The Common Issue: Server Struggles

Photo credit: Kristine Delicana

Working in a restaurant is something that I would suggest to everyone and no one at the same time.

On paper, it is the easiest money a college student can make, with the least amount of effort.

In reality, it is a soul-sucking black hole of a job that you stay in for your co-workers and the 150 bucks you walk out with on a Friday night.

I was sitting around with my friends, and fellow servers, when we started talking about the things that suck about serving, and that no one ever realizes.

I have been in the food industry since I was 13 years old, and in the tons of restaurants I’ve worked in, I found these issues in all of them:

1. The “know-it-all” server.

In every restaurant there is that one person that feels like they should be a manager, but for some reason, they just kept getting looked over because of “budget cuts.” They correct you every chance they get, belittle you when you have a question and don’t listen to the actual managers because they feel their way is more efficient. Newsflash to you sir or madam: the restaurant will never stop having budget cuts for as long as you still want to be a manager.

2. The “they do it for me all the time” customer.

These people are nice, to an extent. They come into your section and before you get the chance to get through your rehearsed speech of “would you like to start out with some appetizers,” they’re slamming the menu shut telling you about the Asian chop salad that they want unchopped with ranch dressing, and salmon instead of chicken, but don’t upcharge them because they’re regulars and “they do it for them all the time.” Now look, we all have regulars, and I’ll get to them later, but if you have to explain to me that somehow the price of salmon goes down for just you, I’m going to go with you’re not a regular, and a server did it for you once because they messed up the order, not because you’re special.

3. The “do this for me, I’ll tip you well” customer.

This is one of the most dangerous people you will ever come across. This is so because if they actually do tip well, it’s awesome. But in my experience, there is a 10 percent chance that they will actually leave you the over 20 percent tip they seemed to have promised you. After you’ve gotten them 110 refills of iced tea, and an extra side of lemons, and told you how great you were, you’ll pick that check up and see a nice 12 percent staring you in the face. To those people I say, you suck and I will not be serving you again.

4. The “I’d like two ice cubes in my water” customer.

Now when you see this, you might think that I’m kidding, but there are a serious group of people that want two, and only two ice cubes in their water. For what reason they only want two is beyond me and anyone else with a normal mental capacity. But if you give these people any more or less than those two ice cubes you will be getting asked to grab your manager for poor service. To you people, our water is cold as is, adding the two ice cubes is a waste of my time and yours because that’s two seconds longer it’s going to take for me to take your order, and then two seconds more to put it in. In those extra seconds, other servers have been putting in their orders and now you will have to wait an extra 15 minutes to get your food. All because you wanted two damn ice cubes.

5. The “everything was great until it’s time to pay” customer.

Your service? Impeccable. By some miracle of God, their food came out within 12 minutes. They couldn’t stop saying how great everything was. Then, you drop the check and walk away. They open it, and two seconds later, you see them close it and flag you down. You think it might be because they just want to tell you how great you were, but no, you get a “can I see a manager.” Suddenly, the food was underdone, the service was slow and they never got the dessert they never actually ordered. The freeloaders that take advantage of the restaurant business have a special spot in hell reserved for them, is all I have to say about that.

6. The bad tipper.

The literal definition of gratuity is a gift of money, and that’s exactly what it is. Yes, I admit there is nothing that requires you to leave me money. If I gave you bad service, then I understand. But what I don’t understand is that if I give you good service, how could you not tip. Serving others is not a normal thing to do. You are not a god, and you are not a king. For me to be giving you your dinner, getting your drinks, and cleaning up your mess after because you didn’t want to do it at home, is a gift to you, and the people you came with. If you had a housekeeper, or a cook, would you not pay them? The money you spend at the restaurant does not come directly back to me. Yes they pay me minimum wage, but that is not what gets my bills paid. Busting my ass to make sure that you and your rude kids snapping at me are happy, to maybe get a 20 percent tip, is what pays my bills. For you watching me, sweating to make you happy, is what should make you want to tip.

7. Your regulars

These are the people that make your job worthwhile. They come in once or twice a week, and you know them by name. They ask about your life and you know about their kids that go to school in Ohio. They make every time they come in a treat. If you’re busy, they don’t complain that it took you an extra 5 minutes to come take their order, because they know you’re a good server and you’re working as hard as you can. Their your Christmas bonus and extra couple bucks on your birthday. They are the greatest people in the world, and you will never let them go.

I could go on for days about the dynamics of a restaurant, but all I’m trying to say is that next time you go into a restaurant remember to be nice to your server. We’re people just like you are. Your server could be me, and my next column could be about you.