Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts: Restaurant Servers

I have been told that I can be a royal bitch when it comes to dining out. Unfortunately, no one seems to bring my actions to my attention when they are apparently occurring, so I have no basis for this opinion.

Having worked in restaurants for many years, in addition to hearing stories that my mom told me about her time as a waitress back in the 50's & 60's, I feel that I should have at least some understanding of what should be going on within a restaurant with respect to the servers.

Lately, I have gone out to dinner with friends and found them to be quite judgmental about service and food quality. Hearing someone say "I didn't tip the server because the food was awful" really makes me angry, as the server can really only check to see that what was ordered is what is on the plate. It is the cook or chef that determines the quality of the food. Penalizing the server for something beyond their control is not something that should be done.

All my life, I have been taught by my mom, that tipping was a way "To Insure Prompt Service". Mom would always start the tip at a certain amount, and then adjust up or down, based on the level of service. I can remember each and every time my mom had increased the tip substantially due to what we deemed "going above and beyond". Mom trained my sister and I to be very respectful of servers, as stated before, she had been one for many years. Please and thank you were required when speaking to a server, while special requests or bringing something to the attention of the server was always started with an apology, such as "I'm sorry to ask, but could we get a new glass of water, there is something in the glass" or "I'm sorry to ask, but could I get that hamburger with no lettuce or tomato"? Generally, these requests were taken care of immediately with the server responding with an apology or a simple "no problem at all, I will get that taken care of for you".

Most servers make their livelihood completely off of the tips that are left for them. When I worked as a server in Tucson, my life depended on the tips I earned, as I was only making $2.42 per hour. Certain states allow for employees that receive tips to make a lower minimum wage in hopes that they will recoup the difference in the tips they receive. However, some states, such as Nevada, where I lived for 12 years, was not one of those states. Servers in Nevada were required to be paid the actual minimum wage or higher and still expected tips on top of their hourly wage. I will admit that I found some of the rudest servers working for restaurants in Las Vegas, and it made it difficult to even contemplate leaving a tip, but my lessons were instilled at a young age and I utilized my moms method of tipping.

Moving here to Indiana, I realized that I was returning to a state that allowed a tipped minimum wage and I was ecstatic to return to a place where service was important. Unfortunately, I have found that at some places, the term "service" is not very well defined.

For me, when it comes to proper service, which results in a fairly decent tip, I have some unspoken rules that the server needs to follow. These rules are things that the server should have been taught while being trained, and some actually deal with sanitation issues, so I don't think that my calling them "Unspoken" rules makes it difficult for servers to receive good tips.

My rules are as follows and are numbered in what I feel is how important that aspect is to me:

Rule 0: Be there.
Rule 1: Greet me and tell me your name
Rule 2: Listen
Rule 3: Repeat the order to avoid confusion and so I know you were listening
Rule 4: Offer suggestions
Rule 5: Anticipate my needs
Rule 6: Do not ask "How is everything"
Rule 7: Thank me for coming and invite me back

I do not feel that these rules are difficult for any server to follow on a daily basis, in fact, most establishments have some sort of customer service requirements that may include some or even all of these rules. I feel that these rules are self explanatory, but if you would like clarification, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try and explain it further.

As always, I hope you enjoy reading my blog and welcome questions and comments on any topic.

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