I have worked in restaurants, had a brief stint of waiting tables, have many friends who wait or have waited tables, and have also read a very interesting (highly recommended) memoir on the subject, titled Waiting:The True Confessions of a Waitress . Anybody who has ever waited tables knows that there are going to be bad customers. Many restaurant patrons these days are nice and understanding, but there are still many patrons who terrorize and traumatize their servers. Don’t be one! Read the following list of rules for interacting with servers.
1) Your server is not responsible for any mistakes the kitchen made. Don’t yell at your server if the food is bad. Your server did not make the food him/herself.
2) When the restaurant is busy, it takes longer to get your food. There is nothing your server can do about this. He or she is most likely not just sitting around, being lazy, or talking with other servers. He or she is probably running around crazily, trying to keep all of his or her tables satisfied.
3) If more than two tables that come in at the same time are assigned to one server, he or she cannot address them all simultaneously. If the table that came in 3 seconds before you did gets their drinks first, do not be upset. Your server will get to you as soon as possible. He or she probably did not notice the order in which the tables came in.
4) Servers are humans too. They’re entitled to off days (or nights) like anybody else. If your server seems a little off, consider the fact that maybe he or she has a sick family member, has just ended a relationship or is going through a rough divorce, is completely stressed out and burnt out from working for eight days straight, or is simply not feeling well. Try to be understanding and empathetic to your server! He or she may be working around large obstacles and doing his or her best.
5) Unless your server was rude, it’s horribly rude not to tip, or to leave less than a 15% tip. Servers live off of their tips. Most make around $2.13 an hour and if they expend an hour’s (or more) worth of effort on your table and you do not tip, it’s the same as you working for an hour with the expectation of being paid then not getting paid. Imagine that you were constantly being judged on your work and then paid accordingly, even if the circumstances which you were judged on were not entirely (or even remotely) your fault. If you felt you had bad service, tip 15%. It’s the smallest percentage you can give and still be polite, so they’ll know their service was not up to par, but they’ll still have something to show for their efforts. I mean, they brought you food, didn’t they? And remember: if you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford to go out to eat. Get take out instead.
6) If you are a demanding table, whether it be because of dietary issues, small children, mind-changing and many demands, or lots of questions, this should be reflected in the tip. If your server spent a lot of time and effort on your table, keep this in mind and tip appropriately, over 15%, regardless of whether the service was exemplary or just okay.
6) If something is wrong with your food and it is your server’s fault, tell them politely, don’t yell or become angry. Everyone makes mistakes, and your server did not do it out of malice. If you yell, though, they might do something out of malice next time. If you’re afraid of servers or cooks doing weird or gross things to your food, keep this tidbit of information found in Waiting in mind: in her twenty some years as a server, Debra Ginsberg never saw anything gross happen to the food of nice customers. That’s not to say it never happens, so don’t anger your server.
7) The better you treat your server, the better your server will treat you. If it’s a restaurant that you frequent, it’s best to be nice to all the servers at all times. You’ll get better service that way. Preferred customers are sometimes privy to little niceties, be it the extra attention of a cheerful server, a substitution that is normally not allowed, or free desserts. Good tips also can make one a favored customer.
8) If you want to be really nice and helpful, stack up your dishes in an orderly fashion and tidy up the table before leaving. Yes, clearing the table is your server’s job (or the busboy/girl’s) but that’s no reason not to help out a little. And don’t leave disgusting things on the table. Clean up any mess you brought in with you. Would you want to touch someone’s dirty tissue? No. And neither do they. They don’t get paid enough for that.
9) If you’ve never waited tables, keep in mind that it’s harder than it looks. It’s an art, and those who are good at it have worked hard to get where they are.