Things You'll Only Understand If You’ve Waited Tables
In the restaurant business, you’re told the customer is always right. But is this always the case? Sometimes, waiters don’t receive as much appreciation as they deserve. Some customers tip poorly or behave rudely, and the waiter is always expected to remain professional.
There are many things your server wants you to know but can’t directly tell you. If customers knew about them, maybe everyone would be happier. And if you are or were a server, how many of these things ring true for you?
Don't Seat Yourself
If you walk into a restaurant and rush past the host to find a table, you’re not following the rules. The host’s job is to formally greet you at the entrance, seat you and hand you the menus. They’ll seat you because it’s their job.
Don’t Interrupt the Waiter
Imagine: Once the server arrives at the table, the customer interrupts and immediately starts placing a drink order. This is pretty rude. Your server simply wants to welcome you to the restaurant, tell you their name for future reference and ask if you want to hear about the daily specials.
Get Ready to Order
If you’re ready to order your food, great! But if you’re not, don’t be afraid to ask for more time. It can be awkward for both parties if the customer is staring at the menu, indecisive about what to order.
Order Everything at Once
Some customers like to sit and linger, perhaps ordering the appetizers first and then waiting a while to order their entrees. Other customers make requests for sides of ranch dressing after they’ve already placed their orders. Instead of doing this, waiters prefer for you to tell them everything while you’re ordering your meal.
Don’t Be on Your Phone
One of the biggest pet peeves for waiters is when a customer is on their phone while placing their order. Acknowledging your server with eye contact is respectful, but it also makes it easier for the server to understand you. Mumbling while staring at your phone isn’t proper etiquette.
Don’t Change the Meal...Too Much
It’s okay if you want to leave off the mayonnaise, but be mindful of your requests. If you order chicken parmesan without any sauce or cheese, you’re basically ordering a chicken cutlet. Waiters understand if you have nutrition needs, but some substitutions can turn into absurd requests that alter the entire meal.
Remember That Your Date Can Order Their Own Food
Some customers order for their significant others. But many orders come with a follow-up question: "How would you like that cooked?" Or, "Would you like fries or a side salad with that?" It can be difficult and sometimes awkward to answer these questions when you’re ordering for someone.
Also Remember: The Waiter Isn’t Flirting With Your Date
Waiters are trained to be polite to their customers. It’s part of their job. With this in mind, if a waiter is behaving kindly towards your significant other, that doesn’t mean they’re flirting with your date. They’re there to do their job. They’re not there to hook up with your date at the end of their shift.
Don’t Snap Your Fingers
Would you like it if someone snapped their fingers or whistled at you to get your attention? If you wouldn’t like it, chances are that your server isn’t a fan either. They’re working as quickly as they can to serve you. Snapping is disrespectful and belittles your waiter.
Don’t Blame Them for the Prices
Servers don’t decide how much your food and drinks cost. Even if the prices aren’t listed on the menu, waiters aren’t obligated to warn you about how expensive your meal might be. Of course, you’re more than welcome to ask the prices while you’re placing your order.
Know What to Do If the Restaurant Is Packed...
Waiters aren’t just serving you and your table. They have several other tables in their section of the restaurant. If it’s a slow day, then you can expect your server to spend more time with you. However, if the restaurant is packed, that’s another story.
...And What to Do If You’re in a Rush
Sometimes, you might only have an hour to eat your meal. If you’re in a rush, it’s important to tell your waiter after they introduce themselves. Let them know so they can take your order right away. They can also try to speed up your meal preparation in the kitchen.
Make Room for Your Plates
If you happen to order an appetizer or a salad that arrives before your main meal, your dinner table can get full of plates before you’re served your main dish. Once your food arrives, it can get awkward for everyone involved to maneuver around the cluttered table.
Don’t Give Them More Plates
If your waiter walks past you while carrying a stack of plates, don’t give them more plates. Their hands are already full. They don’t need any more plates, or it might risk your server dropping everything to the floor. That could risk their job, and no one wants that to happen.
Give Your Order Time to Cook
If the restaurant is busy, you might have to wait 30 minutes for your food. Some items take longer to cook than others. If you order a well-done steak, this takes longer to make than a sandwich and French fries. Allow enough time for your food to cook.
Don’t Expect Them to Read Your Mind
Waiters aren’t superheroes. They can’t read your mind, so they don’t know if you’re satisfied with your food. It’s important to communicate your concerns to your server. They’re unable to pick up on your subtleties. If your steak wasn’t cooked properly, tell them. If you’re disappointed with your meal, they won’t know you’re upset unless you say something
Try Not to Say “They’ve Done It Before”
Every waiter is different. If you’ve been eating at a restaurant for many years, you probably know the waitstaff. They know you by name, and they know your meal of choice before you even sit down at your dinner table. This is great customer service, but what happens if the restaurant hires a new waiter?
Avoid Wasting Food If You Can
Waiters see a lot of food wasted every day. It sometimes makes them cringe. While you don’t need to eat everything on your plate, the food you leave on your plate isn’t composted. Instead, it’s thrown into the garbage can to end up in a landfill.
Know That It's Okay to Complain
If you’re not shy about voicing your concerns, that’s great. If you don’t like something about your food or drinks though, you can still tell your waiter. Just be nice about the complaint. They didn’t prepare your meal, so if you’re unhappy with it, it’s not your waiter’s fault.
Watch Your Children
One thing that can ruin a meal is if children are running around the restaurant. Some parents don’t stop their children, allowing them to cause havoc inside. This isn’t cute, especially for the waiters who are trying to balance hot, heavy plates while maneuvering around kids underfoot.
Don’t Interrupt Your Server When They’re Helping Someone Else
When you need something from your server, they’re more than happy to help you. However, it’s rude to interrupt them if they’re serving customers at another table. You’re not the only paying visitor in the restaurant. Most servers have four to six other tables they’re waiting on while they’re helping you.
Don't Overstay Your Welcome
It’s okay to take your time and enjoy yourself while you’re eating with family and friends. You have every right to spend time at the restaurant. Just know that there are other customers who are probably waiting to be seated at your table. The longer you camp out after a meal, the more customers you’re costing your server.
Add Extras to Your Meal — Thoughtfully
You can’t have everything you want at the restaurant for one price. If you ask for a stronger drink or an additional side to your entree, you need to understand that it’ll cost more. This is a standard policy at many restaurants. Don’t be upset with your server when you see extra charges added to your final receipt.
Don’t Touch Them
It’s almost never appropriate to touch someone without their permission. It can be uncomfortable. This also applies to restaurant servers. Keep your hands off! Waiters don’t like it when customers touch their arms to get their attention. It’s more annoying than a customer snapping their fingers or whistling.
Make (Some) Small Talk
Some people like engaging in small talk with their servers. You might ask, "How’s your day going?" This is an appropriate question. However, try to avoid dreaded questions like, "What else do you do?" Don’t assume they have another job besides working at the restaurant. You never know what’s going on in their personal life.
Remember They Don’t Make Much Money
This shouldn’t be surprising information, but servers aren’t paid much for their exhausting jobs. They’re often only technically paid $2 or $3 per hour when they’re required to stand on their feet all day, serve food to strangers and sometimes serve frustrated customers. Most servers end up receiving little in wages.
Leave a Cash Tip
You shouldn’t eat at a restaurant if you don’t believe in leaving a generous tip. After all, your waiter worked hard to serve you and meet your demands. If they provided good service, pay them for that service. Waiters depend on the tips to earn more cash.
Remember That They Split the Tips
Customers don’t see what goes on behind the scenes at a restaurant. At the end of a shift at most restaurants, servers have to split their tips with the bartenders, runners (who help run food from the kitchen to the customers), bussers and chefs. The money doesn’t just belong to the waiter.
Don't Be Rude
No one likes to be treated rudely. Waiters are there to serve you, and they want you to have a good experience while you eat at the restaurant. Waiters work hard to leave a positive, lasting impression. So, if you treat them like they’re servants or like they’re irrelevant, you don’t make their job or day any happier.