Now that I’m no longer working at a restaurant, it’s high time to get some things off my chest – and off the chests of thousands of servers, bartenders, hosts and other hospitality workers in North America.
Here are 7 tips to help you have a more enjoyable dining experience…(and may help get you better service!)
1. Stick to your reservation or call ahead to change it. You’re switching from a party of 4 to a party of 8? Please let the host know. With some advance notice, they may be able to find you a bigger table – but it’s next to impossible to show up unannounced with a larger party than expected and try to squish in somewhere.
2. Let the host seat you. It’s their job to make sure that servers get balanced sections – this means evenly distributed customers – this helps you get better service. The server won’t be bogged down serving a bunch of tables all at once.
3. Don’t touch a server’s tray or anything on it. It’s hard, I know. It’s hot, you’re thirsty, and you see your waitress approaching with your drinks. Let her pass them to you! If you reach for your drink when she’s not expecting it, you’re getting that drink in your lap. Hands off!
4. If your food is taking a long time to come out, don’t hold it against your server – she is clearly not the person cooking it. (Don’t hold it against the kitchen staff either – the cooks just probably got a very busy lunch or dinner rush and… wait, didn’t you just order a well done steak? Yeah, thought so.)
5. Though most restaurants are happy to offer separate cheques, for the server, they are a huge waste of time. Separate bills take forever to separate the order, print, and hand out to customers; and once that’s through, it takes a while to run 10 different credit cards. Advice: carry enough cash to pitch in, and put some of that high school math to good use. These days, everyone’s iPhone or Blackberry has a calculator. Use it.
If for some reason, you are mathematically-impaired, then tell your server at the start of your visit that you will need separate bills. People’s orders and cheques are much easier to keep track of this way. Also, be prepared to stick around a few minutes longer to settle up.
6. A note about gratuities. I’m not going to gripe about bad tips here. Most people know proper tipping etiquette – but there’s something you should know. In most North American establishments, servers get paid far less than minimum wage, because it’s expected they’ll make up for it in tips. By not tipping well (15-20 per cent is considered standard), or (GASP!) not tipping AT ALL, you are essentially costing that server their “wages”. Servers also have to tip out to the establishment on their sales.
For example – if a waitress sells 500 dollars in food and drink, in many restaurants, she will have to tip 1 per cent each to the hostess and bussers, and 1.5 per cent to the bar. So, assuming she makes 15 per cent tips on her sales for that shift (about $75), she will automatically be left with $60 for herself. Imagine if she only made 10 per cent tips (give or take $50), she would still have to tip out $15, leaving her with only $35 in tips for that shift. The difference of a few dollars from each customer makes a huge difference to the livelihood of a server.
If you are a tourist from a country (Ahem – U.K., Australia, etc…) that pays its servers minimum wage and you are not in the habit of tipping, get acquainted with appropriate tipping standards for the place you’re visiting. When in Rome…
7. Treat your servers with respect. This is hopefully a given for most people, but you’d be surprised at how people treat wait staff. Please do not snap at your servers to get their attention. Please do not yell “Hey Girl!” at your servers. Please do not tug at the trappings of their uniform to get attention. You can tell a lot by how someone treats their server as seen here. Always remember the Golden Rule: treat others as you’d like to be treated.