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Don't Look Now But Your Server Hates You

The top 10 mistakes that will tempt a server to defile your food.

By The Barman

Many people may not know this about me, but I'm on a committee to pass a bill that requires people to work in a restaurant before they are allowed to eat in one. OK, not really. I made that up. To be on a committee requires a dedication reserved for beavers and team moms. I'd rather sit in the stands and root the players on (Go, Occupy, Go!). Or read the news and do what I do best, which is to throw my hands up in disgust and complain to my cat. Nevertheless, since you brought it up …

The serving industry can literally drive you mad. Curl-into-a-fetal-position-and-suck-your-thumb mad. Forget the postal workers. Servers are 17 times more likely to carve your eyes out with a salad fork than a mailman. I can only compare it to Chinese water torture (drip, drip, drip). That single drop splashing on your forehead is nothing at first, but small annoyances add up until the tension becomes so unbearable you run back into the kitchen and tear the paper towel dispenser off the wall. Every day I am astounded that we are allowed to work in the presence of knives.

Any employee who has worked longer than a year in this business involuntarily joins an angry, jaded cult of servers and bartenders that cripples their chances to partake in a healthy relationship for the remainder of their life. Look up "server blogs" on the Internet and see what industry people are saying about you.

One in particular, TheBitchyWaiter.com, inspired this discussion. If you want to know what servers think of you, check the site and get inside the mind of a real server. It's educational, enlightening and humorous. If you'd rather live in the dark, stay away, but to this day I still can't fathom why a guest would risk being disrespectful to a person who has access to the food that goes into their mouth. This is akin to insulting a guy smoking a cigarette while you're standing in a puddle of gasoline.

If you're a risk taker in your gasoline puddle, then practice these 10 mistakes that will put you and your food in the line of fire the next time you go out:

1.  FORGET YOUR MANNERS. For whatever reason, some people hoard their manners like Golem protecting The Ring ("My precioussssss") and they distribute them like meager rations. CEOs and priests are worthy of these rations, while servers and gas station attendants are treated like the sole of a shoe smothered in dog crap. Use your wildest imagination and make believe for a short time that servers are real people. Stop being a (name I cannot speak here) and say "please" and "thank you.

2.  IGNORE THEM. This could be a subcategory and is even worse than the former rule. Here's advice for those who would like their food screwed with:  When your server arrives at your table and is standing there waiting to say hello, continue to carry on your conversation with the rest of the table and do not acknowledge the server's presence. These people will continue to treat their server as the invisible person throughout the meal and then when they need something, they will complain to everyone who works there that they don’t know who their server is.

3.  STRING ORDER. If you've ever played poker, this is like string betting where you make a bet, pull your hand back to your chips and bet again. It's illegal, or at least against the rules. If you want to fluster a server, try this:  order a Coke for your son. When the server returns, order a Sprite for your daughter. Next time, ask for more bread. By this time your server should be breathing heavy, but oooooh, you almost forgot, now you need a side of ranch. Servers depend on efficiency to provide quality service. For them, this is like building a wall carrying one brick at a time instead of using a wheelbarrow.

4.  ALLOW YOUR KID TO TORNADO THE PLACE. Are you the kind of person who allows your baby to toss plates of food on the floor and empty every sugar packet onto the table? Do you then pretend that it’s not your responsibility to control this because its the servants' and slaves' job to clean it up? If so, chances are your kid causes the same collateral damage wherever he/she goes, including friends’ houses, which means they probably hate you too.

5.  EAT 90 PERCENT OF YOUR MEAL AND THEN SAY YOU DIDN'T LIKE IT AND ASK FOR IT TO BE TAKEN OFF YOUR BILL.  (Drip, drip, drip...)

6.  MAKE 23 MODIFICATIONS TO YOUR ORDER. There's nothing wrong with "having it your way," but don't act shocked when you order the orange chicken with no chicken, sub soy faux-chicken, no sugar, sub Splenda, no olive oil, sub rice bran oil, extra crispy but no breading, sub corn starch, and it comes out tasting like a dishrag. The chefs created their recipes and sauces to taste good. Unless you are Rachel (expletive) Ray, don't mess with them.

7.  LEAVE A CRAPPY TIP. By this time you'll be gone and unless the server has a time machine he/she won't be able to spit in your food. Still. It reminds me of a girl I worked with once who got a $1 tip on a $150 tab. She chased down the woman outside in the parking lot like she was going after someone who had just boiled her bunny, and that's exactly how she looked too: like Glenn Close at the end of Fatal Attraction when she looks like some crazy hoarder-27-cats-in-her-house-lady who comes at Michael Douglas with a butcher knife before he shoots her and she falls into the bath tub. That was this server, and she yelled at the lady, "Keep your dollar you f*%&ing b&%th!" right there in the parking lot. That's how it happens. 

8.  COMPLAIN ABOUT THE PRICES TO THE SERVER. This really happens, I'm not kidding. Try this: If you don't like the prices, see if you can bargain with the server like you do at a yard sale. Maybe he'll drop the price of the duck like he would some old jeans because he wants to purge and clear some things off the menu. Then, the next time you meet with your accountant, tell him that taxes are too high and see if he can work something out with the government.

9.  SIT AND CHAT FOR THREE HOURS AFTER YOU'RE THROUGH EATING. We call this "camping," and not the good kind where you get to whittle sticks and make toast over a fire. Servers can't make money until the next party can sit at the table you are holding hostage. If you aren't making s'mores or telling ghost stories, mosey along.

10.  ASK FOR SEPARATE CHECKS FOR YOU AND YOUR 10 FRIENDS.  Ooooh, servers and separate checks are MORTAL enemies. Splitting checks for two people, whatever. Splitting for three, eh, OK.  Anything beyond that and you can actually watch an internal meltdown take place before your very eyes. Your server will give you a smile used by catty housewives while she waits for six credit cards and four wads of cash.

Epilogue: I know I'm going to be attacked by some servers who will be like, "Why did you make us look so psycho?" Others will be all, "I'm not like that, I love my job and I love serving people and giving good service," and even others will be like, "I don't care if people camp or ask for separate checks, it's my job and I'm great at it!"

Congratulations to all of you for your capacity to provide unblemished, consummate service. From the rest of us in the biz swimming at the bottom of the tainted fish barrel, we sincerely say, "BLEEEEEEEP!"

My Bitchin' Blog:  TheRealBarman.com
My Kick-ass Twitter Name:  @TheRealBarman

Kymberlie Ingalls March 31, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Wow.  Bitter much?   You know, I did work in the industry for awhile.  I am picky - I will ask, is this possible to get w/o onions, peppers, sauce on the side, etc.  if you tell me no, I'll order something else.  But if you tell me yes?  You'd better bring what you promised. For some, eating out is a major social thing - especially those who can't afford it often.  If they are paying what is likely too much money for overpriced chain food, they earned that table.  The world doesn't revolve around you. You may have "efficiency" down, but how about all the idiots that have to be asked three or more times to fetch that drink or side of ranch?   And lastly - separate checks.  Really?  Boo damn hoo.   Hey, while we're at it, next time you're doing the job you were hired to do, I'll be sure to get you a nice comfy couch and some cozy warm slippers to give you a throne from which to whine. It's attitudes like this that are prevalent in the workforce that encourage the crappy tips so many go home with.
TheRealBarman March 31, 2012 at 10:19 AM
Hello Kimber. Thanks for the offer, but I don't think my owner would allow both a couch AND a throne behind the bar. Besides the space constraints, it would be very difficult to pour from a reclining position, but it might be possible to fit the throne near the window at the far side of the bar. How big is it? I too am picky and dislike onions and pickles. Perhaps we could meet for lunch sometime and both ask for our condiments on the side and then giggle while we wait to see if the server messes it up. What a kick that would be! It's difficult to believe that you were in the serving business at one time, seeing as there doesn't seem to be a trace of bitterness in you. Are you suppressing rage, or are you as truly happy as you come across in this post? By the way, after spending six hours doing research on the Internet, it turns out you were right about the Earth. Despite my initial belief that I could stand on an object and have it revolve around me at the same time, I realize now that this defies the laws of physics unless you own one of those standing jet vehicles that George Jetson sometimes rides.. Stupid of me! However, I did learn that the Earth moves through space 8 times faster than a bullet. I'm not sure how that affects me, but that is wicked-awesome! Thanks again for the constructive suggestions, Kimber. Let me know if you'd still like to meet for lunch. Sincerely, TheRealBarman
Look... March 31, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Applying the verb "fetch" to a task that a HUMAN BEING must fulfill on your behalf in order to make a living proves the Barman's point. It's a two-way street: be a good guest and you'll get good service...or I'll liken it to something that will resonate more with you: be a good dog-owner and you'll have a good dog. Doesn't sound to me like you're super nice to dogs. Barman, I used to be in the industry...and I miss the pace every now and then. But I don't miss Kimber.
TheRealBarman March 31, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Dear Look... Certainly there are both good aspects and bad aspects to this job, and when I do eventually leave at the age of 72, I'm sure I will miss it too. Like sharing a cell with an inmate, there are many people that we work with in the restaurant biz that we know better than anyone. Most of you realize that being a jack-ass is what I do, but my bar is full of more good people than bad. We just remember the bad ones more. Thanks, Look...take care. TheRealBarman
Server March 31, 2013 at 02:18 PM
KimberLIE (your mom obviously forgot how to spell that one) anyways- KimberLIE has never worked in the industry nor is she polite when she goes out. I can also tell she of one of those people that say "I always tip well" but always seem to find some silly excuse not too. I.e. "that's server prepared my food to salty and it just wasn't what I was expecting." She has it taken off the bill after eating her grossly and annoyingly modified dish, and all the whole forgetting all of her mom exhistant manners. What a shame, ou mother must be so proud kimberLIe.

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