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!!!
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!)
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!
It’s wonderful when you can mess up and have the help and support you need to make sure the customers walk away satisfied. Jessie Gladding wrote replied with:
“@WConfessions@waitresslife happened to me yesterday during brunch. For 15 mins I forgot to ring in a medium sirloin; guys got it out in 5!”
Everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay. It’s where you go from there that really defines you as a person. So, the next time you think about going up to the chef to bitch him out for an overcooked steak, think twice. You need to have their backs and treat them with respect if you want it to go both ways. Treating the kitchen staff with the respect they deserve will not only benefit everyone in the end, it’ll create more of a bond between the back of the house and the front of the house, making the work environment more enjoyable.
What do you think about the communication between the back and front of the house? Tweet us at @WConfessions
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.
So, you’re getting ready for your first day of training at a new restaurant, huh? Whether you’ve been working as a server for years or just starting out, there are a couple of things that you should always take into consideration before starting your first day of training.
If you’re a new server, don’t forget, be prepared to work…and to work hard! Training is all about seeing what you’re made of and testing your limits. Serving tables is in a league all on its own!
Here are 9 tips that might just help you land the job.
TIP #1 Be on time.
Better yet, show up early. Yes, I know it’s incredibly obvious and trust me, it feels completely ridiculous saying it, but I cannot stress this enough. Punctuality is essential when starting a new job. It’s one of the first impressions your employers and coworkers will get of you. Show up late and they’ll all think that a) you’re disrespectful and b) don’t really care about the job. If anything happens and you can’t make it on time or can’t show up at all then pick up the phone and call them.
TIP#2 Listen to your trainer.
Even if you’ve seen it all and you are highly qualified for the position, listen to what your trainer has to say. Different restaurants work with different systems and you really need to pay attention to the differences between this job and your previous ones. The whole “Yeah, yeah. I know.” attitude should be left at the door. Let your trainer explain things first and then ask questions later.
TIP #3 Pick up the pace.
When starting at a new restaurant, some servers have a hard time picking up the rhythm of the restaurant and the speed of the service. When changing to a busier restaurant, it’s time to get your ass into gear and pick up the pace. Walking around the restaurant like you’re taking a nice stroll in the park is not going to work. Keep in mind – your trainer will push you, and rightfully so. Keep up with their pace and don’t waste time. If you find your trainer moving quicker than you then you’re the one who needs to adjust your rhythm.
TIP #4 Be ready for grunt work.
You’re new, right? So you’ll have to a do a lot of the crappy jobs that people hate doing like preparing linens, silverware and glassware, filling condiments, restocking napkins, etc. Your trainer will make you clean their section, run their plates, and do any other cleaning duties or tasks they may have in store. You’ll have to really prove yourself, so don’t ever slack off or sneak off in back for a cigarette. Get rid of that cellphone and concentrate on working and working hard. Don’t even think about complaining. Your trainer and employers may be testing your limits to see how much you want the job and how much you can take. Also, you may get all the crummy shifts and hours that nobody wants. Be ready to take whatever shifts/sections/tables they give you.
TIP#5 Remember: Staff members will be hard on you.
Because you’re working in an industry where your coworkers rely on tips as their income, other waiters and waitresses will be hard on you if you make mistakes at their tables or if you’re in their way. It’s very possible that you’ll get snide comments or brushed off so be prepared for that. If you’re doing something wrong, chances are someone is going to tell you. Whether you’re garnishing a beverage with a lime instead of a lemon or bringing plates to the wrong table, someone will voice their disapproval and it may not be in the nicest way possible. Be ready to have a thick hide and learn from your mistakes.
TIP#6 Avoid asking questions that make you look bad.
I don’t mean don’t ask questions. You should be asking a lot of questions to show a genuine interest in learning the job and the correct way of doing things. What I mean is you should avoid asking questions that make it seem like you don’t care about the job or don’t even want to be there. Questions like:
“What time do I finish?” This is my most hated question. You’ve barely been working 5 minutes and you’re already thinking about when you’re leaving. If you need to know for important reasons, that’s different, but find a way to make it seem like you don’t want to get out of there as soon as possible.
“Do I really have to do that?” Your trainer is telling you that you need to do something. Just do it! They wouldn’t be telling you “You have to clean the chair legs before every shift” if you didn’t need to be done.
“Can I eat something?” Um, you’re at work. You’re supposed to be working, not eating. Eat before or after your shift, not in the middle of training.
“What kind of discount does the staff get?” This one isn’t as bad, but don’t ask it in the middle of training. You have more important things to learn other than the bonuses of working at that restaurant.
“Can I take next weekend off?” The answer is no. Never ask for time off when you’re starting at a new place. If it’s something of importance, ask your employer and explain the situation to them. If it’s for your friend’s birthday party, keep that to yourself and do the hours they need from you.
TIP #7 Know your schedule.
Not showing up for a training because you didn’t know you were working is unacceptable. It’s not only frustrating for the restaurant, but for you as well. They will most likely not have you back. When getting your schedule for training, make sure you double check that you have the correct days and hours. Get the phone number to contact the person giving you your hours so that you can call in case you’re unsure. Be prepared. There are no excuses.
TIP#8 Focus on your job
The worst thing you can do is start yapping away with coworkers about what you did that weekend or telling your life story to your trainer while you should be paying attention to your customers and what you should be learning. Talking and telling stories will distract you from ordering food on time, seeing new tables being seated in your section, and remembering customer’s requests. Stay focused. Be friendly, but your priority is work, not socializing.
It’s really important to show that you’re happy to be there and working so smile! Also, it shows everyone that you are capable of having a good relationships with the customers, that you’re friendly, and easy to work with. A smile can go such a long way so don’t forget to let it shine.
Getting trained to be a server at a restaurant doesn’t necessarily mean you got the job, so make sure you’re constantly doing your best. Hopefully these tips will help give you a bit of perspective before starting your first day.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or if you have any tips of your own you can contact us or tweet a tip to @WConfessions
Last night, I was working a double shift at The Hot Spot . After my 15 minute break, I saw that the manager put me in a section that I’m not usually in (at the front of the house, near the hostess desk and the front door). Now, normally, that’s a pretty good section, but seeing as how it was a quieter night, I only had 2 tables.
It started off well and everyone was very nice and polite. I saw my table #6 lifting their hands to get my attention, so I walked over and asked if everything was alright. They were 3/4 done their meal and thought maybe they wanted to take the rest To Go. But, the girl asked me for another Coke and the guy asked for a glass of water. So, on my way towards the kitchen, I picked up the Coke, grabbed a glass of water, and headed back to the table.
As I got closer to the table, I noticed that no one was sitting there anymore. The plates were still on the table, so nobody had given them the bill in the few moments I was gone. I ran to the hostess desk and asked if anyone saw them leave. One of the hostesses said that they said they were going out for a smoke and would be back. I felt better, but when I looked outside I didn’t see them standing by the door. I thought to myself Maybe they went to smoke in their car…it is really cold outside, but I knew better. They had just dined and dashed.
I waited 15 minutes, just in case they’d come back, but they never did. I was furious! It was the first time this has ever happened to me and I couldn’t believe it. How can you just walk into a restaurant, order drinks, appetizers, two main meals and just leave without paying?
I told a coworker about it and he told me that Karma’s a bitch and that they’ll get what’s coming to them. He said that this happens from time to time and to just let it go, because there’s nothing you can do about disgusting people like that. He’s right. There’s nothing you can do.
So, I put on a smile for the rest of my customers and something amazing happened. I got the best tables I’ve ever had on a Saturday night. I was getting 20-25% tips all night. One table said that the next time they would come, they’d ask for my section. Another said that it was the best service they ever had. It was just amazing. Starting the night off with a bunch of thieves, I thought that maybe it would be “one of those nights”, especially since it was a full moon, but it turned out completely differently.
Sure, Karma’s a bitch. But, it can also turn around and send good vibes to a good person who deserves it. Thank you, Karma. Just one question to the couple who left without paying: How do you sleep at night?
So, to all those diners out there, please show some respect and actually PAY for the food and service you are receiving. Otherwise, you’re just a thief.