What you might not know about waiting tables (but should)

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That’s Ryan. He trained me as a server and is as terrifying as he looks. 

God I miss weekends. I used to go out every weekend. But then I decided to take the next step in my acting career to ensure I have the flexibility in my schedule that I need.

In other words, I started waiting tables.

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That’s Lisa and Phil. I have to answer to both of them. LOOK AT THE WAY THEY STARE. 

In reality, I’m sure everyone has horror stories of working in the industry. Some are only relevant to their particular restaurant. But then there are things that happen at pretty much every restaurant. So, my friends, I would love to share with you some common unpleasantries that go on at a restaurant which you may not know about. And maybe, juuust maybe, you’ll round up and give your server an extra dollar next time you’re out.

Some restaurants don’t give their employees free meals.

I’ve only worked at two restaurants, but neither gave me a free meal. Both offered me a discount (50%), but I rarely take advantage of this. Why bother spending the money I literally just made when I can just eat at home? This may not sound like such a terrible thing, but here’s the catch: We usually work 6-8 hour shifts. These shifts can get busy. Meaning, we don’t always have time to eat. I’ve learned a few tricks to help with this (I’ve gotten the nickname “Squirrel” due to my ability to ferociously eat almonds between taking orders), but nothing that gets me through a busy weekend brunch shift. So try to keep in mind that your server might be absolutely starving when you’re reminding them that they forgot to bring you ketchup.

Some restaurants don’t provide their employees with stationary items.

I’ve never been provided with pens. You know, the single most important item a server needs for taking orders then giving to customers so they can pay? Other restaurants won’t provide employees with paper or aprons. You can see how this all adds up. Which brings me to my next point…

Not all servers/bartenders make “bank.”

I don’t know who started this rumor, but I’d really like for it to stop. You know when you’re in a restaurant and you don’t see anyone else there? This is what we call a slow day. A slow day is where few customers enter the restaurant, thus creating a very unpleasant financial situation for all employees making $4.00 or less an hour. On top of this, maybe the server bought pens before work. And maybe they were planning on eating their not-free-meal. Now I don’t want to sound like servers never make money. There are busy days where tips are abundant and it feels like Christmas and all you want to do is sing. But when slow days happen, they hurt and they hurt badly.

On the other hand, there are busy days where you’ll get a lot of cheap customers. If I had to guess, I’d say I get between 15-20 tables every day. If each table rounded up and gave one extra dollar, that’s an extra $15-20 a day. Which is an extra $60-80 a week. Thinking about this really hurts when I’m having a slow week and people aren’t tipping well.

The more time you spend at your table after you finish paying, the more money you’re costing the server.

Let me elaborate on this one. It depends on many factors (day of the week , where you’re sitting, what kind of restaurant/bar you’re in, etc.) In most restaurants, the floor is broken down into sections. Each server has their own section. Once their section fills up, they can’t take any more tables. However, the rest of the restaurant might have more seating available. While it’s the host’s job to try and make sure the sections are split evenly, it doesn’t always work out this way. There are so many reasons this could happen (a common one being the guests don’t want to sit where the host brings them and demand they sit them elsewhere. This should be avoided). And then there are people staying at their table long after they finished paying. If you do this, you’re preventing the server from making money. Remember, they’re likely making something along the lines of $4.00 an hour.

Here are a few exceptions:

-If the meal is done but you’re continuing to order drinks. Bonus points if you’re ordering alcohol.

-If you’re at a slow restaurant where there is plenty of open seating. Be careful with this one. Unless the restaurant is dead, don’t assume the server has more tables open.

Times where this is completely unacceptable:

-If you’re at a place where there is a wait or a line out the door. Not only are you costing the server money, you’re making other people wait. Be respectful.

Servers tend to get tipped less when people split the bill.

This really comes into play when some people play cash and others pay with cards. The person paying cash usually is including tip. But for some incredibly reason that I’ll never understand, there is a 99% chance that the rest of the table doesn’t know this. So they tell the server, “Could you please subtract the cash and then put the rest of the card(s)?” The server assumes the cash is all going towards the bill (since that’s what they were told) and charges less for the cards than the table intended. Not only is the server not getting the cash tip, but the card people are now tipping on a smaller amount. It’s a bad day for the server and it’s the furthest feeling from Christmas.

I’ll end with this one:

Treat your server as if you are at their home.

I once served a very stressed woman. She had just left her phone in a cab. Her friend was tracking down the cab so that she could retrieve the phone. Much later on, her friend returned with the phone. The friend told me the story of how she tracked down her friend’s phone. The cab driver drove to the restaurant himself to deliver the phone. When she tried to pay him extra for his services, he refused. “This cab is like my home,” he said. “If someone left something at my home, I wouldn’t charge them to come back and get it.” The woman thanked me for accepting them both into my home and giving them excellent service.

Sooo…what did we learn here? In addition to all the do’s and don’ts, remember that you wouldn’t go into someone’s home and immediately take food and beer out of their fridge (with the exception of really, really good friends). Let’s try to remember to be nice to our servers. And cab drivers. Those poor cabbies. I know I’ve been working out ladies, but we really need to stop making out in the backseat of the cab.

Oh who am I kidding…..I can’t afford a cab.

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