LaCrecia wrote to us a few months ago about one of her experiences serving. We’re sure that you’ve been through a similar situation, so feel free to write to us with your story here!
Dear Waitress Confessions…
I will never forget one of my cocktail shifts.
It was my first serving job. I always try to go above and beyond for my guests (we weren’t allowed to call them customers). So these 3 ladies were there after work drinking to unwind from a long work week. I introduced myself with a “Hi ladies my name is LaCrecia. I will be taking care of y’all tonight”. I was being my sweet ol’ Texas girl self when I asked “Is there anything else I can do for y’all? I would like for you to have the best experience possible tonight.”
Then that’s when everything went south! One of the ladies looked at me and said “Well we would like for you to go f**k yourself.” I was so mad that I cried. I went to my manager and told her I didn’t want to serve them anymore. She went out to check on them and they were deeply offended saying I was mocking their race (African american) because of what I told them my name was. I’m Caucasian. My manager assured them that was my name but they still were unsatisfied with me so they didn’t want me to serve them anymore. A nightmare!!!
As you all know, The Waitress Confessions has been featured in quite a few articles from blog posts to How to be a Good Waitress by wikihow . So, we are very excited to be mentioned over at FoodTender.com in an article written by Jason Boies called Build a Winning Restaurant Staff: Part 3 . So please feel free to check it out!
Dear Waitress Confessions…I have a diner question, well a camper diner question. A friend of mine and I only see each other a couple of times a year. We meet at a Cheesecake Factory typically on a Friday night around 5pm and leave around 10pm. We let our server know that we are gabbers, will be staying long and will tip accordingly. That being said I want to know if there is a proper way to calculate a tip for camping. I’ve been searching and searching and only find, “don’t do it – the server isn’t making the right amount” or “tip accordingly”.
We know we are taking a really long time. We know we are coming on one of the worst nights and times to do this. We order throughout the visit – generally putting in our dessert order and hour or so before we’re officially done. We know we are potential PIA’s so we want to make sure that the servers leave feeling as happy with their campers as we, their campers, are!
We keep an eye out on a neighboring table and keep tabs on how many times the table was turned. We calculate a 20% tip on our bill (tipping on the total amount after tax), then multiply that by the number of times the nearby table turned and round up to an even number.
For example, tonight we had a bill of $86 (it was about double what we typically spend because another person joined us for a while). I noted the nearby table turned four times (for at least the last hour, the table was empty as were quite a few in the section). We tipped $17.20 (20%), multiplied by 4 for a total tip of $70 ($50 in cash and $20 on a credit card). The server seemed put out.
On our previous visit, the bill was $45 and the nearby tables turned three times. We left the server, who was wonderful, $40 but then we lingered about an hour longer and left an additional $5 cash on the table. The server was thrilled and let us know.
I generally feel that the tip is appropriate but by the time I get home I start to worry!
We are going to camp so I want to make sure that the server is compensated fairly from us. What is the right formula for campers to tip so that the server is compensated properly?
(p.s. please don’t hold back – if this formula is stupid and we’re not doing it right, I’d much rather know than continue to do short change servers!)Sincerely, Happy Camper!
Dear Happy Camper…Seems to me like you are a very considerate customer! Most people don’t realize that staying for hours and hours at a restaurant could be ruining someone’s night financially. Although paying customers do have a right to enjoy their night as they want, they also need to understand that it is a business and yes – people are there to make money. Waiters and waitresses mostly rely on their tips as their income, so having a table of two people where their bill is $40.00 for over the span of 5 hours is not going to give them the income they rely on to get by…because let’s face it – on a $40.00 bill even if you leave %20 that means a tip of $8.00 (divided by 5 hours…well…it’s really not a lot). Unfortunately there is no rule or formula for this sort of situation, but I have to say – you may be on to something. In all honesty, if I had a customer like you who took the time to notice how often my other tables turned and tipped accordingly…well I would be as happy as a clam! First of all, letting your server know that you will be staying for a long time is a great way to start out. That way the server can mentally prepare themselves for how they will be serving you…and give them time to accept the idea that they have “lost” a table for the night. Starting out with that, you may see the disappointment in their face, so following up with the fact that you will try to tip accordingly will lessen the blow a bit. Second, I think keeping track of the tables turning beside you is a great way to somewhat judge how many times the table you’re seated at could have been turned throughout the night. That being said, I’d like to give you a few pointers on how to use your formula a little bit better (if you would permit me to do so). Keep in mind, I am in no way saying that “This is the way it should be!” I am merely suggesting other angles that you may not have considered. #1. When you’re seated at a table and you know who your server is, ask them if the table next to you is theirs as well. Some restaurants have the sections for their servers spread out so it creates more movement within the restaurant. So, if you’re judging the amount of times a table turns next to you in order to gauge how many times you should multiply you tip…well be sure that table belongs to your server. Why? Because if that table you’re basing your math on belongs to another server who slacks off and doesn’t care about turning their tables then you may only see it turn over once, whereas if your own server is a great server who can turn it 5 times then in reality your math would be off. Ask your server if the table next to you theirs and if it is, use it to count the turns. #2. If you are going out with one other person, upon entering the restaurant I would suggest asking the host/hostess for a table made for two people. If you’re really worried about being fair and not “screwing” a server over then this would be an important point. If you don’t mention it, the host/hostess may seat you at a table with a maximum capacity of 4 people. If you take that table all night, then the server is missing out on getting bigger tables (tables of 3 or 4 people) with bigger bills. All that they’ll see are groups of 4 people being seated elsewhere and it may put them out that their table of 4 is taken by a table of two. That way, you can also watch other tables of two and how many times they turn in order to calculate the appropriate tip. #3. After you have received your dessert and coffee, feel free to ask for the bill right away. Some servers have to stick around until their customers have paid and even though their shift is over they are not supposed to force you to pay. So they will wait and wait until you are done so they can finally go home. Paying doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave! Ask your server if it’s alright that you pay them right away and if you stay a while longer. They will be thrilled! #4. Don’t be taken advantage of! If you let a server know that you are a “camper”, but will try to tip accordingly and they DO NOT server you properly…I say screw it. As servers we are supposed to serve everyone equally, whether you stay for half an hour or five hours. You want to be served by someone who is a good sport and who deserves that fact that you take all these things into consideration when going out to eat. Because, let’s face it…you don’t HAVE to do this, but it’s amazing that you do. Don’t let a server’s bad attitude make you tip more because you feel bad. Do it because a good waiter or waitress deserves it. #5. Point #4 being said, if you find a server who is thrilled by your tipping formula…stick with them. Always ask to be served by them. That way they start to know you as a customer. They know your likes, dislikes, the pace that you like to be served at, etc. That way when they see you, they know what to expect for their evening. You’ll be comfortable knowing that your server knows how to serve you. #6. If you are at a fancy, expensive restaurant spending only $50.00 when the average bill is $100.00 then yes – you are kinda being “cheap” with the tipping. If a server would normally be making $80.00 off a a table turning 4 times and you use your formula of %20 tip times 4 turns then the server is making half of what they should be making. If you are just dining at good places where the average joe goes out for a meal…then don’t worry about it. Fancier, high end restaurants would be different though. #7. A point made by Bubba Aldridge on this post shared by The Service Industry on Facebook brought up a very good idea. “There are some restaurants who make their servers stay until all their tables have left. So, for anyone who knows they may stay an extended amount of time, when you arrive, ask for a closer’s section.” A very good suggestion! One to definitely take into consideration. #8. A recent email from Lauren wrote that she would like to just add that “if you are dining at a restaurant that accepts reservations and want to camp that you should inform the person taking the reservation that you plan on spending a long time at your table. This is because those restaurants will plan on re-booking the table after a set time from your seating. Just remember that if you are in a restaurant on a busy night that you will cost the business a loss of revenues as every table is expected to generate a certain amount of income for the night.” Now, that being said don’t worry about having to spend more because the restaurant will be at a loss of income. It happens all the time. But if a restaurant is based on taking a lot of reservations and double/triple booking tables in an evening it would be a great idea to let them know you will be staying a long time so as not to affect another reservation. Anyways, I hope this helped you out, but in all honesty (and in my opinion) you can just keep going the way you are. I wish more people took the time to think about these things and I would be happy with someone just trying to take the server into consideration while “camping”. I hoped this helped, and thank you for writing!
Tell Us What You Think!
A coworker of mine showed me this article in our local newspaper and just had to share it with me and the rest of the staff. Most of us can relate to it, so I seriously encourage you, as a server, to take a look and realize that you are not alone with these feelings! Most of them are completely normal. Some we agree with, some we don’t, but it’s important for us to feel like there are other people out there going through the exact same thing day after day.
There are so many things that customers do, whether intentionally or not, that really irks us as servers.
If you are going out to a restaurant, please check out these Waiters’ top 20 ways to not be a horrible restaurant customer.
Can’t believe I got a 5$ tip on 95$. Grrr…… -Amy
You may not realize it, but there are a number of things you should consider while booking a table at a restaurant. Whether you’re a large party of 30 or more people or a table for two, there certain things to keep in mind that will make reserving at a restaurant easier for you…and for the restaurant as well.
When Making a Reservation Do…
Have all your information ready.
You will be asked the date (which is a given since you should know this ahead of time) and time you’d like to reserve. They will ask what name the reservation will be under. Full names are greatly appreciate to avoid any confusion or mix-ups, but Mr. Smith will usually do just fine. Know the exact number of people in your party so that the restaurant will know whether or not they will be able to accommodate you. Please be ready to provide your contact information (home phone number or cell phone number) so that the restaurant will be able to call you back to confirm your reservation. Specify any preferences (i.e. : a table by the window, a booth, near the bar) and mention any specifications (i.e. : serious food allergies, wheelchairs, surprise birthday party) so that the restaurant is aware of your likes and needs.
Call if there are any changes or modifications.
As soon as the restaurant has your reservation, they will keep it exactly as is, never assuming that anything will change. If you’d like to change the date, time, the number of people, or would like to cancel it all together the best thing to do is to call the restaurant to inform them of the changes. The same goes for if you’re going to be late and believe you won’t make it there at the exact time of your reservation. The sooner you call, the easier time the restaurant will have of accommodating you, even if you’re running late.
Keep your reservation time, especially for large parties.
If you’re a large group (let’s say 20 people or more – depending on the size of the restaurant), make sure that you keep your reservation time. Restaurants have a certain number of staff members at certain times and if you make a reservation during a period where there aren’t normally a lot of customers coming in, they may have fewer staff members than on, let’s say, a Saturday night. If you reserve at one of those quiet times, the restaurant will either add on more employees or keep them longer so that you will get the service you deserve. The later you are, or if you don’t show up all together, you’re keeping employees at work longer (whether it be bar staff, waitstaff, or kitchen staff). If you are going to arrive late, then call the restaurant. They will really appreciate the heads-up.
When Making a Reservation Don’t…
Make reservations for more people than you really are.
On busy nights, restaurants try to maximize their seating capacity in order to accommodate anyone and everyone. If you make a reservation for a party of 50 people when you know on some certain level that you’ll only be 30 people, it can create a lot of problems within the restaurant when your group of 30 arrives. Not only are you taking away other guests chances at reserving a table that night, but the restaurant will be losing out on customers therefore having less sales for that day. A restaurant is a business after all and although they are happy to have large parties, it’s a shame to lose out on other potential reservations because they don’t have the exact number of people for your reservation. A difference of 2 or 3 people won’t make a big difference, but when it starts to get to 5 to 10 to 20 people, it makes a huge difference to the restaurant. Also, for your benefit, having the exact number of people will be easier for the restaurant to organize your table/tables. You’ll be more comfortable if you do. If you are unsure of the number of people because you are reserving in advance, call the restaurant to give them daily/weekly updates on the number of people and inform them the day before of your exact head count.
Be wishy-washy about the time.
Be direct when choosing a time for your reservation. Giving a time like “Around 7:00-7:30” or “At 6:05” is too vague for the restaurant. Most places only take reservations on the hour or half hour (i.e. : five o’clock, six-thirty, etc) and some will take on the quarter hour. Be prepared to pick an exact time.
Blame the Hostess for the restaurant’s reservation policies.
Some restaurants have restrictions and limitations for reservations. They may warn you that you only have the table for an hour and a half or two hours because of other reservations or that there is no place at the time or day you are requesting. As a customer, I understand that this isn’t always ideal, but it’s not the Hostess’ fault. Getting angry at them will not help your situation. Politely ask if there are any possible solutions and if there are none, you need to be calm and accept the situation as is. Reserving in advance will certainly give you the upper hand, but reserving an hour before you’d like to dine out on a Saturday night will never guarantee you a table at a busy restaurant. It’s never the Hostess’ fault, but if you feel like they are not treating you fairly, calmly ask to speak with a manager to be 100% sure that what the Hostess is telling you is accurate.
Threaten the restaurant.
I’ve seen it happen many times where a guest will threaten to never return if we can’t accommodate them. Words like “I’m coming to spend $200! What do you mean you don’t have place for me at 6 o’clock on Saturday night?” and “That table is already reserved? If you don’t move that reservation to another table, we’re never coming back!” are not appropriate when trying to make a reservation. This tends to happen when people reserve last minute and are surprised that the restaurant is completely booked for the night. There is no way a restaurant will ever call another reservation to tell them we can no longer keep their reservation so that the restaurant can take your reservation instead. Threatening the restaurant is in bad form and expecting them to bend over backwards for you when it’s impossible to do so is unrealistic. Remember, you’re not the only guests hoping to dine there.
Hang up before giving all your information and expect to have a reservation.
Plenty of times, people are in a rush to make reservations. It may be on their way home from work, or on their short lunch breaks, but it’s important to have enough time to complete the reservation. Sometimes when guests call, they ask if there is place on a certain day at a certain time, they’ll give their name and then hang up. This leaves the restaurant stumped. What do they do? They don’t have the number of people or phone number and can’t possibly make a proper reservation. If you want to be 100% sure that you’ve made a reservation, wait until the Hostess is finished asking all the necessary questions before hanging up. If you call and say “I want to make a reservation for 2 people for tonight at 7 o’clock” and the Hostess says “Yes, we have a table available”, don’t just say “Ok, thanks!” and hang up. They will assume that you are just checking the availabilities and will be calling later to take the actual reservation. If you show up that night at 7 o’clock that night, the Hostess will not have your reservation, so make sure to give all your information.
Making sure that you follow the do’s and don’ts of making reservations at a restaurant will help you to have the experience you deserve and keep you on good terms with the restaurant. Proper etiquette, especially as a regular customer, can only benefit you at the end. As much as you expect the restaurant to keep your reservation and follow your restrictions and preferences, the restaurant expects you to hold up your end of the deal and to respect their policies.
So, reserve responsibly and enjoy the experience!
Before heading out to your favorite restaurant for a lovely evening out, there are a few things that you may want to consider in order to have a better dining experience. Before a server comes to the table, keep in mind these simple tips in order to make your life easier…and your server’s as well.
1. Do not order unless you are ready to order.
This unfortunately happens very often in restaurants. A server goes to a table and asks “Are we ready to order?” and the guests reply with an enthusiastic “Yes!”. The problem with this is sometimes you actually…well, aren’t ready. The server then prepares themselves to write down your order and stands there while you desperately glance through the menu, trying to find something that suits your fancy. Feeling pressured to make a decision? Don’t. Ask the server to come back in a few minutes, giving you enough time to make your choice and giving them time to server their other customers as well.
2. Know and remember what you are ordering.
Sometimes menus can be overwhelming, especially if you are dining out at a restaurant you’ve never eaten at before. Make sure you take a good look at the name of the plate you wish to have, along with the description. That way when your plate arrives there are no mishaps. As servers, sometimes we witness diners who exclaim “This isn’t what I ordered!”, to which we reply something along the lines of “Did you order the barbecue chicken?” and their reply is usually “Yes.” The waiter or waitress then has to explain that this is the plate you ordered. It wastes a bit of time, plus makes you nervous thinking that the server got your order wrong.
Also, it sometimes happens with larger groups that a server will say “Caesar salad to start?”, glancing around at all the diners looking for a hand raise or look of recognition and gets none. Customers sometimes forget that they had a salad to start, forcing the server to take the plate back to the kitchen as a mistake. What happens then? You may miss out on your starter salad.
Be aware of what you have ordered (the same goes for bottles of wine – check that the server has brought you the correct bottle). It makes things easier for everyone.
3. Place your orders one at a time.
As servers, we want to be sure you have your complete order, knowing 100% what you ordered (including all exceptions and specific demands). Our priority is to make sure we understand and know what you as a diner are ordering. Problems arise when diners all speak at once to place their order. Speaking out of turn will draw the server’s attention to you, in which case they may miss what the other person is saying. If you have any changes to make after placing your order, please wait patiently until the server is finishes writing down the order and then ask if you can make a change. You want your order to be taken correctly, right? Then speak one at a time, letting the waiter as the correct questions per order, and make changes later.
4. Be patient and understanding.
There are some demands that are physically impossible to ask of a waiter. Be patient and understanding of their limitations. For example, if the server has not yet left the table after taking the order of a large group, think twice before asking the server if the plates are arriving soon. If they haven’t had the chance to leave the table yet, then no order has been placed with the kitchen or bar. A great example of this is in our post titled True Story: An Impossible Demand.
5. Try to stay seated at the same place.
The way some restaurants work is with a certain system that allows them to know and remember which customer ordered which item. Some restaurants call it “Seats” or “Pivots” or “Clients”. Not only do restaurants have specific table numbers, but also numbers designated per seat/customer. If you get up and constantly change seats, it will confuse the wait staff, especially when you are in a large group. It will be hard for everyone to know where you are sitting when it comes time for the food arrive, drinks, appetizers, and most of all the bill. If you know you will be moving around a lot, inform your waiter of which seat or chair is actually yours and when your drinks, food, or bill arrive, always go back to your seat. It will help the waiter stay organized. Also, if you are changing seats for the entirety of the evening, inform your waiter so they will be up to date with the seating arrangements.
Sometimes, it’s the little things…
We all have to keep in mind that sometimes the littlest things can make a big difference in our experiences. Following these steps will not only improve your dining experience, but there will be less mistakes and mishaps. Remember, if you are ever unsure of anything, the waitstaff is there to help you with anything you may need. Feel free to ask questions :)
Enjoy your meal!
Today, why not try to refill water glasses as much as possible? Customers really do appreciate it, especially when they are drinking it with wine.
This past Sunday, I went in for the lunch shift at the Hot Spot and got a table of 4 people. They seemed nice enough as I approached them for their drink order, but as time passed I realized that these would be difficult customers to satisfy. As nice as they were, they were extremely specific (and altogether picky like crazy) about their order and I worried that they may complain about everything from the timing of the service to the quality of the food.
First of all, they wanted their Brazilian Coffees to be hot. “Put the coffee in the microwave if you have to,” they said. So that’s what I did. As much as I hate to nuke things in the microwave, I did what they asked. The coffee seemed hot enough as I took it out and poured it into a sugar rimmed glass mug. They didn’t want whipped cream, so I filled it to the top and took it to the table.
I set the coffee down in front of the two people who ordered it. One of them took a sip right away and said it wasn’t hot enough, so I brought it back to heat it up for a minute and a half. The coffee was boiling and bubbling, so I told the gentleman to be careful. He touched the mug and seemed happy with how hot it was.
Then, the woman with the other coffee said (in a very disgusted voice, might I add) “Is there even any alcohol in here?”. I was a little stunned and told her that I had put the correct amount, but if she wasn’t pleased with it i could get her some more. “Well, yeah. I mean, there’s no alcohol in here at all.”
I sighed to myself. Of course there was alcohol. I’m not going to cheap out on that, but I also can’t make it half alcohol and half coffee (like some people may make at home). “I’ll get you some more, ma’am. It won’t be a problem at all,” I reassured her.
Before I could leave and get the alcohol for her, another man at the table told me they were ready to order, so I set down the tray I used to bring the drinks and took out my pad of paper and pen. Their order was complicated and they were changing things around on the menu to suit their preferences, but I didn’t mind as much since they were the only table in the restaurant. I also didn’t feel like arguing with them that normally we don’t put ketchup on our burgers.
As soon as I was taking the menus from them and about to walk away from the table, the woman with the coffee said “Excuse me, but is that alcohol coming?”
Cue the crickets.
I didn’t speak for a moment because I was shocked at her question. I could not believe what she was asking. How could the alcohol possibly get to the table without me leaving to go order it, let alone get it from the bar. Did she think I could have sent out a discreet signal to someone to get it right away? Did she think I could somehow communicate with the bar that she wanted more? How could she possibly think that it could get there if I never even left the table? It seemed like such a ridiculous question to me. I guess some people don’t have much common sense in how things work. It is impossible for me to get something if I haven’t even left the table. If I could use The Force, I would. But I can’t.
So I said “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I haven’t even had a chance to leave the table yet, but I’ll get it for you right away.”
“Well, don’t forget it.” She replied.
All I could do was repeat “I’ll get it right away ma’am”.
So I pretty much ran to the bar and prepared it for her and took it to the table.
“How is it?” I asked as she added it to her mug.
“It’s good enough, I guess.” She said.
The rest of the service was pretty much the same way. Complaints about the soup not being hot enough, the fact that I didn’t bring bread to the table (we only bring bread if the customers ask), asking what we give for free for birthdays and saying a chocolate cake wasn’t good enough, etc.
Every waiter has had customers like this. And sometimes it’s a little infuriating. People need to realize that we are only human, we only have two hands, and we are not mind readers. I really tried my best, and it still didn’t seem good enough.
TIPS FOR CUSTOMERS
Think about what you are asking from a server. Is your demand physically impossible? If so…then take a moment to maybe rephrase your request.
TIP FOR SERVERS
Try to keep your cool.
One thing that you should really know as a customer is that the pens that waiters leave you to sign credit card slips or lend you to write something down belong to the waiter. They buy them with their own money. Just because they leave them on the table for you, unfortunately does not mean that they are yours to take if you want.
I need to mention this because a lot of times I leave work with 4 pens missing and end up having to buy a whole new pack at the end of the week. I have to admit, it’s a bit annoying because those pens belong to me and people feel that they can just keep them for themselves. The restaurant does not provide the pens for their staff, so the money comes out of our pockets.
So please, on behalf of all wait staff…please do not steal our pens. And if you absolutely need a pen to keep, just ask.