Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Restaurant work for dummies--or for those bent on revenge.

Before I get started--I am back from vacation....this blog is live, and just as mildly funny as it was before.

I would like to offer some helpful suggestions in an area which I consider myself to be a semi-professional--Restaurant server.
For all those who are considering acting, music, theatre, or just don't care to get a college degree, odds are that these tips may help you in your lifetime.
I worked at a few restaurants for multiple years, and in all capacities. In an industry full of employee turnover, it seemed I was a "lifer."

To all you server-hopefuls...I want to you understand the mind of patron visiting a restaurant. These are people who think nothing of spending 10 bucks on the "Sex and the city" movie. These same people have no problem forking over hundreds of dollars a month for cable, cell-phone, internet, xbox 360, etc. But the very instant these same individuals walk into a restaurant, and order an 11 dollar steak, they change completely. It's like they personally work for consumer reports. They are looking and waiting for something to complain about while they're there....EVERY TIME--like this 11 bucks entitles them to demean others and expect super-human service. You think not? If you could listen in to every table throughout the night, you'll hear at least one of the following: Where's our food? I need a new drink. Where's our check? Do you think they take food stamps?
So--you are already starting at a disadvantage. Your every step is being monitored...and nothing less than perfect service is required. Well...guess what?? You're not going to be perfect. This article deals with the proper course of action you should take in many different circumstances.

First--Make friends with the hostesses. This may help you score the business party instead of the family with 6 kids under the age of 8. Also--don't become too friendly, as most hostesses are jail-bait.

Second--Make friends with the cooks. Things that may help you bond with these peculiar individuals:
A ride home if you can fit their bike in your trunk
New variations of swear words
Partial nudity
You will need their help someday, and this will ensure speedy assistance.

Third--Make friends with the bartenders. Your drink orders will fall to the end of the list every time if you piss them off.

And finally---and this will be very longish---don't let the customers screw with you!!

Get a feel for what type of tippers they may be before acting on any whim.
Did they pray before they ate? You're screwed.
Are they sharing meals? You're screwed.
Do they want to order off the kids menu as an adult? You're screwed.
Are they using 2 for 1 coupons they printed off the internet? You're screwed.
Getting a feel for the "terrain" will enable you to give compensatory service.

Drink refills:: If a customer has already finished their soda before any item of food has arrived at the table, you DO NOT give them a refill until they get food. This sets the wrong precedent.
If you have a "soda-sucker," you need to nip it in the bud. So, the next time you arrive at the table, bring 2 or 3 drinks for that person and say "Wow...I can barely keep up with you...we may be running out of syrup soon." The embarrassment alone will slow them down.
If a customer "rattles" their cup of ice, or "snaps" their fingers at you, exit the room immediately, and wait at least 5 minutes before visiting their table. Go visit another table without making eye contact to further aggravate the situation.

Food complainers:: You know the type---My steak is vegetables are cold...etc. As always, give service with a smile. Gladly take their plate back to the kitchen to fix the problem. I highly suggest letting the cooks deal with the situation, but if you decide to take matters into your own hands, I give the following precaution:: IF you decide to "eff" with someones food, it is a line you can't cross, and the potential guilt will follow you for years. If you can't perform the direct act, perhaps you know a "cronie" who can do it for you.
Make sure....very very sure that this person deserves whatever heinous act you decide to perform on their food. And don't get me wrong--there are those that deserve it--but MAKE SURE. Also, please don't make the "act" visible. If you decide to "hawk a loogie" in their salad (pure speculation), don't do it on top where it is visible. Mix it in with the raspberry vinaigrette. The satisfaction will be much greater if you hold onto the secret yourself.

Tipping:: You will get poor tips every night regardless of how you serve the table. Some think that a 15% tip is for "other-worldly" service. Others can barely give 10%.
Just remember the following guidelines:
It is usually not worth it to follow a customer to the parking lot and say "You need this more than I do" and return the tip. You will get fired (I have fired individuals for doing so) and it's a story that's only funny when drinking with friends.
Now--If you have somebody that is stupid enough (it has happened many times) to write a personal check and give a crappy tip, you now hold the Ace of Spades. "I've heard" that you can sign just about anybody up for hundreds of magazine subscriptions with only their address. I'm sure you can find some "doozies." (as this may be against federal law, I suggest consulting an attorney, and do not condone this practice at all most of the time)
There is also the art of the "double tip." I personally didn't follow this strategy, but know plenty who have. When you have a dinner party where the gratuity is automatically included, you can conveniently "not mention" this gratuity when dropping the bill at the table. Many won't even look, but just give you their credit card. When you return the card and they sign a tip---you just doubled your money. (This is another very grey area...tread lightly)
Know how to return change: If the bill is 48 bucks, and they give you 60 and ask for change...DO NOT give 2 5's and 2 1's back. You'll get a 6 dollar tip. Take a 10 dollar bill, crinkle it, tear it, pour ketchup on it, and return it with the 2 1's. You are 86% sure to receive that 10 dollar bill for a tip.

What they don't know, won't kill them:: If a piece of chicken falls to the ground, pick it up, rinse it with water, and return to the cooks (remember--they're your friends now as you gave them a light) where they'll re-heat it on the grill.
Also, if something slips off the plate onto the tray, pick it up as fast as you can---even if it's with your bare hands, and set it back on. You don't have time to find a fork and "cleanly place it on." This happens dozens of times in every restaurant every day.

Other misc. tips::
Don't "sit up" in the chair or booth with the customers unless you're an extremely attractive female. Nobody wants to smell your "Speed Stick" deodorant while perusing the menu.
Lie every time. If you forgot their drink, tell them that the "syrup is being changed." You forget bread?? "It's still warming up." Their food taking extremely long?? "We're making sure that steak is well-done."
If a table is staying WELL past closing time, and won't leave--put up all the chairs around them, clean all the tables nearby, and then just sit near them with your shirt un-tucked looking tired. Might they leave a buck or two less on the tip?? Possibly. But a buck or two isn't worth staying an extra hour.
Don't try to sell the table dessert. Your tip won't increase much for a 6 dollar dessert, and your table will be full for at least 15 more minutes.
And lastly---waiting tables did not come with a 401K plan---so don't plan on doing it into your 60's. If you'll excuse me, I need to send my steak back.


Major Undeclared said...

So 5 cokes might have been too much? I also got a unfortunate look from my waitress at Olive Garden when I asked for more breadsticks. Maybe because she knew I was gonna take all four home for leftovers. They did taste a little....sweaty.

The Hypocritical One said...

5 cokes is not too much.

5 cokes in 20 minutes is too much. By the way, my town doesn't even have an Olive garden. I believe we have Maple garden...all you can eat Chinese. Big surprise.

Rickey Henderson said...

Nice write up--Rickey waited tables for a summer and absolutely loathed it. Those wealthy pricks are always the stingiest tippers...

AoE said...


I drink too much soda, I have too many kids, I pray, and I use coupons ... but I tip well ... especially if i haven't been prejudged and given crappy service. I generally give 20% if the server acts like they're happy I and my family stopped in for a bite to eat.

Generally, I prefer to eat Mexican - authentic ... you know with non-english speaking waitstaff ... because I always get great service.

That said, I feel your frustration and commend your blog.

The Hypocritical One said...

aoe--funny thing---is that I'm the same as you.

But writing funny stuff about normal 20% service only gets me 5 hits instead of 10 per day.:)

Locations of visitors to this page