Notes from a disgruntled waitress

Let’s face it, no one actually aspires to be a waitress.

There is nothing glamorous about carrying heavy trays, reciting specials, filling drinks, shlepping dirty dishes, arguing with line cooks and dealing with bad tippers. All while making sure you have a smile plastered across your face for a couple of bucks.

Working in the service industry is not for everyone. For starters, you have to be able to deal with people, all types of people. Business lunchers who don’t give you the time of day, impatient families with screaming toddlers, high maintenance older couples who pay with change and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Everyone goes out to eat at one point or another and there is a good chance that the girl serving you has much higher aspirations than to ask if you want fries with your meal.

To make your server’s life a little bit easier, here are some helpful tips to think about the next time you sit down at a restaurant.

1. Acknowledge the person serving you

When the server comes to greet you at your table, 99 times out of 100 they will ask you how you are doing. Most times this greeting is accompanied by a smile and a cheerful disposition (depending on the time of day) as a way to engage you before delving into a pre-rehearsed speech on what the chef has prepared. Why not take this time to say hello and actually respond instead of pretending you’re too involved in your decision making process. Once the pleasantries are over you can get back to staring at the menu so why not make a quick human connection with the person that is about to cater to your needs.

2. Make a decision and go with it

I know better than anyone that decided on what to eat can be a very hard thing. It’s a committment and when you become a server you realize lots of people struggle with this simple committment issue. If you are not ready to order when your server comes around just simple ask for more time. No waitress wants to stand at a table for 10 minutes while you verbally deliberate between the pasta with chicken or the pasta with beef. You don’t need to phone a friend, you don’t need a street shout-out, just go with your gut because that’s the part of your body it’s all going to anyway.

3. Know your environment

There are many different occasions that warrant dining out, be it a business meeting, date, birthday, anniversary, vacation or just when you’re too lazy to cook, and the meal is always a great break because someone is doing all the behind-the-scenes work for you. Before you walk into a restaurant take a look around and asses whether the environment suites the type of experience you are looking to have. Is the DJ blasting hip-hop in the corner going to irritate your cranky 4-year old? Are the servers wearing collared shirts and ties while you’re in sweats? Is the menu out of your price range? Are peanut shells on the floor not suitable  hard to please in-laws? Just make sure you actually want to eat somewhere before you sit down and waste a servers time by ordering two waters.

4. If you have a problem, speak up

Far too often people are afraid to speak their minds when it comes to getting what they want. In reality, it’s easier to just take what you get and deal with it, and when that happens with food there is no greater disappointment. If you don’t like something that you ordered, if it’s not cooked the right way, looks weird, smells funny, is scaring your date, don’t be afraid to send it back. No one is going to be offended and, trust me, the restaurant wants the opportunity to fix its mistake. If you don’t touch your food the server is most likely going to notice and ask what they can do. There is no greater disappointment than to repeatedly hear the words “oh, everything’s fine” and then notice a horrible review the next day on Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor or whatever website from the woman who pushed her salmon around the plate all night.

5. Always, always tip 15% or more

Unless a server verbally assaulted you, completely ignored you or purposely spilled something on you, there is really no reason to tip below 15% of your total bill at the end of the meal. Most servers barely make $5 an hour and survive solely on the tips that they work hard for. Factor in the tip when you do your ordering at the beginning of the meal, if you ordered the NY strip and three $12 glasses of wine you’re going to have to leave a little bit more than the guy at the next table who opted for soup, salad and water. Also, don’t leave change as a tip. No server wants to open up a check book to find a few crumpled dollars and 28 pennies to count out.

—-> Side note: If you are visiting from another county take the time to learn what is customary when dining out in the Unites States. No, that little line that says Tip: $________ is not simply for decoration, it’s where you pay for the service. Take that, you Brazilian women who left me no tip on a $200 check, karma will get you!!

I digress.

6.  Treat others how you would like to be treated

It’s a concept most of us learned at a young age, do unto others as you would have done to you. Yes, it is the job of a server to make sure you don’t have to lift a finger but it does not make them a servant, or a punching bag, or someone below you. We are all human beings and we should treat each other as such, and who knows, the girl running her butt off to please you may be in night school to become the next high-powered CEO, or is supporting two kids, juggling multiple jobs, or trying to make it as a writer… you never know.

I know that my stint as a waitress is not a permanent career choice but I must admit that I’m glad to see things from the other side. Yes, I come home from work disgruntled, tired, covered in spilled food with aching feet, but I will forever be courteous and grateful to the people who serve me when I get to go out.

I’m sure more rants will follow, but damn did that feel good….

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2 responses to “Notes from a disgruntled waitress

  1. I was just sent this blog from a dear friend in Summit County where I waitressed for many years (and loved it I might add) and I feel compelled to comment. First of all I really liked the tone of the article because I’m tired of blogs where the writer just complains about being in the service industry, how they are treated or the things that happen on a regular basis. We know, we know–we’ve been there. I say this because I would guess that it’s mostly restaurant people who read these type of blogs (unfortunately as many people can learn from a blog like this!) however, judging by the other subjects in this blog and the writing, hopefully that’s not the case.

    The beginning line is true, but there is a twist to it in my opinion. Sure no-one wakes up and says I want to be a waitress, but there are untold numbers of people all over the world who wouldn’t do anything else because of the great lifestyle it offers. Maybe not for the rest of their lives, but for more time than they expected! I won’t expand– after all, this is a Summit County blog 😉

    This part: “Everyone goes out to eat at one point or another and there is a good chance that the girl serving you has much higher aspirations than to ask if you want fries with your meal.” could also read: “that the girl/guy serving you has a much higher education than you are judging her/him to have just because they are serving you.” Again….Summit County. (Or many places for that matter.)

    I agree with the tipping, but also stress that if the server has a bad attitude, is rude or feels that you owe them just because, don’t give them a good tip! That’s just reinforcing bad behaviour, and what about the server who does care and give good service, shouldn’t there be a difference?

    My favorite was section 6!If we all lived by that concept, the possibilities are endless. Matter of fact, that was the main message in my movie shot right there in Summit County that you may or may not know about. Check out the website: http://www.didisaythousandisland.com. Yes, as she said we all are human. And sometimes we make mistakes, it’s just that a server’s mistakes are front and center so they might be harder to forgive, but if you try, we all win. Slainte! Patti

  2. gypsyjournalist

    Thank you so much for your comment, Patti!

    Glad that someone else could identify with this rant, and I do agree with you that being a waitress does open up lots of different doors. Heck, not many other people have their days wide open to ski all the time!

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