A Word From Your Waitress. ~ Lexi Baker

Via elephant journal
on Apr 30, 2013
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As servers, it is our job to create an experience for every customer.

We answer their questions, provide them with drinks, serve as the medium between them and the kitchen, and make them feel they have everything they need and nothing they don’t.

We are their trusted source of the restaurant and it is our responsibility to have the knowledge and skill to make their experiences positive and fulfilling.

It never ceases to amaze me how little so many people understand of the service industry.

Restaurant experiences are highlights embedded in our culture as means of celebration, romance, relaxation, and, overall, fun, yet aspects from behind the scenes largely remain a mystery.

I am asked the same questions and told the same things by customers, friends and family. I respond to these inquiries and assumptions based off my own experience working in the service industry and by no means am I generalizing that these are the circumstances of every restaurant.

However, you begin to pick up on themes after serving for a while.

“Anyone can be a server.” I’ve heard this assumption countless times.

While this may be true to an extent, it does not mean that anyone should be a server. It requires time management because at any given moment, we are juggling 10 different tasks in our heads, all of which need to be completed as soon as possible.

We must be able to cohesively work as a team, otherwise the restaurant would crumble to pieces. We have to consistently present an unlimited amount of energy in order to remain enthusiastic toward every customer, and move quickly and efficiently from one task to the next for the duration of the long shift.

We ought to have tough skin to endure those customers that simply will not be happy, no matter how much we bend our backs, attempting to make them hate us a little less. Attention to detail is important because we are expected to anticipate what the customers want before they ask.

Most importantly, we need strong communication skills since that is, ultimately, our job: talking to customers. We do not have a script memorized to regurgitate to every table—rather, we must understand how to appropriately communicate with our different audiences, make them feel comfortable around us, hold a productive conversation, and know how to handle awkward situations (because those definitely happen).

“What’s your name again?” Customers have no idea how much we appreciate being called by our names!

Of course we say it when we greet a table, but how often do the customers listen and, what’s more, care? Individuals’ own names are reportedly the most important word in the world to them.

People develop connections quicker, are more attentive and alert, respond with an increased positive attitude, and feel downright special when someone addresses them by name.

This applies to servers, as well. I’ve noticed I am an overall better server with a customer who says my name. So please, make your server’s day and receive better service at the same time by knowing his or her name, even if it means asking them to repeat it halfway through your meal. I am willing to bet your server will break out in a smile while saying it.

“Serving isn’t a real job.” If working 14-hour shifts, making money to pay the bills and being held responsible for upholding a company’s reputation is not considered a “real job,” I don’t know what is.

Sure, you don’t have to receive a degree in order to do it, but the concept that it is not a good enough job to be taken seriously rubs me the wrong way. I work alongside talented, dedicated, intelligent and diligent individuals—why should they be looked down upon because they don’t have a nine-to-five job?

I admit, serving is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a dream job, except it is refreshing to interact with new people and work in an environment that revolves around a good time.

“You can’t wait to go out and party every night.” There are stereotypes about servers that place negative images on the job, especially about them being partiers who drink too much and can’t wait to get their next fix.

Yes, there are those individuals that exist in the restaurant industry, like there are at any other job. There also are the employees who work hard to support their families, pull all-nighters after work to study for upcoming exams, and have other jobs bright and early the next day.

I recently dropped the bill for my last table of the evening while they were finishing their dessert and as I walked away, I overheard one customer say, “She must be impatient to go out tonight.”

Perhaps I gave them their bill a little early, though I was actually stressed about completing two final research projects due the following morning, and I could not help but be offended that I was judged in that way.

However, one of the first rules we learn in the service industry is that the customer is always right—even when they’re wrong. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have had to bite my tongue, take a deep breath, and walk away.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Heads up, the answer will be “yes” every time, no matter whether there is truth to it.

It is the best method to avoid a guaranteed awkward conversation, which almost always leads to a lower tip. It is flattering to hear, but I am not looking for a relationship with a customer while I am at work, and trying to charm me when I have a full section is just not going to happen.

I do think it’s funny when guys leave their phone numbers on the receipt (partially because we turn all receipts in to our manager at the end of the shift) and tip poorly, not specify which of the six guys at the table he was, or make no attempt to reach out to me—like asking for my name—over the course of the last two hours while they sat at my table. No one is that attractive.

“The food took too long.” Believe it or not, we do not cook your food and, therefore, we are not personally responsible for the amount of time it takes to go from being inputted on the computer to coming up ready at the expo line.

I can go to the kitchen and tell the chefs to hurry up as much as I want, but it is not going to make them prepare it any faster when they have a dozen other food tickets (in fact, impatience is an effective way to make them less inclined to quicken their cooking pace).

We know and understand that customers are hungry when they sit down at a restaurant, yet it is impolite to verbally attack and blame us, especially when you make it even worse with a tip giving the middle finger.

“You get to leave right after your last table.” I wish! We do not get to leave after our last table exits the building, or after we clean our stations, or after we polish glass and silverware.

We do not even get to leave after we spend 30 minutes rolling silverware (last week, a customer was shocked when I informed him that is our responsibility—he had been under the impression for 20 years that restaurants get premade roll-ups delivered).

We are allowed to clock out after we complete our checkout, give support staff their tips, and check in with the manager. I consider myself lucky if I am out of the restaurant 30 minutes after my last table leaves because usually it is at least an hour. 

“15 percent is standard for tipping.” Um, no. If I receive a 15 percent tip, then I assume I provided poor service to the table.

We make just over $4 an hour in Colorado and we tip our support staff about one-third of our total tips from the shift. For most of us in the business, we live month-to-month and every dollar is important for us to eat and pay our rent in this beautiful, but overpriced, city.

We strive for more than 20 percent tips, especially with tables we feel we made a connection with. There is nothing that will brighten a server’s day more than an unexpectedly high tip, but I doubt I need to tell anyone that.

“Are you always this happy?” There is a stage performance quality to serving, and I’ve become aware that my public speaking skills have drastically improved from spending time in front of tables where all eyes are on me.

Positive attitudes are a key ingredient for any business, yet our attitudes influence our co-workers, the customers’ experiences, and the restaurant’s reputation. Wearing a smile is the most effective approach to receive better tips—and yes, there are certainly those days where smiling is the last thing we want to do.

We will tell customers we are good when we are not because it is our duty to provide the customers with the experiences they pay for. However, remember that we are people, too, and if your server is not glowing with happiness, there may be an external issue in his or her life outside the walls of the restaurant.

For the most part though, we are that happy—and it is our goal to make our customers even happier.



lexi bakerLexi grew up in Boulder, CO and she will graduate from University of Colorado in May 2013 with a news-editorial journalism degree, emphasizing in Latin American culture and public relations. She loves to travel, write, and snowboard in her free time. She currently interns for a nonprofit organization and works full-time as a server. Visit her blog here.



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7 Responses to “A Word From Your Waitress. ~ Lexi Baker”

  1. Trish says:

    Love this article!! Thank you!

  2. Cousin Karen says:

    Very well-written and accurate–at least based on my experiences waiting tables many years ago. Good work on the article. I wish you luck in your serving positions and in your writing.

  3. lexibaker says:

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate your feedback and I'm glad you believe it accurately portrays waiting tables. It means a lot!

  4. Marve says:

    Thanks so much for this! I spent many years as a server and have only recently gotten out of the game. There are so many negative articles out there about serving – it is a hard and sometimes thankless job. I love your positive attitude and words. I had a lot of the same experiences and I definitely agree with most of what you've written. Great post!

  5. springs1 says:

    “The food took too long.” Believe it or not, we do not cook your food and, therefore, we are not personally responsible for the amount of time it takes to go from being inputted on the computer to coming up ready at the expo line.":

    But you have to power to put it in sooner at times. For example, you are triple sat, you can go put in the order RIGHT AFTER the table you just took the order from into the computer if you don't have any previously ordered items to deliver. If you take all 3 table's orders before going to the computer, you ARE controlling how long the first and second tables wait for their food taking them LONGER than they should and making the 3rd table take less time than they should unfairly so.

    Also, servers wait to put in entrée orders into the computer when appetizers or side salads/cups of soup are ordered to pace the meal, which sometimes they wait TOO LONG.

    You are also responsible if you bring out my food to not forget anything I ordered, and bring it out without obvious errors. That's time delays when you let's say bring me a wrong side dish or forget my side of ranch I ordered from my fries, YOU caused that delay when you forgot to bring the correct item or items to my table.

    You also have the power to put in the order wrong, forget to put in orders, it happens.

    So think about how *YOU* delay food, because A LOT OF TIMES MORE THAN YOU THINK IT'S YOUR SERVER'S FAULT FOR THAT DELAY TIME! I know, I have been through it.

    "I recently dropped the bill for my last table of the evening while they were finishing their dessert and as I walked away, I overheard one customer say, “She must be impatient to go out tonight.”Perhaps I gave them their bill a little early, though I was actually stressed about completing two final research projects due the following morning, and I could not help but be offended that I was judged in that way."

    Why are you trying to make decisions that aren't yours, huh? YOU CAUSED THAT ISSUE! DO NOT *EVER* bring the check without ASKING PERSONAL PERMISSION FROM THE CUSTOMER FIRST!

    You shouldn't be dropping off a check without asking first. A GOOD, CARING server let's the customer decide that. What a good server would do would be if the customers want a dessert, you ask "Would you all like the check as well?" DUHH, this is COMMON SENSE! You sure don't know how to serve if you don't do that. If they would like their check, instead of INTERRUPTING them eating their dessert, you should have provided their check for them IF they said they wanted it *BEFORE* you gave them their dessert. Then when they get their dessert, you grab their method of payment and probably wait a minute or 2 to make sure they are enjoying their dessert, then ring it up. THAT would be EFFICIENT FAST SERVICE FOR ALL, for the customer and the server to make more money getting customers out faster so new ones can come in.

    I hate servers like you that ASSUME everything that want that control. STOP CONTROLLING OUR MONEY! We are tipping, therefore we RULE everything how we want things to go, NOT YOU!

    I HATE when servers deliver the check during eating dessert. That's interrupting us eating. Bring it BEFORE the dessert ONLY if the customer wants it. My husband and I have ordered bar drinks AFTER a dessert even. WHY try to predict when you can simply *ASK*, huh? Everyone is different, so treat them as such. Some people like their check right away, others don't, so instead of trying to assume, why don't you just *ASK*?

    Continued next posts:

  6. springs1 says:

    "because we are expected to anticipate what the customers want before they ask."

    NO, you are NOT expected to be a mind reader and you should NEVER DO THIS! Let me ask, how do you know I will ask for it, huh? For example, I cannot stand refills without asking or water without asking. I change up drinks. I also want to be able to control my money the way *I* want to spend it. It's MY TIP MONEY, MY TIME, LET *ME* decide my own time. STOP ASSUMING. Didn't that lady that thought you were in a hurry TEACH YOU ANYTHING about deciding things for your customers, huh? It shows that you wanted to RUSH them out. Not everyone wants their check with the dessert or after a dessert, they might want coffee or a bar drink after a dessert. They might want to order something to-go, which I have done before a number of times as well. I do tip based on the to-go order as if I ate it there, because they are bringing it to my table as if I were eating it there minus the dishes, but I still include that in my tip just to let you know I do tip properly when I get good service and I am very fair when I tip.

    So let customers start deciding by ASKING. There's nothing wrong with asking when you ask about the dessert that if they want a dessert or anything else, that when they order a dessert, that you ask if they want their check as well. It's annoying as a customer to get the check when you are in the middle of eating because:

    1. It's an unnecessary interruption
    2. If you want to leave, that means we have to stop eating to read the check.
    3. It gets on my nerves that the server made a decision that wasn't theirs
    4. I may actually want something else, so you wasted your time and paper printing it out only for me to send you back with it and have to reprint a new one

    STOP MAKING DECISIONS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT! It's their money you want, so shouldn't you try to satisfy THEM NOT YOURSELF? Shouldn't you try to find out for 100% certainty rather than not know for sure and be wrong, huh? Did you even apologize to that lady that said that? She said that because you rushed your customers. They may have wanted to order something else. It's not your place to be a control person. You are at THEIR beck and call as to what *THEY* want personally, NOT what you assume or what you want. It's their time, their money, so let *THEM* make their OWN decision by ASKING BEFORE DOING ANYTHING! It's just like taking someone's glass or plate before they are finished. DON'T ASSUME, ASK!

    You are expected to satisfy the customer, not to assume by trying to read their minds.

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