Hotel and catering jobs: how to cope when things go wrong

Hotel and catering jobs can get stressful. Have you ever spilled a tray of drinks over a customer? Forgotten to ring through a food order? Given away a reserved table? Fear not - follow these steps and everyone will leave with a smile on their face!

Spilled tray/food

Tracey from Perth said: 'On my first day working in a posh restaurant, I spilled a bowl of hot tomato soup all over a woman's lap. She was wearing a cream dress!'

Most waiting staff will have a similar story to tell. At the time, it can seem awful: Tracey's first instinct was to run and hide. But stay calm and keep your perspective - you'll probably be laughing about it later!

If the substance was hot, immediately ask the customer if they are hurt. They might require an ice pack or, in extreme circumstances, medical attention.

  • For most spills, the first thing to do is to apologise
  • Then tell the customer that you will take care of it immediately
  • Stay with the spill and ask a colleague to bring you a warning sign
  • Once the sign is in place, deal with the customer first. Bring napkins for them to dry themselves and club soda from the bar if the spill might cause a stain
  • Ask a colleague to fetch a replacement drink/plate
  • Clear up the rest of the spill if you can do so without disturbing the table. If the spill was a major one, ask the customers if they would like to move tables
  • Apologise at least twice before they leave the restaurant, but don't overdo it - they probably just want to dine in peace
  • Check up on them to make sure everything is alright
  • Check with the manager to see if you can offer a free round of drinks or desserts

Forgotten to ring through an order

Jasmine from London said: 'I've forgotten to place a table's order. After 20 minutes or so, you begin to wonder where their food is - and then you get a real sinking feeling in your stomach as it dawns on you that you haven't rung it through.'

  • It happens - don't stress. Take the following steps:
  • Check with the kitchen to see how fast they can prepare the food
  • Go to the table and tell them the truth. Apologise and let them know exactly how long their food will take
  • Offer them a round of drinks (check with your manager) while they wait
  • Apologise at least twice before they leave, but don't overdo it
  • When the food arrives, make sure everything is perfect
  • If they are still unhappy, it may be necessary to comp an item off the bill or offer free desserts


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