We’re Servers; Not Servants.
If you’ve never worked in the restaurant industry, there’s a good chance you have a family member or good friend who has. Some of their stories will make you laugh, but more often than not, they will make you cringe.
Servers, bartenders, hostesses, food runners, etc (the “Front of House” staff) are at times treated less than human… and for things that are entirely out of their control.
1. Let us give you our “spiel.”
Most restaurants actually require their servers to “spiel” their tables. This little speech, that honestly takes up less than two minutes of your dining time, allows your server to introduce himself or herself, give you an overall rundown on the concept of the restaurant and / or menu, and go over any daily specials.
Not only is it rude to interrupt this time by ordering yourself a diet coke, you’re missing out on hearing important information.
Flagging him or her down in the middle of busy dinner service to ask something he or she literally just had the opportunity to tell you about will slow down your server, who is trying to help out as many customers as he or she can.
2. You are not the only table of which we are taking care.
That’s right. The table next to you, behind you, or across the restaurant is probably also being taken care of by your server.
On a busy night, servers can end up getting double, triple, or quadruple sat with tables within just a few minutes.
Don’t say you are ready to order if you still haven’t even looked at the menu. It’s okay to ask your server his or her opinion on different items, but keep in mind that he or she has limited time to spend with you.
So if you need a couple of things, don’t ask for one, then ask for another, and another, and another every time your server brings something out. He or she does not have the time to make 20 trips for your table alone.
3. When you do give your order, include all the items you want with your meal.
Don’t wait until your food drops to the table to ask for a side of ranch. Your server has a prioritized list in his or her head of what needs to be done next. Disrupting this flow can cause a server to forget something important.
Just this request can require running back to the kitchen only to find the chef is out of ranch and then running into the fridge to look for it and bring it out.
Five minutes in restaurant time feels like hours, and a whole lot of other things could have been done during this time.
It’s not that he or she isn’t happy to do it, it’s that you could have avoided this entire scenario simply by ordering everything you want all at once.
4. We did not cook your food.
Stiffing your server on his or her tip or being flat out rude because your steak came out over-cooked the first time around is not fair.
Your server is often-times making less than minimum wage, and his or her paychecks, due to taxes, can come out to either zero or negative.
He or she lives solely off of tips.
That said, while your server is doing the best he or she can to ensure your visit is pleasurable, he or she has little to no control over how the kitchen prepares your dinner.
5. If you want to do part cash and part credit card for your payment, do not tip on the credit card amount.
If a check is $100 and you want to leave $60 in cash and the rest plus a tip on the card, then do not leave the tip based on the amount shown on the credit card slip.
The tip should reflect the overall amount of the check.
This may seem like common sense, but it is shocking how many times a server gets stuck with less than a 10% tip, because the customer calculated the tip on the credit card portion of the check.
6. If you are a large party, bring cash.
There is nothing more frustrating than getting ten forms of payment during a busy rush.
Your server does not have time to read the last four digits of each credit card and then apply the three things you circled for one, and four things on the other, and then $10 cash for this item, and so on.
Even on a slow night, this is a sheer waste of time for a server. Splitting a check a few ways via credit card is fine, but beyond that, use cash.
7. We have to clean up the huge mess your children make.
Your server is doing the best he or she can to hide the look of horror on his or her face as your child rips up packets of sugar and throws them everywhere.
And while your child is flinging spaghetti onto the floor, your server is silently crying inside thinking of how long turning this table will take.
While most restaurants have a support staff, it’s expected that the server help pre-bus his or her tables in order for the table to be reset as quickly as possible.
The added mess that your child just made is now requiring more time and effort than necessary, such as bringing out a broom or mop and multiple trips to the trash.
8. Pay attention and do not talk over us when we are at your table, especially if you are in a large party.
Your server wants to get each and every order exact, not only to ensure your visit is what you want it to be, but also so that he or she does not have to deal with food being sent back.
When you continue to talk to another customer while your server is trying to take an order, you are running the risk of him or her making a mistake that can cause someone to get a wrongly cooked dish.
Also, a lot of places have menu items that either sound similar or have similar names, so be specific while ordering.
The “Thai Tuna Roll” and the “Thai Tuna Salad” are two very different things.
9. This is her job. She is working.
A female server gets hit on more times than you can even imagine.
Get a few drinks in a large table of guys, and suddenly obscene things are being said that no girl wants to hear, either at work or out with her friends.
Asking her out while she is at work is inappropriate. Not only is she required to be nice to you (unless you are offensive, in which case she can get her manager), but she has nowhere to escape to get away from you.
If there is genuine interest, she’ll probably let you know. If not, then leave her alone.
10. We only have two hands.
When the restaurant is slammed, it becomes difficult for your server to find someone available to help out.
Don’t ask for a hundred things from the kitchen and then get frustrated when your server only brings half out at a time.
He or she is not an octopus, and your demands may take a few trips.
11. When you linger at a table for a substantial amount of time, we lose out on making money.
When half of your party shows up late, and you take forever to order then sit around once the bill is dropped and talk, your server loses out on using that table for other parties.
It’s not that your server doesn’t want you to take your time and enjoy your evening, he or she just has a line out of the door of people wanting to eat and for every hour you sit there doing nothing, your server loses the ability to make more money.
If you decide to take up a table for hours, then show some appreciation and let your tip reflect that.
12. We cannot read your mind, so please tell us if something is wrong.
Do not wait until your meal is all finished and the check is dropped to ask for a manager and complain.
Your server wants your meal to be just what you expected. If it isn’t, he or she will fix it.
It’s also not funny or cute or kind to X out the tip section of a check and write down “Burgers came without bacon and we wanted bacon.”
Your server will gladly grab you that bacon and anything else you need, but he or she cannot possibly know what you want unless you voice it.
13. Servers have bad days, too.
One bad table and a stiffed tip can make a server’s night instantly a bad one.
Think of the last dining experience you had. Was everyone in a good mood? Bad? Were other tables kind and courteous or did you see a customer chew a server out for something he or she forgot?
If your server seems sad or curt, please be kind, courteous, and understanding. One good table can turn his or her night around really quickly.
14. We have to tip out a percentage of our tips.
Many restaurants have a tip-out system that allows for the hostesses, food runners, and bussers (the support staff) to also make tips.
This means your server does not get to keep all of his or her tips.
Stiffing him or her and not leaving any tip can mean the server now has to pay to have served your table.
And a few extra bucks from you can make a huge difference for the rest of the staff.
15. We are, after all, only human.
If your server makes a mistake, be patient. Know that he or she is also thinking of a hundred other things that he or she has to do over the course of just the next few minutes.
Unless your server constantly screwing up and making your night miserable, do not run to the manager just because your server forgot that you wanted extra sauce on the side or that you wanted diet coke and not regular.
Let your server apologize and fix the mistake before you try to get him or her into trouble.
16. Wait your turn.
It is not uncommon for guests to try and flag their server down while he or she is talking to another table.
Snapping your fingers is extremely rude. Your server is a human being, and he or she does not deserve to be treated like a dog.
When you server has clearly finished up his or her time with that table, then feel free to get his or her attention by saying his or her name (which you were told during the spiel) or say “Excuse me.”
If it’s urgent, you can try to flag down another staff member, who will be happy to help you.
17. Extra means extra.
Extra bacon will cost extra. If it costs the company more, it will most likely cost you more.
If you want to know if an item costs extra, just ask.
Most of the time, since your server most likely has had to deal with this before, he or she will notify you if something costs extra.
This is not an opportunity to complain or haggle. Your server does not set the prices and cannot give you things for free, nor should they. This would count as stealing from the restaurant, and your server has no interest in risking his or her job just so you can save $0.50.
18. I cannot make your food come out faster.
If you never worked in a restaurant, you’ve probably never seen the huge line of tickets at expo in the kitchen.
No matter how quickly your server puts your order in, he or she has no control over where your order falls in the lineup.
Also, a well done steak is going to take a long time (and is also a crime in the eyes of a chef).
If you have time restraints, such as a movie to catch or are on your lunch hour, let your server know prior to ordering. He or she can then let the kitchen and manager know, so that you are able to get in and out in a timely manner.
19. This is my job, and it is a “real” job.
For many servers, yes, this is just their part-time job to supplement their income. And if you live in LA or NYC, there’s a huge chance your sever is also a model, actor, director, or writer.
Many entry-level jobs post-college pay next to nothing, and your server may need a night job two or three times a week to make ends meet or pay off student loans.
Or, some jobs simply just don’t pay enough.
But for most servers, this is their job. They can make great money, while having a flexible schedule that allows for whatever lifestyle they live. Some servers have a family and a spouse with a day job. He or she may work nights and spend the daytime with the kids so that their spouse can work during the day.
Whatever the case, unless your server specifies that he or she has another job, do not ask what his or her “real job” is.
Your server’s job is not always an easy one. The job requires one to have multitasking skills and patience, while being on his or her feet long hours and having to run around for most of them. It can be fun, and it can be challenging… And at times it is dehumanizing.
So be patient, kind, courteous, and generous. Know the difference between a bad server and a busy server, and don’t be afraid to communicate exactly what you want so your server can accommodate you.