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Feb 4, 2007 06:25 AM

Do waiters really want me to order coffee/dessert?

I am always curious about why I might feel different body language at the end of the meal versus during the course of a meal, so look to CH for some data.

In a crowded resto and we are 75-80 minutes into our meal and the entree dishes are cleared. The waiter, who has been fantastic and upbeat as he explained the specials earlier in the evening seems reluctant, almost, to offer the dessert menus and ask for coffee, and sheepishly does both.

Does the waiter wish to have us sit there for 30-40 minutes with a $8 dessert and $4 coffee/tea or does he want to turn the table hoping for the extra seating for the evening and have another group order the $20+ entrees?


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  1. I believe the telling word in your post was 'crowded' and it also depends on the restaurant. Some wait staff are encouraged to push the $6-10 desserts and the expensive cappucinos. For a party of four, this can add more heft to the check and their tip. And let's not forget after dinner drinks.

    On the other hand, if the restaurant is really backed up and a table has been dawdling for awhile, management might encourage the wait staff to clear that table so someone else's reservation can be honored.

    One way or the other, I feel it's up to the individual diner to order dessert and coffee. I personally don't care if the waiter/ess encourages me or not.

    1. If it's busy, they want to turn the table and sell more entrees and wine.

      If its slow, they want you to stay and spend as much as you can.

      They don't want you to order tea. (They all seem peevish about tea somehow.)

      I agree with Flynn, get what you want out of the experience, that's why you're there. They might discourage dessert if they don't like what they have to offer, but hopefully that's a rare situation.

      7 Replies
      1. re: babette feasts

        read this for perhaps a laugh and an explanation as to why no waiter enjoys serving tea.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess

          Ha- for any server, tea is a big PITA! But as a customer, I order it b/c I like tea, and because you know what- it's just a cup of tea ~ ~ not that big a deal. I do get irritated when the resto has no honey for the tea, sugar just isn't the same when you are used to honey.

          Also, BTW- a lot of chains give their servers commissions and special bonuses/competitions (like selling the most desserts or glasses of wine in a week). So sometimes, even if it's busy they do want you to order it. I think they approach you with standoffish body language because so many people are so hesitant about ordering dessert. I saw a comedian recently that related ordering dessert to sex, comments like "I'll do it if you do it" and "oooh - we're so bad, but it feels so good..." Which you really do overhear in a restaurant. It was pretty funny.

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            priceless waiter story. the tea-drinking schluck is a reality in the biz, but the stereotype, like most stereotypes, doesn't always (or even usually) hold true.

            i am reminded that my dear, ancient grandma, bless her simple soul, would carry green tea packets in her handbag when we'd take her out to eat, request green tea from overworked servers (before green tea was a common selection in restaurants), and when told the place didn't have green tea, would with satisfaction ask for a pot of hot water, produce her teabag, and brew her own. she would then thriftily seal her used tea bag in a plastic bag and return it to her handbag. once, despite grandma using her own teabag, the table was charged for "one hot tea," and to my mortification she proceeded to berate the poor hapless waitress who had brought out the requisite bowl of lemons, pot of honey, sugar bowl, and hot water (twice). afterward, my mother and father would make a great show of "checking the bill" at the end of dinner, and regardless of tea charge, would tell grandma that there was no charge for the tea.
            "well, this is a nice place, not like that *** restaurant." she would say

            i like tea but know it is a royal pain for servers so i order coffee when i'm at a busy place. but if it isn't super busy, i order tea. i always tip based on service in addition to the price of the bill.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              I loved that! Thanks princess, def had some similar experiences. How about when customers bring their own tea bags and ask for a cup of hot water.
              Personally, as a server I am happy if the customers are happy. I am there to serve them and make their dining experience pleasurable. It's not about the $7. extra for a dessert on a check, or about turning over the table.
              The biz is a marathon, not a sprint. Happy customers will come back happy customers.
              My fave kind to wait on :)

            2. re: babette feasts

              Being a former server, I agree with what was said above. Busy = i want you to leave. Slow = stay and add a few bucks to my tip. With that said, I've never felt the slightest bit bad about ordering dessert if i want it regardless if the restaurant is busy. when I'm dining out, your long wait is not my problem.

              I cracked up on the tea thing! Don't know why and I'm speaking in extreme generalizations here, but getting a cup of tea was a pain the neck (so many stupid little things to carry) and the tea-orderers had a way of being a pain in the neck.

              1. re: amyvc

                I think the problem is the way both sides react to the process. Waitstaff very often has a hard time not showing thier annoyance while still at the table when tea is requested, which upsets the diner, which makes the diner more a pain in the neck, which makes the waitstaff more annoyed, etc.

                I don't drink coffee. At the end of a meal I enjoy a cup of tea, it makes me feel calm, happy, satisfied and emotionally fulfilled. This is likely to make my tip more. However, when I am only offered coffee, when eyes are rolled when I ask for tea, when the server brings coffee immeidately but I have to wait 20 minutes for tea, meaning that my friends or SO will be well finished before I can even brew my tea, I am not calm, happy, satisfed or emotionally fulfilled.

                If I am defensive in ordering my tea, that will make the server more defensive. If they react negatively to my ordering tea, that will make me react more negatively to thier actions. It's not what happens to you, it is how you react to what happens to you that counts.

                Ok, I realize this is totally off the OP. Sorry.

                1. re: bonmann

                  Agreed. I'm glad i'm not a tea drinker because servers definitely react that way. I agree that you should be able to order and recieve your tea without feeling as if you are asking the server to do rocket science. It definitely speaks to the service if they let you know they're annoyed. I'm pretty direct when it's an undeserved injustice, so I'd probably just call them out with "Oh, is that annoying to you to have to bring me tea?" I know it's not fun, but in this case, I think it's well-deserved.

            3. it's bad form if a waiter's body language is so noticeably stressed. that being said, in the scenario you described, he's looking to turn the table, and no, does not want you dawdling for 40 more minutes for an extra $16 on your check. countless times i've been that manager breathing down a server's neck and hissing, "we need that table NOW."

              however, you shouldn't feel like you "shouldn't" have dessert if you'd like it. that's the restaurant's problem, not yours.

              1. with all that being said, I definitely notice the difference when wait staff are trying to "push" you out of a table as opposed to leaving you to linger over coffee and dessert. they make you feel rushed and that may sometimes spoil the whole experience at a restaurant. It definitely reflects in the amount of tip I give and definitely towards a return visit or even a recommendation.

                1. I am laughing at the tea thing b/c more than one place I worked as a server long ago, I would have people order hot water, lemon, honey, etc, and bring their own tea bag. Now mind you this was not some special tea...just something garden variety litpn or herbal tea. so cheap it kills me. I swear this happened a handful of times at various places