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It’s a cruel, cruel summer

Summertime means trips to the beach, family reunions and cookouts with family and friends.  For a server, it means that you’ll get fairly abnormal shifts until fall returns and brings back a sense of normality (i.e. predictable shifts).  The following are my “pet peeves” of being a server during the summer.

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1 – It’s hot outside.  And because of the fact that it’s hot outside, it means that it’s also hot inside for your server and your chefs.  Which is why the a.c. is set to a comfortable 74 degree temperature.  If you are the type of person that gets cold easily, bringing a light sweater or jacket is recommended.  No, I will not turn OFF the a.c.  That is the most ridiculous request I’ve ever heard of, and I cannot believe that you think so highly of yourself that you think everyone else will be comfortable with your demands.

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2 – Parties of 15+ that don’t call ahead.  Especially on a busy shift, and demand to be seated asap because “we have things to do”.  Getting a 12-top together is pretty difficult as-is, so really, anything greater than a 12-top is strongly encouraged to call ahead so that way the restaurant can accommodate you with ease.  It also allows the possibility of calling in another server or two to maintain normality within the rest of the restaurant.  It’s just a freaking nice thing to do.  Think about it: you’re at home and you are aware that a few of your friends are going to stop by for a cookout.  But what they didn’t tell you is that they are bringing FIFTEEN of their super closest friends ever!  Not only do you not have enough plates and cups, but they will have nowhere to sit or even stand because you live in an 800 square-foot apartment.

Ok, ok, that example is a little extreme, but I feel like it really expresses my feelings about the whole thing.  Even for a friend’s birthday last January, we made sure to call ahead for a table of 6 because it was a Saturday night and it was assumed we would be waiting for at least an hour.  But because of the fact that we called ahead, they had our table ready and we were able to sit immediately.

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3 – Coming in 5 minutes before close.  Everyone that works in a restaurant HATES THIS, not just servers.  The managers hate it because it means it’ll be at least another 30 minutes before they can do their closing things.  The chefs hate it because they had just finished cleaning for the night in hopes that they can still make last call at a local watering hole.  The servers hate it because they just finished setting up their section for the next day.  This is not just a summer-thing, but it does seem to increase during the summer.  Regardless, this does happen.  And it is the worst thing about a server’s day.  And the chef’s.  Because 9 times outta 10, you all have some really bizarre requests so close to closing time.

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4 – Arguing over who will pay the bill.  As it is summer, there is an increase of lifelong friends that haven’t seen each other in ages, so that also means an increase in people arguing over who pays the bill.  Here’s a newsflash for you: I DON’T CARE WHO PAYS, just as long as someone does!

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Instead of arguing over it while I’m standing right there, just let me drop of the check and you can calmly work it out quietly amongst yourselves because you’re freaking adults, so act like it.  Every so often, I try to make this exceedingly uncomfortable situation less uncomfortable (for me) and make up a fake game like, “I’ll just throw it in the air and whoever it lands closest to gets to pay”, or “I’ll hide the check behind my back and whoever guesses the correct hand wins the prize!”  But, you guys don’t seem to find that funny.  Just like how I don’t think that you acting like children over a $20 tab is super adorable.

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5 – An increase in people that do not (or do not know how to) tip.  I’m looking at you, high school kids that have just come back from an exciting outing, doing summer-based activities, and now you’re making spit balls and instagraming your cheeseburger.

I’ve had customers that haven’t left a tip simply because they didn’t follow directions.  If you take your credit card receipt with you, you know, that one that you just left me like a 62% tip on? I HAVE NO WAY OF PROVING THAT YOU LEFT ME A TIP!  You unintentionally stiffed me!  Or that one time when you left a tip on a gift card, but it was more than what was on your gift card?  Thanks for that one, that was a great 3% tip for the three hours you sat in my section.

But then there’s the summer culprits:  the out-of-towners that apparently live on Mars and don’t know how tipping works, teenagers, and those that are in such a hurry to go to the pool that they just bail out on their bill altogether.  This is when I wish there was an occasional public service announcement on all media (including stupid instagram), that tells everyone what the standard pay is for servers and what it has been for about 22 years:

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Like I’ve said before, I’m not really a fan of venting about tips, but it does seem that tipping decreases over the summer for a variety of reasons (one that I received the other day: “I just don’t have enough money to tip you, SW.  I am so so sorry 😦 You were great though!”).  Here’s a great rule of thumb: go into a restaurant with an idea of how much money you have and how much you are going to spend.  Go in expecting spectacular service, and calculate that 20% tip into your mental total.  Ok.  Do you have your total in your head?  Add an extra $5 in case you want dessert or one last beer.  Or just in case you need like a gallon of gas to get home because you forgot you were driving Billy and Bonnie to summer camp.  Ok.  Now you have enough money to eat at a restaurant.  If you didn’t pass the test, I would recommend the following suggestions:
– go to a fast food restaurant instead.  They are paid at least minimum wage and do not rely on tips to pay their bills.
– go to the grocery store.  Some grocery stores even have a deli where you can get pre-made entrees so you don’t even have to make them yourselves!

Ok, I think I’m done being bitter for now.  I’m gonna go enjoy the gorgeous weather and try to not think about work!

Sweaty hugs,
SW

*all crudely-drawn pictures were created in Paint by me!  So if you borrow them for any reason, just drop me a line below and let me know 🙂

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Guide to Being a Courteous Customer

The following are just a few things that get under my skin on a weekly-to-daily basis.  Keep these things in mind the next time you go to a restaurant (or anywhere, for some):

1 – Get off of your phone.  I cannot communicate with you when you are on the phone talking to someone else.  This means I cannot:
-get your order
-answer any questions you might have
-receive any modifications to your order

It’s also just a polite thing to do.  How would you feel if you were at a store and the cashier just whipped out their phone and started talking on it while you were trying to conduct business?  Annoyed?  Ignored?  Unimportant?  That’s how I feel when I’m trying to serve you while you’re on your phone.

2. Use your words.  I understand that there are some folks out there that don’t have the ability to do so, but for those of you that do have the ability to talk to me, please do.  Pointing at a picture sometimes isn’t sufficient.  Sometimes I write down what you pointed at, and then you become disappointed when it comes out not as you expected (i.e., pointing at a “specialty” burger when all you wanted was a cheeseburger.  If you wanted a cheeseburger, order a cheeseburger!  Not the one that costs you $3 extra and that you’re going to send back because it “wasn’t what you ordered”, even though it was, because you pointed at it!).

3.  Sometimes things take longer than you plan.  If you’re on an hour lunch break, and I advise you that it would be in your best interest to not order a well-done steak, you probably shouldn’t order a well-done steak.  Because, Mr. Business Man, you’re not the only one on their lunch break.  This means that there are SEVERAL orders that are being processed in the kitchen right now, so that means the timing for things might be a little off.  If you take a quick glance around, there are a lot of other people here; some are on their lunch break, but that giant party of 12 over there is a group of ladies that haven’t seen each other in 15 years and they all ordered stuff that takes longer to cook anyway.  So please order something that takes less time to make, so I can get you back to work on time.  Because otherwise, you’re just going to blame me for being late.

4.  If you have to “camp”, follow these guidelines:
-make sure the restaurant isn’t busy.  There could be multiple other families or “customers” that would love to have a seat, but you’re just sitting there not ordering anything else, not even a free refill on your soda.  If you don’t want anything else, please cash out and go hang out with your friends and family at home or at a park or something that isn’t costing someone money.
-make sure your server isn’t just waiting for you.  They can’t leave until all tables are cashed out, unless they transfer you to another server that is staying.  Keep in mind that the national minimum wage for servers is only $2.13/hr.
-if the service was good to exceptionally awesome, leave a better tip.  You took up that server’s table for X hours, so that server couldn’t turn that table over to other paying customers.  If you sit there for a long period of time and only tip like 10%, you probably just really screwed that server over.

5.  Tip appropriately.  I didn’t really want to have to get into tipping here on this blog, but….the general consensus is: 15%-18% for good service (15% is generally typical for lunch service, whereas 18% is typical for dinner service), and 20%+ for excellent/amazing service.  Not 10%.  Not 5%.  Not a nickle on $80.  If your server was truly horrific, ask them to send over the manager.  Leaving a crappy tip doesn’t tell the server anything.  Perhaps your food took longer than you thought it would.  Was this the server’s fault?  Probably not.  Perhaps your steak came out medium-well instead of well.  Was this the server’s fault?  Probably not (if your server put in the order correctly).  Sometimes just getting a manager can make all the difference in the world…which brings me to….

6.  If you aren’t happy, see a manager.  Yeah, this might go hand-in-hand with the previous point, but it’s so so so important.  If I screw up, I want to know how I screwed up.  Please talk to my manager and they will definitely notify me of the problem so that way I can watch out for it next time.  Sometimes, if it works out appropriately, you’ll benefit from seeing the manager anyway (i.e. something being removed from your bill).

7.  Keep in mind your server has nothing to do with price changes or menu changes.  I cannot fix them.  I’m sorry that yesterday that dessert was $2.50 cheaper, but I literally had nothing at all to do with that.  I’m sorry that last week we had X entree and now we don’t have it, not even the stuff to make it.  I know how it is to have a favorite dish at a restaurant.  I’m actually a pretty particular diner, so once I have a favorite I hold onto it for dear life.  But sometimes, The Big Bosses think it’s a good idea to axe that item off the menu.  Am I going to blame the server for this?  Absolutely not.  Because s/he had nothing at all to do with that decision.  If it was something I was definitely passionate about, I would contact the corporate office to suggest that the item be put back on the menu.  But never in my life would I blame the server, or stiff them on a tip, just because they didn’t have what I wanted.

8.  If you see your server at another table, this does not mean walk up to your server to ask for something you need/clap or snap loudly while they are talking/whistle at your server like they are a dog. I don’t see this needing any further explanation….

9. Your server is a human being, not a robot.  That means they have bad days too.  Sometimes we do make mistakes.  But if the server is good at their job, they will do anything in their power to fix the problem to make sure you leave happy.

Sometimes, technology fails us too.  The other day, I was putting in a very elaborate order into the computer.  I double-triple checked the order against what I had written down, and then sent it back to the kitchen.  Being the sometimes-paranoid person that I am, I walked back into the kitchen just to make sure the order sent back correctly.  Guess what….it hadn’t.  Now, this was in no way my fault.  This was a quirk in the system that put half of my modifications to the entree on the appetizer order for no apparent reason.  Which of course made absolutely no sense to the cooks.  Now, had I been bad at my job, I would’ve probably not noticed the computer screw-up, and all of those modifications for that entree would have been ignored, therefore having the entree sent out incorrectly.  But because I like to make sure my tables are happy, I frantically hollered the modifications to my expo, who then relayed the modifications to the cooks and all was right in the world.

Sometimes we misunderstand orders as well.  I’ll read back what I have written down (because, again, I’m paranoid that I have something incorrectly written down), and sometimes I misunderstood what was ordered.  Sometimes I’m just having a bad day, and I’m trying my hardest to not scream and shout and cry.  You have bad days too.  And you’re not a robot either.  Treat others the way you want to be treated, and then, for the most part at least, everything will work out 🙂

10.  Treat your area as if you were at your house/your friend’s house/the President’s house.  I do not, for the life of me, ever understand how messy some people can be when they go out to eat.  A family of three children and a baby is pretty understandable, but I don’t understand how adults going out to eat alone can be so messy.  Is it because you don’t have to clean it up?  Well, I do…So, please stop:
-leaving your gum under the table/in the booth/on the carpet.
-shredding napkins for like…no reason other than to make me confetti.
-taking out sugar packets and emptying them out in something other than your beverage.
-grabbing a stack of beverage napkins before I even come to the table to greet you.  I’m going to give you ACTUAL dinner napkins, not these thin, tissue paper-like napkins that you’re not even going to use.
Surprisingly, the list does go on, but you get the idea.

11.  When I ask you if there’s anything else I can get you, please let me know then, not every 5 seconds after the fact.  I do need to lose weight, and I frequently joke about how work helps me exercise because of all the running back and forth I do.  But, it’s a joke.  Let me give you an actual example of a table I had.  I had asked them if I could get anything extra for them (and this was after I dropped off extra napkins and refills for their drinks – without them asking me, it’s just something that I do to make their experience better).  They said no.  Not even two minutes later, as I’m at a different table, I see them out of the corner of my eye trying to get my attention (see #8 – I SEE you, but I’m talking, so I’ll be there in a second!).  When I’m finally able to stop by, one of the people at the table wanted some extra lemons for her water, so I go and get them.  When I come back, that’s when her friend decided she wanted some extra (EXTRA, as in a large ramekin, not a small one) dressing for the 5 bites she had left of her salad.  So, I go and get that.  Then, I come back, and they have managed to “use” (by use, I mean they like, wiped their fingers on the corner of them, and then balled them up) the 5 extra napkins I had dropped off earlier, in addition to the napkins the silverware is wrapped with, so they wanted more of those.  And back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, for at least 2-3 minutes.  I’m the type of server that will give you my undivided attention, and I will not stop giving you that attention until you convey to me that you are satisfied.  So, at this point, I can feel another table getting anxious because I haven’t been able to come to them yet for the things that they needed.  Long story short: when I ask you if you need anything else, try to get me to get those things in one trip, not 8.

Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would want to be treated.  When all else fails, think about how you would feel in that other person’s shoes.  How would you want to be treated at that moment?  Try to be the customer you would want to have.  When in doubt, express your concerns in a calm manner with your server.  If that doesn’t work, talk to the manager.  Life is too short to make mountains out of molehills (or sugar packets).

Bon Appetit!
-SW

The Importance of Surveys

Seems like everyone these days has those surveys.  I went to three places the other day, and every single one of them gave me a survey to fill out “if I had the time”.  You know the ones I’m talking about…sometimes you get a free sandwich, or even $5 off of your next purchase.  Sometimes you don’t get anything at all for doing them.  I’m going to tell you why you should.

1 – These surveys actually help the establishment.  The surveys tell them what exactly they did right, or wrong, or what they might need improvement on (when the person who takes the survey takes it seriously of course).  I know it’s tempting to just fill out the survey when you had an awful experience or a really remarkable one, but even if you just had an average visit and your server asks you to fill out the survey, please do!  Not only will the server know what they might need improvement on, the survey may ask other things relating to your visit, i.e. the quality of the food, the cleanliness of the restaurant, the atmosphere itself, etc.  This affects the restaurant in its entirety, not just the person who served you.  By filling out the survey, if a noticeable amount of people complained about one thing or praised another, they might consider changing the way things are run to satisfy a larger audience.  And, it helps your server out too, because…

2 – Your server needs those surveys filled out.  Their hours/shifts may depend on it.  There are some places that the power of the survey reigns supreme.  If X server gets Y surveys, they might have a better selection of shifts, or better hours to work.  And it takes the heat off of the restaurant entirely too, because…

3 – The higher-ups also depend on the surveys.  And may have a required amount for each district to have submitted.  When that amount isn’t met, the boss’ boss’ boss is sure to hear about it.  Then the boss’ boss will hear about it.  Then the boss will hear about it.  Then eeeeeeverrryyyyonnnneeeee at that location will hear about it, even if they’ve met the required amount.  Sometimes this means even raising the “budget” of required surveys to have filled out, thus recreating the vicious cycle of servers drawing smiley-faces and stars and throwing confetti over the check so you will notice the survey and hopefully fill it out because they just got their schedule the way they like it and they don’t want to lose it.

4 – It’s just a nice thing to do.  Even if you had the most crappy visit, you’re still benefiting the restaurant by filling out the survey.  Think about it: if you had a really terrible server, you wouldn’t want someone else to get that same server right?  You tell your friends, they tell their friends, etc.  But, that doesn’t fix the original issue, does it?  By filling out the survey, you’re not only letting the server know that they did a bad job, but you’re also letting the server’s manager know (if you didn’t already let him/her know while you were at the restaurant).  Then, corrective action can be taken, i.e. retraining, write-ups, or even termination.

On the flip side of that, you had one of the best servers you’ve ever had.  Sometimes just pulling the manager aside and telling him/her that your server did a great job is not enough.  Honest!  It’s not!  I can’t tell you how many credit card receipts that I have gotten that had written on the top “SW was a great server!” or “SW was attentive” or once I even got “SW was the highlight of my day” (really trying to not toot my own horn, just trying to make a point).  In addition, they also told my manager or told the host on the way out.  But do you know who didn’t know that I did a great job?  My boss’ boss.  Because it wasn’t on a blasted survey.

Again, even if you had a mediocre experience, filling out the survey lets everyone know what to work on so that way they can aim higher next time.

I’m gonna go get those three surveys out of my wallet now, and do someone some good.

Cheers,
SW