Going back to school, I just got hired by a casual Greek restaurant to wait tables (after 5 years break from my previous server position.)
Seeing as how most of us dine out more frequently than the average person, I'm wondering if anyone would like to share their thoughts on service from waitstaff- pet peeves, kudos, standards, etc. Just want to refresh myself before walking into a full house... Thanks in advance.
This varies by restaurant, but one of my big pet peeves is when the server drops the check on my table while I'm still having dessert.
If it's a busy night and the restaurant isn't too upscale, I can understand that they need to turn the table over and I can overlook it, but it has happened to us in places where we've spent in the neighborhood of $150 for two people.
To me, that's pretty tacky.
Another pet peeve is servers who insist on offering dessert/coffee while I'm still enjoying my wine. "CAN'T YOU SEE THAT I'M STILL DRINKING MY FREAKIN' WINE?!" I want to cry, but of course, I don't, just cordially but firmly tell them that I'm still drinking my freakin' wine!!!
servers can't assume that everyone is like you because not everyone waits to finish their wine before having dessert/coffee. many people will put their wine glass aside and finish it later, which is why the server will *ask* if you are interested in dessert or coffee at that time. if you are not intersted, all you have to do is tell them is that you would prefer to finish your wine first.
Glad you called it what it is: a pet peeve. There are others in the world (many of them, in fact) who would be upset were they not offered dessert as soon as their plates were cleared. Some even ask about dessert while the server is clearing: "Do you have a dessert menu?" Wine service - the same thing. Some people want you to pour a full glass for them & think you're "new" if you don't (I'm a sommelier, so I most certainly DO know how to pour wine, thank you very much!!); you can never win. Try not to let pet peeves rule your life!
Actually my husband gets real antsy when he has to look for the check afterwards. Maybe because he's a smoker?
When I managed a chain restaurant, servers were instructed to place the check unobtrusively on the table at all times for this reason, they sort of stuck it behind the condiments, your Greek place would probably have similar clientele.
Getting the check while I'm still eating bothers me, but nothing irritates me like having to look out for the server after the meal to get the check. When I'm finished, I'm finished, but I still expect decent service to continue as it had during the meal. Making me wait for 10, 15, 20 minutes after I've finished my meal is a sure way to ruin the experience.
We went to a casual place yesterday and the hubby and kids literally went to the car while I chased down the server.
Let me tell you what...every minute that server was absent, the tip took a hit.
re: Christina D
re: Chorus Girl
>>Getting the check while I'm still eating bothers me, but nothing irritates me like having to look out for the server after the meal to get the check. When I'm finished, I'm finished, but I still expect decent service to continue as it had during the meal. Making me wait for 10, 15, 20 minutes after I've finished my meal is a sure way to ruin the experience.>>
This is the point that really deserves underlining, in my view. It happens so much with service that is otherwise just fine that all I can think is people are not aware of it. On top of everything else, most times one or both of us wants coffee, an after-dinner drink, a dessert or some combination of these. But after waiting 15 minutes, we skip it figuring to avoid yet another wait. We could have spent a lot more money that the server would be getting a tip on.
Try to keep your cool and maintain courtesy when people want to take their bad attitude out on you. In my opinion, that the toughest part of the job. Just because you're working for tips, some jerks feel like they have to make you bleed for it.
Also, always always always maintain communication with your tables. If something goes wrong in the kitchen or there are problems, notify your customers and reassure them that you are working to take care of them. (But don't hover or chatter too much. It's a balancing act.)
Do you read waiterrant.com? In spite of the caustic inner monologue, the guy seems to have a very good tableside manner.
One thing that's always bothered me is waiters who don't make eye contacts. Always make eye contacts with all your tables before you disappear into the kitchen. After you take the order from one table, or after you serve one table, make eye contact with all your other tables.
Yes, this is most important. Don't make your customers holler for you. Always look over your tables, regularly, over and over. Keep those eyes open and watching. That way you can respond to your customers almost instantly and often then the diners will respond favorably at the end of the meal.
And don't expect tipping to be fair. The best service will go unrewarded by tightwads, and some people can't recognize good service.
I recall a list of proven ways to increase your tips, I'll have to try to find it.
The ones I remember are: 1) always sign your name on the check, good to also add "Thanks!" If you're a female, a smiley face was recommended too.
2) kneel by the table to be on the same level, rather than hovering over the guests. On the other hand, I HATE it when a server sits down with the guests, either at my table or someone elses.
I know these sound a little strange, just throwing it out there.
I have to say I totally disagree with these. Maybe in some very casual or family-oriented restaurant, but for a normal or upscale dining experience these seem like juvenile things for a server to do and certainly wouldn't improve the tip I was leaving.
Another pet peeve, though, is when a server takes away one diner's empty plate while others are still eating. Plates should be cleared all at once, as soon as *everyone* is done eating.
I hate the kneeling too; it's annoying.
As for when to clear plates, I think some restaurants have different policies about this.
Parents love it when you acknowledge their kids.
If you're short staffed or having other in-house issues, don't make it the customer's problem. Just apologize for the wait (if there is one) without giving details.
Develop a system to remember who ordered what so you don't have to auction off the plates when delivering them to the table.
If you're slammed and get a new table, take a moment to acknowledge them and say you'll be right back. Nothing, nothing, nothing irks me more than wondering if any server is assigned to my table.
The problem with the plate clearing is that good service dictates that plates not be cleared until everyone is finished. That's so that the slower eaters do not feel rushed. The restaurant I work at, has the policy of not clearing until all are finished, but, you do get guests who think that leaving their empty plate in front of them means you are not doing your job.
Either way... just don't take my plate away before I'm done! If I'm still chewing, I am not done. If there is still food on my plate and I just put my fork down five seconds ago, I am probably not done.
Last time we went out, the waitress came over and said, "All done with that?" My mouth was full and I shook my head no. She reached for the plate and I moved it over. "Oh, sorry," she said, "I thought you said yes." If I can't reply to your question because I'm eating, clearly I am NOT DONE.
Sorry, more of a rant than a tip!
A few thoughts both as a former waitress and a current chowhound:
1. This may not apply so much as you are a male, but don't flirt with the spouse/significant other. I remember watching some of my fellow waitresses flirt as they took orders and then the wives/girlfriends would stew over dinner. The husband/boyfriend didn't think there was anything wrong, but a crossed woman leaves a very poor tip, particularly when she's on a date.
2. If it's REALLY obvious that there's someone at the table who is in charge, defer to that person. If not, treat everybody at the table equally.
3. You are there to wait on people, not be their friends. My pet peeve are servers who tell me about themselves, that they've been there since noon, that they were out late last night, blah, blah, blah. I don't care. Just be a friendly, efficient server and bring me my food.
4. As others have mentioned, don't drop the ball after you've served the food. The worst servers I've had have left me hanging. There's nothing that makes me do a slow burn more than waiting for a check and seeing my server in the corner goofing off, looking out the window, etc. It's the quickest way to lose your tip in my book.
5. Don't be a afraid to apoologize for something that is clearly wrong. I'm willing to overlook a mistake if someone owns up to it and is clearly concerned. If something is significantly wrong or horrible (raw, spoiled, made incorrectly), don't just tell me that you'll let the kitchen know. Take it off my bill.
6. Don't lurk around my table. That's just creepy. Station yourself in a place where you can actively observe without being part of the dining experience.
7. And finally, the rule of thumb the best restaurant I ever worked for was this: If you wouldn't eat it, don't serve it.
"7. And finally, the rule of thumb the best restaurant I ever worked for was this: If you wouldn't eat it, don't serve it."
The best tip I ever left was to a waitress who when I ordered the swordfish said quietly, "our fish is frozen. We do many dishes that are much better. I think you would be disappointed". She then made a few rec's and I had a great meal.
Yep, I did that more than once during my tenure.
The one restaurant I worked at went from really good to only so-so. On the downward slope, management decided to run cheap, nightly specials to coax in senior diners. One of the specials was chicken stir fry, which was very odd since we were a continental dining place (think steak, chops and chicken breasts on pasta).
It wasn't a terrible dish, but not what people were expecting. The ingredient list included chopped red cabbage, cut up baby corn and whatever other vegetables they had readily available in the kitchen. It was cooked in a sauce with a base of pineapple juice. It was served on a faux Rice a Roni rice, cooked with chicken boullion and spices I would never associate with stir fry.
Now that I think about it, it just sounds gross all around. It was a very peculiar dish with a very high profit margin. It looked terrible, even in the dim dining room.
After watching plate after plate end up in the tubs virtually uneaten, when someone would order it, I would quietly and very covertly suggest that there were other things on the menu - and in that price range - that they would probably enjoy more. Most people got the hint and I always ended up with a pretty good tip, even from the seniors (notoriously tight with the tips).
If I sense that a server hesitates when I order something, I don't ask if it is any good. I will stop and say, "Yes or No: If you were sitting here, would YOU order it?" You tend to get a very honest answer without making the server feel awkward.
Here are some waiter/ess cliches that I'm finding tiresome but are still happening. Since you asked I know you won't do them ;)
I'm still enjoying my dinner but take a brief pause and waiter asks: "Still working on that?"
I pay my bill and waitress doesn't look at the amount given but asks "Want change?" or even worse doesn't bring change back and I have to hunt her down. Hey, don't assume that I tipped you that whole amount cuz the total bill was $22 and I gave you a $50 bill.
Don't constantly interrupt a conversation at the table to ask if everything is all right or to recite a laundry list of 20 specials. Try to wait for a better time if possible unless the restaurant is very busy and you have no choice.
Don't get familiar with your customers and call them 'guys' - I know it's done but lots of people don't appreciate it. I heard a waitress do this the other day at a restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan and the couple were in their mid-70s. They looked befuddled and amused. She continually called them 'guys' and they graciously said nothing. Don't get familiar - you don't have to be obsequious either but save 'guys' for your buds.
This is just a personal quirk of mine but say "you're welcome" or "my pleasure" when someone thanks you instead of "no problem." I promise you - you'll get a better tip!
"Don't constantly interrupt a conversation at the table to ask if everything is all right or to recite a laundry list of 20 specials. Try to wait for a better time if possible unless the restaurant is very busy and you have no choice."
One of my pet peeves about fellow diners is when they have a long, enthusiastic conversation that prevents the waiter from taking our order. So I welcome waiters who cut in at that stage.
Most of these tips are great--although I did sign "Thanks! Katherine" on my checks at both casual restaurants I've worked at recently (one very small and personable, the other trying to be Bennigan's--ugh), I don't agree that it's always a good idea (and certainly not the smiley face) and I hate the kneeling thing.
I would add as a tip for your sanity that you might like to almost meditate through a very busy shift. "I am the eye of the hurricane. No matter what you say or do to me, I will remain calm." etc. I found, as a mildly neurotic bartender, that it really helped. Have a mantra, and repeat it in your head while you do your job as systematically and well as you possibly can in those impossible-seeming situations.
WAYS TO GET A REALLY GENEROUS TIP WHEN I AM YOUR DINER
1. Don't auction off the food. ("Who had the salmon en croute?")
2. Bring me an iced tea spoon with my iced tea and a coffee spoon with my coffee.
3. Don't kneel next to me, it makes me feel like I'm five years old and about to order chicken nuggets.
4. KNOW YOUR MENU. When I ask questions about the food, help me understand, and when I ask for recommendations, don't tell me the only thing you've tried is the hamburger. Yes, I know waiters eat staff dinners; that doesn't mean you shouldn't have tried a decent number of the dishes on the menu. My wife is allergic to bleu cheese; you ought to know if bleu cheese goes in anything on the menu.
5. Similarly, if you have a wine list that goes beyond Corbett Canyon and Beringer (or "red", "white", "champagne" and "rose"), either know your wines or have someone who does.
6. Don't try to upsell me. ("Would you prefer clean, bottled French water?" "No, I'll take it out of the spicket please.")
7. I'm not like most diners, I don't need to be babysat while I eat, but walk by now and then and look for a signal if I need you (a head nod, a slight hand gesture). You need to be at least nearby. Nothing will make me angrier than having to get up, go into the kitchen, and find the waitstaff, but I will, and the manager will hear about it.
8. Don't ask me if I'm still "working on" my food. No, I'm not working on it, it's already done, but I am still eating it. Worse yet, don't take my plate when I'm not done... my grandmother once smacked a busboy on the back of the hand with her spoon when he tried to take her soup plate before she was done.
9. When I pay cash, don't ask if I want change, assume I do and if I didn't I'll either tell you or leave the change for you.
10. Be enthusiastic about the food -- if something is exceptionally good that day, tell me and I'll probably order it. I know that waiting tables is a hard job -- I used to do it -- and there are days when it's hard to be enthusiastic about anything, but if you had to pick one thing, be enthusiastic about the food.
Now, some pointers for diners:
1. If you're given a discount or a comped item, tip as though you weren't. If you ate $25 worth of food and had a $10 certificate or something, you should still tip 15-20% of $25.
2. Waitstaff will remember you. If you intend to come back, don't be cheap, especially the first few times.
3. It's fine to ask the kitchen for special requests, but remember it when it's tip time.
4. Waitstaff are not androids; they are not computers; they have feelings; do not abuse them.
5. If you need something, ask. Yes, the waitstaff should be nearby, but if it's not immediately obvious (need another napkin, want a bit of sea salt for your food, whatever) you should motion for the waitperson.
6. If you're not happy with the service, tell your waitperson. If you still have no satisfaction, talk to the manager. And if you're still unhappy, vote with your feet -- don't eat there anymore.
7. For the love of $DEITY, control your children. Kids are noisier than adults, certainly, and that's expected, but there's no reason for your children to be running amok through the restaurant. If they can't sit in the chair for an hour, you need to consider other dining alternatives.
8. This is not Europe. Service is not included. The tip is not "optional", to be doled out in 10 percents and 12 percents. Normal, friendly, reasonable service should be tipped at 15%.
9. Did you have a drink at the bar before being seated? Don't forget to tip the barkeep.
10. Don't be overly picky. Of course you should be discriminating, and if you ordered a salad with house dressing and it came with ranch, you should bring it to the waitstaff's attention -- but sending dishes back because you don't like the black sesame seeds, or because you changed your mind, or because now you're full and you don't want dessert, is not fair to the waitstaff. Regardless of what you think , chefs are often temperamental and your refusing a dish is very hard on the waitstaff.
11. I can't stress this one enough -- know when to say when. The nicest people can become a waiter's nightmare after three martinis. People do and say things drunk they'd never do and say sober. And if you have overimbibed, it's OK to ask the waitperson or host/ess to call you a cab.
re: Das Ubergeek
Excellent post. But:
"Yes, I know waiters eat staff dinners; that doesn't mean you shouldn't have tried a decent number of the dishes on the menu."
Nice ideal, but not really under the server's control. Unfortunately, some chefs & bosses Do. Not. Give. A. Hoot. if the servers actually know anything about the non-staff-sludge food they are serving. It's a crying shame.
I haven't eaten weiner schnitzel since the hole-in-the-wall, Hungarian restaurant I worked at for two weeks 10 years ago insisted I try every variation on the menu. The owners (a Korean lady and her Iranian husband) were in the process of selling it to an Indian couple, but they cared enough about the Hungarian food their Bengali chefs were making to make sure I knew what I was talking about.
I've also heard of staff having a staff meal amount deducted from each pay - even if they weren't able to eat it because they couldn't show up at the appointed (unpaid of course) time before dinner shift due to a school conflict.
re: Das Ubergeek
The Grubman (the bank & therefore the tipper) can offer these tips on increasing your tips:
* learn & follow all of the restos basic procedures & adhere to the basic principles of Serving 101
* be respectfully conversational w your customers, like you would talk w your favorite Uncle Harry who you see a few times a year. If you wouldnt introduce yourself to Uncle Harry, dont introduce yourself to your customers. If you wouldnt call Uncle Harry & Aunt Harriet you guys, dont call your customers you guys. [Mrs Grub, for one, is ok w being a folk, but bristles at being called a guy.] A caveat: even tho Uncle Harry may be interested in your dog children body parts collection trip to Branson your customers are NOT.
* At the finish, we count. Get the end of the meal right thats when we fill in the tip line. Dont make us wait! By meals end the ol' Grubbutt is already halfway out the door. But dont bums rush us either. Clearing plates before someone at the table is finished embarrasses both those cleared & those still eating. You lose. If you are slammed, you may get away w some mid-meal slips in service, but if you can get the end right, you win.
re: Mr Grub
You know, it's really funny; I definitely agree that plates shouldn't be cleared until everyone at the table has finished eating, but I've had weird bosses who vehemently insist upon clearing plates immediately. What gives? It seems like politeness would rule definitively on the one side...
re: Mr Grub
I thought I was the only one that ground their teeth at being referred to as "you guys" by servers. Once we had a young lady that went even further by calling my husband and I "yous guys" several times during the meal. And this was at a higher end establishment. Ruffles the feathers indeed.
some tips from being on both ends of the equation:
if you don't bring out the food, stop by after a couple of minutes to see if everything is okay. make sure all items that were requested were brought to the table.
don't ask how the food is before they've even started eating.
stop by a couple of times during the meal. just because someone didn't want another drink when the food was served doesn't mean they don't want another one before they've finished eating.
don't kneel, sit, or write your name upside down, unless absolutely forced to by management.
if a sandwich doesn't come with condiments already on it, offer them at the time the order is taken.
I read a survey somewhere--and completely agree--that said the two most important things to diners are getting their initial drinks and their check in a timely fashion.
We all understand a slammed night where food might not come out quickly or an order got put in wrong or whatever. But I'm going to be *much* happier if I have a drink in my hand--even if I've just ordered water--and can get out of there when I'm done.
Finesse on everything else is, of course, also important, but if you hit these two marks, other things could be more easily forgiven.
An earlier post stated:
"Most people got the hint and I always ended up with a pretty good tip, even from the seniors (notoriously tight with the tips".
Perhaps the reason why we are notoriously tight with our tips (my wife and I are seniors who eat out on a daily basis) find the servers are either demeaning as in "Hi, honey and sweety" (a southern thing?) or like many other posters who are complaining as to waiters kneeling or actually sitting and rubbing up next to you, not coming back to refill drinks, not knowing who ordered what and for me, waiting forever to get the check.
Actually, the reason why many of our seniors were "tight with the tips" was that they were on fixed incomes (many of them lived in the income-qualified senior housing a few blocks away), a fact that we all knew. The weeks they got their checks, we were busier.
I think it had very little to do with patronizing or inappropriate service.
Amen. Young waitstaff typically behave as if customers over sixty are a combination of cute and stupid. Sometimes staffers are just plain rude: a hostess at Cheesecake Factory greeted us (my husband uses an electric scooter) with this line, directed to me: "Can't he get off of that thing?". But the worst is the patronizing attitude. Do not address us with endearments: you are not a member of our family, and if you were, we'd kick your ass.
Drinks are important, whether a martini or a coke. Ask for an initial beverage order and deliver it as quickly as possible. Then ask the customer if they'd like refills throughout the meal.
If a customer asks for water, please make sure that you check for refills there as well. Sometime the kitchen can be slow for food, we all understand that. But when you're sitting at a table and all the glasses are empty and there is nothing to eat, that gets really dreadful.
Don't run through the specials until the drinks are delivered and you think the customer has had a chance to glance at the menu.
Don't ask if they want a refill, just bring it. And if you notice that they are going through refillable drinks at an astonishing rate, by all means bring a second one. On a hot day I drink water like it's going out of style, and the few times that I've been brought a second glass, I have been quite pleased. Then there was the waitress who brought out a pitcher with a straw in it... I was laughing over that for at least 10 minutes. IIRC, I went through two or three of them (115 degrees and I was working outside at the time!), so it was very worth her while in the end.
Here is a long list of suggestions from a former restaurant manager:
1) Greet each table with a friendly attitude and a smile. That goes a long way. NO need to introduce yourself right away, unless you are forced to by management. If you must, mention your name after the food has arrived "My name is Ed if you need anything"
2) Don't stand around talking to your coworkers. find something to do. Don't congregate doing sidework and talking loudly about your personal life anywhere you can be seen or heard by a guest.
3) Don't eat or drink within the guests line of sight.
4) Your table/Station is your responsibility. Make sure that the table, chairs, booths, table cloth, napkins, flatware, glassware, salt/pepper shakers, condiment bottles and sweetner containers are spotless. Nothing quite kills my appetite more than a dirty fork, a crusty ketchup bottle, a greasy half filled salt shaker or a crumb infested sugar caddy. And I hate to navigate a cherrios mine field left by that 2 year old.
5) Listen to what the guest says. If I tell you I need a few more minutes to look at the menu, please give it to me. Don't come back for a few minutes, but keep your eyes open in case the guest is ready faster. If I feel rushed - that's a problem.
6) If you are busy, and can't get to the table in under 2 minutes, stop at the table for a quick second to acknowledge the guest - please try to see to it that the guest has bread (if that is your custom) and water. having something to munch makes the time go faster.
7) Know your menu and ingredients. Don't pretend that you know the answer to a question if you don't!
It's better to ask the question and I'll wait for the answer.
8) Do your best to not auction off the food. Number your guests clockwise from left to right so that you know number 3 gets the linguini.
9) don't over fill wine glasses. Just slightly over one third full is full enough. Don't assume that I want an ice bucket for that very cold Chardonnay.
10) Don't stack plates on the table.
11) When leaving the dining area for any reason, take a quick look around to see if your guests need anything. I hate it when the waiter never looks up, and this seems to happen when I'm trying to get their attention.
12) Asking "How is everything" is fine, however your timing has to be perfect. Don't wait until everyone has a mouth full of food and is left to nod to you.
13) When you do ask if the guest is enjoying their meal, pay attention to the table and their body language. They may say everything is fine, but their
plate may be untouched. If you sense something may be wrong, tell the manager and ask them to intervene.
A previous post told of plates of food untouched in the bus tub. Clearly someone was not paying attention!
14) Try not to throw empty plates, flatware, etc. into the bus tubs. That just makes unnecessary noise.
15) When bringing the check, please say thank you to the guest, along with a sincere "Please come again" or something along those lines. Don't drop the check and run.
16) Try to anticipate the guests needs. If they order a cheeseburger, then you can anticipate that they may need ketchup, mustard, etc.
17) Look at the restaurant from the guests point of view. Sit in your station so that you can see what the guest sees.
18) Make sure that the tables and chairs are stable, and not "wobbly". Nothing worse!
19) Treat the guest as you would want to be treated. Don't become too familiar or overly friendly.
20) Use a pen and pad of paper - write it down if you think that you might forget anything requested by the guest by the time you get to the computer. I hate it when the server comes back and asks "You wanted that steak black and blue, right?", when I ordered it medium.
21) this may be picky but - Get your tip money off the table before the next guest is seated! My own pet peeve.
22) Notice how I call the restaurant patrons
"Guests" not Customers?
23) Bring the food out from the kitchen fast and the drinks faster.
24) If your restaurant has special events, mention that to your guests.
re: Hungry Girl
re: Hungry Girl
A very good post... sounds like the rules at Disneyland, actually, especially the bit about no personal conversations and no eating and drinking in front of guests. I would add one caveat for the guests, too, this being a two-way street.
"8) Do your best to not auction off the food. Number your guests clockwise from left to right so that you know number 3 gets the linguini."
And guests, do your musical-chairs number before placing your order; staying in your seats rather than moving about makes the auctioning off of the food less likely. I hated when I got a 10- or 12-top because they're guaranteed to move round and make service nearly impossible.
Here's one I haven't seen mentioned...either give the check to the person who asks for it or leave it in a neutral position on the table. If you're serving a couple, do not assume that the man will be paying, particularly if the woman seems to be the host. I've had this happen numerous times where I ask for the check - it is given to the man. I put my credit card in the folder and leave it next to my place setting - and the waiter returns it to the man for signature.
This is grounds for an automatic deduction from the tip when I'm the one paying.
Everyone has made really good points. I'm serving my way through college/law school, so here are some of my own tips.
-As stated, never call people "guys" if it's a table of all one sex, I say Gentlemen, or ladies. But I never say "ladies and gentleman." -Just sounds like I'm about to do a magic act. On that note, don't use slang. Say "thank you" not thanks, "cool," etc.
-Do not over explain things. You don't need to tell the guests that their ticket was lost and their food is taking forever. Apologize for the delay, see if there is anything you can get for them, and assure them it will be out shortly. No one wants to hear that the chef is new, you're almost off, or someone is going on break, etc.
-Do not keep asking your table how they are doing. You need to be as unobtrusive as possible. Walk by your tables as often as possible, making eye contact and scanning the tables for refills or empty dishes you can clear. After the meal is served, wait until you can see they have taken a bite or two, and then ask how they are. After that, don't keep interrupting their reading or conversation to ask. If they need something, they will look up and meet your eye. Then, of course, ask again when it's time to clear the dishes, bring dessert, the wine has run out, etc. My goal is to anticipate their needs. If I take your fork away because you used it on the appetizer, I need to bring a new one before you realize your fork is gone. I don't ever want my guests to ask me to refill their coke or iced tea. I should bring another without being asked. (We don't charge for these things, but if we did, I'd ask.)
-Never comment on someone's eating habits. Don't say they are a light eater, big eater, etc.
-If you have a table that wont stop talking to look at the menu, don't keep asking if they're ready yet. After the second time they say they need more time, just ask them to place their menus to the side of the table so you don't interrupt them. I've found that people always respond well to that. They don't want to feel rushed. And if you're waiting on a group that keeps talking (business people, especially) when you approach their table, wait until they stop talking... try not to interrupt.
-And remember, bad tippers are bad tippers. Most times, you will know if you did something wrong. If you forgot to get a guest's request, or you were in the weeds and couldn't keep up with your tables, etc. But, sometimes you'll do everything right, go above and beyond, and still get 10%. Don't take it personally. Just do your absolute best and at the very least, you'll know it wasn't you.
For the guests:
-When I say I'll be back with your change, please tell me if I needn't bother bringing any. Some places (like where I work) we don't keep registers. So, I'll have to dig around in my purse for 35 cents or get the bartender to break your $20. All too often I've spent five minutes getting change for them to leave it on the table. I don't mind getting change, but if I don't need to, I appreciate the heads up.
-Please don't talk to me like I'm stupid. Don't assume we're too dumb to hold "real" jobs, so we wait tables. Most of the people I work with are grad students who simply need the flexibility and the good money that waiting tables allows.
-This may be slightly controversial, but most servers "own" their tables. Where I work, we get a 3 table section. It's smaller than many restaurants because they want us to give our guests the best service possible. So, if you sit in my table for 2 hours after your meal is done, that is costing me quite a lot of money. Only once have I been tipped extra for the party holding my table for so long. Nothing is more frustrating than a waiting room full of hungry people, and having guests just linger. Now, if the restaurant is empty, please sit as long as you'd like.
-Don't penalize your server because your steak wasn't cooked properly. If you think that your server took your order wrong, that's another thing... but it isn't fair to hold us responsible for the grill-man. This is especially true if your server does their best to rectify the problem.
-Don't penalize your server if we do clear your dining companions plate before you're done (of course, we should ask first, not just grab.) Or the check is dropped during dessert. I work at an upscale restaurant (not fancy) and these two things are what we are told to do. I know, that fine dining rules say otherwise... but it's managements policy. If your server is doing a great job otherwise, don't be irked if something small like this happens. It's often the restaurant policy, not ours.
And with that long list, I'm done!
re: Azizeh Barjesteh
Dropping the check during dessert is inappropriate,especially if you are serving at an upscale restaurant. I wouldn't penalize, but I would feel rushed and therefore irked. And I must say, I've NEVER spoken to a server as though they were "stupid", but I definitely have been on the receiving end. I think some waiters are fast to let customers know that serving isn't their career goal.
re: Azizeh Barjesteh
Great perspective from the server's point of view. It has been almost 20 years since Iast waited tables, however I still remember that serving is by no means an easy job and certainly deserves a break from overbearing customers. There are a few things that waiters have started doing lately that I could do without, none of which should make the server's task any more daunting.
Please do not introduce yourself - The best service is that which is unobtrusive, helpful and largely unnoticed. If I'm out with friends, I'm there for conversation, good food and good wine. If I have to think about the service or if the service keeps breaking the flow of conversation, the service is interfering with frivolity. I find the introduction to be awkward and intrusive. Besides, I'm not sure what to do with your first name anyway. Yell it out when I want more wine? Bob!!!!! More wine Bob!!!!!! You there, tell Bob we want more wine!!!! Or are we acquaintances now? So, Bob, how's the soup today, Bob? Got anymore veal chops Bob?
Please avoid "enjoy" and "we" in your vocabulary. Unless I've invited you to sit and nibble on my risotto, "we" aren't enjoying anything.
I concur with the other posters about not having the check dropped until we are finished - with everything. I would much prefer it if waiters would adopt the French custom of not bringing it until asked, but that's probably not realistic in the US.
Don't lie or try to fake an answer. I once heard a waiter assure a young lady that the filet was dry aged.
Only a couple things:
If I'm drinking water, ice tea or coffee, I want it kept full. I don't want to have to ask for more. I REALLY don't want to have to sit there dying of thirst waiting until my server presents him/herself and either notices my glass is empty or asks if I want more. (If I'm having a beer or a soda, I'm happy to ask for a refill.)
Another thing: I don't need to know if you've had a long day, a hard day, if you didn't really feel like coming to work today, etc. Now, if you're really having a crisis, given that it's my job, and you want to take a break and visit for a few minutes, or drop by my office when you get off work, that's another matter. But I don't want to hear it if you'd just rather be home with your feet up. Quite likely I would, too. If it was easy they wouldn't call it "work."