Monday, November 1, 2010

Responding to the Blogosphere

I've been reading a lot of posts on other server blogs, most of which I can relate to and find generally amusing.  However, I came across one article that had a lot of points "from servers" that I just didn't agree with, so I decided to write up a few responses.

First, the article in question: Top 11 Complaints About Customers

1. "Make it a good one." - I work at a restaurant that does pretty brisk bar business.  We have a decent wine menu, but not too many wine snobs come in.  Lots of folks will order martinis and 7/7s.  However, I have never once had anyone say to me "make it a good one."  In fact, in my five years serving, I have never heard that phrase at any restaurant I've worked at.

2. "There is a difference between the Merchant Copy and Customer Copy." - I suppose with some restaurants this might be true, but none that I have worked at.  No boss has ever turned away a credit card receipt because we had the Customer Copy and they took the Merchant Copy.

Later, this same note says "If the customer takes both receipts, I give myself the tip I think I deserve – which is nothing less than 20%. They'll learn their lesson soon enough."  I don't know where the server works that gave this quote, but at my restaurant and every one I've worked at, if you take both copies of the slip, we get a big fat $0.  You might have written down $20 on your $80 check but if we don't have it in writing, we get nothing.

3. "Snap out of it." - "I'm a waitress, not a freaking dog. I do not respond to snaps, whistles, clicks, or any other non-verbal way of getting my attention." Maybe it is because I'm in the Midwest, but I don't get a lot of people giving me non-verbal gestures to get my attention.  Or maybe it is because I keep an eye on my guests and work to anticipate their needs.  Either way, I treat my guests well and usually get the same in return.

It is a valid point though, if someone did snap to get my attention, I would certainly get annoyed.

4. "I'm not your friend." - True, most people don't remember my name when I introduce myself and we don't wear name tags, but those that DO remember and use my name get far better service.  And, oddly enough, they don't pry into my personal life unless I open myself up to it.  It is one thing to make polite conversation about the weather or local sports teams, but people only pry if I let the conversation go in that direction.  It is amazingly easy to cut a guest off and say "excuse me, I need to take care of another table."  When you are waiting tables, what guest isn't going to let you go?

5. "Don't steal my pens."  - I say, don't bring nice pens to work.  A box of Bic pens, which costs a whole $1.50 for decent ones, just don't get stolen.  And if they do, I usually have about 5-6 pens on me, and I guarantee you I won't have that many stolen in one night.  And if I start to get low, I'm making enough that I can drop another $1.50 if need be.

6. "On the run." - I couldn't agree more with this quote: "When you see your server running around like a headless chicken, economize your requests. If all of you need refills and condiments, then let us know at the same time. It takes much longer to run back and forth five times than it does one."  I like my guests to feel important, but when we are busy and it is clear I have more than one table, don't take up all my time, especially with stupid requests that you really don't care about.

Biggest pet peeve, someone asks me to fix something, get them a fresh drink because they don't like their lemonade or don't like how something is cooked, and then they DON'T TOUCH IT!  Yes, it took them five minutes to redo your ribs, but they are even better now that we've done them twice.  So eat them!

7. "It's not all for me." - "Please try to remember when your bill is $100 and you leave a low percentage tip -- let's say $14 -- I have to tip the bartender, the busboy, and the hostess, oh the government taxes me on sales, plus a credit card fee to run your payment just to get my tips."  This is true at every place I've worked.  At my current restaurant, usually about 4% of my tips are going to the bartender, the hostess, and the food runners/busers.  That means that if everyone tips me 15%, I'm only going home with 11%.  And do you know what 11% of $400 is?  $44, for a whole shift.  In case you are wondering, 18% is the new 15%.  20% is always appreciated, and if your service was good, not asking for too much.  Especially on your $20 check.

8. "If you can't tip, don't eat out." - The title says it all.  I don't mind taking care of customers who are using coupons, but remember, you should tip on what your bill was, not the discount.  If you have a buy one get one free coupon, tipping 15% is really like tipping 7.5% because you didn't have to pay for two meals but I had to serve them.  And if your whole table is using coupons, odds are no one is tipping as well as they should.

9. "Up-selling is mandatory." - Really, I don't take up too much extra time and I do it pretty low-key.  Rather than ask if I can start them out with a soda, I offer them a specific wine or a mixed drink.  It only took me an extra five seconds to say and it isn't going to slow your food down, so don't hate me for trying to sell it to is my job.

10. "Please watch your kids" - Kids make a mess, and I understand that.  Apologizing for the mess goes a long way, even if it still irritates me.  But please, if you can't control your kids from being truly catastrophic (how did they get marinara on the window, I didn't bring you anything with marinara!?), hire a babysitter or take them to a more appropriate restaurant.

One side note: my family went to another restaurant out of town to celebrate my nephew's first birthday.  They brought cupcakes for everyone and though my nephew was messy, they apologized to their server because they hear my horror stories.  They also offered that server a cupcake.  This has happened to me and I usually accept.  It is a small thing, but it made my day.  If you are going to bring your own food into a restaurant, bring enough for everyone.

Anyways, future blog posts will be more about my own experiences, but I'd love to talk about all things food-service related here!  I look forward to hearing from you and about your own experiences.

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