For anyone that has read my blog before, you know that I am a server at this present moment. It is a job that I have done most of my adult life and while it pays the bills, usually, I would like to someday do something else. In the meantime, I go to work a few nights a week and I deal with the public, the world, you. I wait on good people, great people, lousy people and a every so often I wait on people that suck.
It always surprises me how many people have never worked in any kind of restaurant, so perhaps this once I will give the benefit of the doubt. None the less, I thought I’d come up with some insight for those of you that do venture out into these public places to get your dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow.
I think that the first thing that the public needs to understand about their server, is that we sometimes choose this profession because we are actually good at it. Being a server or bartender is actually a skill that not everyone possesses. Not all people are given the gift of serving food and drinks to needy people with unruly children while keeping a smile on their face. Not all people are able to put up with the verbal abuse and in general being spoken down to, while still maintaining a positive attitude. It is actually more of a gift than a skill if you ask me.
I do wait on many great people, however over the years, I have seen a decline in decency. By that I mean, I wait on more and more people that think that they are better than me and that it is acceptable to treat me as such. I wonder about these people. I wonder what it would be like to be in their homes for Thanksgiving. Does Mom bring out the turkey and fixings, wipe the sweat off her brow and sit for only a second before they wave their napkin in the air in distress. “Miss, Miss…. I need, I need.”
I tell you this, not in my house! To be served is a privilege. To be able to afford the ability to go out to eat is certainly a privilege in today’s economy so I say act like it. It is certainly my job to get the things for you that will make your dinning experience wonderful, however I am not a mind reader, I am not your mom, and I am certainly not your servant.
To make this easy on the few of you that have never been in any kind of service industry I have made a little list of tips that may help your next dinning experience. Use them or don’t but either way, every person that has ever been in my non-slip shoes will feel similar and appreciate your consideration.
Now before I get into this list, many people think that because I am being tipped that it is my duty to put up with garbage. It actually is not. It is my job to provide a great dinning experience. That includes my greeting you in a friendly manor, suggesting some drinks or meals, taking your order, serving your food, checking that everything is great, keeping your table clean and presenting you with an accurate bill in the end and all of this I have to do in a timely manor with a smile on my face. No problem, but a tip isn’t an excuse to treat me poorly. It isn’t 20% if I can put up with your bullshit without crying. It is for me actually doing my job.
To that end here are a few ideas.
1. You don’t “Need” anything. I know its hard to believe when you are starving and thirsty but you don’t actually need anything that I can bring to you. I will happily get you anything as quickly as I can and I will usually have a smile on my face. All I expect is that you ask me kindly. Simply put… “Could I please have some extra ketchup?” Sure!!! No problem. In fact the nicer you are, the faster my feet move. Better yet, ask for it when you order and I won’t forget it, I’m good like that!
2. Waving your napkin in the air and calling for “Miss” is not the way to get great service. First, most places have servers introduce themselves in the beginning. If you weren’t ignoring my very presence when I greeted you with a smile originally, you would know my name. Second, the only reason to wave your napkin around is if you are swatting at a fly or there is a fire and smoke filling the building. Then by all means wave away. I will be going for the exit but to each his own.
3. Don’t ignore my very presence when I come to your table. I am waiting on you, because you chose to go out to eat. You decided to walk into my restaurant and sit down. As part of the deal, I will come to your table a talk to you. Don’t act like looking at me would kill you. When you choose to treat me this way, I spend more time at the tables that actually look up. If I ask a question it is because I am trying to better serve you. It’s my job, don’t make it harder.
4. If I am checking on your table and interrupt your conversation, I am sorry. That is why I usually start by saying “So sorry to interrupt, but how is everything?” That’s me being polite but also checking to see that your dinning experience is going well. If I didn’t check on you and your food was wrong then get mad. Don’t glare at me for caring how your food is tasting. Once again, it’s my job to care so don’t make it harder.
5. Ask for the things that you need all at once. There isn’t anything more irritating than bringing something for one guest and then another at the table sends you off in another direction, only to return and then have yet another guest do the same. I ask if there is anything that anyone needs. That means the whole table. If two of you weren’t on your cell phone while I was talking you would have heard me ask.
6. Don’t try to talk to me with a cell phone on your ear or while texting. I have other tables that are willing to look at me and speak to me like a human being. I am here to create a great experience for you, that is what you pay for. I can not do that when you won’t pay attention to me. I facilitate your meal and without me, you are going to Wendy’s drive through. Just give me a couple of minutes and then hop on the phone. That’s all I ask.
7. Tip me for what I do. I am quick to serve you, I am friendly. Your drinks are filled and your food is great. I run around to make sure you have everything that you need. I ask questions and I try to create a dinner that is tailored to you. Pay me for it. Ten percent is nothing. It isn’t acceptable for good service. Fifteen is a step up but still missing the mark. I start a tip at twenty percent and then go up according to my server’s expertise. Look, to put it simply, if you can’t afford a tip, you can’t afford to go to a sit down restaurant.
8. Thank me. Yes how you tip is a true way to show your appreciation for my work but it is nice to hear. If you appreciated how well I took care of you then thank me for it. It lets me know that I am doing something right and I can continue.
9. If you skip all of these tips please don’t skip this one. Just treat me like a human being. I like smiles and hellos. I like to be spoken to kindly and treated with respect. You like those things also so lets do each other a favor and be kind to each other.
Eating out is supposed to be fun. Service should really be great but over the years I have noticed how difficult it is becoming to be great when waiting on terrible people. We are all more stressed than ever and the world is a scary place. Everyone of us has issues and problems that are on our minds. Don’t take it out on your server. Use the dinner out as an escape but don’t expect a server to be treated poorly because you’ve had a bad day. Look, I have bad days too and I still go to work and smile at the my table while I introduce myself.
Food for thought… literally.