Most of what you’ve heard about working at a restaurant is true

Kind of really accurate.
Minus the mishandling of food.
At least in my experience.

I have nothing running-related to write about, so I bring you some life experience blogging:

During college, like many others, I worked at a few restaurants. One that treats you “like family” and another that offers an “Irish” experience. I’ll let you figure out which ones I’m talking about.

Anyway, I love reading articles/blog posts/rants about restaurants. From all sides – the articles about what restaurants don’t want you to know (which are usually 95% true, at least in my experience), to customer rants, and even better – server rants. So anyway. I’d like to contribute my thoughts on the matter …

Give your server a break. Seriously, waiting tables can be a real soul-crushing job. Many patrons treat the wait staff more like a servant than a server, and the manager cares more about sales than staff. It’s a crappy job that most servers don’t like doing, but it’s a job that pays their bills (barely). Don’t be fooled – sure you might leave your server a nice tip after dinner on a Friday night, but know that servers live for the weekends. During weekday shifts, I had to work three hours of serving to earn the equivalent of my current hourly (salaried) pay. So if each week is three crappy-paying weekday shifts + two decent weekend shifts = hardly a living. Plus consider that they have to carry heavy trays and have probably (definitely) spilled boiling hot soup on themselves at least once and maybe (definitely) burned their hand on an oven making your precious garlic bread AND have to deal with berating from customers who want their bread RIGHT NOW … seriously, give your server a break!

Your server is probably sleeping with one of the managers. Or you hostess is probably sleeping with one of the bartenders. Not everyone who works in a restaurant is sleeping with someone else from that restaurant, but it sure felt that way. I probably would have too if my “restaurant husband” wasn’t gay.

There is a reason people who work in restaurants work in restaurants. And no, it’s not because they like food (unless you are at a high-end place and we’re talking about the chefs). Maybe they need a job with flexible hours (students, actors, parents, people with more than one job). Maybe they need a job that doesn’t require drug testing. Maybe they are not living here legally. Um, I’ve reached the end of this list.

Everything is mandated in some way. Especially at chain restaurants. Portion sizes aren’t the only things that are regulated. Servers can only wait on a certain number of tables at once. Food has to be brought in a certain order (appetizers before salads). There are strict guidelines on how many pieces of bread a table gets. How big a family-style salad is. What glass your drink is served in (although that has to do with making it clear what has alcohol [and what kind of alcohol] and what doesn’t).

The stereotypes are true. While there are certainly exceptions, more times than not, your server probably knows what serving you will be like (and what kind of tip you will leave) just by looking at you or within the first 5 seconds of greeting your table. I would apologize … but most of the time the stereotypes were true. (And no, I won’t tell you what they were.)

If someone asks you how you are doing, respond!!! 90% of the time, when I greeted a table with “Hi, my name is Maggie, how are you all this evening?” I was met with silence. Drove me INSANE. How hard is it to say “Fine, and how are you?” If you’re an adult, you should know basic manners.

If you are obese and let your obese child order off the adult menu, I am secretly judging you. Seriously. Same if you suck down like five raspberry lemonades before your food arrives. Just because it has fruit in the name doesn’t mean it’s not mostly sugar. Drink water. Unless you want to get diabetes.

Smokers are the best restaurant customers. Even though I smelled terrible at the end of my shift, I looooved being assigned to the smoking section. They weren’t uptight. They weren’t in a hurry. I never once got “where’s my bread?!?!?” from a smoker. And they are great tippers.

The salad is not the healthy option. I always laughed to myself when I’d ask someone (usually a woman) if she wanted soup or salad and she’d say something like “the salad – I want to be healthy.” Really? Iceberg lettuce + salad dressing that is worse for you than the cream sauces on some entrees + croutons + you’ll probably want cheese on it? Not healthy. (Go for the brothy soup, especially if it’s vegetable or minestrone.)

If you don’t have an ID, and you aren’t wrinkly with gray hair, you will not get served. Servers can get fired if they are caught serving to someone underage, and if you don’t have an ID to prove that you are of age, then that proves the server didn’t card you, and the server can get fired. No tip, no matter how big, is worth risking your job. (Because then you get no tips.) I once had a table not tip me because I refused to give someone a sample of wine when she didn’t have an ID. YOUR DESIRE TO HAVE A GLASS OF WINE IS NOT WORTH SOMEONE’S JOB.

You get more bees with honey. I never understood the staff who gave the management attitude. I was always super sweet to my managers (and I’m sure it helped that I was a cute 20-year-old redhead and they were all male) and it made things worlds easier on me when I needed their help. Like when a table walked out on a bill – technically that would come out of my tips – but the manager on duty that night wasn’t well-respected by most staff, however I was always nice to him, and he comped the meal. He also bought me lunch during my last few shifts when I finally left (that’s another thing – I was one of the few to leave on my own accord with two weeks notice – most left because they got fired or just quit on the spot). On the other hand, another server who had a terrible attitude with management got fired for serving someone underage. But it probably had more to do with the fact that management was looking for an excuse to fire him, and he gave them one. I never had management check up on my tables to make sure everyone was 21. Life lesson learned (and I learned this in high school) – be nice, work hard, and you can get away with stuff. Be a jerk, slack off, and you can’t.

Don’t ask your server to sing happy birthday. Just don’t. They don’t want to. None of the other servers want to join in and sing along. And your server has 4 other tables that need more bread and you are holding that up. If you must do this, please, for the love of soup, salad and breadsticks, leave a big tip. I’m talking 30% or more. 

Have you ever worked in a restaurant? What else would you add to this list?

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