Every Server Should Know…

I recently started a new waitressing job. (By recently, I mean today.) Now, anyone that knows me knows that I resent this profession (if you can call it that) and that I would pretty much prefer doing anything else. However, as everyone also knows, bills will be bills and because of that they will continue to come monthly. They have no regard for the fact that your dream job didn’t fall right into your lap. So here I am, strapping on the apron once again…. (but as soon as I find something else…)

Don’t let her fool you. She’d rather be doing something else.

Serving appeals to people for a couple reasons: 1) You don’t need a college degree. In fact, you don’t even have to be smart. You just need to be able to cut lemons, write stuff on paper, and carry a tray. 2) You make quite a bit of money. Depending on where you’re working, you have the possibility of pulling in hundreds of dollars, all without being smart or attractive. 3) The schedule is typically pretty flexible. (Other than holidays and weekends, of course.)

Being that I have worked in the food and beverage industry now for almost ten years, I’ve picked up a couple things that I think every server should know. Pay attention people and heed my advice.

Watch your tip out (and question it if need be): I’ve worked in a variety of places, and believe it or not, in a couple of those places the owners short changed me. (I know, so unbelievable.) Either they controlled my tips and decided to take a piece for themselves or whoever else they deemed necessary (in Vermont, that’s illegal; check your state laws through the Department of Labor), or they controlled my tips and the computer automatically deducted a certain percentage from my sales and then that money went into a mystery bank account, or I’d be tipping out when there was no god damn help! Now, for some reason owners and managers think this is okay simply because as a server you make a lot of money. So what? That’s why you wait tables. Duh. It’s not okay. It’s your money and you should tip out the appropriate help, but do not let them screw you over. Some people will, as is the same with any job really. (To be fair, more times than not, the tip out is legit, but whenever entering a new job always make sure it’s by the books.)

Do not hook up with the married guy (or girl): In almost every single restaurant there is some creeper lurking around waiting to bait you into some stupid affair. Sometimes there is more than one. Keep a sharp eye. Now I know, at first it may all seem like a good idea, but eventually that person’s wife or husband is going to come find you, wildly flailing a gun over their head, and proclaiming they want your head on one of the dinner plates. (That’s not fun.) On top of that, who wants someone they took from someone else? I mean, in only a matter of time, they’re going to be having an affair behind your back. Oh, and let’s not forget, once the word gets out, work gets a little awkward. (Please note however, foreign bussers are fair game… as long as they’re not married of course.)

Remember you will get it blamed for everything: That’s right. You will deal with the douches who want special orders out on the floor and then when you deliver their special message you’ll deal with the douches in the kitchen who can’t handle another special order (or an order in general typically). You know that phrase don’t shoot the messenger? Well, when working as a server, forget it. They will blame you. Everyone will blame you. The patrons will blame you. The cooks will blame you. You will be blamed and then blamed again. To the kitchen, it will become your fault when you hand in a ticket saying “no cheese” on a burger and then to the patron, it will become your fault when the burger comes out with cheese anyway. Don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault. (Unless of course it is your fault… then still don’t feel guilty. In the scheme of life… it really doesn’t matter. Everyone will get over it.)

Do not lie about the food: If you haven’t tried something, don’t tell the customer “oh, it’s so good!” Don’t lie. For some reason, it is acceptable to blunder around as a server and lie to everyone’s face. I will never do this. Remember who actually pays your bills. It’s not the owner with his anything but generous hourly wage (typically $3-$4… yes, an hour). No, the people paying your bills are the ones who are leaving you the tips. I think you at least owe them the courtesy of being honest when talking about the food. If something sucks, tell them. If you haven’t tried something, tell them. If you think a dish is amazing, tell them. That’s why people ask you. You’re like their own personal food private eye. Don’t let them down and they hopefully won’t let you down. (Of course, if the restaurant is proud of what they put out, the pride usually shows and this won’t even be an issue.)

You are never stuck in a serving job… ever: I can’t stress this enough. Waiting jobs are a dime a dozen. At every restaurant there is a revolving door. (I’ve watched people get fired… and then hired back.) For real. Why? Because everyone who serves… hates their job. No one accepts a serving job expecting it to be forever. No one, and if someone does, then they do not have very high expectations of themselves. So just feel good knowing… “as soon as I find something else…”

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