Monday, December 13, 2010

How a server views the holiday season

Whether or not someone enjoys the holiday season really boils down to a simple matter of perspective. I can't imagine turkeys and pigs enjoy this time of year, but I'm sure that slaughter houses across the nation are making profits. Some families are enjoying the few moments away from work and school to spend quality time together, while others spend every minute loathing the sight of their in-laws. While you might go out for a holiday meal, it's quite possible that your server, cook, bartender or busser, might be seriously dreading that same experience.

I've been in the restaurant industry for nearly four years now, and each year I get to see the droves of large family units seemingly herding themselves in and out of the restaurant on any given Thanksgiving or Christmas. You can always tell the truly 'elated' bunches: Mom's side of the family on one side, Dad's side on the other, neither too happy to be in the same presence for a meal. It's near miraculous when a family of 12 can complete an entire meal short of 60 minutes.

There is, of course, the obligatory 'fight over the bill' between in-laws which can very easily lead to troubling moments for your humble narrator and server. For the sake of servers everywhere, I've decided to leave you with a few tips to keep in mind when dining out this holiday season.

1. Please do not, under any circumstances, ever refer to your server as 'waiter' 'waitress' 'buddy' 'pal' or (my favorite of all time) 'server dude.' This will be met with hostility, or as is my personality, a relentless assault of backhanded compliments whenever I'm requested. I tell you my name at the beginning of the meal. Remember it, or offer up a polite 'sir' or 'miss/ma'am.' If we've been polite to you, then we've earned at least that much.

2. Keep in mind the amount of times you ask for things separately. My job is to serve you as efficiently as possible, and I'm pretty good at it. Do you need horseradish? You damn right I can get that for you. But alas, upon returning, someon asks for mustard. Well that's no problem at all. I'll be right back! And when I get back, well it looks like someone wants more napkins. Plain and simple: while we're here to help you, keep in mind we're helping at least 5 other parties at a time, and many times 7 or 8 groups. In the spirit of these holidays, please try to consolidate your requests. If you don't, I'm going to ask you if "there is anything else I can get for annnyyyyyooonnne while I'm here" in my best adult-to-two-year-old impression. And I'm real good at that.

3. Don't gourge yourself on complimentary bread and butter. It's bad form. It's also a health risk, and for the most part, I care about you.

4. Please DO NOT get into arguments with your significant other at the front of me. It is uncomfortable at best, and at worse, I'm probably going to repeat the confrontation to all of my coworkers so we can laugh about what happend the last time you ordered that second cocktail, or how gassy you get after eating the cheese cake. If you've ever argued in a restaurant, do yourself a favor and look around. If you see staff members poking their heads out around corners, staring at you and talking to eachother, it's a good chance that you'll be the subject of conversation for many nights to come.

5. In the state of California there is, for many restaurants, legal tip sharing. On any given restaurant shift, a server could be giving away 10 - 38% of their gratuities to bussers, expoditers kitchen staff, hostesses, and bartenders. This leaves, many times, only about 60% of the original gratuities for the server. While I'm fortunate enough to be in a situation where my livelihood is not dependant on tip money, most servers are paid minimum wage and need that money for rent and insurance. If the service was good, go with the giving spirit, and give what you can. If the steak was undercooked, let your server know BEFORE you polish that bad-boy off so that I can fix it, and so that you won't feel inclined to hold it against me.

part II in a few days...maybe.

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