Oh, the restaurant! A magical place where you can get dressed up, do absolutely no work, and enjoy a delicious meal amongst loved ones within your dietary restrictions and price range. What a treat! What a joy! And what a different place it would be without the people who work there. While the dishwasher may touch every guest and the host may be the first impression, today we will be focusing on the waiter, the most present of workers during your experience.
To celebrate National Waiters & Waitresses Day, today we’ll examine how to be the best customer* you can be while at the restaurant of your choosing from start to finish.
*As a great manager once said, “Your mom has customers; Joe’s Crab Shack has ‘guests.’”
The server will approach the table, welcome you in, and ask if you’ve been to the restaurant before. Perhaps he or she will explain a few things about how things may work in this establishment, or what all those sauces on the table are that you’ve already taken it upon yourself to smell.
As The Guest, it is important to stay nose-in your menu during this time (or in the sauces). Most servers are forced to give those opening spiels; they don’t want to. Why not save them the hassle? Interrupt them immediately, and say, “We’re ready to order,” even if you’re not ready to order. Servers love that. It means they will be rewarded with the opportunity to answer all the questions they could have already answered by giving the spiel at a later time in the meal, which makes your experience that much more personal.
If we know anything: Servers only have one table at a time, and that table is you.
If your server is telling you they only carry Coke or Pepsi products, chances are they have an additional supply in the back of the opposite. If they continue to stand their ground and say they can only give you Diet Pepsi and add grenadine (completely off-setting your choice to drink Diet Pepsi), rolling your eyes paired with a mild huff is completely appropriate. Trust me, they’re just as annoyed as you are.
Regarding alcoholic beverages: bartenders aren’t responsible for maintaining an inventory or following the law. They get what’s called a “Bartender’s Pass” when they leave University (all bartenders went to bartending college, so if you don’t know what’s in your drink or shot, it’s completely ok – they TOTALLY will. Even if it’s something you had in Olathe, Kansas ten years ago and you can’t remember the name of it, but it was pink and had like 4 vodkas and an energy drink in it and was served in a fishbowl and was $4 – THEY’VE GOT YOU. This is what they went to school for, after all).
The Bartender’s Pass entitles them to pour as much alcohol in the drink as you want, give away drinks for free, and to serve you as much as you think necessary. You want ten beers before getting in your car? That’s YOUR prerogative, Bobby Brown – just ask! They love that. Everyone knows bartenders are sassy; this gives them the opportunity to show off that sass they learned in Bar Sass 201.
A server’s favorite part of the meal is talking about appetizers. Helpful questions to ask during this time (without opening the menu, of course) include:
- “What cold appetizers do you have?”
- “What hot appetizers do you have?”
- “My daughter doesn’t like Taiwanese food. Do you have mozzarella sticks on your appetizer menu?”
- “I don’t see it on the menu, but I went somewhere before and they let me… can you do half orders of these?”
- “Can you just charge me whatever and make me a platter of whatever you like best?”
- “Can you make the crab cakes, but vegan? Like, with the crab flavor but without all the crab meat? I don’t mind waiting.”
The more questions you ask, the more the server will leave feeling like they made a difference in your appetizer world. Even if you don’t order an appetizer, asking these questions will show you care about them. And today is for them!
Ask about both the secret menu and the specials during this time. A secret menu always exists at every restaurant, and remember that specials are code name for “cheaper price,” not “something special that isn’t normally on the menu.” These two are mutually exclusive.
Disregard what you might have found appetizing and ask the server, “What’s good?” In my experience, all people find all foods equally enjoyable, or not at all enjoyable. That’s why 1,500,203 new Del Taco, Hardee’s and Furr’s restaurants are popping up all over the nation, because YUM, SON.
Portion size is something that is chosen at the time of your order, so make sure to let your server know if you want them to “throw in a little extra” fish/vegetables/truffle in there for good measure, or request the fattest/leanest/specific cut of meat/fish, or for “less carrot and more broccoli” in the beet salad. Remind them their tip depends on it.
This is your time to shine! The server will swing by asking how everything is.
They’ve over-cooked the burger! You asked for medium, and there’s not supposed to be pink in medium! The way YOU cook burgers is the standard, and medium means a crispy black edge with a gray center. Let them know.
You didn’t get enough steak! He recommended the 8 oz., but the price point was right on the 6 oz. filet, and by your eyeball, that well done steak is 4 oz. at best. Let them know.
Your Zaru Soba is cold. Noodles are supposed to be hot. Let them know.
If you’re not a confrontational person, no worries. Don’t bother expressing your concerns to your server in real time. You’ll have plenty of time after your experience, when you get home and log in to Yelp! All restaurant businesses take Yelp very seriously.
You know you’re not going to get dessert, but today is their day, not yours. Go ahead and ask to see a dessert tray. This is also a fun time for dad jokes, misogyny and misandry. A freebie: “Are YOU on the dessert menu? That might sway me…” What a treat it is to be hit on at your workplace!
The server will present the check. Make sure to check everything over and question the prices on each item. Servers also think it’s absolutely ridiculous that an additional house-brined pickle is $2. Letting them know so— and taking it out of their tip— will only positively reinforce them to change the prices; they have the power to do so.
Tipping is so hard. Regardless of what servers may claim, they do not have to tip out a percentage to the host, setter, bartender, server assistant, food runner or busser, leaving their once 15% tip now a 8% tip. Or, they most likely tip out based on their tips, not their sales, so if you have a $100 check and give the server $5, they will most likely get to keep all $5, not pay out of pocket to compensate the other workers who helped make your experience a great one.
Also, most servers don’t live off of their tips, but rather their checks. Everyone knows American servers make the most money out of anyone ever. Their checks easily cover all of their living expenses. The checks are so much, that usually, they stamp it with a sign that says “THIS IS NOT A CHECK,” and these tips are just covering their bar tab when they leave the restaurant, so happy from the 12-hour double they just worked, and binge on as much alcohol as they can safely consume.
They’re in it because they love the food, they love the work, and most importantly, they love the people whose lives they change each evening.
As a server, thank you for being you: the guest. Truthfully… without you, we’d have no job. For that, we are thankful.