Whether you’re at a five-star restaurant or a local burger joint, your server plays a huge role in how good an experience you’ll have dining out. But behind all the smiles and charm, there are a few things that your beloved waiter desperately wishes you knew to make their life a little bit easier. So next time you go out for date night, do your server a favour and keep these 11 things in mind. As a waitress, I can guarantee that if you do, you’ll quickly become a favourite customer.
1. Your food takes time to make
I say this in the most polite way possible – if you expect your food to be made instantly, go to McDonald’s. The average wait time for most restaurants is 15 to 20 minutes. So don’t go tapping your feet and sending your waiter those dagger eyes from across the room 12 minutes after they’ve taken your order. Order a nice Long Island Iced Tea, take a deep breath, and just wait your turn.
2. Don’t tell us you’re ready to order when you’re clearly not
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the seemingly endless selection of menu items – relax. Don’t feel pressured. Take your time. In fact, we would much prefer you take an extra five minutes with the menu to come to your final decision than to call us over when you’re still waffling between the eggs Benedict or the strawberry crêpe. As much as we get a kick out of hearing your internal conflict, we have other tables to attend to. Decide first, then call your server over.
3. You can’t always expect to get the seat you want
I understand that you want to sit at the booth by the window. But if you come in at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night without a reservation, you’re not going to get the booth by the window. Believe it or not, seating isn’t arbitrary – there’s a great deal of planning that goes into it. So next time you waltz in on a busy night, just let your server seat you where they seat you. I promise that your veal Parmesan will taste the same no matter where you are in the room.
4. Pleasant chitchat is great, but keep it short
No server likes getting stuck waiting on someone who doesn’t acknowledge their existence. But even worse? Getting stuck waiting on someone who constantly traps us in long conversation. If my shift just ended, go ahead and talk my ear off. But when I have a room full of tables to attend to and a dozen plates of hot food in the kitchen ready to be served, I’m sorry, but I will cut your story about your kid’s first day of school short.
5. If you have a special request, tell me before I bring your order
I don’t care how picky you are. I don’t care if you’ll only eat your Caesar salad with extra bacon, no Parmesan cheese, seven croutons and the dressing on the side in a navy blue, ceramic dish. I mean, I may laugh to myself if you say nonsense like that, but I really won’t care. Just do me a favour and tell me all of it before I bring your food to you. If I could read your mind, I certainly wouldn’t be working as a waitress.
6. Don’t underestimate the importance of tipping
Working at a restaurant is no walk in the park (unless that park is filled with stressed out cooks and rude visitors constantly yelling at you). But a lot of us take on this gruelling work because of the tips. If we give you an amazing dining experience, we expect our gratuity to reflect that. And trust me – we always remember the good tippers… as well as the bad tippers.
7. We don’t want to spend all night at the restaurant
I know it may be hard to believe that your server has a life outside of the restaurant’s walls, but it’s true. When 10 p.m. rolls around and the restaurant closes, all we want to do is go home. So please don’t sit there and pick at your crème brûlée until 11 p.m. (but if you do, at least make it up to us by leaving a hefty tip). And if you’re one of those late-night diners that struts into the place at 9:59 p.m., for the love of god, just order takeout.
8. It’s not easy to give free handouts
Look, I may like you. You may even be one of my favourite customers I’ve had all day. But don’t assume that our friendly banter means I’m going to be able to “hook you up” with a bit of that extra chipotle mayo for your sweet potato fries. Either I can say ‘no’ and ruin the server-customer relationship we’ve been building, or risk getting yelled at by the kitchen for actually asking them. Let’s just keep it simple — if you want extra, you pay extra.
9. Don’t distract me when I’m at another table
Any good server will tell you that one of the most important parts of serving is maintaining the “fourth wall” with every guest. For the few seconds I’m with a table, I want 100 per cent of my attention to be on that table – everyone else in the room becomes invisible. But it’s hard to keep up this illusion when I catch you gesturing at me from the booth beside us. I stumble my words, I lose my eye contact, and boom – fourth wall destroyed.
10. We don’t set the menu prices
Trust me, you’re not the only one shocked that the grilled calamari appetizer costs $17. We think it’s completely ridiculous too. And if we could change the price to what we think it’s worth, we totally would. But we can’t. We just work here in hopes that one day, we’ll be able to afford insanely overpriced appetizers too.
11. We’ve heard all your jokes before
I hate to burst your bubble, but your jokes aren’t funny. And if I laugh, it’s because you haven’t tipped me yet. I know you’re probably dying for me to ask you “how was everything?” after I come to clear away your empty plates so that you can giggle and joke that you hated it, but please don’t. It’s so overdone. Did I say so overdone? Because it’s so. Over. Done.