Five Things Never Do or Say To A Restaurant Server

One of my regrets in life is not writing down the many funny – and irritating – stories from my days of waitressing. Excuse me, there are no waiters or waitresses in today’s world. They’re now called servers. Either way, throughout my abundant days of waiting on customers in a sit down environment, I remember enough violations by restaurant patrons to narrow down the biggest ones to five things the general public should not do or say to their server, male or female. This is not an exhaustive list and please don’t take this as judgment on people in general, or even a gripe session. Consider it enlightenment from me, an aging woman who retired from waitressing years ago, to you, consumers who enjoy going out for a meal.

Snap your fingers to get his/her attention
There’s not much to say about this other than, don’t do it. It may be hard to believe, but this happens much more than it should. At one pizza establishment I worked at, there was a regular who would put his coffee cup out in the aisle and wave it around to let me know it was dry or near dry. I thought for sure one day he would clobber an innocent bystander with his cup. Just don’t. I know you want his/her attention, but there are other less annoying ways of getting someone’s attention than striking your thumb & forefinger together.

Leave a dollar bill with a religious tract
This is a biggie. There’s a good reason why most restaurant workers don’t like Sunday lunches. Christians can be some of the worst tippers out there. Notice I said can be. Not all. Waitressing helped pay for my last three years of Bible college, and I got my share of these types of “tips.” One time, a family of six did exactly that. Not once. But twice, they left a dollar bill with a religious tract. The second time I saw it on the table while they were cashing out at the register. For a sliver of time, I considered returning it to them with a little verbal instruction on how to truly make an impression for Christ. And a dollar bill wasn’t going to cut it.

“This would’ve been a $5 bill, but you forgot to refill our drinks.”
Would you believe this was actually said to me? It was shocking to hear it from a sweet little old lady. My first reaction was to defend myself since the dining room was overrun by all sorts of people, and I was trying my best to remember everyone’s needs and running my backside off to fulfill those needs. But then I realized that chances were good a $5 bill never would’ve ended up in my hand even if I had remembered their refills. If your server isn’t cutting it, even after requesting something, don’t attempt to make him/her feel bad by explaining their shortfalls. They’ll get the message with a small tip.

“How long will it take to get our food?”
Really? You’ve come into a restaurant where you sit and wait for your food. At one family restaurant located in a touristy area, this question was often accompanied with, “We have a plane to catch in half an hour.” What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was, “There’s a Wendy’s right next door to the airport. How about you go there? You’ll get your food in five minutes or less. And you can even take it with you on the plane!” If your schedule is tight, please don’t sit down in a restaurant and expect to get your food as quickly as you would at a fast food joint. And don’t expect the server to ask the cook to put a rush on it, because you leave the hint that you’re in a hurry. It just ain’t gonna happen.

Be rude in general
In searching my memory banks for this fifth pointer, I was stumped. So while at lunch on a weekend vacation, I asked our server who looked like she had many years of serving inside her apron pockets. She conferred with a fellow worker and their biggest gripe was this conversation:
Server: “How are you?”
Customer with a growl: “Just bring me a coffee!”
I don’t care if you’re a non-morning person or having a bad day, don’t be rude. Captain Obvious might get that point, but it’s worth listing it. At one point in my waitressing career, I was a non-morning person serving breakfast, which is never a good idea.  Yet I was able to refrain from being grumpy or rude to them even though I secretly wanted to slap the over-cheery, smiley morning people out and about at the crack of dawn, long before any sane person should be. Remember, rudeness looks bad on you.

I realize by now you must think I hated those long gone days of serving the public, but I didn’t. Sure there were bad days and bad customers; but for every rude and cranky patron, there were at least ten friendly, wonderful, fun and appreciative people. My last night at one pizza joint ended with a group of those types of patrons. During the late hours, a large group of young people stopped in. I knew a few of them and mentioned it was my last night, and that I was moving to another state. As they were preparing to leave, I noticed they were huddled around one end of the table. When I went to clean the table, the entire tip was spread out. As I walked around to the other side, tears filled my eyes. There, spelled out in dollar bills and coins, was “thank you.” It was the best tip I had ever received in my ten years of waitressing. Not because of the amount, which was very generous, but because of the time and thoughtfulness they put into it.

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