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, October 07, 2007

To go means go

I was covering the bar the other day when I had a fun reminder of old times when I was a full time bartender. This seemed to be the case at my last restaurant as well when I covered a few bar shifts during the week.

The first point I am going to make is the whole take out at the bar issue, to tip or not to tip. Take out orders at a full service bar are often compared to getting fast food, they are apples and oranges.

Besides the general quality of the food (hopefully) being better, there is much more preparation involved. At every restaurant I’ve worked at the person putting the order together generally has to hunt down silverware, make salads, prep the soup, get sides of ranch, condiments and everything else you would expect.

Most restaurants are not set up to handle to-go very efficiently except those with car side service such as Applebee’s. Much of the reason is that restaurant food has more components that only last several minutes in a box. If you’ve ever opened you steak sandwich you bought you know what I mean, condensation and a soggy bun. Or if it’s a pasta, the sauce may have broken down, etc.

So basically it’s a big pain in the ass to track down everything you need for take out. The real pain in the ass is being away from your station, the phone is ringing, servers want their bar drinks. Any cocktail tables are being neglected and anyone sitting at the bar is pretty much screwed for a couple minutes.

Now I’m not trying to completely bitch about a facet of the bartending job, just pointing out that yes, there is service and effort involved beyond handing someone a bag of a rapidly deteriorating product.

Service where I come from is rewarded with a gratuity. Generally the bartender is stiffed in this exchange. From what I’ve read on Bitterwaitress the to-go people that chain restaurants often employ are stiffed on many occasions as well.

Reasonably I can’t say that we expect the traditional 15-20%, but a few bucks or even 10% is not only appreciated but generally earned.

This brings me to a second point, a sub-section of the aforementioned non-tippers.

And its always the non-tippers that do this.

As I was covering the bar for a few hours the other day a couple of I answered the phone and a woman on the other end started giving me a take-out order.

Of course it was a huge pain in the ass.

Side salads with no onions, RANCH, iceberg lettuce only, none of that “purple stuff“ and pretty much none of what makes a salad good or healthy, but extra sides of ranch“, naturally.

This was followed up by some vague request for a lunch feature from “a couple weeks ago” of which they knew none of the ingredients other than it contained fettuccini.

So after taking the order, which naturally will suck because ordering random ingredients with fettuccini when you have no idea of how to cook is pretty much a bad idea, I resumed bullshitting with a couple random bar patrons.

About twenty minutes went by when three bubbly, dumb looking Hollywood wanna-be type girls wandered into the bar.

“Um, yeah, we called earlier, is our take out order ready?” One of the girls asked in a great “Valley Girl” impersonation.

Not impressed I replied with, “It’ll be thirty four eighty five, I’ll go check on it for you.”

So I headed back to the kitchen and rustled up bags, silverware, napkins, TONS of ranch, bread and all other requited items. Double checked the order for accuracy, and yes the fettuccini looked greasy from all the crap in it, and bagged everything up.

“There you go and here’s your change.” I said as I took payment.

“Did you bring me extra ranch?” The girl asked me in return.

“Sure did.” I replied.

Of course, no tip.

About thirty seconds later my bar patrons and I looked in horror as the girls started busting out everything that I had just bagged all over the bar.

“Oh we decided that we have time to eat here!” One of the valley girls squealed.


In thirty seconds they managed to trash the bar area more than the entire lunch rush had. They threw the portion cups, napkins and bags all over the bar counter and started wolfing down their ranch salads, there was literally shit all over, including on the floor.

Maybe half the ranch made it to the salads, the other half all over the counter top.

This happened many times during my stint as a bartender and I really forgot how I hated it. People eating their to go food at the bar and making a mess with no tip, now back on my pet peeves list for sure.


At 8:53 AM , Anonymous Conundrum said...

How has it happened that so many people have become such worthless idiots yet still manage to have enough money to eat out and annoy the servers and other sane customers?

It is a mystery.

At 9:09 AM , Anonymous Kerry said...

To tipping on to go orders not those that order and then dine in. Are you serious? You mean that you expect a tip from a to go order when there is minimum to no service involved.

Are you then stating that all to go orders you cash out are taxed by the IRS and that you tip out to the cooks for every meal prepared-what's next we should tip on our grocery purchases as well?
The resturaunt does not set-up for to go orders at all, then isn't that more a problem the bosses or owners should look into.
Every place I have worked at seem to miraculously take care of such things in their set-up. ie when the order is arranged all of that is included and the arranging is done by the cooks not the bartender. Of course at point of sale you get those asking for extras to be included at that moment, but that is the nature of the beast.

I agree when they order to go and then take up roost- thats a total rude move and should be a tipping stiuation as clean-up is involved pluse further service normally.

At 10:38 AM , Blogger Silliyak said...

You could have bullshitted about an equivalent of a "Corkage" fee. Sorry ladies, it's an extra $10 to consume on the premises.

At 11:48 AM , Blogger TheDame said...

At my joint, the hostesses handle to-go's. Sometimes these to-go sales can range up to $400 an hour (gotta love those drug reps) and on such occasions, running around like a madwoman is entirely necessary, and usually never appreciated. Meanwhile, servers are trying to seat customers for you, messing up the floor rotation, and meanwhile their tables are going unbussed because no one has the time to do it (no bussers at my place, alas), and in essence everyone is covering everyone else's ass.

Hostess, bartender, or otherwise, all have to put their regular job on hold to get your to-go ready. That means other people in the restaurant are getting screwed, and the system is failing. While to-go's are a natural and usually good thing for restaurants, they are still a pain in the ass. Chip your to-go-attendant a buck or two, for cryin' out loud!

To to-go customers who do tip- Thanks, you make that uphill struggle to reclaim one's faith in humanity a little easier.

At 3:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What kind of crack head orders Prime Rib To Go and then calls to say it's not as good as when I ate it last week at the Restaurant. To Go orders are money makers for the Restaurant. No tying up a table plates, silerware, condiments and the list goes on and on . Although once an orders leaves the building, and it's messed up the Restaurant may have sealed it's fate for future orders or dine in biz. It's tricky to handle but the management must set up the road map for it to work. People who order take out have been spoon fed by Micky D's sonce birth and have no problem with the suprise they get when thier Pasta has gone south by the time they get it home. It amazing the money people spend for food in a styro box. Thank God for the Microwave and bad lighting

At 4:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I microwaved a Big Mac once. It turned into an inedible mess.

At 1:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is quite possible that I would have reached over the bar and strangled them. Even as a customer I think I would have wanted to kick their barstool out from under them.

And please tip your service people, they are working hard for you to enjoy your meal, the very least you could do is throw them a buck or two.


At 4:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i was a waitress/hostess i hated take outs becuz we had to tip out the kitchen on food sales. so if u picked up the call and got the order .... it came out of your tips to pay the kitchen becuz nobody ever tipped on take out.

At 1:22 PM , Anonymous Pyrosgal said...

I feel for you. When I was a bartender, if the kitchen was closed, I had to not only pack up the to-go food, I had to make it. (There's a stupid Oregon law that says food must be available while cocktails are being served.)

Someone would come in, order food and a drink for while they were waiting, and I'd be lucky to get a dollar. Now, I'm not talking about real fancy food here--sandwiches, hamburgers, salads. But I still had to abandon the rest of my customers to make food for someone who didn't even appreciate it.

At 2:12 PM , Blogger Brad said...

#1, for those that mention tipping out the kitchen....I believe that that is illegal, if not immoral. Those guys and gals make their money per hour regarless of how busy the restaurant is.

#2, yes, you should tip for take-out. There are many more things involved in restaurant take-out than there are in fast food take-out.

#3, I wouldn't have allowed those ladies to open their boxes and eat at the bar. You want take-out, then take it out somewhere else and eat it. You want to eat it there, then you get it on plates, with normal service. You don't tip? You don't get normal service.

At 2:26 AM , Blogger Ridonkulus said...

Hmm I have to say that I've only tipped once for a carryout order. This was because the restaurant was so crowded, we decided to order on the phone. It was so packed that we couldn't get to the hostess stand.

Anyways, I guess I never thought about how much work went into packing that stuff up.

At 1:24 PM , Anonymous beenthere said...

Nothing makes me smile more than telling an American, who are obssessed with ranch, that we don't carry it and only have Balsamic or citrus cranberry. I'm saving your life, one salad at a time.

At 11:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in a bjs waiting on a to go order and read your article over my iphone because I had always wondered if I should tip for To-go. Because of you I tipped the first time ever tonight for a To-go order! Great post.

At 8:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're so right in your stereotyping that it's astounding. I thought it was just me and those who worked at my restaurant who felt the way that you do about ranch eaters, zinfendel drinkers, flavored tea guzzlers, lemonade chuggers, etc.

Of course, here, we also get the chicken alfredo eaters. They typically get rasberry lemonade, send the food back, run your ass off, and tip less than 10% while saying they: 'preciate ya.

At 3:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I run a restaurant and my host and I take care of carry outs.
I used have people that would pre-order dinner so when they get there it's ready. And then once finished, they consider it "carry-out" so no tip.
86 that.
As well as what I call the fake carry out which is what the lovely ladies did in this story. ARGH
In my opinion, %10 on any carry out is the best. Not too much nor too little

At 8:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I did a google search on this topic because we struggle with the "to go" issue where I manage. We are an upscale breakfast/lunch place that serves lattes, pastries, stuff that is sold retail too. Well, needless to say, it's a pisser when someone gets their latte and croissant to go and then sits down to eat it. we don't want to be jerks, but if it gets busy and someone is sitting in your station chomping on a danish in a bag it really can carve into your earning potential. We have politely pointed out, when these people are at the reg, that you order at the table if you want to eat at a table. But people will order on the phone, pick it up and then say"Oh, now I have time to eat here!". It's touchy and in this economy we don't want to burn bridges of course. Anyone have any good solutions to handling this issue? And likewise for people who order a round of coffee then proceed to have business meetings at our place. Take a table for over an hour with a tab that hardly breaks 20 dollars. Not cool. We had a group of ladies, we called them "The tea ladies", who came in on our most cranking Saturdays, and between them might have 3 teas (a table of 5), waters with lemon, that kind of shit, and then talk about life, menopause and who knows what all for a good hour. They would also do their best to squeeze as many of their group as they could manage on any table that opened, whether it fit two or three comfortably at best. And just too bad for anyone around them, they really just cared that they could finish their yoga class and sit and chat. The best time I had with two of them was when they came in , had a seat and proceeded to become engrossed in their conversation. When I came to see what tea they wanted they acted surprised, like they had just sat down in a park for a picnic. I could tell they had come in with no intention of ordering ANYTHING! But the expression on my face prompted one to order a tea and the other her water with lemon. I'll never buy a home with customers of that mentality filling the restaurant!


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