excuse any man for the day don't make the mistake of going to the Captain, because I'm ahead of the Captain. Never open a boiled egg for a customer unless ordered. If you see that a guest of the house wishes to be waited on by a particular man with whom he is acquainted, always give way politely and without confusion. A waiter should always keep his eyes cast toward the door instead of out of the window.
Be careful in serving any kind of 'fizz' wines to pour them out carefully. In serving old wines never wipe off the dust from the bottle. Never wipe off the label, and be sure to show the label to the gentleman, in order that there may be no mistake. You are all supposed to wear dark pants, with white apron and necktie. No colored shirts are allowed. Your boots must be blacked from this day out You are excused".
Another chief indicates his ideas of a talk in training waiters as follows:
"What constitutes a good waiter? A good disposition; a thorough knowledge of his duties, with the quality of being polite, attentive and obliging at all times and under all circumstances; a correct idea as to coursing and serving dinner parties, ineluding the different wines which go with each course. Neatness and cleanliness are indeed necessary passports, and argue strongly in a waiters favor when applying for a position. Waiters are often judged, or as the expression goes, 'sized up,' by their personal appearance, thus 'the apparel oft bespeaks the man,' and nine times out of ten secures him a position. First-class waiters take great pride in their toilet; spotless linens are pre-eminently one of the first requisites. Hair nicely combed, cravat neatly tied and adjusted, shoes brightly polished (shoes without heels; I am opposed to 6lippers), and clean aprons and clean towels; also short and clean fingernails; supposing jackets and trousers to be black or of a dark color, corresponding one with the other, and no rents in them, a waiter is presentable and qualified, so far as his uniform is concerned, for service. Nothing worries and frets the headwaiter more than to see a waiter come sneaking into the dining room five or ten minutes after the doors are open.
A good 'time-maker' is a prize to the headwaiter. Every waiter in all well-regulated dining rooms, should be at his station ten minutes before the door opens, and inspect his table, see if everything is in its place, properly arranged and perfectly clean. A good waiter is always pleasant, agreeable and affable; always strives to please, and spares no pains in his efforts to give entire satisfaction. A good waiter will never contradict or hold a dispute with a guest,notwithstanding he may be right and the guest wrong. Whether he has made an error or not, he will invariably 'plead guilty to the charge,' and exonerate or excuse himself in such a manner as will be pleasing and not offensive.
"The most important feature in waiting is to serve an order according to order - no more, no less. If a guest orders for breakfast fried potatoes, breakfast bacon, soft-boiled eggs, coffee and rolls, just that number of dishes should be served and no more, and no first-class waiter claiming to understand his business will bring one dish over. A good and intelligent waiter keeps himself posted as to the contents of the bill of fare, so as to readily give the name or explanation of any dish thereon, if necessary. A good n.emory is highly essential in the make-up of a good waiter, and none can properly be classed as such with a defective memory. There is nothing more provoking to a guest than to order poached eggs and be served with soft-boiled eggs, or to order roast beef and be served with mutton, or to ask for coffee and get tea.
"A good and conscientious waiter will not try to bring in the entire kitchen for the purpose of extracting the paltry sum of twenty five cents from a guest. A first-class, painstaking and duty-bound waiter can and will accomplish this without resorting to such methods of extravagance, which are so detrimental to both his and his employer's interests. He is polite, attentive and obliging; courteous, accommodating and patient; fast, prompt and clean, when serving a party. These are the qualities that enhance his chances for obtaining a fee, and when he obtains it under these circumstances he has the satisfaction of knowing he obtained it solely on his merits as a first-class waiter".