The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Keep it Simple

I felt that I had to write about his issue because there seems to be some confusion. The topic is pretty simple, or at least it should be.
How to pay your tab.

The first step is to actually acknowledge that your server/bartender/waitron/personal whipping boy has indeed left you a bill.

It's hard work, I know, believe it or not I have to eat as well and on occasion I pick up the tab, ok on almost all occasions since I am a male and it seems to be my assigned duty, though I would like to thank that nice girl from a couple weeks back that at least made an effort to reach for the bill.

I digress.

Acknowledgement, that doesn’t mean become squatters and hang out for an hour and the sheepish, “oh, I forgot!” doesn’t fly well either.

But at least that’s better than the occasional, “Yeah, we’ll pay when we’re ready/are you in a hurry for us to leave?” being snapped at me.

You are ready, you aren’t ordering anymore, you said you were finished or you even asked for the bill.

This goes double for the hated late night diner that wants to camp out, yes I am in a hurry for you to leave and I’d rather have my paperwork set for the office so I can get paid than to sit on the other side of the room with my thousand yard stare being glared at you as you dawdle.

I’ve also noticed two bad habits that the diner has taken up, the first is the most insidious. The diner picks up the check presenter, looks it over, then puts it in front of them leans on it for what seems like hours.

That’s not an armrest, that’s something you put fucking money in.

The second habit is putting a credit card or cash in book so it cannot be seen and then placing it exactly in the position that I left it in. Most servers just tip toe around the table after that not knowing if they should pick up the presenter, as they don’t know if payment has been made. As a rookie server many moons ago I was accosted by an unruly guest for not making their payment in time due to this. I learned quickly and now have no problem asking if payment has been made.

So you managed to actually pick up the check by now, here’s step two, actually read the fucking thing. This counts for credit slips as well. Yes your waiter will make mistakes in their life and dicking up you check is one of them. Its much easier to ask questions when you are there than to make angry phone calls to your credit card company or our office.

Another good reason to peruse your bill is the inclusion of gratuities/service fees corkage fees or any other fee or tax. Yes your server should cover this or make a note on the check, but at the end of the day its your responsibility as well to look at the bill and its far easier than to haggle over the phone for refunds and such.

I have been on the end of nasty phone calls and sit downs with management over getting the double tip or people plain pissed that we charged money for them to bring in their own wine.
As for corkage fees, fucking deal with it, if I had my way there would be no outside food or beverages brought in, period. The other day I had a twenty-five top with a limited menu, I was excited until I saw the wine listed for the evening, not a single bottle was on our list.

Guess how much I lost out on that because they brought their own wine?

I estimated my loss at $100, not to mention that was my only table of the night since they camped out and I lost my later reservations to the closer, so maybe it was more like $200 I lost, however we will just deal with the corkage for now.

I’ve always placed it akin to me not wanting to pay for a bottle of beer at the bar and walking in with a six-pack of High Life, I don’t care if your bottle is special or not, use it at your own dinner party, not where the sale of wine is the bread and butter of both the restaurant and its staff.

But back on track to the checks…

I’m a big fan of Keep It Simple, Stupid.

1. Pick up the check within a minute or two of receiving it.

2. Read the fucking thing.

3. Fumble with the credit card slot like an invalid or place cash in a conspicuous manner.

4. Place presenter on the edge of a table.

5. Fucking leave, squatters don’t pay rent.

How hard was that? School’s out kids.


At 3:05 AM , Anonymous azizeh said...

As a server, that is one of my biggest pet peeves. In my experience, it is the same tables that choose to camp out for hours on a Friday night that can't be bothered to tip 15%. A waiting room full of people, but you want to sit and chat? Go to Starbucks!

My restaurant doesn't charge corkage. So, basically we do wine service for free. I've yet to see a customer realize their savings and tip more than the standard.

Another huge pet peeve is when something is comp'd, for whatever reason, and the customer doesn't tip on the ORIGINAL amount. The kitchen messed up, but I still did the same amount of work for you. In fact, I probably did more to make up for other people's mistakes. I'm probably the one that pointed it out to the manager, who in turn comp'd you.
I work at a reasonably upscale steakhouse, so I can only imagine how much worse it COULD be.

At 4:32 AM , Anonymous Aaron said...

So customers who are out for a special occassion and have purchased a special wine to celebrate aren't welcome in your restaurant? Or does your restaurant carry that bottle of '82 Lafite a couple bought on their honeymoon and have been saving for this, their 25th anniversary? I didn't think so.

If customers don't tip on the corkage fee, then yes, you have a complaint. Otherwise get a grip and be happy that they chose your restaurant for their special occassion.

At 9:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are these the same people that act like they have all day and then their asking the a buss person for their check or standing at the hostess desk trying to pay like it's McDonalds. These people must have alot of friends because their the ones in a party of 25 that try to all pay at once like the ship is going down.

On the other hand thats why they call them customers......because DUMB ASS was taken.

J.P. and Thom D.

P.S. the brown eyed girl got away

At 9:55 AM , Anonymous Masie said...

Um, Aaron? If that couple wants to share that special wine they can dine and enjoy it at home.

Seriously why go out? Have a party at home to enjoy YOUR wine.

Would you go to Mcd's and bring your own Whopper?

At 9:06 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Dang, I didn't even know you could go to a restaurant with your own wine! Does that mean I can show up at Olive Garden with a bottle of Boone's Farm and have them pour it for me?

Seriously, if someone can't tip on the original price, they have no business going to a resuarant. I actually went to Olive Garden over the weekend and got the crappiest Tour of Italy I've ever seen. I certainly didn't take it out on our waitress, though, who did a fine job of serving us our utterly mediocre dinners.

Liquor Store Stories

At 10:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What makes you think they would have bought the same amount of wine at retail markup as they brought with them? You didn't lose out on squat. Now, you should get tipped properly, that is for sure, but you are not owed anything, especially when the customers are not violating rest. policy by bringing their own bottles.

Restaurants allow outside wine because they know customers know how large the wine markup is. It's harder to tell what the markup is with the actual food, and people are willing to pay for the labor involved, you know, the fact that someone actually shopped and cooked for them, as opposed to opening a bottle plucked from a shelf.

At 12:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your post from a customer standpoint. I want to be out of there too. There are times that I do not want to be sitting...

However, It has been my experience, that some will not come back and check on you for 10 or 15 minutes as they are dealing with other tables with a better possible tip percentage. How do I know this? Cause after reading all of these blogs, its easy to watch someone bow over a table of four and ignore a table of two.

My 2 cents. A good blog and I enjoy it a lot.


At 1:25 AM , Anonymous Pjhaynes said...

Nice, I think we need a guide on ordering as well!

Too many people stuff up when ordering (They don't even read the menu properly) and take it out on the server.

Thanks Insane Waiter!

At 6:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you say, but I've got to ask, if it's the end of the night and I'm your last table and I've paid my tab.... do you hate it if I stay and chat with my young lady? I mean, you got paid, youre not bussing the table are you? Do you care if I stay until it's closing time?

At 8:43 PM , Anonymous Melissa said...

Ouch! Even though we don't do the things you mentioned, this makes me feel so not wanted as a customer. Do all servers feel this way?

We always tip 15 to 25%. I think we are decent customers even if I do order water with lemon sometimes because I don't like Diet Pepsi and I don't drink alcohol.

We stack our plates, we don't linger, and we don't make a mess.

Everyone has things that don't go as they would hope in their job and we just have to deal with it.

At 2:27 AM , Anonymous The Pensive Penguin said...

To Mr. anonymous who seems to think that when he orders wine in a restaurant that it is "just a bottle plucked off a shelf": do you realize how much effort goes into selecting a wine list for a restaurant? How much thought goes into pairing specific bottles to the menu? How much instruction and learning goes on between Somme and waitstaff? Maybe at the Olive Garden you're getting a bottle plucked off a shelf, but at any restaurant worth paying for there has been a lot of effort put into having that particular bottle on that shelf.
Part of the annoyance of losing out on the sale with outside wine is that all that effort goes to waste. If you think selecting a wine to drink with your meal is as simple as plucking a bottle off a shelf, then you would do well to order off a nice restaurant's wine list and heed your waiter's suggestions because he clearly knows a lot more about wine than you do.

At 12:47 PM , Anonymous OGSrvr said...

lol loads of olive Garden bashing here... with due reason! Our kitchen staff has little to no appreciation for presentation, at the OG it's all about the bottom line, and if they have to toss a tour of italy (roughly a $16 dish) just because it doesn't look purty, well, even one dish a day adds up to a lot of money going in to the garbage can, and a lot of money -not- going in to the managers pocket for having low wastage numbers... My CM has told me to serve the shittiest looking deserts to save a buck. I did it, but i felt like an ass doing so.

As far as the wine issue... as a server, it looks good to my managers if i sell wine. We have a goal of $5 in add-ons (anything extra, from chicken on a capellini pomodoro to an extra meatball on a kids's spag..) and $2 in alcohol. If i dont get decent numbers, i get ragged on by the managers, "thanks for showing up." "at least you came in with a smile and a clean uniform!" ... it's atrocious. The one day one of our managers said "I've got 5 servers and 60 order takers out there!" - meaning, she's only got a few good employees and the rest of us are fumbling idiots. I can't speak to a corking fee, because we don't allow outside alcohol, but i could certainly understand the frustration of losing a sale.

I think waiter's main point was not so much that no one should bring in alcohol, but that they shouldn't bitch, piss, and moan about having to pay a corking fee. They are saving a ton of money by bringing in their own wine and really screwing the server on sales, they least they can do is accept that a corking fee is a way for the waiter/restaurant to make up for some of the income lost. After all, they could say no outside alcohol, and then you'd -have- to buy a bottle from them. Be thankful that for now you have the choice.

And i agree 100% with what waiter has said about timely check payment and making it obvious that it is paid. Sometimes a guest pays the check and sits there, getting pissed because they need change, but since i can't see any evidence that it's been taken care of I give them space because i dont want to rush them. Then they get pissed because they were waiting on me.

But alternately, I've spent a half hour waiting for a table to look at a check, go over to take it, and get the ol' Oh we haven't even looked at it!" - That's the most awkward situation, because now i feel like a greedy asshole trying to rush you out, when i'm simply trying to make sure you aren't waiting for -ME- to get your change so you can leave.

Someone asked about late night campers paying their check - yes, if you pay the check, we can at least get settled with the cashier, but for the most part we aren't allowed to leave until you do. Especially if we're the last server in the place. We can't close down the side station either, because you might ask for another coke. We're hungry, we're tired, we just want to go home. If there are other people in the restaurant, it'd be fair to tell your server that you're going to be here for a little bit longer, you wouldn't mind if we left and if someone else looked in on you. But if you're the last people in the place, close your tab, tip your server, and go get coffee at Denny's, that's why they are open 24 hours and your particular restaurant isn't.

At 2:41 AM , Anonymous ogsrvr said...

uh. no sooner did i post those comments bout late night campers did i get stuck at work an hour after any other servers because of late night campers. They had 3 bowls of soup (which only gets charged for one bowl), an app for the meal, and drink, and a peice of cheesecake. $35 and some change for the check, they leave $40 (so left than $5 for a tip)... i couldn't have been more aggravated. >:(

At 6:02 AM , Anonymous pjhaynes said...

Anyone that has a problem with "corkage" should think about the glasses they use, the waiters time opening the bottle and the pouring of the wine as well.

Its not simply just about being charged for missed sales, there's also the costs involved in serving you your own bottle.

Having said that, some places do charge extreme amounts, such as one of the places I have worked, who have charged up to and over $13(AUD) per person for a function.

At 5:04 PM , Blogger christopher said...

Is it rude, if when in a hurry, I place my credit card on the table before receiving the bill?
I've found reading this (and other restraunt biz) blogs, that I've learned how to be a much better customer, so I figured I'd ask as this is something I'm unsure of.

At 6:20 PM , Anonymous ogsrvr said...

christopher - it's a lot less rude than making a check mark in the air, which i've had waved at me before. Probably better to politely ask for the check, but it'll sure get our attention if we're in the weeds. Just make sure you tip well enough and that'll be the only thing we remember.

At 3:47 PM , Blogger Sharpie said...


I work in theater, and often have limited time between shows when I have "2 show days".

Do you consider it rude to say to a server: "I'm sorry, we don't have a lot of time, so do you think we could have our check with our meal?"

Love to get your take on this one.

At 10:16 AM , Anonymous RS said...

I would feel very uncomfortable dining at a place where the server is stubbornly opinionated enough to find fault with practically everything that well-meaning customers do. While expecting a decent tip is natural, who are you to decide how customers should enjoy their evening as long as they are not violating restaurant policy or being rude to you. You come across as arrogant and petty.

At 1:24 PM , Anonymous OG Manager said...

I am an olive garden manager, and was an hourly member of the team for six years prior to my promotion. What I am reading on this blog is sad. In restaurants the guests satisfaction is the bottom line. OG server should keep their sites on the fact that we promise guests a genuine italian dining experience, or as close to it as you can get in suburban america for $15 a guest. If they want to be perceived as a knowledgable server than they need to be making suggestions to their guests, which will in turn result in acheiving the goals that the company has set. If you don't provide these suggestions than you are just an order taker with no knowledge of the menu or what a guest really wants. And as far as the wine list goes, there is a great deal of research and money invested in to every decision made at the Olive Garden including what wines are placed on the menu. All 42 are award winning, and not at the local county fair. As for the cost of throwing out a Tour of Italy, the cost of that guest not returning to the OG, or spreading bad word of mouth is far more, and you should remind your manager of that the next time they try to send you out into the dining room with an inferior dish. And america, rip on the OG all you want, but research tells us we are providing YOU with what you asked for, if not then start responding to surveys and marketing research. Otherwise, sit back and try to relax for forty five minutes and enjoy the experience that people who took five minutes to respond to a survey shaped for you.

At 4:42 PM , Blogger Tam said...

I can see RS's point to an extent.

You'd think the customers were there to serve you.


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