If you are not nice to a server, you are simply not a very nice person.
Door opens, bell rings. A couple searching wide eyed and hungry for a server anywhere in sight, probably the most awkward part of going into a restaurant, simply waiting to be seated. I approach them happily, still rehearsing the to go order someone just called in about wanting a cobb salad, dressing on the side, with no blue cheese, extra flat bread and an ice tea along with a slice of chocolate peanut butter cake and an oatmeal cookie to go. I peer out of the corner of my eye and see one of the cooks peaking his head from above the swinging white doors that lead to the kitchen, “Brittany, your order is ready” I can already here it before the words escape his mouth. I nod over in his direction, acknowledging that I saw his presence and shot him a “I’ll be right there to take it to my table after I greet these customers first” look. I turn again to the couple and they both look uncomfortable standing for just a few seconds too long, knowing they need to obey the “please wait to be seated” sign. I tell them to take a seat at any two seater table, knowing that our rush is only just about to start and we need to save the larger tables for parties of 3-6 people. I turned back around to enter in the to-go order in the computer, and to grab my food from the back to serve to my table when a customer is anxiously waving towards my direction letting me know that they want a few slices of cake to go. I take a deep breath and tell them I’ll be right with them, knowing the couple that just sat down needs menus and water, and did in fact not sit at a two seater, but the larger table. I must not have spoken clear enough. I make my way towards the back, grab my food while thanking the cooks, rush it to my table and ask if there is anything else they may need. A few ask for extra straws and one decided they wanted coffee with cream but not in our normal black cups. He hated those. I smile and nod, thinking to myself how fake my smile has got to be after meeting and greeting so many customers already. That’s one thing I never want to lose, sincerity and a genuine attitude. No matter how tiring and frustrating some days may be. I finally get the chance to write down the to-go order and begin helping the lady at the counter for her cakes to go. After cashing her out, I make my way to the dish room and unload and load dishes, trying to make a dent in the back room. I go to scoop ice for the waters, no ice left. Mental note to grab ice from the kitchen along with a new pot of coffee needing to be brewed. Simultaneously the phone rings and the door opens, sounding the bells. Here we go again. Just to paint a picture, serving life is not boring. There are spurts when the business can be slow, but it’s far from boring. Ranging from your coworkers, customers and the variety of people you see on a daily basis, it shows you an entirely new side of the human race.
And sometimes, no matter how nice and wonderful you are as a server, someone will always have a problem.
This is the truest statement. It doesn’t matter how big and genuine your smile is, some people are just NOT happy, and taking it out on servers seems to be a common theme. Here are a few stories based on the customers I, or personal friends of mine, have experienced in the restaurant business.
Raspberry Champagne Man
Another seemingly normal day at the restaurant, roughly 6 at night and a clearly distraught man comes storming in, requesting to speak to a manager. After 4pm our manager is gone and we can only reassure someone that we can leave a message for her and she will be in contact the following morning. I overhear the man (from the other side of the restaurant) say something about “the idiot” who gave him champagne cake instead of the champagne raspberry that he wanted. Zakk, the waiter he was yelling at, pointed over in my direction and says, “Well based on your receipt, it looks like that idiot who took your order is right over there if you want to talk to her.” His faced dropped, like a kid who got caught stealing a cookie before dinner.
I walk over with a calm collected composure, asking what I could do for him. He explained the whole scenario to me, how he had bought a 9 inch champagne raspberry cake and went all the way to Olympia for his mother’s birthday and when they cut into it, it didn’t have the raspberry filling he had paid for. He asked if I remembered writing on the cake for him, and I honestly couldn’t recollect the memory. We go through so many cakes a day, it’s hard to remember one from an entire week ago. Wait.. it had been an entire week and he was just now coming in? I asked him why he hadn’t tried to call that same day or the following few days and his response was short, saying he drove by our establishment nearly everyday for work and he just hadn’t had the time. Zakk told him without proof we couldn’t refund him for an entire $45 cake, you can’t just go into a clothing store and tell them you bought the wrong sweater and want a new one without the original sweater!
The man was not happy, exclaiming how asking for proof was the equivalent to calling him a liar and our management style was tacky and despicable. He came back storming in, yet again, less than an hour later with a picture of the cake asking if that was proof enough, I simply told him it was entirely possible that I made that mistake and that I was truly sorry that that had happened to him and how frustrating that would be. He responded with, “That is all I wanted, an apology, now I want an apology from YOU, as he pointed to Zakk, from your manager, and some type of reimbursement.
Having to help with other customers, I left Zakk with him. The Champagne Raspberry man continued to yell at Zakk saying that the manager was a b**ch for not dealing with this another, more professional way. Well, that manager just so happens to be Zakk’s mother, and when someone starts bashing your mom, things get personal. As the man continued to make a riot, a little girl next to him started crying and curious eyes continued to follow. The next day he called and spoke with our manager, only to say that my apology was insincere, that her son was calling him a liar and her management style was crap. He ended the phone call with, “So you’re saying I’m a liar too? F**k you!”.
Some people. I have a tiny, gut feeling that there was more than just raspberry filling that was going wrong in his life.
Exposed Tree Woman
A woman in her mid 40’s walks into the restaurant, she appears exhausted as if she had already had a rough day, dark hair down with wild eyes asking if she can sit at a table. I cheerfully respond with, “Of course, go ahead and have a seat wherever you feel comfortable.” She sat in someone else’s section and my focus drifted elsewhere to other customers. I remember noticing her back looked like she had just been sitting in the dirt, maybe she had been reading to herself at a park or was sitting in the grass, traces of leaves failing to fall from her skirt. One of the new servers asked me how much wine was appropriate for a glass of house red and I helped her fill it to the appropriate line, unaware that this was going to the lady who had just walked in. Minutes later she left the restaurant, drinking only the glass of wine. As I placed table 3’s dishes in the dish room, I noticed a couple worriedly stretching their necks towards the large tree across the street from our restaurant. From the window I recognized the dark haired lady laying, sprawled out beneath the tree, completely still.
I immediately shoved the dishes in the sink and raced to the backdoor of the kitchen to check on her. A man was over her looking at me in shock, saying he tried to ask if she was okay but she hadn’t responded. I lowered my head towards her body to check if she was awake or breathing and her eyes fluttered open. She began apologizing and blinking as though to wake herself up. I asked if she was okay and if I could call someone for her and she shook her head and said, “No, no, no, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” speech slurred and disoriented. I looked over to the man next to me and I told him thanks for checking, he nodded concerned and unsure of what to do next, got in his car and drove off. I focused my attention to the lady under the tree and asked if she had any food with her wine, taking her a moment to respond, she seemed deep in thought before admitting no, that she only had the wine. I told her I would return with water and not to move until I returned, it was the middle of summer and dehydration could have been apart of whatever was going on with her.
I briefly explained the situation to my coworkers, deeply concerned as any person would be with her state. I reached for a clear plastic cup, filled more water than ice and put a lid and straw in it, briefly thinking I should grab a piece of bread from the kitchen but decided against it in case she were to get horrendously sick and I didn’t want to be the cause of that.
I opened the front door, seeing her body flipped on her back now instead of her stomach. From the distance it looked as though she kicked her shoes off, her hair spread out as wildly as Medusa’s, weaved loosely in the dirt beneath her. The closer I got, the clearer the image was. I lost my breath when I realized not only had she kicked off her shoes, but her skirt was wrapped around her hips, exposing everything clothes are meant to cover downstairs. I blinked and instinctively took a step back, feeling like I just walked in on someone in the shower. I went out to check on her and the next thing you know she’s sprawled out under the tree, skirt up no undies.
“Umm… Excuse me..”
She opened her eyes, horrified to see me back so soon. Did she forget I was returning?
“Oh.. I.. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m…”
“I got you some water, do you need me to call someone for you? Are you feeling ill?”
She slowly hiked her skirt down over herself, still looking towards the sky and mumbling apologies. “No, I don’t need anything.”
I placed the water down and told her I would come back out in ten minutes and if she was still there I would call an ambulance because I was worried about her physical state. She sat up, took the water and mumbled an inaudible thank you. I told her I would be right inside if she changed her mind or needed anything. Even though I was constantly checking on her through the window. I ran back inside, eyes nearly bleeding and speechless. Never envisioned this would be apart of my day when I woke up that morning.
Moments later she stood up, took her water and took off down the road as if a normal, average, every-day pedestrian.
Safe to say she was on some drug that was probably very illegal. YIKES.
In life, everyone has tried to set someone up with someone else at one point or another. “You would be so good with so-and-so”, “Hey, are you single? Because I know of someone..” Well, it happens at work too. And this is probably the shortest, most perfect example of picking the right date.
Adam, a server at our restaurant, was serving a table of two. A mother and a daughter. And in the nicest way possible, to paint a clearer picture, both were very well fed ladies… barely fitting into their chairs. As their meals came to an end, the mother made her way over to the cake case, requesting two slices of cake to-go. As Adam began cutting the chosen cakes, the mother leans over and asks Adam if he was single. He responded with “No, unfortunately not, I have a girlfriend.” The mother begins to promote her daughter, saying too bad, that she was single if he was interested. He recognized her daughter from one of the pizza places here in Salem, and as he looked over to confirm that’s who the mother was talking about, she was sitting, blatantly picking her nose without a care in the world.
Too bad, maybe next time Adam!
Ten Year Old Cannibal
(Written by my dear friend Alexx)
Looking back over the last 12 years of being in the Service Industry, hundreds of interesting encounters cross my mind, making it difficult to pin down one specific time that out-does the last. From a homeless man passing out and peeing himself at the bar to a foreign woman strip naked as she walked out and jump into a trashcan outside of the building. Or how about the instance when a woman found a feather in her French Fries – apparently the Potato Plucker was not in that day. As you can see, there is always a twist to a shift. However, the day that I will never forget is the day that I messed up. Yes, I am admitting openly that I messed up. Sometimes it happens. I am human, What Do You Expect?
This particular day just so happened to land in the middle of one of the busiest weekends at Hard Rock Café Atlanta – CheerSport. “What is CheerSport?” you might ask? It is approximately 70,000 people – half of which are little teenie-boppers with more glitter than the New Year’s Ball, hair bigger and curlier than the 80’s and more makeup than Lady Gaga. These miniature Bring It On wannabes are not even a hassle to deal with – it’s their parents. But that is a WHOLE other story.
So, picture this: I am behind the bar, alone, bar full, tables all seated, AND I am owning the service bar for all the drinks that the servers on my side of the restaurant order in. I’m in a GREAT mood. I know that I will be working a full 19 hour shift – alone, no break, if I get to pee it will be a prayer answered – so a positive and upbeat attitude is all I can afford. In the heat of the shift, I have this cute little family of three sit at my bar. The dad has got to be one of the funniest, sarcastic people I’ve met, besides myself of course, and keeps giving me a hard time, which I of course eat up. Now it’s time to order dinner and the dad orders for himself, his wife and his 10 year old daughter, who is no bigger than a 6 year old. He orders a burger, the wife gets a salad, and then he says that his daughter “wants the Ribeye. As RARE as you can make it. Like, put it on the grill, flip it, done. She likes it cold.” That’s when she says she wants the Twisted Mac and Broccoli as her sides. If you had been in this situation, you would have thought the same thing I did: THIS GUY IS TOTALLY KIDDING! I reply “Oh yea? Did you want it still walking?” She giggled, rolled her eyes at her dad and then looked me in my eyes saying, “He’s totally kidding. Just give me the Mac and Broc.” Yes – I read eyes. However, this day my eye reading game was ALL THE WAY off.
Time goes by, they bring out all the food – burger, salad and two sides. Boom. I’ve done my job. A couple bites in, the dad says, “Where’s her Ribeye? Is it comin’?” I say, “Psh, oh yea..the walking Ribeye?! Good one!” We laugh and they continue eating. Say, 15-20 minutes goes by and he asks AGAIN, “But really, is her Ribeye coming? We have to get back to the room before her meet in an hour.” That’s when it hit me: He was not joking about this Walking Ribeye. I would have to say the look on my face was probably equivalent to that if I saw a dead person wake up. I don’t believe I have ever said sorry as much in my entire life to one person. Needless to say, I went and got that puppy for the girl – RARE , STILL WALKING – and she ate THE WHOLE THING.
Lesson learned? Never underestimate the hunger of a ten year old cannibal.
Alcoholics Anonymous Grandma
10:30am, Red Robin. A group of about 10 older people sit down and order drinks, most ordering orange juice, lemonades and ice teas. The oldest of them all, ordering a Bud Light and tomato juice, ordering her waitress to mix them together for her. My dear friend Kayla heads back to the kitchen asking if that was a drink they could serve. They said no, they were not allowed to mix bottled beer with any of their own juices. However, she could bring the beer to the lady along with the tomato juice and she could mix it herself. Kayla brought the drinks to the older lady, nearing her late 70’s. She begins mumbling, clearly upset Kayla hadn’t mixed the drinks for her.
Trying to brush off the angry vibes from the older lady and her discontent, everyone around her reacted shocked and upset. “She cannot have alcohol! Why did you serve her alcohol??” Another lady snapped at her saying ,”What are you doing? She’s not supposed to have alcohol!” Kayla looked around, confused and in shock, no one had mentioned that the older lady couldn’t have any alcohol, sure it was 10:30am and it was early to be having a drink, but there was no warning or mention she wasn’t allowed to serve this lady alcohol. She quickly grabbed the Bud Light from the table before the older lady could grab it, Kayla could see her turn her head, look her straight in the eye and yell, “Dumb b**ch!” Kayla silently blinked and headed towards the kitchen, eyes burning with hot, embarrassed tears.
Turns out, she was a recovering alcoholic and was clearly already inebriated before she even arrived to the restaurant.
Ribbon Loaf Explosion
Probably one of the funniest stories, hence why I saved it for last. It merely shows the different type of people you see when working in the service industry, and will hopefully give you a little giggle.
Our ribbon loaf consists of turkey salad, egg salad and ham salad layered on wheat and white bread, wrapped in a cream cheese spread. One day, a lady came in saying that she was owed another meal. Apparently, the day before she had tried the ribbon loaf at our work and got (in her own words), “Explosive diarrhea”. And instead of trying to get a refund, she demanded a new piece of ribbon loaf from a fresh batch to make up for her suffering, to be reassured it was a “One time thing.”
In the words of my coworker Olga, “the extent people go to for free stuff!.”
As a server, we see new people coming in ALL the time, how are we supposed to know who is on their “normal” behavior and who is not? We cannot read minds and automatically know if a customer has food allergies, or are not allowed to have a drink if you don’t tell us. And crazily enough, we don’t know which plate you would prefer over another, we don’t share the same tastebuds, and we also don’t set the prices OR cook the food that you are enjoying or not enjoying. We are only here to serve you and make your experience as wonderful and comfortable as possible. However, we are human too, and we all make mistakes, so please, be kind.
When you tip your server, it means you appreciate them being your slave for the duration of your meal. Most servers are lucky to make minimum wage, IF that in other states. Students are trying to get by, saving money to pay off loans, rent, and school. Others are relying on those tips to support their family or trying to get by themselves. Tipping isn’t just the nice thing to do, it really is the right thing to do in America. I can’t say the same for other countries, we all have different views and rules, as I have learned from traveling. In fact, Australia and New Zealand don’t have tipping rules, and some places in Japan actually consider tips as an insult. Of course, the quality of your service should depend on attentiveness, politeness and willingness to get you anything you would like. Tipping is a touchy subject and varies from person to person, but as a waitress, I promise you it’s something that means the world to us, especially if we’ve helped you for hours on end and make frequent trips for you and try to make your meal and experience as beautiful as possible. How much you tip is entirely up to you, but is always appreciated!!!! And sometimes a smile and a sincere thank you is worth so much more. Be kind, server or not!