Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections on Life in Restaurants: a bitch about the job post.

This last week at work has been interesting for me. Part of it is the come-down from what is undoubtably the busiest week of the year for us. Our two busiest days of the year fall within about 4 days of each other every year, and it has a tendency to wear you down. Also, as one of our senior servers, I get to work these days all day long, and that means I make a lot of money. Unfortunately, there's always about ten places to put each dollar, and while it should help, it feels like I am right back in the spot I was before.

The other downside to working those busy days is that the week following seems so slow it hurts. Yes, of course, it is not going to be so busy we have a line out the door, because that doesn't happen very often anyway. The other thing is everyone seems to have gottent heir fill of Mexican food the week prior, so business is even slower.

I've noticed that when its slow you tend to notice things you might not, or things that would normally not bother you begin to grate a lot more quickly than normal. It seems like on the slow days the bad customers are worse than normal, the kids are louder when they acream and the nice tables are fewer and farther in between.

Yesterday was a good example of that. I seemed to have about a 50/50 ratio of really nice people versus people who made me want to throw things at them. Never good. Since I've been making an effort to improve my karma, when I get to work I tell myself that I should only be sending goodness and love out into the world. God will reward me for that. That's what I tell myself. Take care of others, god will take care of you. The problem is I believe, always, that being kind does not necissarily mean being a doormat. I honestly struggled to maintain not just a detachedly polite facade, but one that was plesant and kind. When someone is being rude to you, its a real test.

There are some things as a waitress that just really get on my nerves. My biggest problem is that most customers are totally unaware of their surroundings. On a day when we aren't so busy there's a line out the door, most guests assume that if I am not standing over their table then I must be in the back on my cell phone or in the break room smoking. This is almost never true. If you pay attention to where your server is in a restaurant, you could see this. Most of the time I have two or three other tables at least. In a half hour period, this means I am not only taking care of you (keeping your drinks and chips full, making conversation, taking orders, making deserts and carrying out your food) I am also trying to time it right so that I can do that for a minimum of two or three other sets of people at the same time. That's no easy task.

Yesterday we had a waitress on the other side of the store taking care of a big group. When their food came up in the window I helped her carry it out. By the time I got back to my tables, one of them was angry because their sodas were half full. I didn't feel like I deserved that anger. One, they still had half a soda, two, I was there to check on them for that purpose, to make sure they didn't need anything. It was a struggle for me to not be rude when they got onto me.

Another problem with working in a restaurant like the one I work in is that you have a constant flow of refills. Not just sodas. In a normal restaurant if you don't order appetizers you waitress will probably only stop by once to make sure your sodas or tea is still full. In one like mine, where we serve chips and sala at the table for free (or say, an Italian restaurant that serves bread) people expect you to be there the minute they run out, or even come close. I don't mind keeping the chips and salsa full, that's my job. What I do mind is how much people eat, or demand, when they know its free.

For example, I had a table the other day that had three people at it. They wanted me to bring out enough chips and salsa for 12 people. I wouldn't do it. It goes to waste, and I get in trouble. Most of my customers eat far more than they should. Figure this: a jar of salsa at the store is about a pint. Two of our dishes equals a pint. My average table of 4 will go through a minimum of 6 dishes of salsa. How many of us sit at home and will eat three jars of salsa in the space of less than 15 minutes? Even if you have friends over? Even if you have dinner being made? I think its gross. I can't help it. The same thing goes for people who drink seven or eight sodas in one meal. That's like 4 two-liter bottles. Ew.

Now, there are things that are just plain rude, and I think that they ought to be pointed out; not because my lovely bloggers would ever do anything like this, but because I have to get it off my chest.

When your glass is empty, you don't shake it at the waitress. I told a man one time (not at this job) that to me, that meant he wanted me to take his glass away and not bring him a new one. If you want more chips or salsa and you pick up your dish and wave it at me, I'm going to take it from you. Don't tell me you wanted to keep that one until I brought the new one, if you throw it up in my face, I assume you don't want it anymore.

When I get to the table to greet you, at least wait until I say my name and ask how you are to start sking for things. There is nothing I dislike more than to be at a table, trying to be pleasant, and then to be interrupted mid-sentence with "Water with two lemons, and we need more chips. A lot more chips." Seriously? Its rude.

Here's the big one for me lately: if you have a coupon, say $5 off your meal, tip at least the amount of the discount if your service was acceptable. Waitresses hate coupons laying on the table, because normally it means we aren't going to be tipped.

Oh, and on tipping. I don't know who spread this rumor, but outside of maybe two states in the entire US waitresses don't make minimum wage. For example, I make $3.25 an hour. Not even half of minimum wage. I do actually need you to tip me. I woldn't be nearly as plesant when your screaming child throws Jello at me if I wasn't dependent on you for my wage. In my world, in most restaurants, if the service is adequate leave 15%. If the service was good, leave 20% If the service was stellar, leave more. When you do that and come back, your waitress will remember you and will take good care of you every time. She is also more likely to tell you about specials, or hook you up with discounts or free stuff. If you take care of your waitress, she will take care of you. Under only the most EXTREME cicumstances do you not leave a tip. If it is so bad you will never eat in that restaurant again, then consider it. Otherwise, leave at least the $3 or whatever to make the girl up to minimum wage. Its a bad tip, and she knows it, but you aren't putting her in a hardship. Tell her, in fact, to her face (POLITELY) if she asks if things could have been better, or how she was doing, how to make things better. Or talk to her manager, and tell them, (POLITELY) how this server could be guided to improve so you will enjoy your experience more.

Also, remember this, waitresses are people too. We have feelings. You can hurt them. If you're having a bad day and you take it out on us, we will be offended or hurt. Remember that a lot of us are going through college, or are trying to get into college, or get back in. We have families to support and lives outside of work. I might be stressed because of Kitten's finals. Maybe my cat died, or my mom doesn't have somewhere to live and she wants me to support her. Maybe my best friend just moved away and I don't have an emotional support system like I used to. Maybe your special order made my cooks mad and I got yelled at for it, even though it wasn't my fault.

There are a lot of things going on in my head during a workday, and most of them don't have to do with your Pepsi refill or whether your burrito took 5 minutes to make or 10. I can't tell you the amount of times, even in the last month, that I or one of my staff was reduced to tears because one of our customers was cruel to us. We have a fabulous girl at work who just became a mother for the second time. She actually had a table yell at her and upset her. What they didn't know was she was busy dealing with our terrible insurance to take care of her doctor bills, and that even though she made the effort to look beautiful like she always does, she came to work with less than 2 hours of sleep because the baby was up all night. Why did she deserve to be yelled at? She didn't. You know what the woman was mad about? She had arrived to her table after the rest of the party and she didn't have her own salsa dish. She had to wait maybe 5 minutes for one rather than share. See, to me, I don't see how that should bring on a screaming tirade in front of a dining room full of people, solely for the intent of humiliating that poor girl. Its not her fault.

I change clothes every day at work. (Why do I make this point you wonder? I'll tell you) I spend six days a week in my restaurant. I live in my work uniform. Thing is, I don't think most of my guests ever think of me outside of my blue or red polo and black pants. Yesterday I changed into a pair of high heels, capris and a brown and pink chiffon dress over it before I lef.t I took down my hair, and put on some lip gloss. When I was leaving to go get Kitten, two of our regular (but not MY regular) customers were coming in. You should have seen their faces. They actually stopped the hostess so they could make me turn around and let them look at me. They were astounded. You see, as nice as they are, I don't think it ever occured to them that I might not always wear my uniform. They never thought that maybe outside of work I could be a pretty girl, or wear dresses and high heels. They never think to see me that way. The funny thing is, not five minutes before that I was talking to one of my co-workers after I changed clothes. She asked why I always do. I told ehr its because when I am not on the clock, I feel more human in my dresses and heels. I feel like a real person who has more in their life than their apron and slip-proof sneakers. I think these people proved my point.

I love my job most days. I have overcome my natural shyness and I like working with people. I like most of my coworkers. I love my regular customers. In fact, a couple of them follow this blog. It means a lot to me. They take good care of me, they care about my life, they are involved in me more than just whether or not I can serve their tacos. That makes a difference to me. I'd say that these people get better service from me 90% of the time. They deserve it. The nice thing is, if I am getting my ass kicked, they see it, because they know me, and I don't get punished like other servers might, because they know if I had the choice, I'd be at their table asking about their kids and their businesses and their latest projects. These are the customers in my store that we fight over. I even have a few regulars whom I love, but who will sit with anyone, becaue they get great service no matter who they get. When they come in, the other servers will come to me, and some of the other crew members, and tell them they are in so that we can stop by and say hello. That's a good customer.

I digress. Most days i like my job. I like my boss. I like my coworkers. Most of the time, I like my customers. Its the few bad apples that can really spoil a day. I always tell my new kids two things: first is that you can't let one table spoil your whole day. If you do, then your next regular may be at the next table, and you might blow it because you're still upset about the last one. You won't make any money that way. You can't. You have to let it go, however hard it might be. The other thing I tell them is to not get mad or upset. Not on the clock. Unless things go really wrong, they're going to get some money from a table. It might not be what they deserve, or what they would like, but its something. Its more than they had before. I tell them to cry, or cuss, or scream; but to do it after work on the way to the bank. In the end, if you got the moeny, that's all that counts.

Teh sad thing is, that's advice that's really hard to take. Especially this last week. We'll see how I do this time.

Sprry to bitch about Casa Bueno, I don't do it often, but it seems to be weighing on me this week, and getting it off my chest here is better than getting it off my chest other places.

Love you all. I'll try to post something amusing tomorrow. If anyone has an idea, let me know. I'm all tapped out for dry humor, it seems.

Lots of love,


  1. That's good advice for servers and customers alike.

    One note: though I don't generally shake cups, etc. at servers, those I know who do aren't trying to be rude. It's an acknowledgement that you're busy, and they're trying to save you the time of walking all the way over to find out what they want. It's a "When you get a chance, could I please..." sort of thing, and they show gratitude to the server always. Perhaps it's the manner in which customers do this?

    I've worked as a server and I have to say... no thanks! It's one hell of a tough job, and I lack the patience. I admire your ability to take it, and if you were my server, you'd get a big tip. I'm a good tipper, you know... :0)

  2. It's simple. Even you're a dick, surely you can understand that you don't insult the people who serve you food. End of story. Me, I like to be nice to people. C. Frequently accuses me of flirting with waitresses, but the truth is that I'm just trying to make a connection. Is that flirting?