Snap Your Fingers & the Waiters Run (away from you)
November 5, 2010 § 3 Comments
Have you ever gone to eat at a fancy little restaurant and felt distinctly uncomfortable? You aren’t sure, but you have the sneaking, unpleasant suspicion that the entire wait staff is laughing at you. Don’t worry, you’re most likely wrong. Unlike the common cinematic portrayal of restaurant workers, we don’t laugh at everyone who comes in. Nor do we in any way, shape, or form, harm or change your food. If you work in a serious restaurant, where people actually love food and aren’t just cooking it because it’s the job mandated by their work-release program, the food is sacred. The food is untouchable. And the only people we laugh at are the ones who deserve it.
Let’s take a closer look at a few things you should or shouldn’t do if you’d like to avoid your wait staff making you the next horrific kitchen tale.
Picture this: you walk out of a giant arena with your sweetheart, having just enjoyed a lovely hockey game/country concert/Stars Wars: The Musical. You are hungry and in the mood for gazing into your darling’s eyes over a plate of pasta and a glass of red. There is a restaurant nearby. Do you really think you are the only people out of the 12,000 Jedi knights that are leaving the arena who will be hungry?? You should have made a reservation!! Now you will walk into our restaurant, along with about thirty other tables and a few random stormtrooper squads, all at the same time, and expect to be seated and served promptly. This is completely silly. I’m not saying: don’t go to the restaurant if you haven’t made a reservation. Whatever, we will deal with it and only curse you out in the kitchen where you can’t hear us, not to your lightsaber-loving face. I’m saying, think ahead. Plan ahead. Or even just call the restaurant and say: do you have room for two plus a giant stuffed Ewok in twenty minutes? At least then we will have some idea of the inter-galactic hordes that are about to descend on our little version of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Simply put, reservations are thoughtful and appreciated. (PS- No droids. This goes without saying.)
Let’s move to my personal favorite: the unforgiveable steak & ketchup eater. If you order a filet mignon, that darling of steaks, its juices oozing pink and brown across your plate, and then squirt a bloody lycopene and high fructose corn syrup goo on it, we will demean you in our minds and in our kitchen. You have just obliterated your filet’s rich warm taste and buttery texture beneath sugary processed slop. Pay attention, because this is the exact moment in time when your server will give you a pitying look across the dining room and disappear through a door. If your suspicion is that he is relaying your mignon faux pas to the entire staff, your suspicion is correct. Let’s take a walk through that swinging door and into the other universe of the restaurant. The chefs are brandishing knives right now at the thought of your flagrant degradation, the hostess is giggling behind her palm at the vile oaths they hurl at you, and the server is rolling his eyes and thinking there’s no tip in the world big enough to make his job worthwhile. The dishwasher is sighing, thinking of how he would’ve treasured the steak bite by bite, or perhaps sold it to the delivery guy for some smack, and the busboy? Oh, the busboy is just wondering if there’s going to be any leftovers from the buffet next door, don’t worry about him.
Back out to the dining room for our last tip. And that’s just what this is about: tips. People who have never worked in a restaurant before seem to have this odd idea that servers and their tips are still stuck in the 1940s. Newsflash, stockbrokers: Our economy is the same as yours. 10% tip may have sufficed when you went to Hank’s Dogs & Burgers with a girl you were only dating because she resembled Rita Hayworth, but it’s not quite making the grade here in 2010. 15% for good service is acceptable, 20% is ideal. (Anything above that and either you got exemplary service, you’re newly in love, or you’ve waited tables before too. Thanks for understanding.) If you’re worried about cutting it close to your dinnertime spending limit, do a little mental arithmetic with prices before you order your food and drink. That way, the end result isn’t a nasty surprise that more often than not causes you to tip poorly and leaves your server shaking his fist and blaspheming your gods as he and the hostess watch you hop into your dark red 2011 Porsche and peel out of the parking lot whilst chattering on your iPhone 8000.
In summation, there are really only a few key points to remember when dining at a fine restaurant. Be thoughtful, be patient, be understanding. Servers are human too; we aren’t robots able to produce a culinary miracle to satisfy your slightest craving at a moment’s notice. If you treat us terribly, just be prepared to know we’ve given you your own little nickname in the kitchen and, trust me, it’s not flattering. Neither is the portrait the servers and hostess are painting of you to the people who don’t leave the kitchen.
However, if you’re fun, polite, and tip us well, you’ll be treated to an amazing dinner, servers who remember your name and favorite table, and probably even a drink on the house occasionally! And nothing’s more fun than free wine, right?
(Disclaimer: I hope you all know this is slightly tongue-in-cheek. I do work at a restaurant but I’ve never compared a customer to an Ol’ Yeller loving, illerate country bumpkin who tracked muddy footprints across our carpet. And honestly the whole ‘wine on the house’ thing depends on if your boss is a skinflint or not. And I’m not really as much of a nerd as that whole Star Wars paragraph makes me out to be. Really!)