Despite what some restaurant customers apparently think servers in restaurants have hard jobs.
White-collar billionaires may think that they work harder than everyone else to justify their obscene salaries, but I am doubtful when I wait tables for six consecutive weekend shifts from Friday morning to Sunday evening. Unfortunately, I do not get a salary, let alone a ten-figure one, and the restaurant employs me at an hourly rate less than half of the national minimum wage.
In reality servers in restaurants often do not receive any wages at all because their wages go to paying the taxes on their tip money. This means that servers live off of the daily generosity of their restaurants’ patrons.
This charity-style economy results in very unpredictable cash flow, and makes financial security and planning very difficult for servers whose bank accounts can fluctuate between rich and ruined on a weekly basis. Weekends become oases of potential jackpots that fade like mirages as the gauntlet of weekdays bleeds our bank accounts dry, and to compensate servers work exhausting double-shifts, holidays and late nights. But despite the effort there is literally nothing stopping customers from leaving offensively small tips or no tip at all, and this charity-payment system turns us into glorified panhandlers.
But remember one thing: serving is not easy. It is a service job, and as such servers must put up with customers no matter what they do or say because servers have to if they want to not starve. This, naturally, is unfortunate because a lot of people who come into restaurants are grumpy, angry, high-maintenance and/or uncomfortably creepy, and customers regularly make servers’ jobs more wearying than they already are.
Now most costumers probably have no idea what a nuisance they routinely become for their servers, so here are some guidelines to contemplate in order to ensure that you will never push your server over the edge of sanity and into existential despair:
-If you are going to miss or skip a reservation, call the restaurant to cancel. Restaurants lose money by holding tables for you unnecessarily, and your absenteeism makes other guests wait longer to get tables of their own. Also, the server who would have served you likely got skipped in the table rotation for fairness and preparation, and now the server has lost money. And if your party is big enough, your server might have been scheduled solely to serve your party, so you are not showing up means that they have now worked a penniless shift.
-When the hostess tries to seat you, and you request a different table you are messing up the servers’ table rotation. While of course you will be allowed to sit where you want, accept that your service might be affected negatively if you sit yourself in the section of an already struggling server, especially during a rush.
-If you arrive and sit down at your table before the rest of your party, do not angrily insist that you will wait for the rest of your table to get there. The service industry idolizes speedy service, and many restaurants require that servers greet tables and take drink orders within thirty seconds of the table being seated. If you are exasperated that your server wants to accommodate you while you wait for your friends or family, you are not chill and you maybe even made a temporarily powerful enemy. Especially if the rest of your party does not arrive for thirty minutes, and you change your mind about waiting for them to order a glass of water.
-Respect your friends and family and arrive on time. In the cell phone era, we have become chronically tardy because we no longer have to leave our house on time to meet up with people when and where we said we would. It is mind-boggling when half a table sits down and then waits two hours for the other half to arrive, but it happens regularly. This is also very inconvenient for servers because they lose money while you camp out in their section, and your server has to work much harder when a new person with a new order or need is at your table each passing.
-If you need more time to read the menu, let your server do other things. Nowhere is the adage “time is money” more relevant than in the restaurant business, and your taking seven minutes to order during the rush will bury your server in the weeds and make other tables tip him less for the consequent neglect.
-Share your server’s time with the other tables in her section. Your story about the burger you ate in 1967 or any other retrospective anecdote may interest your server in a found-art biography kind of way, but meanwhile everyone else’s drinks are empty.
-It doesn’t matter if you just gave God ten-percent right before your Sunday brunch, I’m pretty sure Jesus would agree with me that you still have to tip. And do not try to convert your server with pamphlets warning about the dangers of hell: serving needy church groups and getting paid with pennies that have crosses cut out of them is an Earthly hell. True story, I once was told by a minister’s wife that God was certainly working through my hands on account of my quality serving. High praise, but she still only tipped me five-percent.
-Do not dine and dash. The restaurant industry’s philosophy is that it is the server’s responsibility to pay your tab if you do not follow the rules of a functioning society. Not only are you not tipping your server, he now has to pay for all of the food you ate.
-Learn the temperatures of meat. If you send back the medium steak you ordered because it is a little pink in the middle it is wholly your fault that you have to wait.
-Try not being picky. If you reduce your seven-layer salad to a bowl of lettuce and substituted cheddar cheese, you should reflect on the aesthetic emptiness in your digestive existence.
-No sausage jokes when someone at your table orders sausage. Your server has heard them all, and her laugh is fake. In fact, every joke you make is unoriginal and cliché, and there is little you can say that your server has not heard too many times already. Also, when you make a joke regarding the server’s tip you immediately out yourself as a douche.
Image via screengrab