I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for almost three years, and even now, I still raise my eyebrows at a lot of the things I’ve seen. Between rude customers, customers who act like they’ve never been to a restaurant before, and families who only tip 10% on checks of $100 or more.
When you work in the service industry, you experience a lot of things that will make your blood boil, make you laugh, or simply make you nauseous. Here are some of the things I’ve seen, and that you should definitely not do.
1. Bad tipping
Repeat after me: you must tip 20% on your check. For example if your check is about $20, tip $4 for average service or more if your service was excellent. Servers are only paid $2.13 an hour and make their money off of tips. Some customers are angered by this because why should they have to make up someone’s pay? Although there are some restaurants who pay their servers the required minimum wage and tips are just the icing on the cake, servers go into work knowing their wages mostly come straight from the hands of customers.
As a customer, you have to have a certain amount of empathy and realize this is someone’s reality. If you don’t agree with this system, don’t go out to eat. If you can’t afford to tip, or if you simply just don’t want to, do yourself and servers a favor and stay home to cook dinner. I’ve seen servers be completely stiffed on multi-hundred dollar checks, even if the service was top-notch. There’s simply no excuse for that. Again, if you afford to tip, stay home.
2. Bad parenting manners
We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve been sat next to a screaming infant at a restaurant. Along with ear-piercing squeals disturbing other guests, this can make the servers job very difficult. It can be hard to hear what your orders are if your child is screaming. It’s pretty common courtesy that you’d take your child outside or to the bathroom so as not to disturb other customers, but some people let their baby “cry it out,” which may work at home, but is absolutely unacceptable around perfect strangers who are just trying to enjoy their dinner.
Along with wailing babies, small children are often allowed to roam freely around the restaurant while their parents watch from afar. Even if the restaurant seems pretty kid-friendly, allowing your child to utilize the restaurant as their personal playground is not only obnoxious but extremely dangerous. One of my friends, a server, was recently turning a corner in her restaurant when a small child ran into her legs. She precariously held the large tray in her hands, which was heavy with ceramic dishes. The kids mother quickly apologized and ushered her child back to their seat, but that child was small enough that if the server had dropped that tray, the child would definitely obtain some pretty nasty bruises.
3. Bad ordering manners
Although some servers simply introduce themselves quickly and ask what you want to drink, some servers like to take the time to ask how you’re doing before asking what drinks they can retrieve for you. Even if you’re not feeling particularly talkative, it’s very rude to cut the person off with your order such as, “water with lemon.” You wouldn’t cut off a host of a dinner party to tell them to get you a drink, so why would you, as a guest, cut off the person who is bringing you your food and beverages?
Servers also don’t control the menu, so if one of your favorite items on the menu is taken off, it’s never okay to get angry with the server or let that affect their tip.
4. There are rules
Yes, there are rules when you go to a restaurant. You can’t have 5 shots in front of you along with a pitcher of beer. Many restaurants have rules regarding the bar, such as that people under the age of 21 aren’t supposed to sit at the bar or in the bar area after 9 PM. I’ve had customers get pretty nasty with me when they come in late with their children and I have to seat them away from the bar. But this is simply a rule that I’ve been instructed to follow, if you have an issue with it, write to corporate.
There are also a lot of legal rules we have to follow. For example, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau have set out very clear rules, for which we can be punished for not following. For example, ABC agents may come in and sit as regular customers and if the server doesn’t check their ID when they order a drink, the server will most definitely lose their job and the restaurant will get an ABC violation and cause the restaurant to lose their liquor license.
Sometimes customers want to substitute one item for another, but often times we simply can’t do that, at least not without charging you extra. Again, this isn’t us just being difficult, we have rules we are told to follow.
5. Being rude to the host
Being a host can be extremely stressful on busy nights. We’re the first person people see when they walk in, so we’re often the first to blame for the wait that can come with getting a table. Believe me when I tell you that there’s a very specific system we go through to seat tables and if we don’t follow this system, your service is going to be horrendous. Sure, you may be sat quickly, but you may wait a while before your server can take your drink order.
When there’s a waiting list, chaos often breaks out. For example, on a recently busy night at the restaurant I work at, we had 5 different groups on our waiting list. The group at the top of the list had 6 people, while there were several small groups of 2 or 4. For a group of six in our restaurant, there’s no way we can seat that group in a booth. Unfortunately, a majority of the tables we have in the restaurant are booths. So when I sat a group of 2 at a booth which is made for 2 people, one member of the group of 6 became irate.
“Why did you seat them before us,” he asked with a red face.
“Well you have 6 people in your group, I doubt they can fit in a booth specifically made for two,” I explained.
The man mumbled under his breath, “I don’t care.”
As a customer, you have to be understanding that the more people you bring with you on a night that is typically busy for restaurants, the longer your wait may be. Additionally, there are tables made for larger groups of 10 or more. To seat a small group of 5 at a table like that means that larger groups have nowhere to go and could potentially be stuck waiting up to an hour, when the smaller group of 5 could have simply waited 15 minutes for a table of a more appropriate size.
If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, it can be hard to fathom the systems we have for seating, ordering food or drinkings, and for actually making orders. Just understand that there is a system and although following the system specifically can sometimes hinder the operation of the restaurant, this system is usually in place to help the restaurant run efficiently. Be patient, and be kind, because servers are people too who are just trying to pay their bills.