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....

Thursday, September 06, 2007

How a restaurant operates, 101

Oh I had to comment on this one, I’ll run it by you, many people don’t have any idea how this business works, my answers are in the bold fyi!

Not edited for spelling or grammar. But you should be used to that, hah!

Ok, run this by me.. Front door, thats right - nobody opened it for me.

So what? We’re servers, not servants. The only people who open doors for others are boyfriends trying to get laid and kindergarten teachers, you’re a big boy, do it yourself.

Front desk / hostess - 17 year old annoying chick who is mumbling to her coworkers and eventually gets around to asking me "how many". ( Not "Hello, welcome. How are you... etc", just barks out the 'how many' ) This chick makes about 7.50 an hour, and at 17 years old that’s usually more than most of her friends.

Actually with all the minimum wage bumps, that’s about average.

other hostess type person - Again, 17 or so, making $7.50 an hour also. Puts me wherever the front desk person said to. Doesn't care if the table is slightly dirty or junk on the chairs, walks back up to front desk, sometimes mumbles 'someone will be with you soon'.

Actually you are right, hostesses are pretty much worthless eye candy, though there are some exceptions.

random water person - "Would you like some water?". This person usually doubles as the coffee, tea, and busser. Bussers make at least minimum wage. Bussers who know any more english than "Water?" might make 25 cents above minimum wage. (This is their choice to work there, not educate themselves for a better job, and not learn more english to make more money doing some other position/job ).

I don’t believe you have any right to judge a person’s position. I bet your immigrant forefathers jumped right off the boat with a degree, knowing the Queen’s English and landing a position as a CPA. Nice way to lump bussers in a group as well, many are in High School or college and are using this position as a step up, as part of their choice of life. And who cares if they aren’t? Most bussers I know do a lot more shit work than you probably do, I gotta respect that.

Actual Waiter - Usually doesn't ask how we are or how our night is going. Usually tells us about the special we already read about at the front waiting area.

So he's reciting the features, its his job, or would you prefer them to just scribble shit down?

Asks if we want any other drinks.random drink person - this is usually another 17 year old who doubles as a food runner. They almost never know who gets what drink. They probably have access to that information, but it's easier and quicker to just ask the people at the table.

I don’t know where you go out to eat, but unless it’s a sommelier, who is more learned than yourself in these matters, I’ve never had a drink runner.

waiter again - either comes by every 2 minutes upset that you don't know what you want yet, or doesn't come by for 5-10 minutes because they are somewhere fucking off or bullshitting with a different table. Some of them even sit down with you and pretend to socialize, but the majority who i see do this are doing it simply because they are lazy as hell and want to rest their legs/feet.

I’ll cover this a bit more in depth in my upcoming “how to order” column, however while it is understandable to chat a bit before deciding, after the waiter stops by once or twice its probably a good idea for you to decide upon dinner. If they are gone for a bit its usually because they are at work or tired of checking on you because of your indecisiveness.

As far as the whole sitting down thing, I am not much of a fan of that. I try to keep it professional and polite and only reserve true friendliness for good regulars or people who seem open to joking around.

The sitting down/squatting thing came about with chain restaurants doing a study that claimed customers felt less intimidated by servers who were pretty much debasing themselves, sucking up or making the guest feel superior. In most cases I do feel superior so I refused to do that whole thing while working for corporate in years past.

food runner - again, has no idea who gets what food. It's quicker and easier to just ask the people at the table. Some times if there are only 2 people at the table, they'll toss the food on the table and just hope for the best. Usually to be polite, we wait till they leave and then trade plates. The better food runners will stick around long enough to ask if you need any condiments, but this happens less than 20% of the time.

Most food runners that I have seen do a simple thing, read the ticket. Unless you are one of those tables who plays musical chairs, and I bet you are, the food will be delivered in order of how the waiter took the order, its called pivot point seating. Food runners typically get paid out of the server's tip as well, often being paid a low wage.

waiter - Usually has no idea how long your food has been on your table or who delivered it to you. So they either ask 45 seconds after you have gotten the food, which is too soon to know if you really like it or if you have any issues - or comes by 10 minutes into it - and at that point half the people at your table are 1/2 done eating so why slow everyone down by sending your order back or creating a big stink?

Erroneous, I know exactly how long your food has been taking or when it was delivered, true I have 15-20 other customers I have my mind on as well so me checking back could have a little variance. I try to live by the two minutes/two bites rule. Unless I sense you’re a bad tipper, then I just cut you lose. That probably explains a lot about how you feel you’ve been treated.

random busser - Someone eventually comes by grabbing plates or glasses. Again, this person is making at least minimum wage. Many cases they don't know enough english so if you ask them for something they have to send a food runner or find your waiter.

English is capitalized, btw. Their job is dirty and hard, while they may be able to get simple items like an extra plate or glass of water, they aren’t versed on the menu or bar list in most cases. Usually the busser makes under minimum wage, especially in chain restaurants.

The server actually supplements their wage by paying them out of our own pockets, something that was legitimized with tip credit laws, enabling employers to pay under minimum just like servers. Weird system and one that benefit’s the owner for certain, its akin to your boss asking you to pay the maintenance man out of your own paycheck.

I’m not necessarily happy all the time with this system as often I find myself doing more than my fair share of the work I’m supposed to be paying for.

Legally if the busser makes over minimum wage it is illegal to force staff to tip them out, however management usually finds a way to intimidate or threaten if you try to refuse.

waiter - will either try to upsell you into some coffee, desserts, or could care less and just slips your check onto the end of the table as they walk by.

Um yeah, that means dinner is over and its time to pay or order further, you know this, how is that even a point?

SO, By all means.. Tell me why I would tip big????? 80% of the help you got were from hourly people who couldn't give a damn. 20% of the help is from the waiter who does nothing but scribble down your order and hope that 3 other people don't fuck up making it or serving it. WHAT IS SCRIBBLING AN ORDER WORTH???

You should tip because it is a social norm. You should tip because if you don’t you’re pretty much a cheap asshole. If you want to make a statement about tipping by stiffing the wait staff, you’re talking to the person with the least ability to change the system. I do a hell of a lot more than scribble the order and pray someone takes care of anything, read this or any other article/blog on dinning, that’s all the proof I need.

Often the people you have been griping about depend on the server's tip to bring them above minimum wage. The server has to pay that regardless of what you tip, meaning waiters actually have to pay out of their own pocket for the privilege of waiting on some tables who leave absurdly low tips or non at all.

The actual restaurant is making 300% profit on most of the food, and 800% profit on most of the liquor you order. They hire the cheapest staff they can. So you end up with half a dozen people who really don't care what you want or what went wrong, and as long as you keep tipping 20% they don't spit in your food???????

Its obvious you have no idea of the overhead that a restaurant maintains. Salaries, rent, mortgage, business loans, equipment, electricity, licenses, taxes and countless others cut the profit to 5-7% in most cases, Thom and JP could weigh in on that one. The mark-up may seem unfair, but at the end of the day you’re not just paying for the food itself, but everything that supports the restaurant’s ability to serve it.

Long story short - Restaurant needs to tip their own staff by paying out a % of profits. Not gouge their customers and underpay their staff!!!!!!!

I’m fine with that, when restaurants inflate the rate of their dinners another 20% to accommodate the service staff’s desired income I’ll be the first to line up for my first paycheck in three years.


At 6:49 PM , Blogger Pirate Monkey said...

I think that's the same guy who checks the list at the hostess stand eighty times as if that will make the wait time shorter and then complains to the server that they've "had terrible service the last three times they ate there." What an ass-hat.

At 7:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, there are a couple of marginal points: runners not knowing who ordered what, useless hostesses. But he's clearly eating at Red lobster or somewhere equivalent (and in 4 tries in 5 years I haven't had a decent meal at RL, let alone a good one, and yes I told the manager and if my daughter wasn't dating one of the waiters we would never go, so you RL lovers can just STFU.)

Anyway, 5-7% after expenses is an owner's wet dream. The reality is 60-80 hours/week for sub-min wage benefits.


And this guy's got more than a chip on his shoulder: racist, sexist and generally unpleasant, that's him.

At 8:52 PM , Anonymous jabes said...

That's just someone who should never, ever eat out again. I mean, if you hate restaurants, the food service industry, and people in general that much, just stay home -- it's possible to get through life without eating out. It's called going to the grocery store. But, wait, then what would he have to moan and whinge about incessantly? Maybe all the people at the grocery store that he would inevitably get pissed at!

At 1:23 PM , Anonymous conundrum said...

Well said. The restaurant staff I know works very hard to ensure I and my companions have an enjoyable dining experience and I appreciate that so I generously tip accordingly.

Yeah, the laws for food service employees suck but instead of punishing the victim, the customers should write their members of congress to change the laws.

The cretin who wrote that message should never eat anywhere other than his/her mother's home where said mother can bash them upside the head with a skillet when she/he spouts that crap...and then the mother can whap herself upside her own head for failing to teach her child how difficult it is to have a job serving the public...idiots and all.

At 5:20 PM , Blogger Kirsten said...

Sounds to me like he was eating in a chain restaurant and paying chain prices, and expecting fine dining service.

At 3:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a twat.... all upset cause no one asked him how his day was? What... so he could whine and piss and moan about everything else in his miserable crappy life? If you want your ass kissed I suggest you take up Yoga.

Love you I. W.

Shari Ann

At 9:59 AM , Blogger Rose said...

I love eating out and I do it regularly, but I am a big fan of servers so I try to make their experience with me as hassle free as possible. I hate going out to eat with the boyfriend, because although he's sweet and a great tipper, he always has a million questions and special orders stuff and asks for substitutions. He works in a restaurant himself, so he knows the game, but it just irritates me for some reason. The other night we had a pro server who handled all his requests in a friendly and efficient way and I ended up telling her how I read this blog among a few others online and she laughed and said she didn't mind answering stupid questions as long as we weren't being rude or trying to run her all over. I promised her we wouldn't do that, and when the bill came it was $43 and some change. I tipped her ten bucks and wrote on the receipt "Thanks for the great service!" because it WAS great service. I had to shoo the manager away from our table because as soon as he saw me writing something down he flew over and asked if everything was okay. I know that was his job, but it irked me for some reason. The guy who wrote this obviously has NO idea what goes on behind the scenes and doesn't care. He just wants his ass kissed. Where do people get these overblown egos from? Sure, I've had a few bad experiences with some restaurant staff, but in reality, very few. I would just like to ask this guy where he got his sense of entitlement from.

At 10:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there something wrong with not speaking English, or not having a degree? What an elitist! I mean do YOU REALLY CARE if the Busser doesn't speak English? Nazi. It's a global world asshat, learn to live in it and with it.

OMG, I'm sorry I even read this tonight.

Great Responses in bold though!

At 6:50 PM , Blogger Rose said...

Hey Insane, check out this website I just found. I think you'll find it somewhat interesting. That is, if you don't know about it already.

At 5:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Working in a Restaurant is the most fun and the hardest work in the world. The average joe smo has'nt got a clue about what it takes to open the door and then try to keep it open. I just love customers that will stop and tell you how to run the bussiness yet they choose to work at a job where their only investment is the lunch bucket they take to work. ( that's the same bucket they fill with free stuff from the work place)Once again there's no respect for this industry mainly because it's a stepping stone untill the bank calls and offers the Presidents job to them.(those are the ones that forget that they were treated that way ,and now become the new S.O.B. at table #13 ) No other bussines is more regulated or told how to operate then foodservice. Yet the show goes on so get off the fanny and go kiss some.

At 1:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

the point you made at the end is particularly relevant. All these people who are against tipping would FREAK if menu prices went up to reflect the fact that staff is being paid (a barely) living wage.

It's not going to happen any time soon, but I would love to hear the whining and complaining if it did!

At 1:16 PM , Blogger Tony said...

As has been said here, most wait staff work their asses off, and bussers (also dishwashers jerks like this don't see but would no doubt berate) work as hard if not harder (individual results will vary of course).

And I've never eaten in a place where I was knowlingly sat at a table that was dirty - if I had been, I would have asked them to wipe it off...duh!

At 12:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So this DipShit is aware of the low wages yet expects someone with a degree in law from Harvard to wait on him? Chances are, he couldn't understand the discourse if this were the case.

One of the things that impressed me most on my first date with my husband was that he was (and still is) an EXCELLENT tipper. I've never seen him leave under a 40% tip, no matter the quality of service.

Having waitressed through high school and college, I was particularly disgusted with dates that tipped poorly (I would excuse myself to the bathroom and go tip the server more in such cases.) Oh! In hs, I was a waitress/hostess/line manager at RL. DISGUSTING! We literally had bugs in the salad (these little slimy slugs) and the manager insisted we serve it any way! When I would work at kitchen line manager, the food would often sit for too long under the heat lamps and/or would be under-cooked. Even though I would report this, the manager still served the food!

One last point...why would someone continually go back to a restaurant where they receive repeat bad service, only to complain about it? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results when you never get them is about as smart as smashing your head into a concrete wall.

At 3:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been at both ends of the spectrum - I waitressed while I was in college and again a couple of nights a week as my "get out of the house" job. I'm also usually unlucky enough to get the trainee or the hippy/goth as my server when I dine out without the kids.
So here's my feedback for the pompous, judgemental ass you responded to: until you've done it, shut your piehole. Juggling 8 - 10 tables with customers ranging from the everything-on-the-side to the I-don't-know-what-I want to the suspect allergies (not allergic to shellfish or nuts, but allergic to parsley?!?!) while still being polite, smiling, and getting your food out is not easy.
If my food is not good or cold, etc I usually politely inform the server...but eat it anyway unless it's absolutely inedible..Why? Because it's usually not the server's fault that my food was prepared incorrectly or substandard ingredients were used.
I tip a straight 20% on every meal - again, unless I get the slacker, uncaring server...and then I still give them 10% out of pity and because I don't want them to stiff their busser. You see how it works el cheapo?
In a restaurant, as in everywhere else, if you give respect you will get respect in return.
In the meantime, can I suggest a lovely McDonald's meal for you?

At 8:08 PM , Blogger msnow said...

Being a hostess and girlfriend to a waiter, this made me laugh..... I like to believe I am the other kind of hostess... but majority of them are dumber than dirt and by their first month on the job have become VERY personal with majority of their co workers... but we are also on the bottom of the totem. We stand around for hours at times... deal with everyone (managers, customers, bartenders, and waiters) yelling at us for doing such a shitty job.... constantly trying to please absolutely everyone on staff there.... I have been yelled at, called stupid, made fun of, on a daily basis for 9.50 an hour. All over stupid tables.... people are assholes. bottom line.

At 11:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol - I like how he doesn't like the friendly servers because they are fake, but doesn't like the inattentive servers because they are, well, inattentive.

I bet he had all those different food runners and such because his server disliked him enough to spend as little time as possible at their table.

At 12:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bussers make at least minimum wage. Bussers who know any more english than "Water?" might make 25 cents above minimum wage. (This is their choice to work there, not educate themselves for a better job, and not learn more english to make more money doing some other position/job )."

I'm a busgirl at an upscale restaurant.Yes I'm obnoxious like that and I ask people if they need more water or re-fill them automatically.I'm graduating from a good college with a degree in architecture in 2 weeks and although I'm a foreigner(no not a Latino)I speak better English than many Americans.I applied to the job to be a waitress but they didn't trust my "serving skills" aka "fakeness skills" and made me a server's assistant aka busser.Unless you're living in a cave somewhere isolated you should have noticed that due to the economy the construction/architecture industry is in the toilet with 40% of the architects unemployed.I'm working at that restaurant to pay at least for my food,groceries,gas until I find a better job.
Next time before you write something try to write something intelligent and unprejudiced!


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