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As Requested....From a Waiter's Perspective...

  • d

1.) If you’re really unhappy with the table you’re being seated at that’s one thing. If you simply feel like choosing whichever table you’d like the most that’s quite another. There’s a fair amount of planning that goes into making the night run smoothly and by demanding a certain table (thereby potentially sticking a server with more than he/she can handle at that time) you’re slowing it all down.
2.) When I come over to offer you bottled or tap water please don’t blurt out “Vodka Tonic” or whatever it is you’d like to drink. I asked you a question, please answer it and then we’ll move on to cocktails.
3.) The eye contact thing goes both ways. If you’re looking into your menu and muttering your order a.) I can’t hear you and b) I’m a human being.
4.) If you’re in a party greater than two and you’re ready to order, the other people at your table may not be. It reeeaaally hurts to have to stand there waiting for everyone to read the menu while I can see the rest of my station going down in flames behind me.
5.) Please read the wine list. We have certain beers and certain wines. Neglecting to read the list under the assumption that we have Amstel Light or Pinot Grigio just puts me in the same situation as #4
6.) Again, eye contact is an amazing thing. I am constantly surveying the room so if you simply make eye contact with me, I’ll know that you want something. However, if you’re deeply engrossed in a conversation for 20 minutes I’m not going to come over and interrupt you so don’t wave wildly at me when you finally surface for air and want to order. I wish that I could always be there at the exact moment that you want something but it’s not always possible. I do not, however, leave the floor for more than 30 seconds during service so, I can assure you that I will be with you as soon as physically possible.
7.) Please bring something along to occupy your kids. And if they can’t sit relatively quietly in their seat at a table for more than the amount of time it takes you to eat a meal then they’re not ready to be at a restaurant.
8.) If I’ve given you a check presenter (those little black books) and you’ve put either cash or a credit card inside, make sure it’s sticking out a little bit so that I can be sure it’s there. It’s really uncomfortable for everyone if I pick it up with nothing inside...I feel like I’m rushing you/you feel rushed.
9.) I have never understood what compels people to do this but if I’m at another table I am clearly occupied which means you cannot tap me on the shoulder or say “excuse me” or use any other means of getting my attention at that particular moment.
10.) If there is no one left in the restaurant it is time for you to leave as well. I have actually been asked the question, “Am I holding you up?”. Do you know how much strength it takes for me to lie in that situation? Common courtesy goes a looooong way.

So I suppose that's my top ten. Most of them would actually increase the efficiency of service and some are just gripes.

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  1. Thanks for your post, Davis.

    I saw myself in #6.

    1. You come across as a very professional waiter who would make my dining experience a good one!

      (I suspect you are unlikely to be so engrossed in your own private conversation during service that I couldn't get your attention without whomping a body part.)

        1. I read the top 10 and feel for you. My father-in-law epitomizes the worst in all of them. I actually started having a visceral reaction as I read your list.
          It is so embarassing to go out to dinner with him (he always treats, though, so what can you do), and my husband and I always feel like apologizing to the waiter at the end. We try to minimize issues by intervening and letting the waiter know that, actually, we are not all ready to order.
          Does it help in the slightest to have a few members of the party apologize and show empathy?

          6 Replies
          1. re: ScarletB

            Of course it does. It can actually become kind of charmingly crazy as long as the rest of the members of the party are indeed empathetic and make sure that an appropriate tip is left behind.

            1. re: Davis

              Oh Thank God! Because my dad calls every server "Buddy" and I find that rude. He's also a tapper/grabber (lightly).But, I always try to give looks of apology in attempts to compensate. At least he's a really nice guy, a little bit of "good ol' boy" but he means well.

              And my MIL is the crazy one who can NEVER decide what she wants to order. She always wants to be last, asks a million questions about every dish, hems and haws and then, generally, still is not happy with her selection. It's painful to partake in.

              As for #1, if I have a preference in seating, I ask, "May we sit ________?" An easy way to figure it out and it pretty much always comes with an explanation if we can't, for example, that section's server is at capacity, or that section is closed, reserved, etc.

              I think that I may do #2, I'm not sure. I always get water, but I may say, "I'll have water with no ice and may I have a glass of the chardonnay, also." Do you find that innappropriate? I just figure that it's an extra trip if you bring me my glass of water and then have to go back to the bar to get the drinks.

              In defense of ordering beer/wine. I find it increasingly common that the beer/wine list is "hidden" or on a separate card that I may have not noticed. Perhaps, the host(ess) should point it out more prominently. Not your fault.

              Thank you, thank you, thank you for #6. I always find it awkward when the server arrives at the table when I'm in the middle of a conversation. The server has the choices to 1) interrupt or 2) wait until there's a natural break in the conversation/anecdote. It can be uncomfortable either way.

              Thanks so much Davis! I can imagine that it would be a pleasure to dine with you as our server.

              1. re: geg5150

                Actually, in reference to #2, that's very thoughtful of you. I just get annoyed when I'm saying "good everning, would you prefer bottled water or ice water?" and the guest shouts their cocktail order at me as if I were a drive thru window. Because then I just have to repeat my initial question...I don't know, it just sets me off.

                1. re: Davis

                  Or when you say, "hello how are you tonight?"

                  And invariably someone says, "gimme a ______ !"

                  I once served a nationally known advice/etiquette columnist, and that's how her party ordered.

                    1. re: budlit

                      You know, I say please and thank you or some facsimile thereof and it works...

                      But when said person comes in and doesn't do that...what are we supposed to believe?

          2. How nice. I am glad of your instructions, and only plead guilty on sometimes not putting my credit card sticking out a little so you can see it (I will remember in future). You remind me of how pleasant and civilized good service can be, and that common sense and common courtesy are still valued in many circles.

            1. Yo, Buddy!! (teehee) You probably aren't going to get 150 replies on this, but I bet you'll get a lot of lurkers!

              1. About #10:

                Why are you lying in response? I just can't see asking that question if I wasn't prepared for an honest reply.

                I guess this comes from the fact that my friends and I often go out to couple of places that are resto./pubs. They are more restaurant than pub (in terms of what brings them business), but they keep serving alcohol after their kitchen closes. Often we are the last people there. In the winter that can happen at 10 pm when I know they are usually open until much later than that (at least until midnight). However, they don't have posted hours and sometimes they close up at 12 and sometimes at 1am. If we ask that question, we really are asking it and do leave if the answer is affirmative. But, most of the time the answer is: "We'll be open until XXX anyways, don't worry until then".

                But, I have also asked simlar questions in other restaurants. It is also not always clear (or I didn't pay attention to the hours when I alked in) if a place closes down between lunch and dinner and whether that means we shouldn't sit over coffee. Two places we're regulars at will certainly let you sit for that period, the kitchen just closes. They still serve drinks, and they seat people for coffee and desserts during this time. However, another place actually wants you out because its when they vacuum and clean the tables. If it was my first time at one of these place I might honestly ask the question and want an honest answer.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Atahualpa

                  I work in a restaurant that is a more casual sister to a very popular, groundbreaking, recognized restaurant with a big name chef plus my manager always seems to be within earshot when a question like that is asked...hence the lying. I suppose it's just not professional...one of those "the customer is always right" deals. But, as I don't just continue standing there after the last customer has left, of course I'm being held up!

                  1. re: Atahualpa

                    A little common sense comes in to play here. No one else left.. Time for you to go. No matter how much of a regular you are, people are grumbling and rolling their eyes at one another in the back of the house because of you. In most places the end of the night side work can't be done politely until everyone is gone.

                    I have had to stick around hours past restaurant closing "just incase" they want something ELSE. You wouldn't be allowed to do this in most other establishments, the bank, the cleaners, the grocery store so just because you're mukking it up w/ friends doesnt mean you should do it there.

                    1. re: andlulu

                      I was just at a wonderful sushi restaurant Saturday night. Everyone left except my husband and myself. We said to the chef (he and his wife run the place without help) that we would settle up and get out. They immediately said "no, no, we have two to three hours of cleaning to do, don't worry." Then he gave us a plate of monkfish liver sushi and a small hot sake, and proceeded to thank us for being so patient when we come in. Since I work in the industry I understand the limitations of two people running a restaurant, so when we go there I relax and let him get to us when he can. It's amazing the people who come to this restaurant and get pissy because it's not fast enough for them. Yet, they serve the best sushi and their prices are the cheapest I've seen.
                      Regardless, as soon as we ate and left our 28% tip we left.

                      1. re: Missmoo

                        Much different, and since you're in the industry I'm sure you were very pleasent and I can see you left a nice tip. There's a big difference between you.. and other people.

                  2. I have a few to add...

                    Don't ask me what my "real" job is. I'm not a college student pulling in beer money.

                    Don't tell me you're allergic to something if you're not. We take allergies VERY seriously. If you don't like lettuce, simply tell me you'd rather not have lettuce. Don't tell me you're "allergic" to it.

                    Also, if at all possible, try to avoid the extremely vague "what should I order?"

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Kbee

                      In response to "What should I order." I'm not that vague. But, I do like pretty much everything and I want to know what's great at your place.

                      I will often ask, "What's your favorite thing on the menu?" or "I'm thinking either the veal or the snapper? Is one a stand out item?" If there is something on the menu, I might say, "I'm not a big fan of ________, so aside from that, do you have any suggestions?"

                      I've gotten some great recs that way. I love when the server tells me, "You know, that's not the strongest item on our menu, perhaps you should go with __________." Or, "I love the ___________."

                      You completely lose me if you automatically suggest the most expensive thing on the menu.

                      Any thoughts on that, Davis? Or anyone else for that matter?

                      I just figure that you know the food at your place and I want to know what you think, like, recommend, etc.

                      1. re: geg5150

                        Not saying this is you, 5150, but plenty of people would be complaining "The waiter told me I would love this dish. It's his fav-or-ite. And I didn't like it at all. So I shouldn't have to Pay."

                        1. re: yayadave

                          I ask the opinion of the waiter all the time but in the end I decide what to order and I take the risk of liking it or not. It's happened only twice in 25 years and bot times I ate it feebly adn told my DW at the end that I would never order that again.

                          1. re: yayadave

                            Plenty of people do that in general, and I think it's the biggest BS ever - I use to work at a wine/martini bar and people would constantly order our wild martinis and then.. "This is too strong.. I don't like it.. waah.." and it would be taken off of my check. You ORDER, you pay. Unles there is something wrong w/ it, it's not right. I've never had the stones to do that anywhere, and theres been plenty of things I ordered and didnt exactly like, but thats too bad, I decided to order it, so..

                          2. re: geg5150

                            geg5150. If you're as direct as "should I get the __ or the __ --I'll gladly tell you -- as I said, just don't ask the vague "what should I get?,

                            ...and, what if the (suppose) best thing on the menu also happens to be one of the most expensive... does that void my suggestion?

                            1. re: Kbee

                              Well, not necessarily. But maybe it requires a disclaimer from the server, "Well, I realize that the __________ is one of the more pricey items on the menu, but it's fabulous and well worth it." And then maybe give a lower priced option too.

                              I guess it depends on how the server presents it.

                            2. re: geg5150

                              Yes, recommending the most expensive menu item can be a real piss off. However, it is also my experience that. at places with wide ranging menus and a moderate price point, the cheapest dishes (usually pasta) will have the biggest profit margins and the steak/lobster dishes, with much higher food costs, and much higher prices, are much less profitable.

                              My pet peeves about recommendations are when I'm told "everything is good" or when, whatever is chosen, I'm congratulated on the wisdom of my choice.

                              1. re: embee

                                Heh, give it a shot. If the waiter says everything is good, he's been "sized up" as a middle of the roader and will probably deliver middle of the road service. Not a risk taker but probably won't spill any food on you either.

                                1. re: embee

                                  When a Server says "everything is good", I immediately distrust anything he/she says from that point on.

                                2. re: geg5150

                                  I tend to ask what the restaurant's signature dish(es) is in lieu of the far-too-vague "what should I get" inquiry.

                                3. re: Kbee

                                  I second the annoyance at the "What is your real job" question. God, that pisses me off. This is my real job and I love what I do and I'm damn good at it. I also make more than most teachers and I have health insurance and no, I don't plan on getting a "real" job in the future.

                                4. Thanks Davis, great perspective and I appreciate your response to my request. A couple of agreements, disagreements and questions so I can help from the customer’s end:

                                  1 – If I walk into a resto, I see a slew of both good tables and bad. The goods are quiet, at the window, etc., while the bads are next to the wait station, bathroom or near the kitchen. More often than not the hostess brings us to one of the bads. I understand the reason that someone needs to sit there and staging and timing, but I think I can nicely and politely ask her for a “better” table. If that is a problem for the staff, I expect the hostess and waiter to tell the manager and the manager to redistribute the load. This should not be my issue.
                                  2 – Good point. I was always under the assumption that all liquids, whether alcoholic or soda/water should be ordered simultaneously. Although I do not understand the difference I will try to answer the exact question to help out.
                                  3 – Being deaf in one ear you are preaching to the choir. Try listening to specials with all that ambient noise. Boy would I love a copy of that little piece of paper with the crib notes on the specials.
                                  4 – Totally with you. I’ve lost a centimeter of enamel on my teeth from grinding during the order process. Except for some last minute questions to the waiter I wish my fellow diners would get on with it.
                                  5 – Do not drink. I always hand the list to someone else. Seems to drive them crazy after they peruse and discuss to find out its out of stock. In that case the resto is at fault for the delay.
                                  6 – In fairness sometimes you loose track of time if heavily engrossed in conversation. Sometime someone will say, OMG we’ve been chatting so we better hurry up and order. I’ll try to flag the waiter so we can get on with the meal and help in the table turn. We are actually trying to help the situation in the waving
                                  7 – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN EVERYONE READ THIS ONE PLEASE!!!!! Oh and if you bring the little monsters, please make sure that the items entertaining them are not (a) throwing food at others, (b) proving the theory of gravity by seeing how much food they can move from the table to the floor, (c) have your kids play on the floor in between tables, (d) try out for the drummer in a heavy metal band with the utensils on the table, etc.
                                  8 – Great idea. I do my best and agree fully even to the point of facing the side with the cards sticking out so it is easily seen by the waiter
                                  9 – I agree to NEVER TOUCH, and never interrupt. If the waiter has a table as described in Number 4 above and is scanning the room, I try to make eye contact for him to put me on the list when he has a chance
                                  10 – This theory means everyone leaves together. Someone had to be last. If you are last, have completed your dessert and coffee and have settled the bill, it is probably time to leave unless the resto has a closing time of 12 and it’s only 11. Not my fault the night wasn’t a full one at the resto. Asking the questions you describe does cross the line

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Ditto ! Ditto !

                                    #7 is probably my strongest pet peeve, I worked in a 'kid-friendly' restaurant for some time and I was appauled at the food wasted, the running around, the car seats/strollers put in the middle of walking paths, the yelling, screaming, breaking things nonsense!

                                    Get a nanny already.

                                  2. As a former Server, I agree with everything you describe.

                                    When I owned my own business, I mentioned to another business owner that running a business was like "managing your station". They didn't relate...

                                    (It would be fun to create a list of what Servers do that drive me crazy!)

                                    1. 11.) don't ask "is that going to be enough food for me?". i have no idea who you are or what your appetite is like so don't make me guess what "enough" means to you.

                                      12.) when i initially approach the table to greet you don't make eye contact with me then continue on with your conversation with the rest of the table. you have acknowledged my existence, but have chosen to ignore me, leaving me standing there uncomfortably. if you want me to wait on you, then let me. if you want me to come back in a couple of minutes so you can finish your conversation, tell me.

                                      13.) if you are unhappy with something, please tell either myself or a manager so that we can do something to rectify the situation. don't tell me everything is great and then leave a laundry list of complaints on the comment card or go home and tell the world about your horrible experience on the internet.

                                      14.) don't look at the menu as if it were an open list of substitutions. meaning, don't say you want the scallops, but instead of having it with what is described on the menu you want it with the spinach from the steak, the carrots from the salmon, and the sauce from the chicken. it slows the kitchen down when people make up their own dishes. trust that the chef knows what he/she's doing and that the dish is delicious the way it is stated on the menu.
                                      14b.) don't demand that a dish be prepared a certain way because "that's the way i make it at home". why did you even go out to eat in the first place?

                                      15.) when i greet your table with "good evening, how are you tonight?", don't cut me off with "WE'RE NOT READY YET!". i didn't ask for your order, i just said hello.

                                      16.) don't go out to eat with the assumption that your server and the restaurant are out to screw you or rip you off. if a mistake was made, chalk it up to a mistake and don't take it personally. it makes you look paranoid.

                                      i'm sure there are more, but i feel myself starting to go off in to personal gripes than actual expectations.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: rebs

                                        one more...

                                        17.) (inspired from posts above) don't ask me what my favorite dishes are and then say "eww, i would never eat that". on the same note, don't do this: ask if i recommend X or Y, and if i say Y and you say "ok then i'll go with X". then you're just being a jerk.

                                        1. re: rebs

                                          #14 sorry , the chef and I may not have the same tastebuds. I don't eat rice, and if it is stated that it comes with my dish, I simply ask if I may have another starch. If not to my liking, I'll say no thanks. Why waste it?

                                          Same with the veggies, many times they are not explained, so I ask, again if not my thing I say so.

                                          1. re: hummingbird

                                            If you don't eat x, don't order something that comes with x. If you want item y which comes with something you don't want, the fact that you turn that item down does not entitle you to a substitution. If you want anything other than what's listed, order it as an extra and pay for it.

                                            1. re: mclaugh

                                              Aw cmon!! Most restos where I'm a regular will make whatever a customer wants given available ingredients, (though some will demur if they have just been "hit"). Some requests I've heard are absurd ("make my steak tatar well done" being the funniest), but get honoured anyway.

                                              If I want the chicken, which is garnished with couscous and carrots, but I want it with mashed potatoes and broccoli, why not? That is, assuming the kitchen has mashed potatoes and broccoli. Expecting the kitchen to prepare mashed potatoes and broccoli is something else again, though I've seen this done with a (real or forced) smile. It is fair to make pricing adjustments for substitutions that blow away food costs, but otherwise, you are in business to please CUSTOMERS. Customers have no reason to be concerned that something slows down the kitchen or messes up routines.

                                              If the chicken dish IS "chicken couscous with carrots", that's something else entirely, and the substitution couldn't be done. But if it can be done, why not do it? That's called making customers happy -- even when they are stupid or wrong.

                                              I've seen chefs who won't countenance salt and pepper being available, since every dish is "perfectly seasoned" in preparation. Taste buds vary and that prima donna is dumb. I've seen a chef who would come roaring out of the kitchen when a customer wanted ketchup for his beautiful fries cooked in duck fat. He may be disappointed and righteously indignant, but it's the customer's loss and not the chef's problem.

                                              Although I've worked in restaurant kitchens, I've never been a server and I don't think I could be a good one. Most of the comments made by Davis and Rebs are spot on. But some of you seem to feel that customers should behave out of convenience for the staff. My partner, who used to own a restaurant, will buss tables, which makes me want to hide under one. I have a few habits that might make a server justifyably cringe, but I'm still treated well by the servers at my regular haunts. They want me to be happy and to come back. And that's the way it should be.

                                              1. re: embee

                                                Well put! So often, the CUSTOMER is always WRONG!


                                              2. re: mclaugh

                                                If the kitchen has, for example, white rice with dish A and brown rice with dish B (this happens a lot with fusion restaurants), they're both sitting in steamer kettles in the kitchen, probably both at the same station on the line.

                                                How hard is it to put a scoop of brown rice on the plate of B instead of white rice?

                                                The same with vegetables instead of starch -- while they're not usually at the same point in the line, they're not exactly made-to-order.

                                                If the kitchen can't handle it without going into the weeds, it needs to be brought up at the servers' meeting and the servers can then demur politely when asked for it. Or it can be written on the menu -- "No substitutions, please."

                                              3. re: hummingbird

                                                That's totally fine with most restaurants. I think rebs, who makes excellent points by the way, was referring to those customers who try to create their own menu out of tiny bits of each listed dish. Do you know what it's like to have to go into a kitchen and try to explain things like that to an overworked chef who's trying to decifer 30 other tickets? It's not pretty at all.

                                                1. re: Davis

                                                  Davis, actualy I do, as I was a partner at a hotel that had a restaurant. Although I wasn't a server, I had to deal with issues.

                                                  That being said, my post did not in any way say I wanted to recreate a menu item as somewhat implied.

                                                  Most places I frequent give you options, if not I simply ask if needed, and make the decision to opt out of the offered side or pay for something else.

                                                  I also understand that the server is not the chef and sometimes has no control over my wishes with the kitchen.

                                                  I also know that chefs can be very into themselves so to say.

                                                  I once "insulted" a chef because I asked for some side to be omitted from my plate on Thanksgiving. His response from the kitchen, it was too plain looking so he decided to put cranberry sauce over my potatoes for color! Laugh at will, as I hate cranberry sauce!

                                                  It was during that stacking phase which I must say I never appreciated. Looked great, but it didn't always translate well in the final dish.

                                                  1. re: hummingbird


                                                    I said that omissions/substitutions are PERFECTLY ok with any restaurant worth it's salt. It is only on the occassion that a customer tries to create their own dish out of tiny componenets of other dishes that tempers start to flare (which was not at all what you were trying to do, I realize).

                                                2. re: hummingbird

                                                  Not at high end restaurants where there is a "chef" but my FIL almost never orders off the menu at Chinese restaurants, even the chinese menus. He talks to the cook/chef and then they decide (I don't understand what they're saying and how they're deciding) what we're having. Similarly, my parents' friends will sometimes bring their own food to chinese restaurants and have the chef prepare it. I brought fresh lobsters from Boston as a gift to someone, and they took it to a restaurant (they know the owners) to cook because they couldn't. The chef/cook at some restaurants see it as a challenge, kind of like iron chef.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    This is something that's very common in Chinese restaurants, where you are ordering the chef's skill, not the dishes that the chef has available that day. It doesn't hurt that in most Chinese kitchens, there is a LOT more food prepped than in most Western kitchens.

                                                    Ordering a Chinese meal can be like a test -- they give you all the "Westernised" dishes and you have to reject them and demand better dishes. I've seen it go to the point of slinging insults between the order-taker and the order-giver... "You wouldn't know the difference between wonton and thousand-cranes soup anyway." "Is the chef so bad that his best dish is egg rolls?"

                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                      The first time I saw my FIL do it, I was ready to crawl under the table, the discussion got really heated. No one else seemed to bat an eye. It was a very Americanized chinese restaurant but we got a great meal.

                                                3. re: rebs

                                                  Re 11: I tend to ask this question at tapas/small plates restaurants, if as a group we're ordering a bunch of plates and I'm just not sure if the servings will be big enough to serve us all. I like it when I get answers like "Well, the mussels are pretty large, but there are only three scallops, so you might need two of those" or something like that.

                                                  1. re: rebs

                                                    re: 11 we ask that because we have no idea how big portions are. I've seen appetizer-sized entrees and entree-sized appetizers. there is no one size-fits-all. if I ask you that question, I expect you to know what a "reasonable" portion would be.

                                                    1. re: rebs

                                                      14) I disagree totally! I've spent years as a line cook at all types of restaurants, and never has a substitution significantly slowed the kitchen. What kind of a mindless, robotic cook would be flummoxed by a request to put a different veg with the chicken? Maybe in a highly regimented assembly line situation a la fast food... but even Burger King lets you have it your way!

                                                      1. re: rebs

                                                        Good points, but I have to say that I don't really see why servers ask how I'm doing tonight. I'd prefer that they say, "Good evening. Welcome to______."

                                                      2. I often wonder about number 13. I've found that while nearly every server asks how things are, very few actually want to hear an honest response...

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Dylan

                                                          of course no server wants to hear that someone isnt happy because not only will it make more work for them, but it will most likely be reflected in the tip, they won't come back and they will tell everyone they know (and don't know) about their lousy experience. i think one of the things that sets good servers apart from bad ones are the ones who are ready to take the appropriate action in case a guest isn't happy. but i know what you're saying. i've always wondered why servers who you can tell don't give a damn even bother asking?

                                                          1. re: Dylan

                                                            Thank you Dylan. I need to add this to my list of minimum requirements. Once, a waiter who was giving us pretty limited attention (which I mentioned to my dinner companion) came over and asked how everything was. I gave him the big smile, the pearly whites and said "it's pretty bad" in a tone that he would have thought I said "it's wonderful." He smiled back, walked away and went on his merry way.

                                                            Add to my list:

                                                            If you ask how the meal is, please listen to the answer versus the facial expression.

                                                            1. re: Dylan

                                                              i couldn't disagree with that more. in any restaurant worth its salt, the server is taking at least a modicum of pride in what is coming out of the kitchen. if something is NOT okay, a good server should be able to rectify the situation.

                                                            2. Thank you...

                                                              I'd also like to add - could we do without the waving, please? If my job is to pay attention to my section, it is often much less disruptive/condescending to simply catch my eye. I promise I'll be there in 30 seconds or less.

                                                              (On a side note, Asians tend to be the most frequent offenders - I'm Chinese, and I can attest that most of the time they really don't know what they're doing; waving is often custom/the only way to get a server's attention in a busy dim sum place, and I'm pretty sure it's done at normal (Asian) restaurants as well.)

                                                              Serving is not rocket science, but it is a fairly tough job...

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: theannerska

                                                                I feel the need to comment on waiving, eye contact, tapping the shoulder of the waiter, etc.

                                                                I only waive, or tap, if my table has been ignored for a LONG time, or the food has just been dropped off at the table by a server, and we are lacking in utensils, and the waiter has not come by to see if we are "okay." You may think you are observant, but I cannot tell you the number of times I've tried for 10 or so minutes to "catch" the eye of the waiter when we need something: silverware, more drinks, a condiment, or the bill, etc., and am unable to catch the waiter's eye, or can't even find the waiter . . . sometimes, it actually seems like the waiter is avoiding our eyes. Yes, you might be busy, or have too many tables, etc., but that's not a reason to leave us in the lurch. I've never waived or tapped unless the situation is getting dire and we've sat for quite a while with no attention, in a moment of need.

                                                                It goes both ways.

                                                                1. re: DanaB

                                                                  Point taken - if the server is ignoring you, you have every right to wave! I've done it on occasion, too.

                                                              2. Davis I hear your pain. I was a server for several years and eventually found that I did not have the stamina to make a career out of the profession. I respect and empathize with every one of your points. If only all servers were as conscientious about scanning their section for someone attempting to make eye contact with them.

                                                                Rebs, #13 says that you are a dedicated and professional server and is one of my pet peeves when I'm dining out. When I was a server I always approached the table within 5 minutes of service to inquire if everything was satisfactory. Any time I received a negative response I simply picked up their plate and asked if a)we could remake their selection in such a way as to satisfy them and if that received a negative response then b) could I bring them anything else from the menu or would they like to see the menu again. My problem is that on a very regular basis and surprisingly in some of the very best restaurants (food wise) the server does not come back to check if everything is satisfactory for 20-30 minutes (while the other people in my party dine as I sit there trying to catch the eye of my server). When I was serving I knew that my income was directly effected by the level of service I gave and all too often I get the impression that servers today feel they "deserve" an appropriate tip just for doing their job, at a minimum level.

                                                                Rebs, #14 clearly says that you are not dedicated to providing the best possible dining expierience for your patrons, so I am conflicted. In my book inflexibility or being given "attitude" about special orders automatically drops your tip down to 15%. Any restaurant that cares about the dining experience for their patrons will do whatever possible to accomodate them.

                                                                Rebs, in your reply to Dylan, if you truly care about the dinning experience of you patrons and handle the issue properly your patron will appreciate your efforts, tip you accordingly and give praise to the establishment for such great service. I am no longer conflicted.

                                                                15 Replies
                                                                1. re: thomchinn

                                                                  As I mentioned above: i think if a server may seem hesitant to honor special requests it's not so much a matter of "attitude" as it is the fact that they know they're about to get an earful from the kitchen. I have always felt that a restaurant has a set menu....we can certainly subtract any item from a dish and try to replace it with something else but a guest is definitely not allowed to make up their own dish. Someone put a lot of thought into that menu, I'm assuming you're patronizing the restaurant because you enjoy the style of food....we can only do so much when the restaurant is full of other patrons also expecting prompt service.

                                                                  1. re: thomchinn

                                                                    i'd like to make it clear that i have absolutely no problems with substitutions or omissions because i understand there are personal dislikes, allergies, etc. i work for a restaurant that almost never says no to requests (and never with an earful from the kitchen!) and i stand behind it. the only time we say no is if we physicall do not have the means to fulfill the request. in fact, i am more than happy to suggest the next best possible subsitute we have that won't clash with the rest of the dish and i will be the first to warn you that there is a good chance that your request will simply not taste good and suggest something different. however, there is a difference between substituting/omitting an ingredient and recreating a dish using the menu as a checklist of ingredient options. literally, i'm referring to guests who will point with their finger that they want the ingredients in entree A to be paired with ingredients in appetizer B, entree C and the sauce from entree D. after they have refused my suggestions of course we'll go ahead and make it for them. more often than not, though, i end up watching them smile and pretend to enjoy their concoction.

                                                                    this kind of brings me back to my #14b. - if you're just going to ask for something to be prepared the way you would prepare it, then why even bother going out to eat at all? aside from nourishment, isn't the point of going to a restaurant to check out how a chef puts out his food?

                                                                    1. re: rebs

                                                                      rebs, my question/reply was to 14a, is it a big deal to ask if I may have fries instead of rice?

                                                                      Not trying to recreate a menu at all, I just think choices should be available. Then I got a snip of a rely, not from you, but from someone not really reading my reply.

                                                                      And I do understand to a certain extent what goes on between the server and the kitchen.

                                                                      1. re: hummingbird

                                                                        if the kitchen has the means to make fries then yes that's a very simple and do-able substitution and should be no problem. what i'm talking about is "i want the lobster, but i don't want the green beans, carrots or baked stuffing. instead i want the watercress from the fried oyster app, the potatoes from the steak and the mushroom risotto from the list of sides instead" (this is a real-life example). we ended up making it because we had all those things available as they were pieces from various current menu items, but it really slowed the kitchen down and the end result looked absolutely ridiculous and not indicitave of the chef's talents at all. it probably didn't taste very good either.

                                                                        you reminded me of one time i went out to eat at the Franklin Cafe, a popular and chowhound favorite here in boston. reasonably priced american cuisine in a funky atmosphere with music ranging from 80's hip-hop to loungy house music. the food is not ground breaking, but it's good. i've been there a million times and they had just recently changed their menu over for the new spring season. their winter menu had a steak frites that i was craving. the new menu still had the steak, but it was now served with chive mashed potatoes. the next entree on the list was fish and chips. i've had their chive mashed before and i really don't care for them so i asked if i could have the fries from the fish & chips instead and was told no. the server said "the chef is picky about substitutions. something about the integrity of the dish..". i was a little floored especially considering that i make my living bending over backwards for people, and this was hardly a request to bend over backwards. if it were 2 weeks prior i could have had steak and fries, but that night i couldn't even though there were fries available but meant for another dish. it made no sense and it left a sour taste with me. i didn't go back for a long time after that.

                                                                        1. re: rebs

                                                                          Hey, rebs,

                                                                          I feel your pain about the whole create your own menu thing. A few years ago I was waiting on large party (a twelve top) at 8:00 on a VERY busy saturday night. The kitchen was under the gun and was about to crash. This one lady (who, btw, was really quite sweet) wanted the yucca encrusted, seared chilean seabass served grilled without the crust and topped with a chunky tomato salsa instead of the habenero corn cream sauce. Okay.

                                                                          See, here were the problems.

                                                                          1. The very capable prep cooks had already crusted the fish.
                                                                          2. Chilean seabass is delicate. It can be grilled but stands up better to less direct cooking methods.
                                                                          3. We didn't have any salsa. So, the lady says to me "Do you have any tomatoes?" Me "Yes, of course." Her "How about onions, green peppers, limes cilantro, etc?" Me "Yes, ma'am" Her "Then why don't you just tell the chef that is what I want and he has to make it for me because I'm on a diet." I go tell the chef who procedes to lose his mind. I mean he's caught somewhere between laughing his behind off and blowing his top.

                                                                          But, you know what? He found some way to do this for her in the middle of a VERY busy Saturday night. Somehow, he pulled it together long enough to give this woman what she wanted. She was impressed. The rest of her party was impressed. Heck, even I was impressed. (Note to Chef B.R. formerly of the Bicycle in Baltimore: YOU ROCK!!)

                                                                          The chef where I work now is an arrogant prig who wouldn't change a thing if the request came from God himself.

                                                                          1. re: kimmer1850

                                                                            Awesome chef!

                                                                            In the case you describe above, you had every reason to say NO...

                                                                            1. re: kimmer1850

                                                                              She damned well had better left a good tip. And perhaps sent a thank you back to the chef.

                                                                              I'd have dropped an F bomb on her.


                                                                              1. re: kimmer1850

                                                                                I think you should have said the name of the chef and not the name of the joint.

                                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                                  You're probably right about that, but since he was the owner it covered all the bases. So, I'll say his name now...Barry Rumsey...we miss you in Baltimore. Good Luck in Oregon.

                                                                                    1. re: Atomica

                                                                                      Thanks, I saw it awhile ago.

                                                                                      I wish Deb and Chef the best!!

                                                                              2. re: rebs

                                                                                from a cook's perspective... the old Jockey Club at the old Ritz Carlton NY had a few waiters who would "invent" specials that weren't even CLOSE to anything on the menu and offer them to their favorite customers. Taking advantage of the kitchen staff, which was fully indoctrinated in the RC attitude of bending over backwards for the guests' special requests! End result: the guest feels very important to get this "special" dish, the waiter gets a fatter tip, and the cook is scrambling. Grrr.

                                                                              3. re: hummingbird

                                                                                Never usually a big deal, but you wouldnt believe the amount of people that ask for everything thats IS NOT on the menu and then get an attitude b/c you don't have it. You really want to say, "You know that door you just came in?"...

                                                                              4. re: rebs

                                                                                About #14b, if I WANT the steak medium, then I shall HAVE the steak medium. I don't care if the chef likes it rare. He's not eating/ paying for it, I am.


                                                                                1. re: TexasToast

                                                                                  umm...i think you've interpreted my post wrong. i wasn't referring to temperature of meat, of which cooking upon request isn't even an issue (even if it's a *gasp* well done tuna). in fact, taking a temperature on meat is expected for just about everything except chicken. i meant more along the lines of "i cook my crabcakes this way at home so that's how i want the chef to do it" kind of thing.

                                                                            2. It sounds like from the posts in this thread and the other one from a diner's perspective,to ensure that everyone is happy, diners and waitstaff should be willing to give and take, and be willing to meet each other halfway and not get hung up on faults. Afterall, given no one is perfect, being forgiving might be a good trait.

                                                                              1. In general, I agree with your points, and I think it was a well-written post, but I have to say you must be the consummate server -- I typically don't get service like this, and I end up resorting to impolite waving (and, on one notorious occasion, horse-whistling with my fingers in my mouth) so that I can get, for example, the forgotten item before my food gets cold.

                                                                                I do take issue with your #2, though -- here in SoCal, it's very common for management to force the servers to do the Great Water Ripoff, by which I mean, "Sparkling [at $8] or still [at $6]?" Now, I'm likely to either say, "Tap water will be fine, thank you," or, "Actually, let's have a split of champagne instead, please," if I don't want water.

                                                                                I tend to find, by the way, that I get the "Can I get you something to drink?" before I've managed to even pick up the wine list, let alone tried to find a wine that will go with what I want to eat. I've had some very observant servers who said, "Can I get you anything while you're looking at the wine list?", and this seems the best scenario.

                                                                                1. I think so many of these problems emnate from people's misunderstanding of the waiter/customer relationship: waiters/restaurants provide a service, they are NOT servants. Customers shouldn't go to a restaurant thinking that they can get "whatever they want". The kitchen isn't their home staff, on the customer's payroll and under their direction. They are entrepreneurs who offer a service for a fee--kind of like a suitmaker or any other craftsman. After all, you don't go into a designer suit store and ask them to make you a K-mart-looking suit (the clothing equivalent to steamed chicken with sauce on the side). If the dishes and services offered at the restaurant don't interest the customer, they can go somewhere that does. The restaurant offers a range of dishes and services for a fee--anything beyond has to be contracted separately, and the restaurant/server is free to refuse. One of the things that is so sad is when a waiter provides all sorts of extra services, spends extra time, all with the understanding that he will be compensated with a heavy tip--while the customer really thinks he's entitled to free, above and beyond service, because the server is his actually his temporary servant.

                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: JSexton

                                                                                    Of course, you are right about the servant issue.

                                                                                    Service can be hard, and crabby customers make it harder. But I still maintain that that a PROFESSIONAL server will provide professional service to everyone present, short of those who should rightfully be kicked out by management and told to never return.

                                                                                    There's a clear line between fawning over a perceived "good" table and ignoring a bad one. The server should treat the bad table well because, simply stated, it is a requirement of doing a good job. There is much about my work that I don't enjoy, but I do what it takes to keep my customers happy, even when they are wrong. I've spent time, effort, and money to "rectify mistakes" that I hadn't made just to satisfy a customer. When some have pushed me too far, I've told them to look elsewhere. But until that point, their satisfaction is my biggest concern. Why should a server's job be different?

                                                                                    Sure a restaurant is free to refuse anything, but that doesn't mean it is somehow wrong for a customer to ask.

                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                      What annoys me is that many customers don't recognize that a restaurant has a unifying aethetic vision, encompassing the decor, food, tone and service. This overall vision is "the service" that a restaurant provides for a fee. Many customers walk into a restaurant and want a different sort of service, a different style of food and they want all of their disruptive requests satisfied, without objection or discussion. My point is that that customer would probably be happier somewhere else--unless it satisfies his/her ego to compell others to cater to their wishes. These are the people who misunderstand the difference between providing a service and being a servant.
                                                                                      Of course--I think it is absolutely fine to make REASONABLE requests at a restaurant (regular entree w/sauce on the side, low salt, dietary requests). But to expect the kitchen to design a whole new dish on a customer's whim is wrong (side from one dish, main from another, sauce from a third)--after all, you're paying for the added value/expertise of a chef. If you don't value or trust that expertise--then you'd make everyone happier by staying home and cooking for yourself. After all, you don't walk into a clothing designer's shop and start telling him/her how to make your clothes. Your paying for the expert's opinion.

                                                                                      1. re: JSexton

                                                                                        It's hard for me to argue your points conceptually. Of course it makes no sense for someone to eat where the styles of food or service aren't to their liking. I think where we may disagree is on exactly WHAT is "reasonable" and under what circumstances. Things that you state are reasonable are decried as unreasonable by others posting in this thread.

                                                                                        When a chef creates, say, a multi-ingredient braise, or a fancy unified plate, where substitutions aren't plausible, that's one thing. See my earlier reply to mclaugh - there's no point in my repeating it.

                                                                                        But subbing fries for mashed with a salmon fillet when both are on the menu neither destroys the "integrity of the dish" nor inconveniences the resto to an intolerable degree. A "side" is just that. Perhaps the protein can't straddle the fries on a jaunty angle while it can straddle the mashed. As the chef, I might be disappointed at the substitution. Perhaps I'd feel that the substituted item doesn't even work with the dish. But I'm not going to make the customer eat what they won't enjoy.

                                                                                        I go to some restaurants specifically to experience the chef's vision and talent. (As an aside, these are also the places where my expectations may be so high that I am most likely to be disappointed.) I will still request that ingredients I don't like be omitted if possible. (If not possible, I won't order the dish.) It is the kitchen's perogative to decline my request. If I'm asking for something simple, declining me is dumb; if I'm essentially asking for a custom-designed recipe, it's up to the chef. I know some chefs that delight in doing this (though I don't know of many restaurant managers who want them to).

                                                                                        But I often dine somewhere as part of a group or for pure convenience (because it's there). I may not share the chef's grand vision, but I still need to eat there that day.

                                                                                        Most places where I eat regularly are not serving spectacular chefs' creations. Refusing to satisfy the customer's requests is often little more than bureaucratic policy (in a tightly run chain place) or chef hubris.

                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                          pardon me, but chef hubris? What about customer hubris. You assume that swapping fries for mash is effortless, and won't impact the integrity of the dish. What if the salmon is served with a sauce, which is designed to go over the mash--do you serve it over the fries? Or what if the fries come from a totally different end of the line while the kitchen is getting slammed. What if the fries are made with garlic which the chef feels will clash with the salmon. And FYI, no chef is "making" anybody eat anything. They are offering a group of dishes for sale that customers are perfectly free to decline. Declining special requests is perfectly fine in my book--chefs are not short order cooks or servants. They are craftsmen selling their wares--if you don't like what's on offer, move on.

                                                                                          1. re: JSexton

                                                                                            You make many good points in your posts and I don't disagree with you in a general sense. But I do see more than a hint that you don't view the customer as boss. From a business perspective, this is not the path to long-term success. It's true that most customers have no idea what makes a restaurant run. But why do they need to know?

                                                                                            Perhaps my post wasn't clear. In many circumstances, substitutions are implausible or impossible. You provide a good example.

                                                                                            Some postings in this thread push substitutions into the realm of a custom dish. Perhaps you even created one on my last visit but declined to do so today because you've been hit (yes, Chef B.R. in Baltimore, you sure do rock). This all makes sense.

                                                                                            But speaking as a customer (I can also speak from the other side, though I'm not currently working in the food biz and am not going to do that here), it isn't my problem where on the line something is located. There is no good reason why a decent resto should refuse a substitution that it is POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE REASONABLY. I never mentioned the word "effortless".

                                                                                            If I want fries with my meal and you have fries, give me fries. If the fries won't go with the dish, a good server will advise that s/he or the chef thinks the combination sucks. But, in the end, the customer should rule.

                                                                                            Yes, chefs DO try to make people eat things. If a seared duck breast is served rare and I want it cooked through, the chef who refuses IS showing hubris. Perhaps the chef likes it rare, but that doesn't mean I do. Sure I have the option to not order the dish, but the dish appeals--I just want it cooked through. I can recall numerous other examples from my personal experience alone.

                                                                                            If it's sided with asparagus, I want broccoli, AND YOU HAVE BROCCOLI, not meeting my request is also dumb. If I go on to ask that the sauce be replaced by the sauce that comes on the chicken, the potatoes be replaced by the goat cheese tart that comes with the salmon, and the asparagus be replaced with a braised fennel gratin, then we're into that other realm.

                                                                                            You seem very sensitive about the craftsman vs servant issue. I can understand this. I've mentioned that my partner once owned a fine dining restaurant. She also had a full-time professional day job. She would observe sarcastically that the respect she got all day would evaporate when service began at dinner. It took its toll. Many of the customers were so noxious that she couldn't understand why they kept coming back (and complaining every time).

                                                                                            It's a bummer when the customer messes up a "unifying aesthetic vision". But most restos are not the French Laundry (though I'll bet Keller would substitute or modify if asked -- I haven't been lucky enough to eat there). In many mainstream restos, that "unifying vision" is really more of a marketing plan.

                                                                                            As a chef, I'd like to see MY vision respected. I will have carefully balanced every element of a dish and I don't want to see it wrecked. But, in the end, I'll defer to the customer because I'm not just an artist, I'm also trying to make a living. The chef who lost it whenever someone put ketchup on his duck fat fries was right to be disappointed. He was wrong to storm into the dining room and berate the offending customers. (And, whenever he did this, HE messed up his own well oiled machine.)

                                                                                              1. re: embee

                                                                                                Well said.

                                                                                                When I cook at home, I like people to try it the way it was intended. Then you can put your ketchup on it or what have you.

                                                                                                The bottom line is, I want you to be happy.

                                                                                                I do however think that people can take this too far. Swapping one sauce for another or one side for another is fine as far as I'm concerned. To re write the menu is another.


                                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                                  I think the crux of our disagreement is your notion that the restaurant is in business to cater to their customer's every desire--be it broccoli, fries, or whatever he/she feels like on that day. Which, in my view, suggests that "the service" that a restaurant provides is being their customer's servant. Chefs (and I am no longer a chef, but was one once)are like any other aesthetic proffesional--architect, clothes designer, interior designer. If a client hires Frank Gehry, but tries to get him to build a McMansion, the architect has a right to refuse. The customer is not the chef's "boss"--what an insulting notion! (And one that again suggests that the chef/kitchen/waiter is a servant.) Instead, the chef is someone that the customer contracts for the experience/service he offers--like Frank Gehry, or Georgio Armani, or Thomas Keller..
                                                                                                  More modest restaurants have always given the customer exactly what he/she wants--diners, lunchcounters and less aesthetically ambitious placess. These business aren't about skilled chefs, creative visions, or a geat experience--they're about not-so-great nutrients for cash. The diner isn't insulted when their custome asks for ice cubes for their soup (why should the diner be insulted--the soup comes from a number 10 Campbells can, anyway). They're happy to blacken a burger, vulacanize an egg, serve hot food cold, add fries or broccoli to anything. Their business model is to be user friendly to kids, old people, families, whoever--the food might be mediocre and cheap, but you can get it anyway you like-- which is just as you would cook it at home if you weren't too busy. Of course, you're not a chef, and neither is the guy cooking at that diner. Other restaurants, like the French Laundry, are about experiencing the creative vision of an artist--Thomas Keller.
                                                                                                  I was always talking about restaurants/menus that have an aesthetic point of view, a brand (if it's easier to discuss in those terms). At a certain level, customers are paying for the brand of a chef--his opinion, his (or her!)aesthetic vision. Not to get "whatever he wants".

                                                                                                  1. re: JSexton

                                                                                                    I guess we'll need to "agree to disagree" on this one.

                                                                                                    I personally WILL go someplace to experience a chef's vision. But I'll ask that (for example,on a tasting menu) any pork ingredients be either omitted or substituted. I'm not allergic or kosher or halal--I simply don't eat it. The chef's vision about this doesn't matter to me one bit. I've never personally expected a problem and I've never had one, but I do know chefs who would refuse. The reputation of some chefs as prima donna artistes into only themselves is hardly an urban legend.It's their right, but I still say it is bad business. I'm sure you know, as I do, chefs who have worked in 25 kitchens over 15 years, not because they couldn't perform, but because they performed TOO well, knew it, and refused to deal with anyone else's needs along the way.

                                                                                                    Although I was referring to pretty well all restaurants, I feel that meeting customer needs becomes ever more important as one climbs to the culinary heights. I guess we hold opposite views on this. With most chain operations beneath a certain level, the mantra "no surprises" seems to hold. If I want my burger thick and rare and stuffed with roasted peppers and gorgonzola cheese on a pada, McDonalds isn't where I'm going to go.

                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                      Here's a situation that I felt was handled admirably: We were doing a wedding cake consultation with a very talented Manhattan baker--a woman who has a real vision, a real point of view. Her name is Elisa Strauss's, and the cakes she makes can only be hers. We were looking around at her work, and started kidding her about all the tacky wedding cakes that we've seen over the years: cakes with plug-in fountains attached, cakes with pink and blue lighting, figurines. Then it occured to me--how would she handle the request? What would she say to a client who asked her to put in a fountain, or figurines? So I asked her how she handled it and she demonstrated: with a perfectly sweet and non-judgemental smile, she said "I don't personally do cakes like that, but I can refer you to someone that does." I think that if you don't eat pork or rare magret (which is a little sad), then there should be other dishes that you DO eat on the menu. If not, we can recommend another restaurant whose menu might please you better.

                                                                                                      1. re: JSexton

                                                                                                        I think we've taken this thread about as far as we can. Your wedding cake story shows a fine way of handling things, but the scenario doesn't apply when I'm in a restaurant.

                                                                                                        I wouldn't stay in a restaurant where the menu didn't appeal. However, I might want to vary something and see nothing wrong with making the request. I wouldn't pass on a tasting menu from a highly regarded chef because some items didn't appeal, and I would ask for substitutions or omissions rather than creating waste. I've never been turned down and some of the results were awesome.

                                                                                                        More than a few chefs have OFFERED to create off menu items from ingredients at hand. They all seemed delighted to do this instead of preparing the same dishes again and again.

                                                                                                        We have different points of view about this, each arguably valid. It is unlikely that we shall agree.

                                                                                                        (Actually, I do like rare magret, but I know many people who love duck but want it cooked through. This has been the most frequently refused request that I've observed personally.

                                                                                                        I don't eat pork; clams, oysters, and mussels (though I will eat mussel broth); or bananas. I'm allergic to strawberries. I like salmon raw or cooked through, but not rare. I like my scallops (just) cooked through. I can't abide well done tuna or steak. That leaves a chef a pretty wide palette with which to work.)

                                                                                                  2. re: embee

                                                                                                    Unbelievably well put. I have not ordered numerous dishes that I would love to try because I am allergic to nuts and that darn ingredient keeps popping up as an ingredient.

                                                                                                    New page for Jfood. If there's nuts in the dish I really want I'll ask the waiter to ask the chef if it's possible for a different thing instead.

                                                                                                    Thanks chows, now everything on the menu is "In Play"

                                                                                              2. re: JSexton

                                                                                                Great points JSexton. Couldn't agree more.

                                                                                            1. re: JSexton

                                                                                              Sorry to say that you are not speacial and this sort of treatment is not limited to waiters. I am far from a waiter in what I do for a living and you would not believe what my customers ask from me. The heck with treating me like servant sometimes (that's not such a bad day) but I have defended my right not to violate laws and ethical standards dictated not only by my own conscience, but by state and federal law.

                                                                                              Custmers are demanding, FULL STOP.

                                                                                              1. re: JSexton

                                                                                                I have sympathy for those who are on a diet, or are with a party who wanted Cuban food, say, and they hate it but had to go along. I do feel so superior to those in the latter category (I am willing to try almost anything, and I have fairly broad tastes.) But, having been in the former category (watching my figure!) I do appreciate the indulgence of a sympathetic server. I reflect it strongly in my (always generous) tip. BTW--sauce on the side. Oh, jeez, why do people insist on a bare naked salad? The last restaurant I worked in, the servers usually tried to talk the customers into "light dressing" rather than SOS, and I think this is better, especially since, as a cook, you have to make that sauce/dressing, and putting it on the side means you always give the customer quite a bit more that you would have done if the dish were prepared normally, so it seems such a waste. Clearly the customer wants less sauce, not more, so it seems all out of whack to put it on the side. Also, it's a bad salad! Salad is so much better when properly tossed. This trend has crept into low-end restaurant practice, now, to the point that when I go to lunch with my boyfriend and order a caesar salad, I've actually been given a sad plate of romaine, some croutons, and a side of caesar dressing! In several places they automatically give you all dressing on the side. What kind of caesar salad is that?

                                                                                              2. 3 points i would like to make:

                                                                                                2 from when i was a server: i agree with the top 10, but i have 2 more i dont think were addressed:

                                                                                                i would be waiting on a table and they say " dont worry, we are big tippers" ALWAYS the kiss of death

                                                                                                and when someone write on the back of their CC card " see ID " and when you bring it back to them and ask to see their ID they act all offended like why are you asking me this??!!

                                                                                                and as a customer- i know there are a million more complaints, but what came to my mind when reading about substitutions and such, one day my sister and i went to brunch and my sister wanted the hollandaise left OFF her eggs benny and the waitress said NO, we cant do that. HA! left OFF??????? she wouldnt budge and i could not believe it.

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: niccole

                                                                                                  That's because you didn't realize that the eggs benny were pre made, with the sauce already in place ;-)

                                                                                                  1. re: embee

                                                                                                    I once had an experience like that, except when pressed, the waiter conceded that everything came pre-packaged and frozen, so it would mean opening (and ruining) another packet.


                                                                                                    1. re: embee

                                                                                                      That can't be it--I've never heard of the alchemist who was able to freeze a hollandaise sauce! Hollandaise has to be prepared within, at most, a couple of hours of serving, and breaks at the drop of a hat. It has to be kept warm, but not too warm, and basically has to be handled with utmost care throughout its brief existence.

                                                                                                  2. Very good post.

                                                                                                    I have to say that substitutions can be a problem, but only sometimes. Where I work, the chef will always say yes to a menu change, unless there is a limited amount of something that cannot be replaced. For example, NY strip special with baked potato. If there are 10 steaks and 10 spuds, then you probably won't get with your chicken. The problem with special orders arises when entire parties or several tables all change something about their dinners. Now, as I said, the chef will always say yes, but now you are creating your own menu. The line is set up to prepare and serve the food the way it is listed on the menu. When several special orders are on the line, it slows everything down. EVERYONE in the room waits for their food while the special orders are addressed, because we are not set up to do it. I've heard the "how hard is it to scoop A instead of B" argument, but you have to multiply that by 30 or 40 different dishes at a time. The chef does not cook one dish at a time, and careful timing and planning is involved to feed everyone the right food in a timely fashion.

                                                                                                    I didn't see anything about reservations up there (I might have missed it) but these can be a big problem.
                                                                                                    1. If you make a reservation, please show up. If you can't show up call. Not 5 minutes before you are supposed to be there, but as soon as you know. I know life gets in the way, and stuff happens, but nothing is more infuriating when we call to see what's going on with the reservation that is 20 minutes late, and the baby sitter says they left for dinner 2 hours ago someplace else.
                                                                                                    2. Do not play "reservation roulette." Making several reservation across town and then deciding where to go while you're out is crap. It is incredibly rude. This hurts the restaurants and most likely your chances of getting another reservation there in the future.
                                                                                                    3. If you are late, please call. As mentioned, things happen, but let us know. If you are 30 minutes late and didn't call, you don't have a reservation anymore, and we will probably give the table to a walk-in if we can. After 15 or 20 minutes, you are probably going to be considered a no-show. As mentioned in a previous post, courtesy goes both ways. Another downside of being late is that your dining time is cut short. There are probably tables coming in after you who have also mader reservations. The clock does not start when you show up, it starts at the time when you made your reservation. Almost every time I have to apologize for seating a reservation late, it is because the table was late before them.

                                                                                                    A few more observations. I had a table complain this weekend that they waited almost 45 minutes for their table. Sounds reasonably, except they showed up and hour early and wanted to be seated. You haven't waited at all until the time actually arrives. Delays over that absolutely should be addressed, but that isn't being "made to wait."

                                                                                                    I read the post above regarding switching tables. When possible, it shouldn't be a problem. But sometimes the floor is arranged in a way to fit certain people. Maybe there is a large party that only fits at a certain table. Maybe there is an anniversary who requested this or that table. Or just maybe there are enough seats for the people on the books as it is arranged taking into consideration all the reservations that are booked. Redistributing the work load isn't the guests problem. But it isn't always possible to do either. Just because it might look to a guest like there is room, doesn't mean there will be in 30 minutes.

                                                                                                    This probably sounds like a rant, but there is a lot that goes into making a night work. When 100 people show up to dinner, there needs to be the mechanisms to provide food, beverages, service, and the ability to take care of ALL the patrons. It's more like a ballet or a symphonoy, with lots of moving parts, and less like a assembly line.

                                                                                                    Ok, last comment. I hear this one alot. A friend of mine just tried a new place. I asked him how the service was. He said, "well, ok. Not too good." I asked him what went wrong. He said "the food took a while."
                                                                                                    Service is what the server does. The kitchen cooks. The correct answer would have been "the food took a while, but the service was good/bad." Losing a tip for bad service is fine. Losing a tip when the service was good but the kitchen sucked, and is punishing the messenger. Talk to management or the server if the food is slow, but don't tell people the service was bad if it wasn't the waiters fault or even his job.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: garcon

                                                                                                      Well said. I think it's hugely important for enthusiastic diners to understand what goes into running a restaurant, from restaurant design to menu, reservations and service. Obviously, the quality of all of these things should be evident to a casual diner--but when gliches happen, they are often not the restaurant's/kitchen's/server's fault, like your hour early party waiting for 45 minutes.
                                                                                                      One trend that I love is that many restaurant critics are testing themselves by trying to work behind the scenes. In NYC, Frank Bruni of the Times tried to be a waiter in a big Boston restaurant. Bill Buford in his New Yorker pieces and Heat (the book). Even Jeffrey Steingarten took a serving course. In all cases, it showed the writer (who was used to sitting and judging)how challenging, demanding and pressured the work can be--it also helped them to write more knowlegably about restaurants, their chosen subject.

                                                                                                      1. re: JSexton

                                                                                                        Should food critics know the realities of restaurant operations? Absolutely yes, and for every type of resto they review.

                                                                                                        Should enthusiastic diners -- i.e., those represented here -- know? I believe most would want to if given the chance.

                                                                                                        Should everyone else know? Sure if they want to know, but I suspect most folks neither know nor care. And that's just fine.

                                                                                                    2. Waiters are the interface between the kitchen and the customer. The entire industry has determined that the pay of the waiter is contingent on delivering service to the customer in a 90-120 minute time frame.

                                                                                                      Although he may work for the resto, he is
                                                                                                      - paid by the customer
                                                                                                      - given his performace review as each table leaves
                                                                                                      - has his boss informed when he really screws up (hopefully when he does well as well)

                                                                                                      He therefore has more of an "employer-employee" type relationship with the customer than with his manager or chef. For that reason he is probably more treated like an employee by the customer than any other business. The shirt in the store is $50 whether the sales help is good or bad. Not the case at a resto. That meal of $40 can caost $45-55 depending on the service.

                                                                                                      What I have also noticed, that in addition to some great input by the waiter contingent, there seems to be an underlying theme from many of the posts that "please do not be a cog in my well oiled serving machine" versus "how can I please my customer-boss". That is understandable, but somewhat troubling.

                                                                                                      I attend numerous meeting in which we hear "what is the customer asking for?" and we try to modify to meet these requests. If my customer were also my "boss" I am sure as shootin' going to make those things happen.

                                                                                                      The customer absolutely has to treat the waiter (and the entire staff) with respect, but the wait staff should view every request as a "can I meet this request" challenge.

                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        I agree completely. While I don't think any bad behavior is acceptable on the part of a customer, the prevailing notion that the customer had just better not interrupt the servers mode of operation is a big part of what goes wrong in diningrooms today!

                                                                                                        Diners are not responsible to know, understand or accomodate the servers responsibilities. Diners are responsible to be reasonable and polite. Beyond that, if my guest wants to order a scotch from you the moment that you arrive at the table, get over it. Quite likely, he's been waiting for the privledge of buying that drink for far longer than he would have liked!

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          The intention of the original post was, while I will still give you great service even if you become "a cog in my well oiled serving machine" here are some ways to avoid doing so. Of course each and every request should be met with a positive attitude and given the benefit of the doubt, sometimes a server's just gotta vent.

                                                                                                          1. re: Davis

                                                                                                            Hey Davis, that was a great post :-)

                                                                                                            1. re: Davis


                                                                                                              Eye-contact, respect, venting, good food, good service, all part of life. It all goes both ways and what goes around comes around.

                                                                                                            2. re: jfood

                                                                                                              >- has his boss informed when he really screws up (hopefully when he does well as well)

                                                                                                              The latter half of this is possibly even more important than the first. Most everyone is given to complain when things go wrong, but how many of us actually take the time to give excellent servers their proper due to their superiors? Sure, it's important to raise the gratuity to meet the level of service rendered, but their supervisor(s) should know that, not only are they doing their job, but they're doing it well, and that *you appreciate being treated that way*.

                                                                                                              I'm a person who has to actually make an effort to be even-handed regarding this very issue, since when things are wrong, or downright bad, it's my impulse to say something to someone higher up. I've determined that, in order to not be hypocritical, I *must* commend stellar service as well, and if that means that I need to take additional time out of my precious schedule to let management know that Server X is making them look good, then that's what I need to do, and *will* do.

                                                                                                              To do otherwise is just mean-spirited, and wrong. Tip well, and speak glowingly, where appropriate.

                                                                                                            3. After all this back and forth banter I'd like to post this:

                                                                                                              Here's something great to report.

                                                                                                              Last weekend went to a restaurant for a particular dish. When we got there ordered a couple of beers while looking at the menu. My dish was no longer listed.

                                                                                                              I said maybe we just do apps and leave.

                                                                                                              However, when the waitress returned I asked about the item, she had just started so had no idea what I was asking for. Plus, I had called it something different. She went and asked the hostess. The hostess said yes we just changed our menu but I'll talk with the kitchen.

                                                                                                              Comes back and said yes we can make that for you, but it will take a while as they need to go downstairs to get the ingredients, and as you know takes a while to cook. People had complained that it took so long to cook. That is why they took it off the menu.

                                                                                                              It is a dish called Chicken Fontina. It is chicken breast en croute basically with other added ingredients, and very good.

                                                                                                              I make it myself at home sometimes, but it seems better when you go out.

                                                                                                              Here is a new server, and this was her first server job by the way, took it upon her self to go ask for me, the hostess goes to the kitchen, chef is okay no problem.

                                                                                                              Talk about great customer service!

                                                                                                              Yes, I left a very good tip.

                                                                                                              I also e-mailed their website to let them know how impressed I was with all involved.

                                                                                                              Got an e-mail back thanking me, they would let all involved know how much I appreciated all their efforts. I simply asked, and they went out of their way to satisfy a customer.

                                                                                                              Until now wouldn't go out of my way to visit.

                                                                                                              Hubby had some decent crab cakes as an app, and the 16oz Prime Rib, was cooked perfectly and huge, hardly any fat. Next time he'll do the 12oz, although he did manage to finish it.

                                                                                                              By the way it is a hotel restaurant in Nashua, NH.

                                                                                                              Speakers Corner.

                                                                                                              1. Well said Davis. Having been a server myself, I can always tell when someone else never has been and doesn't have a clue how a restaurant runs. Waiters always like it when we are their customers.

                                                                                                                I have also worked the back of the house as a prep cook....but if we were offering panko crusted fish or chicken (example) we always left a few non-crusted for those who would ask NOT to have it. I learned my lesson when I had to pick out shredded chicken from a chicken thai salad....always make some without the chicken. Some people wanted it without the carrots! There was no picking all of those out though (although a waitress told them that we could)...so we made her an individual thai chicken salad without the carrots on a day that we were so slammed nobody stopped running for 4hours straight!

                                                                                                                1. Interesting post. I'm a foodie, but I'm a pretty easy-going guy. Rule of thumb with me: you're there to work, I'm there to eat, but we're both human beings, so let's treat each other as such, with respect. Your gratuity starts around the standard 20% (minimum of $1 for cheap breakfasts or something like that), and can go up or down depending on the level of service I receive.

                                                                                                                  A few comments about your perspectives, if I may:

                                                                                                                  About #1: Depending on the establishment, I may honestly want to be seated away from children if possible, especially if I'm fighting off a headache or something. I fully understand that if I'm at a Cracker Barrel, Red Robin, or something like that, I may not have any choice in the matter, so it's time for me to suck it up. And *yes*, I'm willing to wait.

                                                                                                                  About #2: I cannot actually remember the last time this happened.

                                                                                                                  About #3: Couldn't agree more. Like I said, we're both human beings.

                                                                                                                  About #4: Fair enough, though it's usually not a problem with me or with the people I dine with.

                                                                                                                  About #5: Not applicable. I don't drink wine or beer, and I can count on two hands the number of cocktails I had all of last year.

                                                                                                                  About #6: I have to throw in an "OBJECTION!!!!" here. This may be true for you, but it never ceases to amaze me, in restaurants great or not-so-great, the sheer obstinance of people who don't understand that, when I make eye contact with you from across the room, I'm not doing it because I'm bored...I actually need your attention at the table. Again, you personally may be *plenty* good at it, and if you are, I applaud you (it would be noted, and you'd be tipped accordingly), but I'd say that this is a skill that's woefully missing or ignored by far too many servers in the food service industry.

                                                                                                                  About #7: I believe that you should be allowed to beat said people with sticks, *especially* when these idiots bring their small kids to any restaurant with an average entree price of, say, $20 or more. I swear to all things holy that if you *do* beat said people with sticks, I will multiply your gratuity exponentially. Nothing beats dinner and a show! ;)

                                                                                                                  About #8: I already do this, and if you're coming by, I'll let you know with a simple nod that it's ready. I agree that it can be embarrassing if it's The Great Unknown.

                                                                                                                  About #9: And again, I've got to at least *partially* object. I cannot tell you how many times servers (again, the quality, price, or location of the restaurant doesn't matter, here...it's universal) will just charge away from the table they're speaking to, run, run, running away for some boneheaded reason, into The Place Where Customers Aren't Allowed. They do this with reckless abandon, even if you're directly behind them or across from them...even if you're calling their name as they're walking away...it doesn't matter.

                                                                                                                  So, I ask you, Davis, what am I supposed to do here? I don't want to be rude and intrude on your service to another table, but at the same time, if you're *walking away* and not responding, um, wasn't I sort of foolish to not at least *try* to get your attention?

                                                                                                                  About #10: This is a fair statement, and one I'm rarely guilty of, though I can't say I'm completely innocent, either. It's also fair to want to nudge along some stragglers when there's a particularly long wait, or something like that. What I won't put up with is someone who tries to rush me because, well gee, it's a machine, and we've got to keep you moving.

                                                                                                                  To me, it's all about attitude. Even the worst/most clueless server can only take their tip down into the 10% range with me, and that's if it's practically a disaster. If they're being at least nice, they'll still get a tip. However, if they don't want to work, or if they aspire to be somewhere else, or if they just don't care, heaven help them, because once I'm ticked off due to bad attitude from a server, I'm a freaking pit bull, and any headache I receive will come back to them fourfold. It has been a *long* time (probably 6 or more years) since I've had to get mean and rough, but the last time I did, it cost the restaurant plenty: about a $350 bill, and I haven't returned since.

                                                                                                                  Thanks for the insights, Davis. Sounds like being served by you would be a very pleasant experience.

                                                                                                                  1. #2: Not sure where you live but most place I go to the server asks "Can I start you off with something to drink?" But your point is taken, about answering the question asked.

                                                                                                                    #5: It's the job of the wait staff and/or host staff to give me a wine/beer list. If I can't see the wine/beer list how do I know what wines and beers you have? There have been many times when there hasn't been a wine/beer list at my table and the server was rude about listing what beers they had.

                                                                                                                    1. I have a question. In some restaurants, food is served family-style, with lots of dishes and sides set on the table so that we can serve ourselves. Sometimes, when we've finished eating, I might start stacking up the empty plates, to reduce the clutter, make it easier to clear the table...Is this helpful or just annoying to the servers?

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. One thing I would like to add. If you the server picks up the check presenter, don't ask me if I need change back. If I say things like "Keep the change. We're set. Or words to those affects" that means I don't need change. But if I do not say anything, don't assume that $50 bill on a $20 tab is your tip. Just bring me the change and I'll decide how much I will tip you.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: reality check

                                                                                                                          See "basic waiter requirements" thread for a heated debate on this issue.

                                                                                                                        2. Eye contact, eh? So you're not one of those servers who deliberately avoid it so they cannot be asked to, uh, "serve" their customers? (Even I, who positively cringes at the thought of No. 9, am sometimes forced to employ it.)

                                                                                                                          Very good for you. I wish you weren't so relatively rare.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                                                                            My boyfriend calls that the "server turn." You know the server has seen that you need them for something but spins on their heel and walks away, pretending that he/she hasn't seen you.

                                                                                                                          2. This is truly an amazing string of posts!

                                                                                                                            Thank you, Davis for your original posting.

                                                                                                                            Thinking on all of the responses I've read, I can only say: we've been "wowed" in three and four star restaurants in the USA and Europe; and we've been brought low in others. I credit that to our anticipation of the dining experience; and the restaurants commitment to serving the guest that darkens its door.

                                                                                                                            1. Davis, perhaps you can shed light on a mystery from a customer's perspective. Why is it that I am frequently asked if I want the change AFTER the person has already checked what I put in the check presenter and it's frequently something like $60 for a $42 meal? Uh, yeah, I do want change for that unless I've had superlative service. Why ask at all and why not just bring me the change regardless? Is this done to save time?

                                                                                                                              17 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                                                I wonder if it's a psychological thing? You know, to make you sound cheap (especially when a guy's on a date) if you "ask" for change back? Or maybe it's to confuse people who don't know any better into thinking "well, maybe I DON'T want any change (because the waiter thinks that's a good tip amount)."


                                                                                                                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                                                  The tip goes down if that happens.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                    I brought this up in the other thread but the point I made was that IF they did not look inside the folder, etc... I would not penalize them. I do not see this as a strong arm measure in most cases. There are other offenses that I find much more bothersome, especially if you have already had great service from this person and there was no rushing, upselling, etc.

                                                                                                                                    I think you "know" if this person was trying to force your hand, so to speak, throughout the meal. The tip would have already been affected at this point. Am I wrong?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Michele4466

                                                                                                                                      I was only addressing the situation when the server is already aware of the magnititude of the possible change (and it being clearly in the too-large-to-be-a-normal tip range). Even if the server was otherwise adequate, what might have been a 25% might drop to 20% for that impertinant inquiry.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                        I am completely with you on that... that is an outwardly rude and "pressure filled" action.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                                                    I do not work in food service but my daughter does. She says that she has gotten in the habit of picking up the folder without looking inside (when it is apparent that cash is being used) and saying, "I'll be right back with your change." This gives the patron the opportunity to say either "Thank you" or "No, that's OK, it's for you". She doesnt thing it has affected her tips any, but it removes any question about expectations on either party's part.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                                                                                        I think that's great and the way it should be. I see no reason why it should affect her tip; if anything, it makes me appreciate her thoughtfulness even more.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                                                          I think the example was intended of what was proper and thus would not impair the tip....

                                                                                                                                      2. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                                                        I can only speak for myself when I say that, yes, I do ask that question to save time and, only after reading all of the irate posts on these various threads, did I realize how presumptious that might seem to some guests. However, to be fair, I never said "Do you want change?" (which sounds ridiculous) I have always said "May I bring you some change for this?" which, in my opinion, was an honest question (certainly not a psychological attempt to swindle you out of your change or make you look bad in front of your date, Texas Toast). I have come to realize that the statement, "I'll be right back with your change", which I have actually started using at work with positive results, is the best way to approach the situation because it allows for the guest to alert me should the remainder be my tip which saves me a trip back to the table and also could not possibly offend anyone. That being said I hope everyone realizes that if you have the right to be offended by servers making a simple inquiry then we have the right to be offended by the "just bring me my change and I'll decide what to do with it" mentality that many posters on this and other threads have displayed. Why is it immediately assumed that your server is trying to scam you? I hate the thought that if I so much as utter the wrong phrase to my guests that they immediately begin mentally lowering my tip percentage! I honestly cannot agree with the idea that I was truly saying anything wrong in the past, nor do I think I have offended anyone that I have had this exchange with in real life. It makes me wonder, as Snow brings up below, whether people really do get an egomaniacle boost out of being in control of how much they can tip.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Davis

                                                                                                                                          Note that the ire was reserved for situations where the server had seen the amount of cash and the excess over the bill was clearly far more than a normal tip.

                                                                                                                                          In that situation, the surmise on the part of the customer is far more reasonable than going on autopilot and asking what would be an impertinant question in that context. The question betrays an utter lack of empathic understanding of the customer.

                                                                                                                                          You live and learn. You've probably lost some tip money doing this. Others will continue to do so, entirely justifiably. Questions are part of the service experience, and poor judgment can sometimes have consequences when customers are free to choose how to respond.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Davis

                                                                                                                                            Thanks for answering my question, Davis. It came from a real curiosity of wanting to know, not because I think servers have ulterior motives. I agree that there is a difference between the "Do you/May I" construct, although I can see many diners not appreciating its nuance. Now, what do you think about the restaurant automatically including the tip in your bill, as is done in Europe and Per Se? Sometimes I think that's the best solution. Coming from a waiter's perspective, my father pushed for this at the restaurant he worked in but no go.

                                                                                                                                            P.S. Of course some people get an egomanic boost out of being in control of how much they can tip, just like many people I know get an egomanic boost of taking their friends to the most expensive, newest, trendiest, etc., restaurant in town just to be seen and just so they can say the next day "Oh, you'll NEVER believe where I was last night...."

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Davis

                                                                                                                                              "an egonmaiacle (sic) boost out of being in control..." Of course the diner is in control of how much they tip! The only times I've ever been asked something like, "Do you need change?" is when the change would amount to about a 30% tip, or higher. I find it impossible to believe that this is ever said innocently. In any event, don't try it with me unless you want a substandard tip.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                I don't understand why it's so hard to believe that it's said "innocently" and I will never understand why people get so heated about this question. Most of the time when I've gotten this question they've never even looked to see how much I've left, it's clearly just asked to see if there's the need to make two trips to get your change and bring it to you or not, which makes a difference to a busy waiter. A lot of people seem to be looking for a reason to take offense here (and I've never been a waiter).

                                                                                                                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                                  No, we've seent the scenario many times (where the server views the cash that would result in substantially more than a normal tip). Not looking for offense. Offended. And quite reasonably so.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                    But you're assuming that the server remembers exactly what you ordered and therefore what a reasonable tip would be. This is a totally non offensive question, and it's just a way for the server to figure out if there's a need to bring change or not (since a lot of time when I get that question, the answer is no, so it's clearly a very reasonable question). I think that the offense that's taken is unnecessary.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                                      I do not buy this line of argument at all. It's much easier to simply say: "I will bring you your change." That involves no chance of offense to the customer. I am hardly alone in interpreting the question in this context as offensive; countless other diners do too (I've heard many mutterings over the years). We're doing servers a service here alerting them to the problem, with an easy fix. Those who choose to ignore it will reap the consequences.

                                                                                                                                          2. I have to ask about waving. I never wave wildly, but I've found that there is a universally-understood sign for "bring me the check" (a wave of the finger as if writing). I would think that making that sign while the waiter is looking at you from across the room would be considered helpful and not rude. It saves time. I also sometimes will raise my hand or make a single wave at a waiter to get his attention, but again, never wildly. I usually eat in low-end restaurants, so consider the context, too.

                                                                                                                                            For what it's worth, I am polite in my spoken dealings with waiters and tend to tip high (over 20%) under most circumstances.

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                              The "bring me the check" sign/ raised hand/ single wave are all helpful! My earlier post was about the people who wave as if they're stranded on an island.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                That's great and actually very helpful to your server not to make them have to walk all the way over to your table just to say something that could have been communicated from across the room. It's just when I turn around and someone is franticaly waving at my back, as if I hadn't been on their side of the restaurant ten seconds ago.

                                                                                                                                              2. Threads like these DRIVE ME CRAZY. Davis posts a very reasonable list and then eventually it turns into another gripe session about how people feel their server isn't performing up to their standards (and there's already several other threads on this board about that - post there). The one word that Davis doesn't mention in his OP, but is definitely present is RESPECT. Treat your server with respect and you are more likely to have a good experience. Everyone loves to kill the messenger: servers never get credit for a great meal, but always get blamed for a bad one. They take the brunt of any mistakes the kitchen makes, or problems with the host, or other diners' bad behavior, etc., but then where's the love when everything is perfect? Realize that there are some things within the control of your server and many things that are not. Only hold your server responsible for the ones he/she is actually able to do something about. I eat out A LOT, probably an average of 15 meals a week, in all sorts of places with a wide range of price scales. Some expensive, some less so, and some total dives, and I have to try hard to even remember a handful of times in the last 20 years where the service was so bad I actually got upset. How do you people ever enjoy your meal if you are constantly getting your napkin in a twist over the littlest things and scrutinizing every single action your server makes as a possible "mistake"? Being a good server, whether in a diner or a five-star restaurant is an acquired skill, and I can appreciate how difficult it is. I will tip 20% EVEN IF the service is poor. I'm willing to give the server the benefit of the doubt and if they are having a bad day, they probably need the tip even more that day. If I go back and continue to have poor service, I might make a few suggestions, either to the server or the manager, AFTER I've already paid for my meal; few people are providing bad service ON PURPOSE and most people appreciate respectful feedback. However, I rarely have had to do this - the times when I've actually had substandard service, the server was so grateful for the tip (of course they already knew they were having a bad night) that they practically fell over themselves to give me superior service when I returned. (An example where feedback might be helpful: a few people mentioned above that they don't like getting asked if "they need any change." Ok, fine, but just continuing to complain about it on this board does nothing to improve the situation. Tell your server or the manager if it bothers you and it's likely if you go back, it won't happen again. Then you won't have anything to complain about and you can give that larger tip and everyone is happy.) If it's clearly intentionally bad service, that's a different story, but I think this rarely ever happens. Get over yourselves, stop acting like entitled brats when you go out to eat, and stop being cheap like every little thing becomes a deduction on the tip. It's a privilege to go and eat in the first place. Act like it. Follow Davis' basic advice and you just might really enjoy yourselves.

                                                                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: snow

                                                                                                                                                  With the snow came a breath of cool, fresh air.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: snow

                                                                                                                                                    Whoa, relax! My father worked as a waiter all his life and both of my sisters worked several years in the business. I did not see any of these posts as an Us vs. Them kind of thing but honest attempts to see things both way. For example, my question was asked out of real curiousity, not because I think servers are less than human or what have you. But respect has to go both ways. And guess what, just as in any job, there are indeed people who are surly, will always be surly, will take that out on everyone, and restaurants are not immuned from that. My father can tell you a few stories about some of his colleagues. "Entitled brats"? That's really uncalled for and just plain out wrong.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: snow

                                                                                                                                                      I must say, I really enjoyed that. Kudos, snow.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: snow

                                                                                                                                                        Snow, please.

                                                                                                                                                        Many of your points are just not true.
                                                                                                                                                        - "Respect" is covered my many of us and we all seem to agree it goes both ways.
                                                                                                                                                        - Few, if any, blamed the waiter for mistakes outside the waiter's control
                                                                                                                                                        - You have been very lucky eating out as often as you do and not have experienced bad service. I want to eat with you please
                                                                                                                                                        - Many have addressed the feedback on both good and bad service is critical, and more important, fair. If you tell a manager when you have bad, you have an obligation on the good side as well.

                                                                                                                                                        Davis was asked in another thread (I think I was the intigator) to post from a waiter's perspective on what are the things that drive waiter crazy. He posted a great list and after over 100 responses we have had a very interesting discussion on the subject. We are all trying to make the dining experience better, both from the waiter and the customer side.

                                                                                                                                                        I do not think calling those of us "entitled brats" or "cheap" who express opinions about service and the effect on tips is any more productive than us calling people who tip 20% for lousy service without comment a "doormat" or any other name.

                                                                                                                                                        Many of us who posted responses to Davis' list have commended and thanked him for opening our eyes to things we might be doing to assist the waiter (just look for mine to start). These types of discussions are the essence of an on-line community, no different than a discussion group at the local Y.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                          jfood, I must agree with you, as one who learned something from this thread and thanked the OP early on. However, I have noticed that whenever the topic of waiters, service, or tipping comes up (here and elsehwere), things often degenerate into hurt feelings and unpleasantness. I believe that this is due to the iniquitous nature of tipping itself, which leaves people feeling unsure and in an uncomfortably unbalanced power relationship that no one really enjoys (at least, I certainly don't enjoy it; maybe somebody does).

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Marsha

                                                                                                                                                            You are generally correct about these discussions degenerating. I an amazed that the three current threads about tipping, servers, and diners have remained so civil. Oh - maybe The Ogre has been eating some of the ugly posts!

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: snow

                                                                                                                                                          "[S]ervers never get credit for a great meal, but always get blamed for a bad one."

                                                                                                                                                          From where I stand, that's totally untrue. If I have a great meal, I surely tell the server about it, and I tip accordingly for superior service, as well.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                            Me too. I'm server's favorite customer. And those guys (and gils) move around, such that when walking down the street, I'm likely to bump into people who waited on me months ago, and who now work somewhere else. So I'll ask for them when I go to their new establishment. In return, they'll steer me away from things I really shouldn't be eating (like re-cycled food)!


                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                              Bingo. Telling the server that we've had a phenomenal meal, telling the restaurant's management that we had a great waiter with excellent service, and tipping MORE than appropriately when great service and meal was received is always done by me and my friends.

                                                                                                                                                              Calling those of us who commented on this thread "entitled brats" is, as jfood said, just as counter-productive as you seem to think this and other threads are. People disagree on many things - whether in person or on online message boards.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: snow

                                                                                                                                                              I know for sure that I could never be a server in any kind of restaurant. I would either spill food everywhere, or become impatient with diners who couldn't make up their minds. The only thing I won't tolerate in a server is outright rudeness. I absolutely will not tip AT ALL someone who gratuitously insults me. I'm happy to say that I've only encountered such behavior a few times over the years, but it does happen.

                                                                                                                                                            3. Just to point I hate when you sit down with your child and the waiter automatically thinks your child will be unruly.I actually had waiters/hostesses express shock to me when leaving rest. during our vaction because my two and half year old could sit in his chair throughout a meal. Some children can behave...of course I am stopping at this one because I got lucky but why assume?

                                                                                                                                                              1. Very good thread. I, too, am amazed that is has been so civil for so long. No help from me, of course, but that is what happens when you post right after work. I will try and refrain from that in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                As far as the "I'll be back with your change" bit, phrasing is one thing, intention is another. A grammatical slip/mistake/misintrepretation/whatever is not really a valid reasib for reducing a tip. Do I charge the cutomer more when they tell me something was UNedible? Or that the glass of wine they don't like is CLEARLY a week old when I just opened the bottle? Or if they call me John all night when I said my name is Sean? No, it's just people being people. So I don't expect to be docked if my phrasing doesn't meet a standard that I don't know exists. I can't tell you how many times I say "I'll be right back with that" and they say "yes", and when I bring back the change they say, "no, that's all set." The point? Half the time they aren't really listening to you, so you do/say what you need to. Maybe they hear/understand you, maybe they don't. Can't tell. Should we lose income over a perceived slight/mistake if people don't always listen? It is the same as the "may I get you a dink" question. Some people answer the question, others don't.

                                                                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: garcon

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree. Give your waiter a break. He or she is the same as any other professional. If they're consistently bad, don't give them a break, but be nice in most instances.

                                                                                                                                                                  When the bank teller is mean, do you threaten anything? No! And I've seen plenty of mean bank people in my day, even when I try to be nice.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: therealbigtasty

                                                                                                                                                                    I'm quite sure I've never encountered a mean bank teller. Incompetent, yes. Mean? No. Anyway, the two are not analagous: A bank transaction is fleeting, where the diner/server relationship is protracted. If the bank teller is surly, you still get your money. If the waiter is horrendous, your dining experience suffers greatly.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                      I live in Los Angeles and have watched my poor girlfriend subjected to mean unhelpful bank tellers.

                                                                                                                                                                      This is all first hand experience.

                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not kidding.

                                                                                                                                                                      The reason I brought up the bank person thing is a few of them were directly responsible for making my days very annoying. Still, to this day I refuse to succumb to the desire to give them hell in return, but bank people have been very unpleasant to serve.

                                                                                                                                                                      Plus, my understanding of the English language is such that I understand completely the difference between mean and incompetent.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                        Oh yeah, and sometimes you don't get your money as when someone cleaned out my bank account, there was no help.

                                                                                                                                                                        I supplied some specific notes and receipts and still was screwed out of 500 or so bucks.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: garcon

                                                                                                                                                                      Again, it's not just the phrasing but the context where (1) the waiter looks at the amount of cash, and (2) there is an amount of change that would be noticeably larger than a normal tip,. In that circumstance, going on autopilot with poor phrasing will reasonably be interpreted as manipulative by the customer, who is the one you are serving after all.

                                                                                                                                                                      At least I hope the servers on this thread are now aware to avoid that phrase.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                        I would just like to reply that sometimes the server is not looking at the amount of cash in the bill fold but to check that there is cash. You are also assuming that the server remembers how much your bill was. On a busy night something as simple as not making change when it is not necessary can save the server a ton of time. This time saved can mean the difference from everything going smoothly to a night of chaos.
                                                                                                                                                                        Most servers who ask if you need change are not trying to get you to leave them a big tip, they are just trying to save themselves a little bit of time.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: camp1980

                                                                                                                                                                          Perhaps on occasion, but it would be much better if they learned to rephrase a question that is impertinant under the circumstances. That burden falls on the server, not the customer.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                            how is it disrespectful if they are just trying to save time for all the other customers who think their servers are "slow" or are not "paying anough attention" to them?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                              or how about when the server takes the checkbook, you the customer just tells them "no i dont need change" or "may i please have change?" before the server can even ask the "disrespectful" question?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: caitybirdie

                                                                                                                                                                                That situation's fine, as I had already noted earlier in this thread. That's *not* the context I was specifically complaining about and that I have heard many diners complain of over the years. My warning is limited to a specific context. And there is an easy fix for the server. Even were I to suddenly agree with you, understand that won't change the reaction of myriad customers out there who are bothered by this scenario and might lower their tips accordingly. It would seem to be in the interest of servers to make the easy fix....

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                                  I completely agree that it is an easy fix, and when I was a server and it was brought to my attention that people did not like that question I changed my wording. I think what people are trying to tell you and others that may have lowered the tip because they were asked if they needed change is that many servers are not aware that this may be an deemed inappropriate question to some people.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I am sure that servers who have read this thread now know not to ask if people need change, but I am sure there are many many servers who do not read chowhound. Perhaps next time a server does ask you if you want change instead of lowering their tip, you could give them an extra tip by telling them about this website.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: camp1980

                                                                                                                                                                                    Don't think so. Those waiters don't seem to want advice.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: camp1980

                                                                                                                                                                                      Other than myself, I have completely lost track of who is on which side of this question.

                                                                                                                                                                                      As I said WAY up the page, my daughter will pick up the folder WITHOUT LOOKING INSIDE as long as it apparent that cash is being used and tell the customer that she will be right back with the change. She is smart enough to NEVER ASSUME that the change is for her. Her statement does not require an answer on the customer's part. But if they reply "Thank you", she knows what the customer wants. If they reply, "No, that's for you", she also knows what the customer wants. This makes it a no stress situation for both her and the customer.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I suppose there are customers who upon hearing "I'll be right back with your change", would think, "Why you impertinent little waitron! How DARE you assume that change is important to me." But probably not in Milwaukee.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                                                                                                                                        And certainly not in New England...

                                                                                                                                                                        2. will you marry me? i love you. this made me like my job again. i wish everyone in the world would read this, or i just say that everyone in the world needs to work in a restaurant just FOR A WEEK, and the world will be a better place.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. wow 144 replies!!!!I gotta say it was a very good post! I wish you were my wait person at every restaurant I went to. You sound very pro!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I haven't the time to read through all the posts in this topic but I have two observations:

                                                                                                                                                                              1. I just don't see a non-presumptuous way for a server to ask the question about whether change is required, unless the guests are regulars who the server knows always say it is. The question is simply too easily misunderstood to be asked under most curcumstances.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. I don't know if anyone has brought it up here, but all this pales in comparison with the server (and I've had it happen) who just assumes that you don't want change and never brings the folder back.