A week ago I worked my last shift at my job as a server (for now.. you never know when you’ll find yourself waiting tables again). I had never been a server before, and so when I began this job, I found myself on a learning curve – I scrambled to learn the menu, how to carry a tray without my guests wearing their food, and how to refill coke products in the drink machine, all while figuring out how to positively interact with people and sell food. I spilled beer on a guest once, totally forgot about a table another time, and purposefully walked away from a table who was on my last nerve at the end of a bad day (oops). But on the whole, I received a lot of positive feedback and enjoyed serving much more than I anticipated – it’s fast-paced, requires multi-tasking and prioritizing tasks, and involves lots of varied interaction with people.
And I learned a lot about people, how I want to be treated, and how I want to treat people. So I have compiled a list for you, people of the world who have never waited tables; a list of my own take-aways and how I now want to treat wait staff when I am a guest at a restaurant. Others servers may feel differently about the following points, but here are my seven ideas on how to be a good guest at a restaurant and love servers well.
Tip, tip, tip! You probably expected this one. Some waiters at some restaurants make a killing, I’m sure. But some days I walked out and the money I made hardly felt worth the time I put in. Because the server’s minimum wage is so low, tips aren’t only a declaration of how good the service was, they’re our paycheck. Your tips are literally paying us to do our job. Tipping gives you a chance to pay someone to do an honest job. Tipping gives you a chance to be generous to others. I was a stingy tipper until I was on the other side of the table. Now I see it as a way to be generous, just like I’m trying to be generous with my money in other ares of life.
- Be ready to order
This one is straightforward and simple: if you’re with a group, be ready to order when you say you’re ready to order. Don’t take up my time because everyone was ready to order but Suzy still takes 5 minutes to decide while I stand there waiting for her.
- Write a note
Sometimes I drew cats on credit card tickets when I left them on tables. One of my coworkers found out and claimed that as evidence that I’m a cat-lady. I beg to differ. One time a little girl drew a lot of other cats on the ticket and left it for me. My day was made! I also got a few tickets with a simple word of thanks.. You don’t have to draw an animal 😉 but do write notes! Change someone’s day with one word of thanks or one thing you particularly loved about the service.
- Do nice things for me
Speaking of nice notes written on tickets, the best one I ever received was an invitation to dinner. I had hit it off with the family I was waiting on and we had significant conversation as I came and went during their meal. When they left, their phone number was written on the ticket with a note saying how much they enjoyed talking with me and that they would love to have me over for dinner to get to know me outside of the restaurant. Day made. If you love a server, ask for their section every time you go. If you frequent the restaurant, build a relationship with them. I also heard of one table who, upon receiving their meal, told the waiter they were getting ready to pray and asked if there was anything they could pray about.
- Tell me why you’re unhappy, don’t just leave a bad tip
I received several very small tips and had more than one table not leave any tip at all. Not receiving a tip (or receiving a bad tip) told me nothing – I just left work mad at them, feeling badly about myself, and without much money in my pocket. If service is great, tip well! If service is bad or the food was wrong, let someone know. Don’t just leave a bad tip. If you need something or are unhappy, let me know, don’t just sit in your grumpiness and then leave a bad tip.
- Remind me what you asked for
Speaking of letting me know if the food is wrong or service is bad, please remind me if I forget something. With multiple tables, orders, drinks at the bar, and food in the kitchen, forgetting to bring my table something they’d asked for happened more frequently than I would’ve hoped. A guest kindly reminding me of what they asked for rarely felt annoying, it often felt helpful.
- Use my name
A great way to grab my attention to ask me or remind me for something is to use my name. Restaurants can be loud and servers are busy. Take care to remember my name, and use it to call me to your table to ask for something. Speak my name when ordering or in conversation, in addition to using my name to get my attention. Speaking my name makes me feel like a real human in the blur of my shift full of dirty plates and unhappy customers and late food. Make eye contact and pay attention.