I went to dinner the other night. Granted, it wasn't a five star restaurant. It was maybe a 2 star restaurant if I'm lucky. But still, after waiting tables from Detroit to San Diego over the course of 9 years, I formed a few opinions about waiting tables. And one of them was that you don't have to be serving $45 Filet Mignon to do a good job. If you work for tips, you should smile, give good service, and treat your customers like they're eating at The Ritz. Unless they don't serve food at the Ritz. Then forget that analogy.
Anyway, the waitress who served us made about every serving error I can think of. And my sweetheart of a husband still left her a 5-spot. But I thought I'd share my thoughts about waiting tables and losing tips when I'M paying the bill.
If you want a good tip...
10. Don't forget to greet me, ask how I'm doing, and introduce yourself when you come to my table. It's a small thing, but a basic friendly greeting isn't so hard to do. And giving your name so I can call it out later when you are royally screwing up is key too.
9. Keep my drink filled up. I think most people would agree that nothing irritates them more than having an empty drink glass. Whether it's water or pop, just keep it filled. And don't ask me. If you see it's nearly empty, and I'm not walking toward the front door yet, just bring me another drink! As quickly as this will lose you your tip, keeping on top of my drink will increase your tip.
8. Check back on me shortly after the food is delivered. Worse even than having an empty glass is sitting there with a hot steak and no silverware to cut it with, or no steak sauce, or no ranch for your fries, or your side dish being wrong, or your side dish being missing...AND THEN WAITING FOREVER for the server to show up. When I worked at Appleby's, a singular nightmare of a job, one good thing they did right was require a 2 minute check-back on your tables. Within 2 minutes of the food going down, whether you delivered it or someone else did, you checked to see if everything was OK. This is a must.
7. Don't make me look for you. If I need something throughout the meal, I would hope I could catch sight of you within 3-4 minutes. If I don't, I WILL flag down your manager or anther server to go hunt you down, and that will be an automatic tip deduction. (No lie, at dinner the other night, I had to get up FIVE times to go look for something the server should have brought me/the server herself/another person to help me. That server should have owed ME a tip!)
6. As much as this may sound contradictory considering my last two points, you don't need to ask me how everything is EVERY time you pass by. One check back at the beginning, and a few visual check backs, where you look and see if I'm glancing around for someone or not eating, is all you need until the meal looks like it's winding down. I do like my server to be visible and available, but I don't like to stop my conversation every 2 minutes to say, "Yes, everything is STILL fine." You know?
5. When you refill my drink, please bring me a new glass before taking my old one away. It makes me very uneasy when you take the glass I'm currently working on (leaving me with nothing while you're gone) and bring it back to me. How do I know you're not going to accidentally mix it up with a total stranger's while you're in the back??
4. And while I'm on the subject, take my empty glass away. And my empty plates. You should never leave the table side empty-handed. Clear something away with each trip, and when you see that we're done, don't leave the plates to go get the check; take them with you! It's nice to be able to have some clear space in front of you after you eat to lean your elbow on or set your purse on while you look for your money. This is especially true of a buffet style restaurant or one with a refillable salad bar. If I'm going for my second round of food, I better not find my same plate there when I get back.
3. Don't be afraid to apologize. And make things right if things go wrong. I know, as does anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant (or anyone with any common sense), that a lot of the mistakes that take place with food are not the server's fault. If the food is slow, it means the kitchen is backed up. If the steak isn't cooked right, I don't blame the waitress for overcooking it. And if I asked for no sauce but it showed up with sauce, I'll give the benefit of the doubt that she ordered it right but the kitchen screwed it up. But regardless of who is to blame, it's the server's place to apologize and make it right. If it's a minor thing, have it remade. Bring a free app for me to nibble on in the meantime. If it's a big screw up, bring over the manager, have him apologize, and make sure he adjusts the bill. In all my years working in restaurants, I've never once heard a manager say, "I can't believe we had to discount that check." But I've heard many complain about angry customers walking out because they weren't treated right. Comped food is cheap, lost customers cost a lot.
2. Room for Dessert? I may say no, I'm too full, but knowing me I chose your restaurant because of the desserts, not the food. So if you fail to ask me if I'd like to see a dessert menu, you're not only losing out on a potential ticket increase, but potential tip too.
1. Check, please! Other than the frustrations of an empty drink glass or a wrong food order, waiting for your check long after you've finished is up at the top. It's not so hard to print out the check as soon as the customers have started eating so it's ready to give them when they're done.
So those are my restaurant pet peeves. And honestly, avoiding them isn't that hard. Smile, be friendly, communicate about problems, keep up on drinks and dirty plates, and fix things when they go wrong and you should find yourself with a nice big tip at the end of the meal.
Unless you wait tables in Utah. In which case, I'm truly sorry for you.