Servers Not Servants: 31 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew

Servers Not Servants: 31 Things Your Waiter Wishes You Knew
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“Good evening ladies, welcome to the Tavern. My name is Kelley and I will…”
“Seltzer, please, with a lime.”
“Absolutely, I’ll be right back with that.”

We would never cut someone off we just met at a party, so why do we do it in a restaurant? When you go out to wine and dine, you expect to get the service you are paying for. You expect to get a table upon arriving, a cheery waiter, your food promptly and your water glass always full.

But then, a disheveled waiter comes back to your table and forgets the lime. How dare she? She had one job. What a bitch, right? Wrong.

Right after you asked for your seltzer with lime, another customer poked her in the back and asked her to get more ketchup before the fries got cold.

She goes back to the service station for ketchup, seltzer and lime only to discover that her two strawberry daiquiris hadn’t yet been made for the couple at table 22B. Or is it 22C? I think they moved, so they might be 22C now.

The bartender tells her she has to get more daiquiri mix from downstairs and that they have no limes. She runs downstairs, grabs the mix, runs back to the bartender, gets the seltzer, grabs the ketchup, goes to deliver the seltzer and gets poked in the back with an accompanying, “My ketchup!”

She had one job. Whatever, there goes her tip.

Servers are the face of the restaurant. If something doesn’t go to plan, they are the ones to deliver the news and absorb the repercussions.

They are there to help, but sometimes, customers make their jobs harder without even knowing it. Below are 31 things waiters wish customers knew:

Your seat is not random.

Based on server section rotation, upcoming reservations and restaurant polices (like not sitting two people at a four-person booth), there is a very strategic reason why you are placed where you are.

While you are entitled to sit wherever you want, know that it isn’t personal if we sit you by the kitchen and not by the window.


Do not interrupt your server during his or her introduction.

Your server simply wants to welcome you, tell you his or her name for future reference and ask if you want to hear the specials. It is rude to interrupt — your drink order can wait 30 seconds.


If you are in a rush, tell us as soon as we greet you.

Firstly, if you are in a rush, you might want to reconsider a sit-down restaurant. However, if you do choose to come in and are in a hurry, let us know immediately so we can take your order right away and try to bump up your meal in the kitchen.

We are trained to give you leisure time to look at the menu, so if you want to skip that, let us know and we will do our best to get you in and out as quickly as possible.


Only tell a server you are ready to order when you are actually ready.

Do not be afraid to ask for more time if you are not yet ready. The time we spend waiting for you to decide on your meal could be reallocated to another waiting customer.


If you want additional condiments, order them with your meal.

If you want something with your meal, like a side of ranch dressing, let the server know during your order. This way, it can all come together. It saves you time and saves the server a second trip when your food arrives.


Look at your server when you are ordering.

Acknowledging your server with eye contact is not only respectful, but also makes it easy for him or her to hear you. A mumble into your menu is nearly impossible to understand in a noisy restaurant.


Allow your significant other to order for him or herself.

Most orders come with a follow up question, whether it’s “how would you like that cooked?” or “would like fries or a side salad with that?”

When you are speaking for your partner, it becomes difficult and awkward to know exactly what a person wants.


We are not trying to get with your date.

Just because waiters are polite and friendly does not mean we want to steal your girlfriend or boyfriend. We are just there to do our job and take both of your orders, so do not give us dirty looks for doing so.


 We cannot read your mind.

Communicate your concerns to your server — do not expect him or her to pick up on your subtleties. Voice your allergies, disapproval of food or disappointment in customer service during your meal so we can accommodate you.

Complaining to the manager after you pay the bill will not improve your experience, your bill or your server’s night.


Stop with the substitutions.

We understand if you want to abide by your health kick by asking to substitute your fries for veggies or if you just happen to prefer a different cheese on your burger. However, when substitutions turn into absurd requests that are not even on the menu, a line needs to be drawn.

Understand that when you are going to a restaurant, you are choosing not to make your own meal and to try a specific chef’s recipe.


It is not that easy to “hook you up.”

Many customers assume it is easy for servers to hand out a free round of shots or make your drinks stronger. To do so, we have to put it into the computer system and explain to our manager why each individual item has to be voided and not taken out of our pockets.

Bartenders are usually given more leniency to do this and servers are not — unless we royally screw up or you’ve already spent a ridiculous amount of money.


We do not make your drinks or food.

The restaurant works as a team, but unfortunately, the server is the face of all mistakes and inconveniences.

When you complain about how long your drinks took to arrive, know that we are just as anxious as you are, waiting at the bar for your drink to be made.

The same goes with mistakes in the kitchen. We are responsible for taking your order and putting it into the computer. From there, our fingers are crossed that the kitchen will make orders how you want them.

Here’s a tip: By cutting into your first bite of meat, we are able to cook it more on the grill if it does not meet your satisfaction. If you touch it with your hands or mouth, it is unsanitary and we have to throw it out and start over, which just makes your wait time longer.


Be aware of how long your order takes to make.

If you order a well-done steak and a mojito, know will take significantly longer to produce than fries and a beer.


Do not snap your fingers, touch your server or whistle when you want something.

We already know that this job is not glorified. Adding in disrespect makes us feel even more belittled. We tell you our name so you can use it. Be polite and we will love you for making our job more manageable.


Do not interrupt your server while he or she is waiting on another table.

By doing so, you not only offend the server, but also the other customers.


Do not allow children in your party to run around.

You may think it is cute, but when there are people running around, balancing hot and heavy plates, a collision is hardly precious.


Your server is always busy.

Besides the few lazy server exceptions, most of us are always multitasking. Servers have a surplus of side work that managers constantly wonder why we can’t finish.

Realize if I have not been around to check on you in five minutes, it’s probably because I have been rolling up silverware, serving other customers or trying to sneak a bite to eat in place of a meal break.


If the restaurant is packed, do not expect the same attention you would get if it were dead.

We like to connect with our tables when we can, but when we are juggling a lot of tables at once, our attention has to be spread thin and evenly.

Understand that if you had to wait to get a table, you will probably also have to wait to get your food order taken and meals on the table. Imagine going home and cooking for 200 people — sometimes things get backed up.


Do not blame us for our prices.

Servers do not choose how much your food and drinks cost. Even if the prices are not on the menu, we are not obligated to warn you, but you are more than welcome to ask.

Once you have consumed your meal, you are responsible for paying for it, no matter your level of satisfaction.


Asking for extra will cost you extra.

Whether you ask for a stronger drink or an additional side of salsa, more will cost more. It is based on the restaurant’s policy; do not be upset with your server when you see extra charges on your bill.


Split your check the right away.

It is much easier for a server to split your check once you have received it in full. Ask for a pen if you want specific amounts on each card and write it on the back of your receipt.

If you ask to have your check split prior to the bill arriving, you are adding another task for your server, who now has to keep track of orders instead of simply punching everything in at once.It is especially troublesome to your server when it’s a big party and there is automatic gratuity.

By splitting off of the bill, you are taking away from the guaranteed tip and will most likely tip as a one-person order, as opposed to being part of the hectic 20-person party.


Servers are paid $2 to $3 per hour.

This because restaurants are permitted to bypass the federal minimum wage requirements in light of tips.


Most servers end up receiving little to no wage.

Essentially, they are solely making money from your tip.


Only a percentage of your tip goes to your server.

At the end of a shift at most restaurants, servers have to tip out 30 percent to their bartender, runner and busser. Keep this in mind when you think you are tipping your server in full.


Leave a cash tip.

It is more beneficial to leave your server a cash tip than to do so on your card. By leaving a cash tip, you are ensuring that the money can stay with your server.


Although tips are not mandatory, you are choosing to use the service.

Ordering food to go or for pick up should be your route if you do not wish to pay to be served. Typically, waiters appreciate 20 percent tips and expect at least 15 percent, unless the service was terrible. If you cannot afford this or do not believe in tipping, do not eat out.


This job probably isn’t your server’s career.

Many customers who are well-to-do patronize servers. Keep in mind that for many, server jobs are only temporary or “survival” jobs.

It is very likely your server is between jobs, working through school or worked all day in a job but spends the night serving for extra cash.


The longer you stay at a table, the more business you take away from your server.

You have every right to take your time and enjoy yourself when you are out to eat. Just be aware that the longer you camp out after a meal, the more time you are taking at a table your server could be using for new customers and new tips.

Out of courtesy, if you stay significantly longer at a table after your meal is over, you should reflect it in the tip. Time is money.


Do not be a late closer.

If you are the only customers in a restaurant at the end of the night, your server is just waiting for you to leave so he or she can go home. Do your server a favor; close out your tab and move to the bar.


Mentioning servers by name in good reviews gives us major brownie points.

Customers tend to only write reviews on apps like Yelp when they want to vent about a bad experience. If you had great service, consider recommending us to others. Restaurants depend heavily on their reviews.

When a manager reads nice things about one of their servers, the servers are rewarded appropriately and survive another day on the job.


Treat us as servers, not servants

Ultimately, we are here to serve you and to make sure you have a positive experience at our restaurant. We want to develop relationships with our regulars and leave positive, lasting impressions.

We go to work and tie our aprons just as you leave for the office and tighten your tie.

If you come in with all this in mind, you will make servers’ lives easier, which in turn, will help you have a smooth, enjoyable dining experience.

Photo Courtesy: HongAn Tran

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Kelley Lord

Kelley Lord earned her degree in Broadcast Journalism from SUNY Fredonia where she reported on entertainment news and acted in comedy sketches. With a soft spot for homemade pizza and adventure, her appetite led her to move to NYC. Since then she has worked behind the scenes for various television networks and radio stations, waiting for her chance to turn the camera around. Get your fill @PBandKelley.

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