There’s a reason why a lot of struggling actors and actresses take jobs as servers at restaurants: Being a waiter or waitress is very much a performance, one where they need to smile and nod and make it appear as if they’re having a good time, meanwhile showing that they’re working hard on your behalf and that the restaurant is doing everything in its power to accommodate you. But in reality, there are a whole lot of things that servers secretly wish they could tell you without running the risk of getting fired. Here are 20 things that your server really wishes you knew.
The lemons that garnish your Diet Coke and limes that get muddled into your mojito most likely weren’t washed first, and they’ve been sitting all day (or sometimes longer) in the open tray on the bar before the bartender touches them with his bare hands. If you squeeze the lemon into your soda, don’t toss it into your drink afterwards.
Hot tea takes forever to make. Just stick with coffee.
They don’t have all day to wait for little Johnny to decide what he wants to eat, then ask him to repeat himself because he’s whispering and shy. Parents, please just order for your kids. And while you’re at it, make sure you know what you’re going to order as well.
Contrary to popular belief, the tip you leave doesn’t go right into your server’s pocket. Some tips are pooled, meaning that if you stiff your server, you might be stiffing the bartender and other employees as well. If you enjoyed your meal and the service wasn't disastrous, thank the staff by leaving a 20-percent tip.
Your server isn’t your slave. Treat them like human beings and you’ll make their lives a little better and likely get better service.
If a restaurant doesn’t have skim milk in stock and you ask for it for your coffee, you’ll be getting two percent.
When a runner comes to your table holding hot plates of food, make sure that there’s room in front of you for him to put them down. If his hands are full, he’s not going to magically be able to move that cocktail and iPhone.
If you don’t want tomatoes in your salad, don’t say that you’re allergic to them, just say you don’t like them. Many restaurants take allergies very seriously, and will use clean knives, cutting boards, etc. in order to avoid any contact with the allergen. Just be honest, and you’ll save everybody trouble.
There’s no reason to suffer through a dish you hate, or to eat three quarters of it before sending it back. If you take a bite and you really don’t like it, tell the server and there’s a decent chance you’ll be allowed to swap it out. If you’re able, pinpoint what exactly you don’t like about the dish when sending it back, so the server can let the chef know. But don’t send back a salad because you don’t like spinach. Don’t send back a dish because you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t know what pancetta is. And definitely don’t send something back after you’ve already eaten half of it.
The more tables turn over, the more money the restaurant (and its staff) makes. Once you’ve paid your bill, take the conversation outside and let another party sit down.
Even though it may not be apparent, there’s a method to where you're seated when you're seated. If you have major concerns with your table, you should voice them to the host or hostess and politely ask to be seated elsewhere (ideally before you even sit down), instead of just moving. If you just get up and sit down at another table, you could throw the whole dining room out of whack.
It’s one thing to ask your server to repeat the components of an intriguing special, but it’s another thing to ignore him or her entirely during a presentation of the specials, then ask to hear the same thing all over again — or to send your salmon back for being undercooked when you were clearly told that it’s served medium-rare.
Menus are rarely, if ever, given a thorough cleaning, especially if they’re paper. A couple years back, Good Morning America sent a team to swab items on the tables of 12 restaurants, and they discovered that menus carried the most bacteria by far.
The items that remain on the tables throughout all of service can get quite a germy buildup over the course of the day. Ever notice that they’re sometimes sticky? Yeah, you don’t want to be touching these very much.
If you ever see a server hand you a drink with their fingers on the rim of the glass, request a new drink. As a rule of thumb, always drink from a straw at a restaurant.
Sure, tables get a wipe-down between customers, but have you ever seen the ratty old rag that they usually use? All it basically does is spread the gunk around. If any of your food touches the table, consider it a goner unless it’s covered with a fresh tablecloth.
If your server is attending to another table, or walking with a pile of dishes, now is not the time to get his or her attention. Wait until they’ve finished what they’re doing, then call them over. And don’t flail your arms or shout. The polite way to call a waiter is to make eye contact and nod. Also, don’t take it out on them if your dish is taking a while to come out of the kitchen. Kitchen backups are rarely, if ever, the server’s fault; a well-done steak takes a while to cook.
If there are no tables open, there are no tables open — and unless you’re the president of the United States, you’re just going to have to wait for a table like everyone else. But if you’re a regular customer and you tip the maître d’, host, or hostess $20 on your way out, it certainly won’t go unappreciated.
Odds are, if you’ve been waiting an inordinate amount of time for your drinks or food to arrive, your server is aware of that fact and just as anxious about it as you are. Because they know that sooner or later you’re going to take out your frustrations on them, and there’s nothing that they can do about it.
Splitting the bill is one of the most annoying tasks a server can be asked to perform, because it requires keeping track of everyone’s order. Instead of asking for the server to split it up, when you receive your bill, write a note on the check with the exact amount you want charged to each card. If everyone can pony up cash for tip instead of adding it on to their check, that will also go a long way.