Ask not what your server can do for you, but what you can do for your server.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but never had a chance to publish it. 

As I sit hear nursing a sore throat and achy body with hot soup and orange juice, it occurs to me that most, if not all, of the reason I’m sick is because I ran my butt off waiting tables last weekend. I don’t think it’d be an exaggeration to say I’ve run a marathon in the last three days. For almost a decade I worked this hard every weekend of the summer, but this year I’m out of “server shape.”

The tourist season in Charlevoix lasts Memorial Day through Labor Day, so this past weekend was our final push. (Incidentally, many of the shops downtown already have “Everything 50% off!” signs in the windows to try to get rid of their merchandise  before they close down for the long winter:) Though State Law in Michigan prohibits secondary schools from starting before labor day- to keep kids working trough the end of tourist season- Colleges are not held to this law. So, most of our staff at the Weathervane are gone by Labor Day each year. This means those of us who are left are all working understaffed doubles.

Hence, the fact that I felt I’d been hit by a semi when I woke up this morning.

Additionally, I barely had time to eat all weekend.

The point of this post, however, is to let you- our lovely restaurant patrons- know what you can do to make our lives as servers easier. Because I’m sure that’s your primary  concern when you eat out;)

So- for those of you who actually care- here you are:)

  • When a server asks if you’re ready to order and you’re not, say- I know this is revolutionary- “no”. I promise, we’ll come back. You can even say “give me 2 (or 5 or 7 ) minutes” and I will literally look at the clock and come back when you’re ready. This saves me wasting those two minutes standing there, looking at you with a forced smile as I freak out internally because my peripheral vision has picked up that table 103 is ready to be cleared, the food for 104 is sitting on a tray ready to be served and getting cold, and the man at table 106 needs another glass of wine. Yes, that would really help me a lot.
  • If you want separate checks, indicate this right away and be clear about who’s with who- it’s not always as obvious as you assume.
  • When you’re finished eating, place your silverware upside down (so top of fork and spoon are facing the plate) and with the handles on the left side of your plate- according to proper etiquette, this is the symbol that you are done eating. This easy gesture saves me numerous “walk by’s” to figure out whether you’re actually finished or still eating the food still on your plate.
  • Wait until you’re sure I’ve unloaded my tray before you yell at me for forgetting something- this actually saves you the embarrassment of looking like an impatient jerk when I reply “Yes, sir, I have your salad on the tray right behind me, but I wanted to serve the ladies first.”
  • The best time to order another glass of wine or coffee (or anything) is when I ask “Does anyone want another glass of wine or coffee (or does anyone need anything)?” Not after I’ve already gone all the way back to the wait station, filled coffee, and brought it out and you say “You know, on second thought, that smells really good. I’ll have a glass.” Awesome, I haven’t gotten my exercise in for the day, and I was hoping that the table next to you would have to wait yet another five minutes before I get there to take their drink order.
  • If there’s a problem with your food, tell your server right away; we want you to be happy with your food! However, if you eat the entire entree and then tell me it was too fatty or not what you ordered or whatever, that puts me in a very awkward position- I should comp it if your unhappy, but if you ate the whole thing, are you really that unhappy? Not to mention the kitchen will be pissed and ask why I voided a dinner and if I reply it was too fatty they’ll ask to see it and I’ll have to say it’s all gone, and they’ll start throwing plates out of anger, etc, etc.
  • Show up on time for your reservation and call if you are going to be late. This helps both the servers and the kitchen.
  • It is not okay, ever, to try to get my attention while I’m talking with another table. Simply wait until I am finished and then ask me for what you need. If you are impatient, I will intentionally ignore you- yes I will take it upon myself to teach you the lesson most of us learned in kindergarten- the world does not, in fact, revolve around you.
  • It’s common courtesy when I come to your table to respond when I ask how everyone is doing. Don’t just spit out your drink order.
  • A good tip is 20%
  • Don’t complain about a $.10 charge for a wine sample. It’s Michigan law. Your bill was $300, and you’re seriously going to argue over ten cents?
  • If you bring children, do not allow them to run wild all over the restaurant. This is just common sense.
  • Don’t ask your server for her number; this puts her in a very awkward situation.
  • Show your server grace. If she or he makes a mistake, simply point it out and ask for a correction to be made. It is completely unnecessary to raise your voice or insult her or him. We’re people too.
  • If you have a gigantic purse (which is fine, I also carry a large purse:) and you notice your server hurdling the purse with a tray full of cocktails or hot food, kindly move your purse out of the way. Less stress for me.
  • Please and Thank You go a long, long way.
I think that’s it:)
Fellow servers- did I miss anything?
Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Ask not what your server can do for you, but what you can do for your server.

  1. i can’t say i will agree with everything you say having mostly been only on the patron side of the story and having had my share of rude servers (at least that’s my side of the story), but i did learn a lot from hanging out with you and seeing how you actually ‘live out’ your personal values of the to-dos and not-to-dos as a customer. ….almost like Jesus. Almost. 😉

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