Matthew Gates 17m 4,293 #servers
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Where Is The Respect For The Customer?
I am not and I have never been a server (i.e. a waiter, a waitress, etc.). I have never been that person who waits on tables or brings food and drinks to people. I could never do what a server does, balancing six things on one arm, and I really just have no interest doing that. It may not take rocket science to do what a waiter or a waitress does, but it definitely requires some skills, especially customer service skills. While I have plenty of experience cooking and serving my family at the table, I have absolutely no experience in the restaurant business. I am the one who has always been on the other side of the restaurant business, the consumer, the one who goes out to eat, the one who goes out to have a good time, to have a good experience. Lately, my experience with servers has been awful, what happened to the respect?
The job of being a server is not the hardest job in the world, but it can certainly get stressful or be quite tedious at times, but it takes the skill of putting on a friendly face, maybe a smile, a little bit of memory, and some jotting-down-notes skills to write down orders, and ensuring that the customer is happy. I am, in fact, not one of those customers who expects a whole lot. I do not complain a lot. I walk into a restaurant, I want to be seated, served, eat, and then I want to pay the bill, leave a tip, and then leave restaurant. It all sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Why should it be any harder than that?
I have one rule: Earn your tip.
To elaborate on that: impress me, keep her happy. And you will do just fine. Treat me how you would treat yourself when it comes to service. The tip from me is a representation of the kind of service you provide to me. If I was your favorite celebrity that walked in and sat down at your table, how would you treat me? That is how I want you to treat me—like your favorite celebrity. If you provide great service, the better your tip will be, at least, I hope that’s how it works. So there is certainly the opportunity to earn several kinds of tips:
- $0 — You have to be really horrible: this has only happened once, at Hacienda Del Rio in New Mexico (delicious, if you can get service) in which my family and I went out to dinner, we spent an hour waiting for our cold food, another half hour waiting for our waitress, and two or three times of me having to look all over the restaurant for her, and eventually, I had to actually just walk up to the counter and grab myself some “take home containers” because… I don’t know where the waitress went and I couldn’t find her anywhere, anymore. It was like she was hiding from me.
- 10%—I had this happen when I went to eat with my family at Famous Dave’s in New Jersey (very delicious food and highly recommended). You have to really not care about your job and treat me like I’m bothering you. Don’t bother asking us if we’d like refills or if our food is good. Don’t come to our table more than twice other than to serve us drinks and bring our food to us. Yeah, if you do this, you will have just earned this percentage of a tip.
- 15% — You are an average server. You cared just enough to do your job. You took our order. You got us drinks. You brought the food. You checked up on me and my family just once or twice. You earned your pay. You showed up and did your job. Congratulations.
- 16-19%— You were an above average server. You actually care about your job and your customers and it shows. You took our order, you made sure our drinks were refilled, and guess what? You even asked us if we wanted dessert! That rarely ever happens! Servers don’t ask that question anymore! You’d think they would want to give their restaurant more business and earn even more tip, but I guess not.
- 20%+— You went above and beyond and you made her happy— which makes me happy. You refilled our drinks without even asking and you came back to make sure our food was delicious and to our liking. You interacted with us. You had a sense of humor. You are a human being who may not love your job (maybe you do), but you make the best of it, and you make the best of it by getting to know your customers a little bit. You might be our server, but it is totally okay to be our entertainer too. Dinner and a show? Maybe some communication? You are awesome. Really, keep up the great work. You are the kind of person that deserves big tips and recommendations for a promotion or a raise.
Your customers know whether you hate your job, like your job, or love your job as a server. It shows in your work and how you treat them. Your experience shows because most people have eaten out enough times to have gotten that one waiter or waitress who was beyond exceptional and what they had ever known to be the traditional average server and showed them what experienced really means. You have the potential too.
Many waiters and waitresses seem to think tipping is automatic. It is not. It is common courtesy to tip and everyone should do it. But if you really don’t do your job well, do you think you deserve your tip? Honestly, if I were your waiter, and I never came by to ask you if you wanted a refill, asked you if your meal was good, or took care of you like you should be taken care of, would you tip me? Are you really that busy doing something else that you can’t give me more attention and cater to my needs while I am in your service? I know you are not back in the kitchen cooking the actual food, and I see you are only serving my table, so what exactly are you doing that is keeping you from coming to check up on your table? Shouldn’t we be your priority? I mean if you are busy, I’ll be happy to let your boss know that he needs to hire more staff to help.
Now it is rare for people to walk in and just tip $1,000 on a $50 bill, and I am not that type of person. Yeah, I’m not rich. I have a mortgage and a ton of credit card debt. A few years ago, I finally paid off my $40,000 student loan debt. So I understand your hard work as a server. Your working to save up for college or pay off student loans, your rent, your car payments, your bad habits, or whatever it is you are doing with your life. You are part of the working class, the hard working man or woman, and I completely respect that. I also plead with you to do your job and earn your tip.
Trust me, it’s there for the taking. I want to give you a good tip, but you need to earn it. Nothing is free. You aren’t entitled to a good tip because you led me to a table and sat me down and asked me and my family what we wanted to drink and eat. It’s your customer service skills and great personality, and of course, keeping everyone at the table happy, that begins to earn your good tip. Earn a great tip! Earn an exceptional tip! Earn a tip that makes you want to brag about your tip! Your tip is truly a reflection of you and your service. (Unless, of course, you really did get an asshole customer that didn’t tip you but you deserved a tip—because assholes do exist and it does happen.)
I believe restaurants should do more to curtail non-tippers, especially if you have a reputation for being a good server. I am totally with you servers. My siblings are servers and work hard for the money. They have been in the restaurant business for as long as they could work. They are very experienced and amazing and even if they were not my siblings, I would not tip them less than 20% because they are those types of servers.
I even wrote an article several years ago on proper etiquette for How To Treat Your Server explaining to the customer: Your server is a human being, treat them with the same respect that you would give to yourself. I may not have experience as a server, but I do work as a freelance web designer and developer and I have to justify working for my dollars too, though I don’t get tips. I am totally on your side, and I root for you every time, no matter who your customer is.
For me personally, if you treat me well, I am a generous tipper. I have tipped as much as $10 on a $20 bill. It really all depends on what you do for me and how well you treat me. Yup, you read that correctly: that is a 50% tip. It does happen when you love your job and you are exceptionally nice to me and my family. Keep those cups refilled! Make sure everyone is happy! It is tedious, but you only have us for about an hour, and no one at my table is that complicated, though my family has been known to drive me crazy at times.
When Did Servers Stop Caring?
So lets begin the story of how I came to notice how servers just don’t seem to care anymore. I’m not saying ALL servers are disrespectful. Absolutely not. There are millions upon millions of servers in the restaurant business who are just so freaking amazing. For every one bad experience at a restaurant I have, I can usually go to at least a half a dozen restaurants and have a good experience. I return to this one restaurant with a friend every few months because I enjoy a waitress’ personality. She’s awesome and every time, she is one of those waitresses who ALWAYS gets over a 25% tip from me because she simply deserves it. To those types of waiters and waitresses: Keep up the great work.
I’m talking about those other ones — you know who they are — you work with them and you see them and you know how they interact and treat their customers. You know they could do better at their job. You know they could go that extra mile. They could do this and they could do that, but they don’t. They show up to work only because they need money and that is their sole motivation. I mean, yes — we all show up to work because we need money, but good servers enjoy interacting with their customers and learning about them, and of course, making their customers feel like they are number one. And why shouldn’t they be number one? Why shouldn’t you treat them like they are number one for the hour? Go ahead. It won’t kill you to make people feel good about themselves.
I travel around the United States a few times a year, not because of my job, but just because I love to travel, and usually for concerts or Comicons, so whether I drive or fly, I have a few weekend vacations. During these mini-vacations, I am unable to cook at home, therefore it is just easier to stop somewhere. Since I am not much of a fast-food buff, I usually turn to take the abuse out on my body at a local Denny’s or IHOP.
Santa Clara, California — Denny’s
We had flown in for something called AlienCon 2016 and had just gotten off the plane and were exhausted, but hungry. We stopped at a local Denny’s because we agreed that this is usually the safest place to eat, in which there is just the most basic of foods: eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, etc. Simple and agrees with my stomach.
We walk in and my spouse sits down. I attempt to use the bathroom, but it is taken. We wait for about 5 minutes. No service. There were about five employees at the counter, standing around, not really doing anything. Maybe two were cleaning. There were a few people seated, but they were not really busy at 10 AM that morning.
I walk over to the bathroom again. Still occupied, but then I turned back just to check and it was available. I do my business get back to the table, and I ask if she had been served. My lady had not even been spoken to at all. I then I calmly told her, “I am setting a five minute timer. If we do not get service by then. We’re gone.” She agreed. Five minutes passed.
We had waited about twenty minutes with no service offered. As we were packing up our things, a server came over and asked if we anyone had come over. We told him we had not and that we had already decided to leave for the Burger King across the street because of no service, but we could graciously give him the courtesy and attention that he did not give us immediately and stay.
He made sure we were taken care of and although he messed up my order, which tested my patience, I did let him know, and although that plate was a bit more expensive than I wanted to pay, I actually enjoyed it and told him I would prefer to just keep it and eat it. When he handed me the bill, that particular plate was not on there. He had made up for the lack of immediate service and earned himself a very generous tip that day, one that surely made him smile.
This server’s actions definitely made up for it and all was forgiven, but many servers would certainly not have done this. I am certainly not one to complain, but simply just never return to a place ever again. Luckily, he saved Denny’s that day by his actions. I will likely return if I ever find myself in Santa Clara again.
Phoenix, Arizona — IHOP
We were in town for a concert to see the awesome and lovely Lindsey Stirling, and decided to go eat beforehand. We walked in and the cashier was handling a customer at the counter, dealing with an issue. We understood her dilemma, as she was occupied. No host was at her post, so we waited several minutes. Finally, a girl came over and asked us if we were waiting to be seated and we told her that we were. She then seated us. There were about three or four families seated in the restaurant, but it was not really busy for a Saturday night. Plenty of empty tables to go around. We could have sat anywhere, really.
Since five minutes had already passed, I decided I would set a five minute timer. We sat there, waiting patiently. A waitress came by and proceeded to finish up with a table that was beyond ours. She then went to a machine to cash them out. Afterwards, she proceeded to clean another table. A second waitress came over, passed us as well, and proceeded to her table, to serve her table. We assumed someone would return to us to let us know they would be with us, but it never happened.
My timer went off. Five minutes had gone by. My patience had already grown thin at this point. My spouse calmed me by asking me about questions about the game she was playing. This helped pass 2 more minutes for a total of 7 minutes sitting down, and a total of about 15 minutes inside of the restaurant. I answered them and then we got up and left.
No service for us, no service for them. Peace out, IHOP of Phoenix. I would have loved to try that Colorado omelette but you never came over to serve me! We will never be returning to there again.
I have watched plenty of Restaurant Stakeout in my day and I have seen many restaurants go under. Luckily, most Denny’s and IHOPs are franchises and hardly fail because of the influx of new daily customers. I doubt any of the owners of these restaurants really care whether their employees do a good job or not and I doubt that they care that me and my spouse return or not. After all, we were just in town for the weekend for a concert. So how much business did they lose? Possibly $25 worth? How much tip did their server lose? Possibly $5? No big deal, right? Well, we ended up going to Burger King (yes, I’m not a huge fan of fast food at all, but I am a sucker for those chicken fries) and I spent $6 on our dinner.
Thanks IHOP for not serving me and saving me money! Appreciate that! 🙂
I have now learned to give both the server and the restaurant the same respect that they give me and my family. I really hate to sound like I am entitled, but if the place is not busy, and if they choose to act like they are, then they do not need my business. If I walk into a restaurant, how long before someone should greet me? How long should I wait before someone should give me a drink? How long should I wait before someone should take my order? How long should I wait before I get food? How long should I wait for all this?
If you are a busy restaurant, and I did not make a reservation, you obviously get the benefit of the doubt. If you are a place that is less busy, but still popular, you certainly get the benefit of the doubt, but at least let me know my wait time. But anything else, I am happy to set that timer on my phone, with a courtesy of 5 to 10 minutes, and walk right out. Am I asking for too much?
Going out is certainly a type of luxury that many people cannot afford to do everyday and I don’t go out often. But when I do, am I not entitled to enjoy myself with my family? When I ask for more water with lemon, am I bothering you? Do I have to deal with someone who hates their job? Because if you do, you should probably find another job, before someone else tells you that you need to find another job. Do I have to deal with someone who hates the fact that I came into their workplace and sat down with the expectation of hoping they would do their job and do it well? I mean, if you came into my workplace, I would do my job well for you. After all, if I could do it myself, I would definitely take a look at the menu, walk into the kitchen, and tell the cook what I wanted myself and save myself that tip I would have given to you. Honestly, I have two arms and two legs. I would really love to do your job for you and get my own food, but most restaurants don’t allow that just yet. Just know that when they do, you will be out of a job.
What happened to respect for the customer? What happened to earning the tip? I’m not a shitty tipper, I earn a decent wage, and I’m just asking you to do your job for the next hour for me. I get that customers can definitely be assholes and they should be respectful to you, but don’t treat me like I am one of those asshole customers you had previously. We are both starting on a clean slate.
I know you have probably been on your feet for the past four hours, but you and I — lets start with a fresh start — with respect for each other — I already have the utmost respect for you because I know you are at work doing your job — I’m not here to make it hard for you, I just want you to take my order — we — well she came in here a little hangry, I’m just hungry. I’ve managed to keep her in “hungry” mode, but we do want food from your restaurant. So lets enjoy each other’s company throughout my short duration at your job, and I’ll move on with my life, and you’ll move on with yours.
I know it is probably not right of me to do and there is always room for improvement: Putting in a complaint to the business or a manger would definitely help the next person and your next experience.
Setting A New Trend
Like any person, I would like to think that my time is somewhat valuable. I have 24 hours each day to spend on this Earth and I don’t want to spend all of it at a restaurant. For servers, yeah, you have to because it is your job, but I want to come in, do some business, and then leave. I would generally think that about an hour to an hour and a half is an acceptable and reasonable amount of time to be in a restaurant, depending on how busy it is, including sitting down, ordering, receiving the drinks, appetizers, eating the meal, possibly order dessert and coffee, get the check, and pay it.
When I go out, I expect to be treated like a human being, including a greeting from a host or the server themselves. I expect to be seated properly, and be treated with dignity and respect. I, in return, will do the same thing. I know this is probably asking for too much, but I am pretty sure, in all my time on this planet, I have observed many human beings go out to eat, and this is usually the traditional way, no matter what state you live in, no matter what country you live in, no matter what language you speak. Every single culture and community usually has a place you can go out to eat.
Whether you are in a small town with a single diner or you are in a large city with a hundred different restaurants. Whether you are in another country, where competition is just as plentiful as anywhere else. It makes absolutely no difference: Everyone goes out to eat. The restaurant is a business that offers the service of food to people, the customers. If this business chooses to have a staff that serves customers, than the restaurant better make sure its employees are doing their job correctly of serving the customers, even with a smile or a positive attitude.
So this may sound immature, but why not? Why should I have to ask to be served? Now when I walk into a restaurant, I set my timer for 10 minutes. 15 minutes if I am feeling generous. If I do not receive service by then, especially if I have not been served any drink within 5 minutes of sitting down, than I really have no commitment to eat there. The restaurant has not showed any commitment to want my business at all, so why should I stay? Peace out. That is what I do: I walk right out without any regret.
Welcome to this beautiful world: You all have competition. I do not have to eat at your restaurant. Guess what? My experience may affect whether other people eat there or not too. Who knows how far my influence spreads when I tell my friends, my family, and oh yeah—I run this pretty popular website that receives around a half-million to a million visitors a year and popularity seems to only be rising. So do a better job and make sure your customers are happy and get the service they deserve from the minute they walk through that door until the minute they leave. You and your employees are in the business of serving others, so act like it. Remember, you thrive because we, the customer, are wanting to give you business, but we don’t have to give you business. And if you don’t want it, we will see you next door, because most likely, there are a dozen other restaurants surrounding yours within a 3 mile radius.
These are just a few stories of my recent experiences in the past 2–3 years in restaurants and I certainly have plenty more I could tell, considering I visit only a few each year, but I am wondering what happened to all the good servers? Are you still out there, ready to serve me? Because I’m certainly ready to tip you well if you have earned it.
Please Note: My experience may not be yours, but I totally called out all of the restaurants I went to in this post. Wouldn’t you? I may not have went to the manager to complain, but at least I didn’t go to Yelp or TripAdvisor, either.
Consider this post your warning — if you are the restaurant owner.
Hopefully it doesn’t go viral 😉