Can We Talk?

Posted August 28, 2014 by CHOW, BABY in Eats

These days the internet is polluted with angry listicles like “10 Ways to Piss Off Your Bartender,” and “How to Make Your Server Hate You.” Sure, diners and bar customers should know a certain amount of etiquette, but I can’t help feeling that the service-industry culture has gotten a little too precious. It’s as though servers and bartenders have forgotten who is serving whom.

I’ll see your cranky lists and raise you one of my own. As someone who dines out for a living and who worked many years in the restaurant biz, Chow, Baby has developed a list of service peeves the size of the Dead Sea scrolls. On behalf of those of us on the other side of the order pad, here are my top 10 things that wait staffers should stop doing immediately.

1. Don’t touch me. Seriously. A former manager once told me that a simple hand on my guest’s shoulder could raise my tip from 15 to 20 percent. After awkwardly flopping my hand like a dead fish on many customers’ shoulders, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t true. Unless you’re a server at a strip club or breastraunt, keep your hands to yourself. It just makes things weird.

2. Don’t crouch down to talk to me. Unless you’re expecting a gunfight to break out, there’s no reason to squat by my table. If you are expecting a firefight, please let me know.

3. I didn’t come to the restaurant to talk to you. I’m cool with a little witty repartee here, but I don’t need you to carry the conversation. I don’t want to hear your life story, chaotic schedule, or how table 12 stiffed you earlier. Let me know about the specials and be available if I have questions.

4. Check back with me a few minutes after the food is dropped off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to get up and find a server or manager because my steak was cooked incorrectly, the order was wrong, or I was left gazing at lovely food, with no utensils.

5. Don’t hover. I don’t want my water refilled every time I take a sip.

6. You’re not funny. Maybe someone laughs when you refer to women as “girls” or “broads” or fake-compliment mature women by calling them “young ladies,” but I don’t.

7. Don’t always try and up-sell the most expensive thing on the menu: “I’m sorry we’re out of the $6 glass of wine you ordered, but may I recommend the $4,000 bottle of Rothschild as a replacement?” No, you may not.

8. Check your tables before you disappear for 10 minutes. OK, so you have to fold 100 napkins before you leave or you need to feed the nicotine beast — just make sure my table isn’t on fire before you duck out.

9. If you don’t know something, don’t make up the answer. I’m perfectly content to wait while you go ask the kitchen or look something up, rather than finding out, six bites in, that, yes, the food item I’m allergic to is part of the gumbo after all.

10. Tell your customers when a gratuity is included in the bill as presented. It’s sensible for restaurants to write in gratuities for large parties, but I find it criminal when the server neglects to point that out, and the customer unknowingly adds another tip. Getting a “double-grat” that way is a violation of their trust.

Servers and bartenders aren’t the only ones who can get a little sensitive, so let’s make a deal: I’ll promise not to snap my fingers or commit any of the sins on those angry-server lists, if you promise to honor mine. Check, please.


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