I decided to use today’s entry as a platform to enlighten some readers and show solidarity for my fellow servers. It’s been years since I was last a restaurant server, and I can tell you honestly that it is a lot more difficult than I remember it being. I also suppose that this might have something to do with the fact that I was a sprightly 21-year-old when I worked my last server position, and I could stay up all night and work all day and barely feel a physical consequence. Things are a bit different now that I am waiting tables with a nearly 29-year-old body.
Anyway, last night the restaurant where I work offered free entrees to veterans of the US military, as well as some really nice discounted drink offers. I thought, as our managers had insisted beforehand, that I would feel like I was performing a great, charitable service. Instead, I left last night feeling dejected, sad about the attitudes of the general public, and unappreciated. I worked for 7 hours and brought home $32.00 in tips, since people were tipping on their discounted checks rather than on the amount that they actually spent. So in light of the awful night at work that many of my fellow servers and I had yesterday, I thought I’d compile a list of things you ought to know about servers, and maybe next time you are out to eat, you will be a little kinder to the person who is taking care of you.
1. Servers make much less than minimum wage. In the state of Georgia, we make $2.13 an hour plus tips. On particularly slow days, we can work many hours and not even make minimum wage due to a lack of sufficient tips.
2. Many servers work double shifts. This requires them to be on their feet for sometimes 12 or more hours at a clip. They don’t always do this by choice – if they can’t find another server to pick up one of those shifts, and they want to keep their jobs, they must work the double that has been scheduled by the manager.
3. When the restaurant is busy, servers are unable to take breaks like many people do at other jobs. This causes a lot of physical wear and tear and this means that when you ask a server to bring something else to you every time he or she visits your table, it’s a lot bigger of a deal than you might think.
4. In a restaurant, items are rarely put back where they belong. If you ask for hot sauce or sugar, we probably have to hunt it down before we can bring it to you. We apologize if it takes a few minutes for this item to arrive.
5. If you order a specialty cocktail, a freshly made drink, or an alcoholic beverage of any kind, it comes from the bar. We, as servers, are unable to make these for you so if it takes a while to get to your table it is because the bar is slammed. This is not our fault!
6. If your food is undercooked, overcooked, or takes a long time, this is also not our fault! We do not cook the food, we merely order it and serve it.
7. If your dishes and silverware are not totally clean, this is not our fault as well! We do not wash the dishes, we just bring the dirty ones to the dishwasher to be done.
8. If you send food back to the kitchen to be recooked, it will take some time to come back to your table. Please be prepared to wait accordingly. Again, we have no power over this process.
9. When items are not to your liking, managers tend to make them complimentary. We still ordered this item, delivered it, cleared it from your table, and discussed your dissatisfaction with the manager. Please include this monetary amount in your total when calculating the tip. We did the best we could for you!
10. It is customary to tip 20% of your total bill (minus tax) for great service, 18% for good service, and 15% for fair service. Please do not leave your server a 10% tip on a $200.00 check when he or she has done everything to your liking, and then some.
11. In Europe and other overseas countries, it is unnecessary to tip your server. In America, it is an absolute necessity. Visitors from other countries: please tip us at least 15% for our hard work.
12. Your server is really smart! Most of us have at least one college degree. Please do not speak to us like we are incapable of understanding basic information.
13. In addition to providing you with service and hospitality, we must also perform restocking, cleaning, and rearranging duties. We also have to fold the most ridiculous variety of fancy napkins you’ve ever seen. We have a lot to do! Please ask for what you want as a collective, rather than as individuals each time we pass your table.
14. We are humans too, and as such we possess a full spectrum of emotions. Please be kind! It makes our job a lot more pleasant and chances are, the nicer you are to us, the more we’ll do for you.
15. Ancillary to #14, people who work in restaurants may tend to have a short fuse. At any given time, we’ve probably been yelled at or spoken to in a disrespectful tone by a chef, line cook, dishwasher, busser, or manager. Please don’t contribute to this negativity when we come to your table, after just having been degraded, with our most sincere smile and warmest words.
16. In addition to all our other duties, we probably have had to bus our own tables for the majority of our shift. Sometimes we have to reset our own tables and seat people for the hosts. No, these tasks our not under our jurisdiction, but if they aren’t getting done by those who are supposed to do them, you can bet that we are expected to perform these duties.
Server friends, did I cover all the bases? Please comment with any additions you would like to make to the list! Have frustrations with your job that you would like to air? Comment with that information as well! If no one says it, how will anyone know?