If you’ve noticed your local Pizza Express waiter looking pretty buff recently, here’s the reason. For the past few months, restaurant staff across the city have been engaging in clandestine training sessions. Wine-pouring forearms have been honed, tray-bearing triceps toughened and napkin-folding digits flexed, all in preparation for London’s first official Waiters Race.
On Sunday June 23, some 200 of the country’s finest waiting staff will congregate in Brunswick Square for the 1km race as part of National Waiters Day. The rules: get to the finish line as quickly as possible without dropping a tray holding glasses and a bottle of water. The reward: the glory of being crowned the sprightliest waiter in the UK. The event was dreamed up by Fred Sirieix, general manager of Galvin at Windows at the Park Lane Hilton, in partnership with charity Springboard, which helps the unemployed find work in the hospitality industry. Fred thinks that waiters get a bad rep and was inspired by a long history of ad-hoc waiter races, the first of which was held in London in 1901.
Spectators can turn up to cheer on their favourite tray-bearer from 10am, and the contest kicks off at 11am. Although it’s almost certain to look like an egg-and-spoon race for human penguins, the event is recognised by UK Athletics – there’ll even be an anti-doping squad. If you still doubt its importance, here’s a word from Fred: ‘Service is not just a job, service is a way of life.’ Live by the plate, die by the plate. And can you bring the bill when you’re done?Flo Wales Bonner
Brunswick Square, WC1N 1BS. Russell Square. Sun Jun 23, 10am. For more info, see the National Waiters Day website.