"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Waiting [Tables] for Your Big Break

Leading Lady LA and I share a few things in common. Guess what they are! Yes! We're both actresses, and we're both waiting tables. We are your standard Hollywood Cliches.

She recently wrote an article about what your servers really think when you dine out, and I'd like to add it:

90% of "nice waiters" are big fat fakers. Unless we find you attractive...we most likely dislike you on site, especially if you are needy. [This makes me laugh, or maybe I'm just naive, but for the most part, I like my tables right off. I'm looking for some people to laugh with, to entertain, so I'm nice and funny to you because I'm nice and funny. Now, LL might not have the room to jest and joke with her guests because her restaurant could be fine dining and she's not allowed to have any personality, so she doesn't get to enjoy it, but for the most part, if you're in my section, we will like each other. And yes, if you're extremely needy, (meaning tons of modifications on a simple item, where we have to go back to the kitchen to tell the chef in detail) we will not like you as much. But that goes for any worker anywhere.]

-We don't care if you have been coming for years and years. We HATE when you tell us you have been. We aren't impressed that you consider yourself a "regular"... We KNOW who regulars are the good and the bad. [Sounds like LL works in a fancy schmancy place in a fancy schmancy locale. She will come across a ton of entitled attitudes I don't ever have to deal with. The trade off: she probably earns waaaay more money than I do. But I probably have more fun at work.]

-We also know how you tip and serve you accordingly. [I hate that this makes her sound so calculating. I'm sure she gives excellent service no matter what.]

-People love to anticipate mistakes. "Can I have 2 waters" (because I think you will forget to refill my glass) Is a common and annoying one. [So once, while dining, my mom was going through water after water, and the waitress said, "My, are you thirsty!" I wanted to slap that waitress in the face. My mother is diabetic and has to drink a lot of water, so I always assume health reasons when a diner needs a lot of this, or none of the other. Also, in the service industry, anticipation of a guest's needs is the determining factor in whether or not a server is good at their job. For instance, if you order a diet coke or iced tea, I KNOW you will need refills. People who order these drink a lot of them. It's a rule of the trade. And I don't think people love to anticipate mistakes, I think people come to dinner wanting to have a good time, wanting to enjoy each other, and the food, etc. It also takes a seasoned server to gauge what the table wants; whether they're on a first date and don't want to be bothered, or if they're the type who loves chatting with their servers. I consider myself to be part of the entertainment, and I just have to figure out what type of show each table wants.]

-We talk about you...a lot. We bond over it. [So true. And if you see a random server helping you, or eyeing you, it means we told said server we thought you were hot.]

-Large tables ignore us and it creates a lot of work. When we come to the table and ask a question look up from your blackberry and answer...don't wait till I grab someone at your table a coffee and set it down to realize "oh I'd like one too".  [Large parties are indeed difficult, and this is why gratuities are automatically put on the bill for them. I dealt with a party of 32 yesterday, who all came in at different times, had 8 separate checks, multiple forms of payment, and even switched seats during the middle of dinner. What people who don't know the service industry and how it's run is this: As a server, I label what table and seat you're sitting at. When you move, I have to tell the expo and food runners that you moved, because now all the tickets are labeled wrong. and then I have to have a manager help me transfer check numbers and move food around, which is incredibly time consuming. And yes, the larger the party, the more we're ignored. And seriously, when a server is at your table, STOP TEXTING. I've come up with, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'll come back when you're ready." That usually makes them put it away because they really do want to order something. But yeah, we really need some cell phone etiquette guide to be taught in schools now.]

-Old people LOVE decaf...and NEVER believe you actually gave them decaf. [Yes, old people love decaf, usually because they're on some type of medication. And yes, they'll double check, and I don't blame them one bit. I would too. And when I order decaf on rare occasions, I do the same thing. ]

-The Managers know if you suck and pretend to listen with concern to your complaint. They don't care if you kiss their ass, because they hear from the waiters what you are really like. [Bottom line for managers: make the guests happy to guarantee repeat business. They will listen to their complaints, because 9 times out of 10, they are hugely valid. But managers DO get both sides of the story, and managers are always on the server's side. And a lot of the times, the issue isn't with the server, but with their food, which is a kitchen matter. I have worked with some awesome managers, and they are always the ones who have started in the business at a young age, and have done every job from dishwashing to line cooking, to serving, to bartending. They know how to make the guests AND the server happy.]

-We give you nicknames. [LL must work somewhere that has a ton of repeat business. I've never done this.]

-If you really piss your waiter off...we team up on you and find a way to retaliate. IE: ignore you, overcharge you, give you the smallest crustiest piece of complimentary bread. [You know that movie "Waiting"? I refused to watch it when it came out because I knew it would be disgusting, and I didn't want to think that those types of things really happened. And I don't believe they do. Or at least, I have never worked in those types of establishments. I've had some people majorly piss me off, and I've had others who've made me cry, but I've also had people offer to help me in my creative endeavors and ask me when I'm working next because they only want to sit in my section. It's a balance. And I've even had one fellow server say, "It's not brain surgery," which is true, it's not, but I still take my job very seriously.]

-Don't hand me and unidentified gross object wrapped in a napkin. Nothing makes us more livid. [Or put your gum on the actual plate. Come on!]

-Customers love to talk to us like we are idiots. Please remember that in LA chances are your server is college educated. 75% of the people I worked with went to college. One even had his masters...we are in it because you can make a lot of money in a little time...so we can act, write, sing, dance on the side. [Oh, it's true, sometimes we get that, and LL makes a hugely wonderful point: We ALL have college educations. Or we're still in school. I worked with a woman who was getting her masters in child psychology and had a small business on the side of brewing and distributing her own organic chai tea. And with the economic downturn, there are even more people vying for waiting jobs, so you're pretty much getting the cream of the crop when you go out. It's fun to subtly point out that you're being a jerk, especially if you're a dude. I had one person insult me so unbelievably, that I said, "Sir, I understand that I'm your server and only make minimum wage, but I'm actually an intelligent person." Oh man! That was awesome! He immediately apologized and was the NICEST guy after that. And then there's the story of JenniPatti who once worked at a tapas restaurant with me back in the day, was talking to one table when a guy at the next table, snapped his fingers to get her attention. Keep in mind, she was in the middle of explaining the menu to one of her guests at the other table, so she politely excused herself, turned to the finger snapper and said, "Sir, I'll be able to hear you better if you clap your hands at me." then she turned her back to him and continued with her earlier conversation. BRILLIANT! You'd be surprised at the behavior of some people. It's like they forget their server is a fellow human being. Because if their server ran into them in the middle of the street and told them, hey, remember that time you said this, and did this to me last week? They'd be so embarrassed. Sure, we serve food and a lot of people think it's a job that requires no skill, but oh, man, it is multi-tasking to the nth degree.

In fact, when I become president, I'm going to change not only the US but also the world. Everyone has to start as a dishwasher at 12 as part of your schooling, and you slowly make your way to a general manager by the time you graduate high school. I guarantee you world peace because everyone will have a place of empathy for their fellow man. 

But until I'm serving my term, I'm serving my tables. And if you like jokes and honesty, come sit in my section. If you're a fellow server, check out  bitter waitress.  for hilarious war stories and the like.

So, here you go, thanks for coming in, see you soon!


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You have far more patience than I do...was a server at 18. Knew it wasn't for me when I sweetly said "Good morning!" to a man and he a) didn't even look up from his newspaper, and b) replied with "You can start by bringing me some coffee".

    Took every ounce of restraint I had not to pour said coffee on his head.

  2. Lira is a much better human being than most when it comes to patience, love, understanding, and lack of road rage.

    Great post girl...and good on Jen for having such an awesome comeback for a totally rude customer.

  3. Okay, your Thanksgiving comment about your NEW family just made me smile so freakin' big.

    I love you two!!


Play nice.