Origins of the Waiters Race

The first waiters race (the famous “Course des garçons de café“)

Waiters Races have existed for a long time… over a century! Although the first documents (photos, newspapers) seem to suggest that waiters races were already organized in the early 20th century, the exact date and city of their origin still remain uncertain. However, our team researched and found beautiful pictures of a waiters race held in 1901 in the city of London with many participants racing against each other–tray in hand. Undoubtedly, the tradition of this race originates from the French culture. Pictures of waiters race in Paris as far back as 1918 and 1921 show “garçons” (waiters) racing through Paris boulevards with thousands of spectators cheering them on.

Click on the photos below to watch the Waiters Race of Paris 1930.


Recognition of a Profession

From the very beginning, waiters races aimed at improving the recognition of the waiters profession. Parisian cafes had built a reputation and were known worldwide for their high quality in service. More importantly, Parisian waiters contributed largely to the French tourist industry and specificially in the city of Paris, attracting millions of tourists from around the world. With this success, the city of Paris decided to show their appreciation by organizing an event that would provide Parisian waiters the opportunity to demonstrate their agility, balance, and professional skills to the public…Hence, the waiters race–the famous course des garçons de café–was born.
Waiters took the race extremely seriously and transformed this initial event of appreciation by the city of Paris into a fastastic competitive sporting event fr the public. With the combined attributes of elegance, competition, and professional skills, in addition to the thousands of spectators cheering them on in the in the streets of Paris, the waiters races became an instant and popular success! The popoluraity has only grown from those early days. Now spectators await waiters races every year. This immensely popular and challenging sporting event has now grown around the world with events occurring in South American and Asia.

Click on the photos below to watch the Waiters Race of Paris 1949.



The French Touch

The waiters’ race, the French culture celebrated around the globe.

Are the organizers of the “Course des garçons de café” always French?

The waiters race is definitely part of French culture. It has often been exported outside of France thanks to French expatriates who own restaurants, hotels or “Frenchy” cafes. They have often been encouraged by local French institutions like the Alliance Franחaise, the French Embassy or the French Cultural Institute to organize waiters races in their localized areas.
Nowadays, organizers of waiters race are not only French expatriates. They are now being organized by thousands of people from around the world with diverse origins and cultures. However, even organizers who are not French enjoy to create the French athmosphere that has historically connected the root of the competition to its origin. In doing this, organizers may seek the support of local French institutions abroad in charge of promoting French culture. WaitersRace.com was created to help facilitate this process. For further information on how to gain support and help for your competition, then click here.

“The French Culture”

Considering the French origin of the waiters race, the competition is a great way to convey the image of France abroad. The podiums of the races are often colored in blue, white, and red. Around the race, spectators often enjoy excellent wine and cheese with the ambience of old wine barrels nearby. At many times, French people abroad will take this opportunity to participate in the atmosphere of their homeland and share the language of Molière with other Francophones.

Bastille Day

Bastille Day is one of the favorite day for Waiters Races

Bastille Day is a French national holiday that is held on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14th 1789. This day signalled the beginning of the world famous French revolution and indeed the end of the monarchy in France and the beginning of the democratic era. Every year, French people celebrate the ‘’Fete Nationale’’ on July 14th on the famous Champs Elysees avenue in Paris.
The list of countries and cities outside the “Douce France” that celebrate the Bastille Day has rapidly expanded over the years. It has become a very popular celebration of food, drink, and music because of the appreciation French culture has abroad.
Today, Bastille Day is celebrated on the five continents through parades, food and fireworks…and waiters races! Indeed, French waiters seem to represent the waiters profession and to be their emblem (or at least the symbol of the traditional ones). They convey the spirit of politeness, elegance, discretion and reliability that many restaurants all around the world have tried (with success or not) to imitate. Therefore, the Bastille Day which celebrates the French culture appeared to be a perfect date to put the waiters on their pedestal.
The list of cities that organize a waiters race during their Bastille Day expands every year: Washington, London, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Palm Beach are just a few examples. Read more


The Race around the world
Waiters Races are organized all around the globe every year

Waiters Races are organized all around the globe every year

Born in France in the 1920s, the Race of Waiters appeared to be then a tradition rooted exclusively in France. Today, the race has travelled around the world and now attracts thousands of people every year, coming out to support “their” Garçon de café. The race currently exists in all five continents and adapts itself to the local customs of the respective area. For example, in South America races include obstacles. In China and Spain, races take place on the shores of sunny beaches. In Australia, they are organized in the small streets of a market. In Iceland, they have them on a lush green lawn in a park. And in Scandinavia, the even organize them on a cruise ship.

The Race, favourite of the media

The waiters race is an attractive event for local and national media outlets to cover. The waiters race presents a great opportunity to gain media attention because of its festive nature, the ability to market French culture internationally, and the races unique entertainment opportunity. Spectators and tourists are fond of such popular events that provide entertainment and quality leisure time with friends and family during the summer time. Every year, media organizations are at the starting lines to interview competitors and spectators in a festive atmospheric environment for the community.

The race, a recognized tourist attraction

The race of waiters allows municipalities and local tourist offices the opportunity to attract tourists and provide entertainment to its local residents. Because many of the competitors are local residents, friends and local organizations come out to support their friends, always bringing a friendly and positive quality to the events, with the competitive energy to provide that additional competitive edge. In short, more and more large cities and towns are interested in organizing a race of waiters event in their area. With the increased enthusiasm of this popular event around the world and the beginning of WaitersRaces.com, we should exponentially see the number of races increase every year. May the race begin!
The race of waiters allows municipalities and local tourist offices to attract tourists into their city but is also an entertainment for the residents. People gather themselves as soon as they see waiters and you can always notice a lot of smiles in view of the competitors who often have familiar faces. In short, more and more cities and even neighborhoods of huge cities are interested in organizing a race of waiters in their prestigious streets and squares. We should therefore continue to see the number of races increasing every year, for our pleasure!
Photos credits: Berlin 1930 Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Bastille Day by Colin Mutchler, Carrera de Mozos by Jorge Gobbi, www.blogdeviajes.com.ar.