I started working at a steakhouse about a year and a half ago, and about a year ago, I started waiting tables. I thought that I had prepared well enough. (I actually went out and bought a few serving books and wine guides.) However, anyone that has ever worked in customer service will tell you that nothing can prepare you completely for all the people you’ll meet. I’ve had people yell at me, throw things at me, and spill things on me (don’t worry, I’ve spilled drinks on them, too), but I still haven’t seen it all. Despite my occasional bad guest, I really do enjoy my job. There have been a lot of articles about hidden secrets of the serving industry but here are a couple little known pieces of advice. I hope that with this blog post, you’ll see how we can both work together for our mutual benefit.
1. Don’t Seat Yourself
While this might seem like a no-brainer, I can’t tell you how many times on a slow day we’ve had tables walk in and tell me where they want to be sat. Servers have sections that they shouldn’t venture out of (for your benefit and theirs). Then, to make the server walk across the restaurant to take care of you is taking time away from their other tables and actually hurting your service as well. Let us seat you.
2. Understand Fake Waits
You don’t have to like them. Just understand them. As I said earlier, servers have sections, and the size of those sections is often dictated on the corporate level. There will be times when you have to wait, and you notice open tables. We don’t have enough servers on to take care of you. Thus, the fake wait is born. Don’t get angry at me because we’re understaffed. We’re working as quickly as we can to get you taken care of.
3. If Your Party Isn’t All There, Don’t Sit Down
I once dealt with a table that sat for two hours before their entire party showed up. Their entire stay lasted for 4 hours and the entire time the restaurant was on a wait. I could have fed two or three tables in that period instead of just the one. Be respectful of other guests and wait.
4. Don’t Cut Me Off
Me: “Hello, Folks! How are yo-”
Guest: “Iced Tea.”
I want to provide an experience for you. I want you to have a good time. Let me ask you about your day, let me get my name out and let me ask what you’d like to drink before jumping in. You’re not efficient. You’re rude, and for that matter…
5. Get Off Your Cell Phone
Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk on your cellphone while you’re at the dinner table? When I come to the table to greet you, don’t shoo me away because you’re taking a personal call that could wait until later. Be respectful of my time, too.
6. Acknowledge My Existence
When I walk over to greet you, make some eye contact with me. Most of the time when I say things, they’re important and regarding your check, your meal, or your payment. You can return to your conversation after we get all the boring details out of the way.
7. Let Me Pace Your Meal
I understand. You’ve had some bad servers in the past that have sent all your food at once, so you’ve gotten your entrées and salads right after you just got your appetizer. That’s frustrating. But I have been trained in the art of pacing your meal. Don’t hold off on giving me the rest of your order forcing me to come back to your table several times to see if you’re ready. It throws off my whole rhythm, and ruins the pace for other guests.
8. Pay Right Away
You don’t have to leave. I don’t want you to stay an extra two hours after you’re finished eating, but if you want to chat with friends for a while, I don’t mind. Please, though, please pay your check first. When I drop off the check, I watch it like a hawk. I don’t know what your plans are: if you want to wait around or if you want to get out as quickly as possible. If you wanted to leave right away, and I wasn’t paying attention, you’d end up waiting on me which is just bad service. I can’t keep coming by your table over and over again seeing if you paid it yet. Pay it and be done with it.
9. Tipping is Important
Most servers will tell you it’s not complicated. Good service gets 20%; standard service gets 15% and poor service gets little to nothing. I spoke earlier about tipping but know that it is incredibly frustrating when your server works hard bending over backwards for your table, and then you respond by leaving him/her with less than 10% (often after saying how wonderful a job s/he did). We’re not greedy. Don’t give us the money if we did a bad job, but recognize us when we do a good job, when your drinks never go dry, and your meals are perfectly paced. But whatever you do…
10. Don’t Talk to Me About My Tip
Few topics are taboo for me, and this is definitely one of them. Tipping is highly, highly expected (to the point of almost being required), and it can get confusing some times. However, don’t joke with me about how my tip is decreasing, that I’m only complimenting you for a nice tip, or that if what you wrote down is okay. I won’t tell you if you tipped me poorly. I know you want to make a serious subject a little more light-hearted, but it worries me when you start to joke about my paycheck.
To all the women who think that I’m buttering you up for a nice tip, know this: Yes, I am that cheesy in real life and perhaps you do look like you’re under thirty.
I really do love my job. There are always awesome people who come in, who tip me well, who joke around with me, and who just make the job much more fun. Most of these criticisms are to help me do my job better so that you don’t have to worry if the night could be a disaster. I’ve already taken the necessary steps to ensure that you have the best dining experience you can get.