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Don't Look Now But Your Server Hates You

The top 10 mistakes that will tempt a server to defile your food.

By The Barman

Many people may not know this about me, but I'm on a committee to pass a bill that requires people to work in a restaurant before they are allowed to eat in one. OK, not really. I made that up. To be on a committee requires a dedication reserved for beavers and team moms. I'd rather sit in the stands and root the players on (Go, Occupy, Go!). Or read the news and do what I do best, which is to throw my hands up in disgust and complain to my cat. Nevertheless, since you brought it up …

The serving industry can literally drive you mad. Curl-into-a-fetal-position-and-suck-your-thumb mad. Forget the postal workers. Servers are 17 times more likely to carve your eyes out with a salad fork than a mailman. I can only compare it to Chinese water torture (drip, drip, drip). That single drop splashing on your forehead is nothing at first, but small annoyances add up until the tension becomes so unbearable you run back into the kitchen and tear the paper towel dispenser off the wall. Every day I am astounded that we are allowed to work in the presence of knives.

Any employee who has worked longer than a year in this business involuntarily joins an angry, jaded cult of servers and bartenders that cripples their chances to partake in a healthy relationship for the remainder of their life. Look up "server blogs" on the Internet and see what industry people are saying about you.

One in particular, TheBitchyWaiter.com, inspired this discussion. If you want to know what servers think of you, check the site and get inside the mind of a real server. It's educational, enlightening and humorous. If you'd rather live in the dark, stay away, but to this day I still can't fathom why a guest would risk being disrespectful to a person who has access to the food that goes into their mouth. This is akin to insulting a guy smoking a cigarette while you're standing in a puddle of gasoline.

If you're a risk taker in your gasoline puddle, then practice these 10 mistakes that will put you and your food in the line of fire the next time you go out:

1.  FORGET YOUR MANNERS. For whatever reason, some people hoard their manners like Golem protecting The Ring ("My precioussssss") and they distribute them like meager rations. CEOs and priests are worthy of these rations, while servers and gas station attendants are treated like the sole of a shoe smothered in dog crap. Use your wildest imagination and make believe for a short time that servers are real people. Stop being a (name I cannot speak here) and say "please" and "thank you.

2.  IGNORE THEM. This could be a subcategory and is even worse than the former rule. Here's advice for those who would like their food screwed with:  When your server arrives at your table and is standing there waiting to say hello, continue to carry on your conversation with the rest of the table and do not acknowledge the server's presence. These people will continue to treat their server as the invisible person throughout the meal and then when they need something, they will complain to everyone who works there that they don’t know who their server is.

3.  STRING ORDER. If you've ever played poker, this is like string betting where you make a bet, pull your hand back to your chips and bet again. It's illegal, or at least against the rules. If you want to fluster a server, try this:  order a Coke for your son. When the server returns, order a Sprite for your daughter. Next time, ask for more bread. By this time your server should be breathing heavy, but oooooh, you almost forgot, now you need a side of ranch. Servers depend on efficiency to provide quality service. For them, this is like building a wall carrying one brick at a time instead of using a wheelbarrow.

4.  ALLOW YOUR KID TO TORNADO THE PLACE. Are you the kind of person who allows your baby to toss plates of food on the floor and empty every sugar packet onto the table? Do you then pretend that it’s not your responsibility to control this because its the servants' and slaves' job to clean it up? If so, chances are your kid causes the same collateral damage wherever he/she goes, including friends’ houses, which means they probably hate you too.

5.  EAT 90 PERCENT OF YOUR MEAL AND THEN SAY YOU DIDN'T LIKE IT AND ASK FOR IT TO BE TAKEN OFF YOUR BILL.  (Drip, drip, drip...)

6.  MAKE 23 MODIFICATIONS TO YOUR ORDER. There's nothing wrong with "having it your way," but don't act shocked when you order the orange chicken with no chicken, sub soy faux-chicken, no sugar, sub Splenda, no olive oil, sub rice bran oil, extra crispy but no breading, sub corn starch, and it comes out tasting like a dishrag. The chefs created their recipes and sauces to taste good. Unless you are Rachel (expletive) Ray, don't mess with them.

7.  LEAVE A CRAPPY TIP. By this time you'll be gone and unless the server has a time machine he/she won't be able to spit in your food. Still. It reminds me of a girl I worked with once who got a $1 tip on a $150 tab. She chased down the woman outside in the parking lot like she was going after someone who had just boiled her bunny, and that's exactly how she looked too: like Glenn Close at the end of Fatal Attraction when she looks like some crazy hoarder-27-cats-in-her-house-lady who comes at Michael Douglas with a butcher knife before he shoots her and she falls into the bath tub. That was this server, and she yelled at the lady, "Keep your dollar you f*%&ing b&%th!" right there in the parking lot. That's how it happens. 

8.  COMPLAIN ABOUT THE PRICES TO THE SERVER. This really happens, I'm not kidding. Try this: If you don't like the prices, see if you can bargain with the server like you do at a yard sale. Maybe he'll drop the price of the duck like he would some old jeans because he wants to purge and clear some things off the menu. Then, the next time you meet with your accountant, tell him that taxes are too high and see if he can work something out with the government.

9.  SIT AND CHAT FOR THREE HOURS AFTER YOU'RE THROUGH EATING. We call this "camping," and not the good kind where you get to whittle sticks and make toast over a fire. Servers can't make money until the next party can sit at the table you are holding hostage. If you aren't making s'mores or telling ghost stories, mosey along.

10.  ASK FOR SEPARATE CHECKS FOR YOU AND YOUR 10 FRIENDS.  Ooooh, servers and separate checks are MORTAL enemies. Splitting checks for two people, whatever. Splitting for three, eh, OK.  Anything beyond that and you can actually watch an internal meltdown take place before your very eyes. Your server will give you a smile used by catty housewives while she waits for six credit cards and four wads of cash.

Epilogue: I know I'm going to be attacked by some servers who will be like, "Why did you make us look so psycho?" Others will be all, "I'm not like that, I love my job and I love serving people and giving good service," and even others will be like, "I don't care if people camp or ask for separate checks, it's my job and I'm great at it!"

Congratulations to all of you for your capacity to provide unblemished, consummate service. From the rest of us in the biz swimming at the bottom of the tainted fish barrel, we sincerely say, "BLEEEEEEEP!"

My Bitchin' Blog:  TheRealBarman.com
My Kick-ass Twitter Name:  @TheRealBarman

Joe March 31, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Great article. Well written.
TheRealBarman March 31, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Thanks, Joe. You're a prince (and not the 4'8" singer with a glittery suit and ruffles).
Stephany Emig April 02, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Bravo Barman Bravo!!!!
DanglingParticiple April 02, 2012 at 11:45 PM
"4. ALLOW YOUR KID TO TORNADO THE PLACE. Are you the kind of person who allows your baby to toss plates of food on the floor and empty every sugar packet onto the table? Do you then pretend that it’s not your responsibility to control this because its the servants' and slaves' job to clean it up? If so, chances are your kid causes the same collateral damage wherever he/she goes, including friends’ houses, which means they probably hate you too." I hope this was written by someone who's childless or simply has a poor grasp of the English language. What parent allows a "baby" to toss plates of food on the floor? A "baby" is a messy eater. They drop things. They spill things. They don't have the reasoning skills to do any of this intentionally. The author either doesn't grasp the concept of human development, is lazy, or means "child" when he or she has written "baby".
Terry Parris Jr. April 03, 2012 at 12:16 AM
A few things: Lazy? The author is lazy how? In the writing or in his job? Ever worked in a restaurant as a server? Finally, I've seen children (and babies) behave in an appropriate manner and within reason. And yes babies are messy. But I've also seen children (and babies) tornado places in what could be an inappropriate manner. I would say the inappropriate manner falls on the responsibility of the parent. Kids are still kids, but shouldn't they behave themselves in a public place? And not run amok? (Or is that why I've seen parents bring portable DVD players to the restaurants for the kiddies these days?) This is a general statement, of course -- not all kids and babies are tornadoes and not all kids or babies merely going through human development.
TheRealBarman April 03, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Dear Dangle: It's so refreshing when a reader finally GETS me. I have all these people telling me how hilarious one of my articles is and it just makes me angry because they don't understand that I'm a hardcore journalist reporting FACTS, with little room for interpretation or humor. I get no respect! On a separate note, I'm sorry to disappoint you but I am not childless. I have two children, but taking them out to eat is not a problem because, despite them being quite developed as human beings, I follow my own advice and make sure they keep our table clean by duct taping their wrists to their chairs or simply not letting them eat at all. They don't seem to mind, as we usually stick a crayon in their mouth and allow them to quietly color their napkin. Thanks again for your support. Sincerely, TheRealBarman
DanglingParticiple April 03, 2012 at 01:41 PM
@Terry - Lazy in his job. Yes. I've worked in a restaurant. In fact, I have nearly 20 years of experience in the restaurant field as well as a degree in hotel & restaurant management. Babies are messy. That's a fact of life. If a server doesn't want to deal with that reality they should seek employment in a restaurant that doesn't cater to people with a baby - a bar for example. There's an enormous difference between a baby and a toddler/child. @The Real Barman - I'm quite happy to give you my support. Given that children are often a reflection of their parents, I can understand why you need to practice the parenting techniques you mention. Cheers.

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