Confessions of a Waiter
For better or for worse, whether you’re at a T.G.I. Fridays or a Spagos you can’t help but be served. And although you go to a particular restaurant for food you can count on, I’m sure you have noticed that you can’t always count on the servers to be as predictable. You can only rest assure that the waiter must be unfortunately dumb, since waiting tables is a blue collar job, and therefore couldn’t be that hard to ring in your order right and have it come out in a reasonable 20 minutes of cook time, right? I definitely agree that there are servers that aren’t meant to be servers due to the lack of the memory, organization, prioritization, speed, focus, empathy, charm, compassion, damage control, product knowledge, up-sell know how, psychological assessment ability, and huge kiss ass skills that are required to wait tables. Yes, this is the list of skills that you may not have known go into taking your one order. It is a bit scary to think that the same skills needed to make a million dollar power deal are the same skills required to make someone happy at a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. Among writing this column, I still have to wait tables. I have bartended, cocktailed, and waited on people from Florida, Boston, New York to Los Angeles and I thought that I should confess some things about waiters and restaurants to make people more aware of one of the most difficult jobs one could put oneself through.
Fun Facts About Your Waiter:
•Most waiters are highly intelligent and resourceful, and have college degrees ranging
anywhere from political science and biology to acting, some have even owned their
own businesses. Waiting tables is something they fell into for the cash and low
responsibility where they don’t “take the job home,” allowing more time to focus on
•“Everyone should have to wait tables once in their lives.” Is a common statement
among waiters due to knowing that these people wouldn’t be acting up if they knew
what it was like to deal with it on the other side of the table.
•Waiters walk 7 to 12 miles per shift depending on the size of the
restaurant and the location of the kitchen. Often two shifts are worked in a day.
•Many waiters are indeed cynical and bitter! They are in constant battle for their
dreams and the money they need to get them there, and the luck they don’t seem to
have otherwise they’d be “there” already.
•Many waiters are foodies with fine-tuned palettes…. they DO make fun of those
who order a steak or salmon well done, need ketchup or steak sauce for the
expensive steak they just ordered well done, and the white zin that is needed to
wash it all down.
•Even if you are a prick, your food is safe. Waiters will not seek vengeance on your
food if you are an a-hole; however, they will wish you to burn in hell and/or a nasty
accident on your way home. The same goes if a bad tip is left and it is silently
resolved with the waiter knowing karma will come back on the paying guest 10 fold.
•Waiters are only able to keep about HALF of the tip you leave. That’s right, your
waiter must tip those that are helping them (including busser, bartender, host,
expediter in the kitchen,) which is 45%-50% of the gross tips received. This means
that 15% doesn’t quite do the trick anymore, and most waiters will go the distance
hoping you appreciate their hard work in 20% form at least. The “Thank You” tip
doesn’t pay the rent by any means. Waiters’ sales and tips are now heavily tracked
for tax purposes, so every penny of the tip is appreciated, and averagely a waiter
makes about $12 to $17/hr.
Things Your Server Wished You Comprehended:
•If you are at a restaurant that means you are not at a McDonalds, and quality food
takes time to cook (20-30min), then add on coursing of appetizers, dinner, drink
service, dessert service, and definitely consider how busy a place is.
•Your server is human, and needs some slack every once in awhile. Waiting
tables means juggling in your head food orders and personal needs of each and
every guest…constantly pleasing and smiling takes a lot out of you.
•If you can’t find your server they are in the kitchen begging for your food to come
out. The kitchen staff isn’t always on the same page as the server, and sometimes
the size of a kitchen can limit how fast food will come out, as well as accounting for
how incompetent some kitchen staff are…many do not read English and speak little.
•Your server deals with hundreds of different personalities and needs in one shift.
Yes, that's right. Your server will have potentially anywhere from 4 to 6 tables at a
time with anywhere from 2 to 6, or more people on a table. Each with their needs
and personality traits. The servers also deals with all their fellow servers and
managers/front of the house staff around them and their personalities and needs.
The servers must then deal with the kitchen/back of house staff and their
personalities and needs and getting out of the kitchen all the needs needed. AND
the server must adhere to what the restaurant sales requirements are to get through
a shift. So think twice before verbally beating up on a server.
•If something is wrong with your food…SEND IT BACK when the waiter checks in!
Being a pissy, hungry martyr who was too afraid to say something until the very end
of the meal doesn’t do anyone justice since waiters actually do care that you’re
happy with what you’ve chosen to eat.
•Your server is always pushed by management to increase sales . There are sales
techniques that each restaurant requires a server to do, whether it is name dropping
of a brand or inquiring about bottled water, wine, coffee, dessert. Bare with the
server…they would rather not say any of it at all.
•If you are not ready to order then don’t say that you are. You then affect everyone
else around you including your own food coming out in a timely fashion. Ready to
order means you have made decisions. It does not mean further discussing with
your party and intense reading of the menu.
•If you are high-maintenance, verbally abusive, touchy feely, or patronizing- tip for it!
This means at least a 20%, if not a 25% tip, or greater.
•Never pull the “Do you know who I am?” card….you’ll get less service then you’ll
•Cell phone usage at the table, means no waiter services. Yes, if you are on the cell
phone we will walk away even as you are trying to order tap water to wet that busy
running mouth of yours. There are some waiters that will actually do the opposite
and will get right up in your face to indeed get a drink order…just to make you
Originally published in In the Scene Magazine
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