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Want to enjoy eating out?

Then this post, my friend, is for YOU.

Every Monday, my friends and I go out to this restaurant/bar for karaoke. I have been doing this for almost four years, but some of us have been going for longer. As time has gone by, our group has grown and changed, but the Monday night karaoke has become tradition. We make a point to not miss it, often because for a lot of us, it's the only time we get to catch up with each other. All of us have lives, things to do, and it isn't always easy to make time for all of your friends. Our Monday night tradition solves that problem.

Last night, we were stricken with a particularly horrible server. We've had her once before, and she was awful the last time, as well. Across the bar, I watched as some other patron absolutely laid into this poor girl. Her service was terrible, but he was just treating her like she was no better than dog shit. I wanted to walk over there and slap him for it!

See, I have a bit of a soft spot for treating servers well. I was one for three years, and a damn good one at that. After starting my first job as a waitress, I was promoted to a trainer and a shift leader in less than three months. I worked my ass off as a server, liked my job, and in general, made good money. But as a server, you have to put up with an unbelievable amount of crap.

When I get bad service, I try to give them a little bit of slack, because I know that 9 times out of 10, bad service means that there is something going on beyond the server's control. Rarely is the server just a dickhead who doesn't care about the table. So watching a patron be rude to a server gets underneath my skin; I've been there and done that.

And frankly, people just do not seem to give servers the respect they deserve. There is so much that people either don't understand or care about when it comes to serving, and either don't know or don't care that they're treating an actual human being like crap. I could write a post about how to be a great server -- and maybe one day I will -- but there are more patrons out there than there are servers, and judging by my three years of serving experience, plus observing what goes on when I go out to eat, these kinds of posts are needed. Because people just do not get it.

So, we'll start at the beginning and work our way through the meal. Read. Absorb. Being good to your server will ensure that your experience is a good one.

  • Be patient.
    One of my personal rules, as a server, was the thirty-second rule. At the absolute least, I would acknowledge my guests within at least thirty seconds. On really busy nights, this was sometimes just a quick stop: "Hi, I'm Cassy. I'll be with you guys in just one minute, OK?" I wanted them to know that I had seen them, I knew they were there, and that I would be with them as soon as I could if I couldn't actually stop and begin my spiel right away to start the meal. But for some customers, this was not good enough. They would get huffy and annoyed that I wasn't there to get their drink order and greet them the instant they sat down, no matter how busy the place was.

    The thing is, servers do not get one table at a time. At the beginning of each shift, the restaurant is divided into sections. As shift leader, my job was to divide up the sections and assign servers to each one. In some restaurants, two servers would split a section and have as little as three tables at a time. In others, they'd get the section all to themselves, giving them as many as eight tables to look after at a time. I mention this because a lot of people do not seem to understand that a server is not there to serve them exclusively, as much as we would like to -- trust me, it would make our jobs much, much easier. But on busy Friday and Saturday nights, we're running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off. We're trying to give the best possible service we can to all of our customers, so if your server is not there instaneously and it's a busy night, give them a break. Be patient. They will get to you as soon as is humanly possible.

  • Be friendly and responsive.
    When I first greet my table, I try to be as friendly and upbeat as possible. It sets a good tone for the evening ahead. But when I walk over there, bubbling over with energy (even if its fake energy), chirp out, "Hey, I'm Cassy! How are y'all doing tonight?", and hear silence, or a "Yeah, I'll take a Diet Coke, please.", it ruins that. When we come over and say hello, say hi back. Actually talk to us. It's great to get a little conversation going. We won't stand there and talk to you all night, but it does lighten the atmosphere. You're more likely to enjoy our service, and we're more likely to give you better service if we like you. So when we talk to you, don't be afraid to respond. Be friendly; have fun. Think about it. When you have a really great server, who you're able to talk to and joke with throughout the meal, doesn't it make your experience at that restaurant more enjoyable? When we ask you a question, answer it. Be nice. We'll be nice back. Remember, servers work for tips -- if you're a total asshole from the beginning of the meal, you're likely to get written off as someone who won't tip well right from the get-go, and therefore will not get treated as well.

    Being rude to your server can be hazardous, as well. Watch the movie Waiting. That stuff actually happens to guests who have too much of an attitude problem. I've never done it myself, but I can guarantee you that it does happen. So, be nice if for no other reason than self-preservation.

  • Don't interrupt.
    When you go to just about any restaurant, a server is likely to give you a whole spiel about the specials for the night, mention a specific appetizer or drink, or recommend a certain dish. Don't interrupt them; don't cut them off.

    One of the restaurants I worked for was the Olive Garden. We were required to present a bottle of wine to each and every single table, to describe the qualities of that wine, and to offer a wine sample. If we didn't, our general manager promised us that we would be fired on the spot.

    So yes, while that information may be completely useless and annoying to you, just listen. It'll only take a minute or two. Your server probably hates saying it as much as you hate hearing it, but if you aren't interested in anything they tell you (and you never know, they might mention something that does catch your interest), then just let them finish and then politely say, "No, thank you," before you proceed to order.

  • Don't blame your server if your food takes too long.
    A lot of people seem to get very, very angry if you don't get your food promptly. This just boggles my mind -- do people think that their server is the one who goes back in the kitchen and cooks it?! We, as servers, have absolutely no control over how quickly food comes out. It annoys us more that it annoys you, because we know that the longer the food takes to come out, the lower our tip is getting, because we're the ones who get blamed. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The only time you can blame your server for your food being late is if it has obviously been baking underneath the heating lamps, and you can tell when it has been -- sauces will be congealing on the plate, for example. If your food has taken forever, but comes out fresh, steaming, and hot, then you can't blame them. They got your food to you as soon as it was prepared.

  • Don't blame your server if there's a problem with your food.
    Maybe it doesn't taste right. Maybe there's onions mixed in with your pasta when you asked for no onions. 9 times out of 10, this is, again, not the server's fault.

    Say it with me: the server does not make the food!

    Just nicely, politely, let them know what the problem is. They will take it back to the kitchen and get it fixed for you. If the customer was nice about it, I'd usually "reward" them by offering them a free dessert (and this free dessert came out of MY pocket -- servers usually can't comp anything without managerial approval). I'd always have the manager bring the corrected dish out to lend a nice touch. The key here is, that by being polite even when things are going wrong, you'll often get even better service. Your server will be falling all over themself to atone for the mix-up, unless you get an attitude. Again, this will cause you to likely be written off as a lost cause.

  • Control your children.
    I absolutely love kids. I love waiting on them, because they're fun. And parents love a server who will interact with their kids rather than just ignoring them; plus, the kids will feel special and important. That said, there are too many parents who let their kids run wild at restaurants.

    I've had kids at my table completely empty the salt and pepper shakers and all of the sugar packets into a big, salty, peppery, sugary mound of powders onto the table, before playing with it for the rest of the night. The parents don't lift a finger and just let them play. I've had kids at my table throw their food everywhere -- the tables, the chairs, the walls, the carpets -- rather than eat it. The parents don't lift a finger. In one particular instance, a kid saw a server coming towards him while carrying a tray loaded with food. The kid purposely stuck out his ankle and tripped the server. She went sprawling all over the carpet, the food was obviously ruined for some other guest, and broken dishes were everywhere. The parents saw the entire thing, and laughed affectionately: "Oh, he's such a little troublemaker!"

    Parents, just please control your children. You're the adult; you should be in charge. It should say a lot if your kids control you more than you control them.

  • When we ask you how your meal was, be honest.
    Be nice, but be honest. If you didn't like your food, tell us why. If something wasn't great about the restaurant, let us know. If you are nice and polite about it, we're going to absorb that information and know what we can do to improve the experience for you and other guests in the future. If you're rude and bitchy about it, we're going to brush it off as an asshole customer and not really listen to anything you say.

    Are you sensing a trend? It's OK to complain if things don't go right -- just be nice about it. There's no need to be rude. It'll get you nowhere.

    Also, don't be afraid to tell us if your food was fantastic, or if you loved our service. Nothing, and I mean nothing, put more spring in my step than my guests telling me how much they loved having me as a server. Nothing made me happier than seeing guests come in a second and third time and ask for me, specifically. Letting your server know how great everything was is the best compliment you can give them.

  • If you're really angry, take it to the manager.
    Let's say you've had absolutely horrible service. The server was awful, the food sucked, and everything went wrong. Do not lambast your server. If you're that angry, you need to go to the manager about it. First of all, laying into the server only means that the server is not going to report your complaints to save their own skin. Second, servers are not trained to deal with irate customers; managers are. The manager won't try to cover up your problem, they'll try to solve it. The manager is in more of a position to fix it, even if it means firing that employee. So if your problem is that bad, then you need to go to a manager about it.

  • When you pay your bill, don't forget to tip well.
    Here's something that people who don't tip well must not know: servers only get paid about $3.00 an hour. When I was a server, it was $2.13/hr, but I've heard that since then it's been raised to just over $3.00. Your tips pay our bills.

    Yes, servers have to earn a good tip. But even if their service was just average, then you need to tip an absolute minimum of 15%. If their service was great, then tip higher. Never withhold a tip unless their service was so bad that you were going to complain to a manager. Usually, they're trying the best they can.

    If you aren't willing to tip well, then don't go out to eat -- period. Go into it recognizing that a 15% - 20% tip is part of the final bill.

    I have a quick and easy way to figure out how much you should tip your server. Take the first digit of your bill (or the first two digits, if you're into the hundreds). Double it. So on a $20.00 tab, tip $4.00. On a $60.00 tab, tip $12.00. On a $200.00 tab, tip $40.00. It's an easy way to figure out how much to tip, and it's a fair amount relative to the amount of your meal without having to go overboard on the tipping. Tip your server well, and they'll remember you when you come back.

    Likewise, leaving a shitty tip is not acceptable, especially when your server has given you great service. It's even worse when you've complimented your server on how great they were, and then leave a $2.00 tip. It's an insult. If you're going to leave a buck and think that'll be enough for a tip, then don't go out to eat at all.

    Servers have bills to pay just like everyone else. We have to pay rent, buy food and gas, pay for electric and water bills... just like everyone else in the world. And perhaps most people don't know this, but your tips are our main source of income. So if you're going to stiff your server, it will have a bigger impact than you may think it will. Also, servers are required to report everything they make to the IRS, so we don't even get to keep the entire amount you tip us when all is said and done.

  • And finally... don't park.
    After you've finished your meal and paid, don't just hang out there. Don't sit around and just relax for another half an hour unless you are willing to tip more -- a lot more -- for it. By parking at our table for an extra half an hour, forty-five minutes, an hour, without ordering anything, you're keeping us from making money on another table. It's then your responsibility to make up for that loss of money. If you want to stay at the restaurant for a while after you're finished eating, you can. There's a place made for that specific purpose: it's called the bar.


    Making your server happy will make your experience at restaurants much more enjoyable. Keep these things in mind when you go out to eat. A happy server means a happy customer.


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    Comments (50)

    A guy is eating dinner at a... (Below threshold)
    Eric:

    A guy is eating dinner at a fancy restaurant when he notices that all of the waiters have a spoon in their shirt pocket. So he asks the waiter "What's up with the spoon?" The waiter tells him, "We had a consulting company come in here to help us be more efficient. They said that 9 times out of 10 when a customer drops a utensil on the floor it's a spoon. So we carry a spoon in our pocket so that we can instantly replace it." Sure enough a few minutes later the guy drops his spoon on the floor and the waiter instantly replaces it.

    A little later the customer notices that all of the waiters have a string coming out of their fly. He asks the waiter, "Okay I get the spoon. But what's up with the string?" The waiter tells him, "It's another suggestion by the consultants. The string is tied to his penis and when he goes to the bathroom he pulls it out with the string and he can save time since he doesn't need to wash his hands afterward." The customer thinks about this for a second and asks, "Okay I get that. But how do you put it back?" The waiter says, "I don't know about the other guys. But I use the spoon."

    My daughter is a server and... (Below threshold)
    Sue:

    My daughter is a server and I know from her stories that you are exactly right. Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

    Hey, I tip well for good se... (Below threshold)

    Hey, I tip well for good service. I tip 15% for adequate service. If service isn't adequate, don't expect a dime from me. Now if it's someone else's fault that my party has been ignored or otherwise poorly served, you better let me know why, or else take it up with the guilty.

    A friend's wife put herself through college "serving," mainly as a bartender, and she tips ridiculously - basically, 30% is the minimum she'll leave even for truly horrible service, and it goes up from there. Even if someone else is picking up the check, she will often swing back by the table to supplement the tip (even if she has no idea what the payer left). She considers it showing solidarity with the servers because she once was one.

    I think that's a bunch of crap. I don't mind rewarding good service, and make sure I do so, BUT there is no way am I going to reward poor service. The "minimum tip" is ZERO. There are no free rides in life.

    Neither am I going to complain to the manager about substandard service or food, unless it is truly outrageous. Who has time to do his job for him? I simply choose somewhere else the next time.

    Loved it except for the las... (Below threshold)
    TD:

    Loved it except for the last comment. When I pay $12 a person at a burger joint (Red Robin), I'll park as long as I want (usually 15 min). Just keep coming by with the refills is all I ask. I hate to see my waiter/waitress walk by repeatedly while my glass is empty and do nothing.

    My wife told me that server... (Below threshold)
    tyree:

    My wife told me that servers have a multiple worked into their income tax. If they have X dollars declared as tips then they have to pay as if they made more than that. When you stiff the server on the tip, it doesn't just withhold income, it costs them money. I pay the bill with a credit card, make the tip total a zero and leave them the tip in cash, and round up!

    Good post. First thi... (Below threshold)
    Conservachef:

    Good post.
    First thing- the kitchen can only cook what it knows about, so if a server waits to enter an order..... I've been on all sides of this problem- working a kitchen, serving tables, and seated at the table, so I can look at it from each side. Now, granted, if the place is busy, the kitchen will be backed up. But that also means the wait staff can be busy too. I remember instances (as a server) when I couldn't even enter an order when I wanted to, because other servers were on the micros and I had to go get silverware and fetch drinks and then finally the order gets entered. And I've had times where the kitchen was rocking, and the servers couldn't keep up... So, coming from a cook, don't lay the blame entirely on us! ;o)

    Don't blame your server if there's a problem with your food.

    Maybe it's just been my experience, but when a customer gets a wrong order, it's from one of two problems. (1)The kitchen messed it up. Plain and simple- no excuses. (2)The server didn't communicate the special request to the kitchen. It isn't Always the server's fault, and it's not Always the kitchen's fault.

    Here's something that people who don't tip well must not know: servers only get paid about $3.00 an hour.

    I don't believe that it ever happens like this, but I'm pretty sure that legally, restaurants are required to make certain that servers make at least the minimum wage ($5.85 currently). Meaning- the employer MUST pay the server minimum wage, and if tips don't bring a server's average up to 5.85, then the restaurant is supposed to adjust the hourly pay rate. Five minutes at the Dept. of Labor website told me that. The reason I don't think it ever comes up is that I believe servers generally make enough to beat that average, and it would be one big hassle to prove they didn't make the 5.85 average.

    Besides, do you honestly know any server who reported all of their tips? You might, but I have yet to meet one...

    I would love to read your musings on how to be a good server! I only served tables for a couple of months while at school, so I'd love to hear how you were successful at it.

    I tip well regardless of se... (Below threshold)
    914:

    I tip well regardless of service..The job must suck (being on Your feet constantly) and running to and fro like a chicken with its head cut off.. I empathize greatly..

    Gotta say I disagree with m... (Below threshold)
    DJ Drummond:

    Gotta say I disagree with most of this. My wife used to waitress, so yeah I know how much it sucks to have bad customers. Guess what, I saw them in every job I had, so get off the pity wagon.

    We don't go to restaurants much and when we do, it's usually to go. Why? Because SERVICE is NON-EXISTANT at most places.

    Quick points in rebuttal :

    1. The Customer is paying, so the server had better treat them right. A server who would rather chat on the cell phone than take the order, or who can't be bothered to get the order right gets NO SLACK from me.

    2. I neither need nor want to hear everything on the menu or what the restaurant needs to sell before it goes bad. I know what I want, and I am NOT obligated to wait for the sales pitch to end before I order. I will tell the server what I want at the beginning or I will ask for a menu, and I expect the server to understand I have just saved them time and energy. If the server insists on reciting what they know I have no interest in, they lose ANY chance of a tip from me.

    3. Do NOT ask how my meal is, especially while I am chewing. I will offer deserved praise on my own volition and do, but I hate my meal being interrupted. The best restaurants I have been to NEVER ask, they know how they're doing and maintain the atmosphere, which ideally means DO NOT DISTURB the dinner party.

    4. I tip according to service. I once had a date go really well, so well that I tipped the maitre d' $50 and $70 to our waiter (on a $120 meal, so the tip was 100% of the food cost), who was perfect in timing and delivery, and utterly SILENT while we enjoyed our meal. Crappy service gets no tip. You want it? EARN it, because it's NOT owed to you.

    5. I will leave when I choose. That's not up for debate.

    I spent quite a few years b... (Below threshold)

    I spent quite a few years behind a bar and made decent money--in fact, it took me a three years into my profession after I was out of school until I was equalling what I had taken home working my last bartending job.

    Anyway, I agree with most of this--and, given all of the caveats, I think what it really boils down to is taking a moment to think before you open your mouth and start acting like a jerk.

    I do expect good service, I give some slack for uneven wait staff when it's busy, when they are obviously new, or when they are trying hard but still suck. My tips start at 20% and the server decides which way I go from there. It's pretty rare that I will give nothing and, if I feel that urge, I'll usually talk to a manager because something has gone seriously pear shaped.

    One quibble, though: when I go to a restaurant, I haven't signed on for any specific amount of time. Don't rush me out the door; relazing a bit is part of what I'm paying for already.

    DJ, Re: #2- I thin... (Below threshold)
    Conservachef:

    DJ,

    Re: #2- I think that usually the best idea for a server is to ask if the customer would like to hear the specials- a wonderful seared whatever or a delightful baked something. It's a tease, makes you want to hear more, but it's brief. I've never been to a restaurant that required you to list the specials. (And I've eaten at Olive Garden and not heard the specials.)

    Specials are rarely something that's about to go bad and the restaurant is trying to get rid of it. On the contrary, a special is the rare opportunity for the kitchen staff to shine, to be creative and produce something off the menu.

    Re: #3- I seem to have the worst luck. Almost every time a server stops to ask how the meal is, I've got food in my mouth... I used to think it was purposeful, but now I just think it's bad luck on my part.

    Cassie is right in many res... (Below threshold)

    Cassie is right in many respects, but others who feel differently are correct in some ways too. I spent 30 years in the restaurant/bar business and I've seen it all. Sometimes the server is simply in the wrong business. They're ill-suited for the job and tipping them well does them no favors. It's the same as giving your kid a candy bar anyway when he performs badly. He thinks it's okay. And on the other hand, there are people who are ill-suited for being a customer. The moment they sit down they're of the mind that their server is somehow a lesser person and not worthy of being treated with dignity.

    I think all Cassie is doing is trying to make some people aware that there are times that it just isn't the waiter's fault and while most simply want to make your stay enjoyable there are a few pointers one can follow to foster that kind of atmosphere.

    I think the whole lesson is - be nice.

    Oyster,I think ... (Below threshold)
    Conservachef:

    Oyster,

    I think the whole lesson is - be nice.

    I couldn't agree with you more.

    Conservachef, one word of a... (Below threshold)
    DJ Drummond:

    Conservachef, one word of advice - NEVER get the special at a Houston restaurant.

    DO go to Vargo's, most Chili's, Massa's, Ruggles, Carabba's, Maggiano's, or Fuzzy's Pizza. Kim Son is also nice, so is Nit Noi and Miyako. Ruth's Chris Steak House is also very good.


    A tip is to insure prompt s... (Below threshold)
    hcddbz:

    A tip is to insure prompt service. You get a tip for decent service. It is something to be earned not given freely. Also the tip is not just for the server but for the bus boys and others. So if the overall service is lacking the tip should be too.

    My father was chef and my sister worked as waitress for a few years and they always warned me if you wait tables you are dependent on others people good will, so the customers is always treated with respect and you get decent tip out of some and others not. If your not willing to live with that get out of the business and get straight salary job.

    I lived in Japan for 3 years and tipping is considered an insult there so it not universal. (not that they should not learn how to behave in USA) So you may have people who do not tip because that their culture. I have seen some water follow people out of restaurants for not tipping or worst post customers info on websites.

    I go out to eat for many reasons tipping a waiter is not a top priority.

    BTW I give 20% most times. But if I have bad service i leave $0.01 if some foolish enough to complain I then explain in detail to the manager the poor service I was given. I would say in call cases this has occurred management has agreed with me and I been given my meal for 50% to free.

    DJ,I'll remember t... (Below threshold)
    Conservachef:

    DJ,

    I'll remember that advice. And I will admit that I haven't experienced every restaurant, but every one I've been a part of used specials to create excitement, not get rid of old product. (My experiences are in MS and NY)

    I love Carabba's.

    Holy crap, I agree with Cas... (Below threshold)
    max:

    Holy crap, I agree with Cassy about something. Totally didn't see that coming.

    Surprise, surprise, Jim and DJ are arrogant self-serving dicks. Saw that coming a mile away.

    waiterrant.net is a good so... (Below threshold)

    waiterrant.net is a good source for war stories from the trade. Also some advice from The Waiter's point of view on tipping and serving philosophy. Well worth reading the archives too.

    You listed some very good p... (Below threshold)
    DD2:

    You listed some very good points here. I happen to be a restaurant spotter and I enforce just about everything you have mentiond here. Good work

    To be able to go out to din... (Below threshold)
    SPQR:

    To be able to go out to dinner but not destroy our diets, my wife and I order only one entree and split it. This keeps us from eating more than we want, since restaurants usually over-portion food so that patrons feel that they got their money's worth.

    However, we recalculate the bill as if we ordered two entrees and tip based on that - if the server was friendly about selling us one entree ( as they almost always are ).

    Another good site is tipthe... (Below threshold)
    Greg:

    Another good site is tipthepizzaguy.com
    Lots of funny stories and suggestions on tipping.

    Tipthepizzaguy.com... (Below threshold)
    914:

    Tipthepizzaguy.com

    lol, only if its piping hot and delivered in the middle of a blizzard.

    ha ha

    Ok, you have to realize tha... (Below threshold)
    Mycroft:

    Ok, you have to realize that some people have special requirements. I CAN NOT wait on a meal. It isn't a choice. If I take my medicine just before walking into the resturant (and I am being nice, doing the whole needle thing in the CAR), then I have 1 hour to eat before the drugs do bad things.

    So, resturants take heed, there are people that need reservations and they need them for the time that said, not some time later.

    As for tipping, I figure 15% and then round up. If you do something special, maybe some more. With inflation ont he meal price, so goes the tip value.

    As for the whole wine thing - I can't drink alcohol, by doctor's orders, why should I listen to you ramble on about a bottle of wine?

    I really don't agree. I've... (Below threshold)
    SAHMmy:

    I really don't agree. I've waitressed in restaurants and I was a cocktail waitress as well. It's a pretty easy job, for the money. Seriously. Yeah you're on your feet for long hours, and yeah it's tough dealing with the public, but the money is good for the skill level required to do the job. I don't mind working my ass off, I guess. I expect to.

    From what you've written, it sounds like the patron is in service to the server rather than vice versa. You can be as upbeat and friendly as you like, but I personally don't like being asked by the server how I'm doing tonight. I'd prefer "Hi I'm Cassie, I'll be taking care of you tonight. Can I get you something to drink first?" Maybe that's just me, but I don't want to be responsible for harshing my server's buzz.

    I don't blame the server if my meal is taking a long time, I blame my server if they stay away from my table the entire time and do not communicate with me that they do know I am still here. Just come to the table, apologise for the tardiness or at least acknowledge that you know it's taking too long, and ask if you can freshen my drink or something. SOMETHING to indicate you know I'm still there.

    I will blame the server if there's a problem with my food. They have no business bringing a messed up order to my table, they're supposed to be paying attention to what I ordered. Correct it with the chef and come to me and tell me what happened. That is YOUR job.

    I stiff bad service AND I complain to the manager. Again, this isn't brain surgery. Anyone can do this job well if they want to make good money. Otherwise I tip 13-20% or more for GREAT service.

    You have a job because people come in and sit at the tables. Your job exists because of that, not vice versa.

    "Being good to your server ... (Below threshold)
    SAHMmy:

    "Being good to your server will ensure that your experience is a good one."

    So that server was horrible the two times you've had her because YOU weren't good to her?"

    She needs a different job.

    This problem cuts both ways... (Below threshold)
    Mark:

    This problem cuts both ways, I don't like the tone of this post because poor service is so common and really not that difficult to deliver. Often servers are simply more concerned with there little selves while ignoring the customer, just like Cassy in this post conveying that the server is more important than customer. Being ignored is #1.

    As someone who has been in ... (Below threshold)
    Ben:

    As someone who has been in service industry for around 7 years, currently I am waiting while I am going to seminary. I agree with Cassie's post.

    I would correct her with that the server wage is still 2.13 an hour. It set at 50% of the national miminum in 1990, when it was 4.25 an hour. When it is raised to 7.25 an hour, it will still be 2.13 an hour, or around 29%. Regardless of whether they make it or not, often the restuarant claims for them that they made at least 10% of the sales. In doing that the restuarant can get by the must make 5.85 requirement. That requirement is not done on a day to day basis. Say you work a lunch shift an make next to nothing, you would think they would pay you 5.85 an hour, or close to it. However if you make decent on another shift, they use that to apply against your slow day. In other words it is the total week not an hour by hour or day by day basis on figuring out your minumin. There was a proposal to allow tips to be tax-free, which would elimate the need to raise the wage for servers. Unfornuately it was proposed by Ron Paul so it has no chance on passing.

    As for those who think that they should be able to stay as long as they please, I ask that you calmly consider a few things. First it is rude to the guests that are waiting to be seated. You should treat them as you would like to be treated, and being that you came out there to eat, you should let them eat as well. Secondly, one friday night a fellow server had a three table section. A party sat at one of his tables for 4 hours. Not only was this unfair to his fellow guests, as it was a 6 top table (holding three) and prevented large parties from being seated, making the wait longer than normal, it also cut the servers earnings by 1/3. They only tipped 4 dollars. If I were to go into your business and stand around for a few hours, would I cut into your pay? Mostlikely not, or maybe it might, but should not you treat them how you would want to be treated? If your only response is "I would want to set here as I long as I want, I paid for it" then I pity you for being such selfish individual.

    I have alway seen that when I go out to eat, I am hiring the server to wait on me, as I am the one paying them as the restuarant just pays some of their taxes. I treat them as I would want my employer to treat me, also knowing that some people view them as servents not servers. I kindly give advice, and understand that they are not perfect and sometimes have bad days, but maybe that is just the pastor in me. It is sad that it seems that some conservatives on this board do not see it that way, and honestly many Christians do not either. I make it a point to know what is going on with them, and have tipped more than the cost of my food to help with their bills, school and such. I would rather help them, then they have to go to the government. And I know working 11 hours with no breaks, running 10.47 miles around the store, remembering 4 orders in your head per table, dealing with not so nice guest and keep a smile on your face is something that more people can not do. Try it for a month, I doubt you will look at it the same.

    Soon I will be in ministry and have to remind people that the Sunday crowd is the worst, and the biggest reason most servers do not have faith are Christians.

    Lastly my own advice to guests. Well done steaks take longer than 5 minutes to cook, unless you really want to eat leather. Just because you daddy calls it medium off the grill don't make it medium here. Nothing is free, so tip on the water with lemon. We don't control the wait, the guests do. If you plan to camp out, pay rent, and bring your own smores. We'll bring your rolls, but can we bring your drinks first?

    Sorry I have posted long, but it is something that I feel strongly about, especially when I see it as such a mission field.

    I worked my way through col... (Below threshold)
    Patty:

    I worked my way through college as a waitress and then as a cocktail waitress and I just want to say that providing service and receiving service is not rocket science.

    Common courtesy counts. Happy waitress = possibly good service. Happy customer = possibly good tip.

    But the server is there to serve the customer. This post makes it seem like the customer is there to somehow serve the server.

    If you don't want to hear the waiter/tress drone on and on about specials and wine, say so. No restaurant "requires" a table to sit through a speech about wine and food! That's just ridiculous.

    I'm surprised that nobody h... (Below threshold)
    Mike G in Corvallis:

    I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned one of Dave Barry's pearls of wisdom yet:

    A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

    Cassy, I'm sorry but you ar... (Below threshold)

    Cassy, I'm sorry but you are soooooo wrong. I've owned a bar/ restaurant for 16 years.Servers are to blame for the food being late about 20% of the time. Many times their food is sitting there under the heat lamps while they're talking to their friends or other customers. The worst is when one of their friends come in and start babbling away with them.

    Ben, you're wrong too, we h... (Below threshold)

    Ben, you're wrong too, we have to pay $3.13 an hour. But truth be told even the worst waitress won't get a "paycheck." They'll make enough money in tips to make the minimum wage.

    It might be 3.13 where you ... (Below threshold)
    Ben:

    It might be 3.13 where you are at, but nationally it is at 2.13. I get a paycheck everyweek that shows it.

    This is a tough subject for... (Below threshold)
    David:

    This is a tough subject for me. I have been a line cook and a short order cook. No matter how well I do, I have never shared in tips. I had always plated food in a timely manner. Good staff would always serve what I plated immediately. Some had more important lives and the food would, well, sour. I would get the blame and he/she would get the tip. Fortunately, the chef/owner knew the weak link. Yes I know how hard it is to be the face of the restautant (did that for a short while), never the less sometimes it is the servers fault.

    Ben, just a bit more than 1... (Below threshold)
    SPQR:

    Ben, just a bit more than 1/3rd of states are at the Federal minimum wage. The rest have higher minimums.

    Actually it seems that 19 s... (Below threshold)
    Ben:

    Actually it seems that 19 states have it at 2.13 an hour, according to this link.
    http://www.restaurant.org/government/state/wage/docs/wage_rates_010108.pdf

    However, I think I did say that it was the national policy, and it depended on the state. The national policy was set in 1990 when it was set at 50% of the minimum. It has not been raised since, even though the minimum has a number of times. There are 30 states that have it below 50% of their minimum wage.

    I also do note that there are servers that do not do a good job, and possibly it is 20% of the time the servers for fault for late food. That would also mean that 80% of the time it isn't their fault. As with all things there are a few bad apples, don't lump them all together.

    What really bothers me is the rudeness that bubbles forth anytime this subject is mentioned, and some of the replies to the post show that. It is like mentioning tithing at church, and the ones that complain, are usually the ones that don't. I always think that the ones who complain about tipping, are the ones who don't like to called out for what they are, and that is cheap. Most have not, and could not do that job. But honestly, that is only a symptom of the illness. People who treat servers like servants and pay them like slaves show what kind of person they are inside; and that is a truly self-centered individual. It shows a lack of patience and forgiveness and it is sad to see a person like that. Life is not about you.

    I am not talking about the truly bad, come to work on drugs servers, I have worked with many of them. I am talking about the others. Everyone makes mistakes, gets frustrated, gets behind, has a bad day, or is forced to deal with the mistakes of someone else. If I may talk of this in faith terms, give them the patience God has had with you, forgive like you have been forgiven, and if something is wrong, be kind and calmly tell them how to fix it. Treat them with the grace God has treated you. If they have done something wrong, they normally don't expect a good tip.

    Maybe I don't have the moral authority to say such things, because I am currently in this industry but only for a short while longer. But I think it is helpful to get a view from this side of the menu.

    Ben, if you're getting a ch... (Below threshold)

    Ben, if you're getting a check for $2.13 an hour you really need to get another job. The only time an employer is required to pay a waitress is if their tips don't equal minimum wage, then we're required to cut a check for the difference. If you can't make $6.15 an hour in tips you're not a very good waiter! In 16 years the largest check I've had to write was for $2.18 for 2 weeks of work, and that's because she had the worst shifts, Monday and Tuesday lunches.

    I do agree with you about s... (Below threshold)

    I do agree with you about some people treating the waitress like their slave and then don't tip. I felt so sorry for Karla Monday night. It was St Patricks day and we were really crowded, we even called her in because we needed an extra waitress. She had a table of 9 who's bill was $114.00. They left her ONE DOLLAR.

    On the "eat and get out" su... (Below threshold)
    anon:

    On the "eat and get out" subject:
    I'm an American, living in Germany for about two years now, and I usually have to chase my server down for the check. The SOP here is to let the customers sit as long as they want, to converse, digest, etc. If you don't ask, they don't bring the check.
    The "don't park" suggestion evokes images of an Olive Garden equipped with a conveyor belt, which keeps you moving towards the door while you eat and finally dumps you in the parking lot.

    Ben, I wasn't going to both... (Below threshold)
    OhioVoter:

    Ben, I wasn't going to bother to respond to this post until I saw your comments. I'm not sure why you chose to make a subject that had absolutely nothing to do with religion an attack on Christians, but you did nontheless. If you are in fact a pastor or pastor-in-training, I suggest you may want to rethink your career options. You are already judging people that you have never even met. Hardly a "Christian" response ... and one, incidentally, that caused me to ignore pretty much everything else you were trying to say.

    And to Cassie's comments ...

    As tempting as it was to do a point-by-point rebuttal, let me just say that I agree with much of what you say, but not all.

    When I go out to eat, I try to be polite as I can and I am generally a good tipper (20% minimum). I am more likely to ask for the manager or put in a comment card to praise a good server than to complain.

    However, a server owns their own attitude. It is not my responsibility to raise their spirits. The server is generally the only person that I would meet in interacting with the restaurant. A good server takes that seriously and keept the customer apprised of any problems and does what they can to minimize the wait.

    I am there to 1) get fed and 2) enjoy the company of the people I came in with. I am responsible for being polite - not for cheering up the server. If I can't get the meal that I ordered (and I am not a picky person), then the restaurant has broken the contract with me - not the other way around. If the restaurant can't get a lunch to me in an hour, then again, the restaurant was the one to break the contract - not me.

    I absolutely don't believe that "the customer is always right", but I would disagree with the opposite as well - the server isn't always right either. That really appeared to be what you were trying to say and I would say that you are wrong about that.

    DJ, I have eaten at all the... (Below threshold)
    WildWillie:

    DJ, I have eaten at all the establishments mentioned. Enjoyed them all, some quite a few times.

    I agree with your rebuttal except my mother raised three kids on a waitress' salary in the 60's. She worked very hard. So, I am a softy and tip no matter how good or bad the service was. ww

    I hope I did not imply that... (Below threshold)
    SAHMmy:

    I hope I did not imply that it is EVER okay to scream at or berate a server. All people should be treated with dignity, even if they're a lousy server.

    I'm sure I was an okay server, both at the restaurant and at the bar I worked at because I nearly ALWAYS made more than the minimum wage with tips. It was rare indeed the nights I had to record imaginary tips for the IRS sheet. The trick was to hustle. The only times I made bad money was when I was lazy. But that might just be me. Waitressing is a job, not a heroic act;)

    Let me just point out that ... (Below threshold)

    Let me just point out that I KNOW it is the server's job to wait on the customer. This post was written under the assumption that your server is treating you well. As I said, I could probably write a post about bad servers and how to be a good one -- maybe one day I will. If you have a shitty server -- and I know they exist -- it is, of course, different. However, the main point of all of this is to, as Oyster said, BE NICE. There are so many customers who just can't seem to fathom that. They look at servers as their slaves, and treat them like they aren't even human beings.

    Yes, the post was one-sided. It was supposed to be. As I said, there are more customers out there than there are servers. The point, of the entire post, is not how you should bend over backwards to please your server -- unless you consider being nice, polite, and courteous bending over backwards. The point of this post, which I thought was rather obvious, was to NOT BE AN ASSHOLE when you're going out to eat. Don't be rude to your server; try to be understanding if the meal doesn't come out perfect if you can see that the server is actively trying to give you a good experience. Control your children; tip well for good service.

    How is any of that advice meaning that you have to appease your server?

    The "not parking" rule is one that is mainly for courtesy. If you're going to sit there for an hour after you paid your tab, then tip more, because you're keeping another table from sitting there and therefore, keeping your server from making money. You don't need to get up and leave the second you pay your tab, but don't just lounge around for an hour. It's rude to guests waiting, and it's rude to the server.

    It really floors me how many people look at this advice defensively and say that it means that I think the customer is waiting on the server, when all I was really saying is to be a nice person to your server -- treat them how you'd want to be treated. After all, most servers are decent, even if they aren't great, and are just trying to get by, so even if they aren't the best server you've ever had, they still deserve a little bit of politeness and common courtesy from their customers as opposed to a shitty, demeaning attitude. If that, to you, is considered work, then you are definitely not the kind of table I would ever want to get.

    I have to vote with Ohio on... (Below threshold)
    epador:

    I have to vote with Ohio on this one.

    Also a few observations:

    My experience with European restaurants (the ones for the masses, not the elite ones) is that they do NOT expect a tip, or no more than 5% (they are reserved for truly exceptional service). The server's income is based on how many beverages they sell. Free water is not offered and frowned upon if asked for. Food prices and serving size are not outrageous. A table is usually reserved for locals only. You can park as long as you want, as long as you keep ordering a beverage from time to time. Bottled water will do. Folks that don't understand this get all huffy about the drink prices. Ugly Americans.

    If a restaurant really does expect a timed turnover of a table, then they should post it at the door.

    I am particular about some things, and usually request no dressings, mayo or mustard. I also HATE to waste food. When the server who took my order in a restaurant that's slow (I tend to enjoy off-hours eating) brings me a plate with a big glop of what I said I did not want on it, I can a) complain (and wait for a new plate with who knows what unsanitary things done to it by an angry cook), b) scrape the stuff off and eat it, c) leave a crappy tip, or d) fill out the comment card and not ever come back. I've found the most satisfactory results by these choices in the following order: b), a) and based on the server's response, either c), d) or leave a nice tip. The nice tips are usually reserved for getting a discount on the meal or another free meal along with a polite apology from the server or manager. There's never any point to being rude.

    I don't try to cheer up a server I don't know but if I am a regular or I know the folks (live in a SMALL town), I am more than willing to be briefly cheery. The problem in a SMALL town is the servers who want to stand there and talk to you about all sorts of things non-restaurant because they recognize you. They don't know any better, and the managers have their hands full trying to manage these folks (the worker pool is not that high quality). Imagine that some of these conversations stem from my occupation as a physician, and the topics the servers so desperately want to cover with me generally relate to the server's medical complaints.

    For fast food joints, I just don't order things that need special attention, and stay away from them in general as much as possible.

    In reply to capitalist infi... (Below threshold)
    Ben:

    In reply to capitalist infidel, I was simply making the comment that on my check it shows how much my pay rate is, not how much I get.

    As for Ohio Voter I am suprised that you took it as an attack against Christians. As it was not directed at Christian but to everyone out there, but using faith terms to get the point across. I will say, however, that pointing out that often Christians do not at like one, especially towards their server, is not attacking them it is pointing out the obvious. I have heard many pastors tell their flock from the pulpit that if they are not going to tip 20% or let their children run around... to either not go out, or NOT tell them they are from this church. I had one pastor tell the church that servers would rather wait on a homosexual convention than the Sunday crowd, because they treated them better, which is true. After working in the restaurant industry for 7 years, I get tried of seeing the salvation track with out the tip and how the are ridiculed in the server ally. It hurts the gospel more than it helps. I was addressing how to treat your server with the grace from God that you have been given. I think you really missed my point.

    As for Cassy, I have to agree with your second post. Most people have not served in their life. Most people could not do the job. It is sad when people get defensive about treating others with respect.

    Ben,"As for Cassy,... (Below threshold)
    SAHMmy:

    Ben,

    "As for Cassy, I have to agree with your second post. Most people have not served in their life. Most people could not do the job."

    Where did she say that?

    Great post, Cassy. It reall... (Below threshold)
    John:

    Great post, Cassy. It really bugs me when people don't tip well. I love going out and always give 20% unless service was actually bad.

    I never said that she said ... (Below threshold)
    Ben:

    I never said that she said it. I simply agreed with what she said, especially her reference towards people becoming defensive and missing the point of her original post. My other comments was based on my agreement made in the first comment. "Most people have never served", so they don't understand the point of view that she giving. "Most people could not do the job", is commentary on my part. Most people do not know what serving is like, nor do they know what is required in it, and I think that most people are not qualified to do the job. There are servers unqualified to do the job. I don't think that my comment was out of line, nor was it implying that Cassy wrote it.

    This is one of the reasons ... (Below threshold)
    DL:

    This is one of the reasons I do not enjoy eating in resturants in the U.S. Between business and private occasions, I have around 300 meals in resturants a year. In Europe, you are not rushed from your table because they have a business model that requires they turn over the table once every 45 minutes. The waiter does not introduce himself by his first name and try to become your best friend. The service is discrete, usually from someone who is a waiter because it is a profession rather than someone who seems it is vitally important for you to know they're only serving food while they're waiting to score that really big job/deal/killing in the market. The waiters are knowledgable about the food, which regional specialities are worthwhile and the wine. They do not interrupt every five minutes th check if "everything is ok." They watch to see when drinks need to be re-ordered and wine glasses filled. And they let you linger at the table enjoying friends and conversation and allow the dining experience to savored. And, believe it or not, they even glady provide seperate checks. Most importantly, the service charge is already calculated in the price of the food so you're not paying an additional 20 pecent on top of the price of the bottle of wine merely for having it brought to your table. Ultimatley, I suppose it's what you're used to and the differences go a long way to explaining why we consider fast food joints resturants.

    Most of this is just outrig... (Below threshold)
    Dave W:

    Most of this is just outright absurd. It's called a tip because i leave what i think i can afford in combination with what i feel the server deserves. If they get stiffed, it was probably their fault. I'm not nit-picky, so this sounds worse than it is, but most people probably don't need an ettiquette lesson for eating out. This is just silly.

    I had one pastor t... (Below threshold)
    OhioVoter:
    I had one pastor tell the church that servers would rather wait on a homosexual convention than the Sunday crowd, because they treated them better, which is true. After working in the restaurant industry for 7 years, I get tried of seeing the salvation track with out the tip and how the are ridiculed in the server ally. It hurts the gospel more than it helps. I was addressing how to treat your server with the grace from God that you have been given. I think you really missed my point.

    Actually, I try to treat people like people.

    I don't label them as "homosexuals" or "the salvation" or treat them differently as a result.

    .... when all I w... (Below threshold)
    OhioVoter:
    .... when all I was really saying is to be a nice person to your server -- treat them how you'd want to be treated.

    If that's all you really meant to say, then you just did a fine job of saying it.

    Somehow that didn't come across in the 20+ paragraphs you posted earlier.

    How is any of that advice meaning that you have to appease your server?

    Well, when you said:

    Making your server happy will make your experience at restaurants much more enjoyable.

    ... it did give the impression that you thought it was the customer's responsibility to appease the server.

    If that, to you, is considered work, then you are definitely not the kind of table I would ever want to get.

    After seeing how defensively you reacted to people disagreeing with you, I wouldn't ever want you for a server either.

    As far as I could see, NO ONE, in the comments, advocated treating servers poorly or being an "Asshole" to them just because they could. Those who disagreed with you simply didn't agree that you were describing, in your 20+ paragraphs, a server who was treating the customer well.




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