I worked this past weekend at a new restaurant that the owner of the other restaurant I work at has just opened up. It’s an adorable little place, literally the only thing other than the town hall in town, and the clientele so far has been, unsurprisingly in the sticks of western Massachusetts, a lot of hippies. One of them came up to me during my shift on Saturday and said “Excuse me waitron, could we add something to our order?” To which I naturally replied, laughing, “Waitron? Heh, I’m a robot!” and went off to get the thing she needed.
I looked it up when I got home and discovered that “waitron” is a term coined in the eighties to refer to a non-gender-specific waiter or waitress, and is often, but not always, considered derogatory. Now, I take no offense from that lady calling me waitron. In fact, I found it quite amusing. But seriously, who thought that was a good idea? Wasn’t Voltron from the eighties? Didn’t the term-coiners think that maybe that would be the association? And furthermore, am I supposed to be hiding the fact that I am a female wait-person? Cause, I’ve never really been ashamed of that.
Waitron. Good gravy.
This is pretty much the same lesson as #2, but it bears repeating. Listening to your server really will make your meal go more smoothly. I promise. Not to mention that you can be the nicest people in the world and still really screw over your server just by not paying attention. And that makes us very sad.
It’s Saturday dinner and we only have one fresh server on the floor, meaning at least one of us who’s been there all day will end up staying late. I say I don’t mind, cause heck, the raid doesn’t start until eleven and it’s not like I have anything interesting to do before then. So of course I end up with the last two tables to leave the restaurant, meaning I’m still waiting for them after the closer’s all done and packing up for home.
Both parties are nice enough. One has been sitting there with their check for an hour or so, but I’m not rushing them out because I’m waiting for the other one anyhow. They’re nice older ladies, enjoyed their wine and their meals and finished it off with a piece of chocolate cake that I made look pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. They finish, I run their card and bring them the slip, and head back to the kitchen to continue my sidework. Through the door I can see them picking up to leave, and I head out to clear the table. There’s no credit card slip anywhere in sight. My pen’s there, right in the middle by its lonesome, but no slip. I check under the table and then head toward the lobby- they can’t have gotten far, as they were *just* getting up when I came out of the kitchen.
No ladies anywhere in sight in the lobby. There is, however, noise from the restroom, so I figure they’re in there and I’ll catch them when they come out. But while I’m waiting the other party finally gets out a card to pay, so I ask the host to watch the bathroom door while I run back to the credit card machine. Apparently party number two hears me say something to the host about getting stiffed and asks me about it, so I have to explain what happened and that no, I wasn’t worried about her. Then her friend comes out of the restroom, so I realize I’m out of luck for recovering any tip from the other table. It was a big check, too. Sucky.
“You know,” the remaining lady says as she signs her credit card slip, “you really should mention when bring back the card that you need one copy left on the table.”
“Oh, I do,” I assure her. I point out that I had only a minute ago said it to her as I set the pen down in front of her. “Trouble is people just don’t listen.”
“Wow,” she says. “Yeah, I didn’t hear you say that at all.” She leaves me 20 percent. At least I know she’ll never take both copies of the credit card slip with her. :-}
Your parents taught you this. At least, they should have. It is a basic interacting-with-other-people skill, and it’s not very difficult. And it applies whether you’re talking to a friend or a random stranger who happens to be your waitress for the day. Nothing irritates me more than trying to begin an exchange with a new table only to discover that they do not possess basic conversational skills, like to listen when I’m asking them questions and not cut me off mid-sentence.
What does this mean to you, the customer? Well, it means let me finish introducing myself and asking if you’d like something to drink before you bark out an order. It means let me finish telling you all of the side choices before you pick one. It means let me finish asking if you’d like dessert or coffee before you tell me that you’re ready for the check.
In the same vein, be kind enough to pay attention and respond to me when I’m at the table. If I ask you if you’re ready to order, a yes or no answer is nice. If it’s no, SAY SO! Don’t leave me standing there while you puzzle for a few more minutes- I do have other things I need to do. If I come over to ask how the meal is and if you need anything, pause your conversation long enough to acknowledge that I’ve checked on you. If you’re really feeling generous you could say please and thank you, too. (Parents who make a big deal out of their kids saying please, by the way, almost never say it themselves, in my experience.) Simple courtesy: your waitress deserves it; she’s a people too.
I’ve been a waitress for a few years now. Sometimes I love it. You can meet really nice people, and sometimes they keep coming in week after week and become pretty good friends. But some people are just assholes no matter how you look at it, and those people are seriously in need of a restaurant etiquette lesson. So, here I am, to attempt to spread the good word about having a little common decency, which is severly lacking in far too many people. Even though you’re going out to eat to get taken care of, remember that servers are people too!
So, lesson number one: tipping. By far the thing that is most on your server’s mind while you’re out to eat is how much money you’re going to leave at the end. The reason, of course, is that your server makes a whopping $2.63 an hour, which if he’s lucky is enough to cover the taxes taken out of his paycheck at the end of the week. All he gets to take home is what you leave on the table. For whatever reason, very few people outside of the restaurant business seem to understand that.
Tipping correctly really is not hard. All you have to do is figure out what 15% of your bill is, and if you’re able to read the menu you should be able to do that simple math. If you had a pleasant time with your meal, you can add a little more onto the tip; your server will not be upset if it’s more than exactly 15%. Promise. Whenever I go out to eat, I think of it this way: an extra dollar or two out of my pocket is pretty trivial, but an extra dollar or two from all that server’s tables for the day will really add up.
If you can’t be bothered to L2math or just fail to tip correctly out of disagreement with the tipping system, here’s a novel idea: DON’T GO OUT TO EAT. Go to the grocery store, don’t tip the cashier, and make your own damn food. But if you expect someone to wait on you and make your meal a pleasant one so you don’t have to think about it, you’d better make it worth her while. We sure do remember how you tip, and while I promise at least in my restaurant nobody’s spitting in your food, you’d better believe your next experience is going to reflect how well you treated your server the last time.