What Do Servers Look for in a Server?

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If you dine out regularly, you've probably experienced it: a server flashing that deer-in-headlights stare and coughing up a lame "I don't really know" to your question about an item on the menu. It's enough to make you suggest to your server the he or she consider other career options -- in government service or technical support, say -- but you hold back. You've heard the legends about waiters spitting in food or dropping steaks on the floor in the name of vengeance.

If it helps soothe your exasperation, know that you're not alone. Some of the harshest critics of wait staff are other members of the service industry.

"Lack of menu knowledge is a huge turn off," says veteran chain restaurant server and key hourly Ariana. "It's like you just want to ask 'How long have you been working here? Do you think maybe you could go and, I don't know, ask someone?'"

There isn't anything wrong with expecting competent service, Ariana says, and there's no need to worry that one wrong move you're part will get you a salad that's been sneezed on. Servers aren't waiting gleefully for an excuse to fuck up your food. In fact, most are eager to give you the best possible experience.

When these sames servers become diners in a new restaurant, they bring a sharp eye for telltale signs their servers know their stuff, beyond just answering questions about the menu.

"I feel like I'm picky because I walk in and know where everything is," Ariana says.

Like Jason Bourne, an experienced server can walk into a dining room and with just a few glances size up everything from where every exit is to how well the glasses in the bar are stocked. "I'm going to watch where that server's other tables are, where she is in relation to the beverage station and what her attitude in general is," she says. "That's the biggest thing is attitude."

It's OK, she says, to cut a server a little slack on an exceptionally busy evening or if they forgot to bring you that extra side of ranch, but generally servers don't come to eat at restaurant during a lunch or dinner rush -- they're working - so slow service for them is inexcusable.

"I have horrible short term memory," she admits. "But you always apologize when you space bringing something small like that to a table because you are busy. You just have to always remember that you're working for your guests. They're the ones paying you."

But don't just stiff on a tip if you're unhappy.

"Speak to a manager rather than stiffing your server," Ariana says. "That way the issue[s] can actually be addressed. Stiffing someone won't accomplish anything."

She also says not to gauge the whole evening by that initial vague response about a menu item.

"You can always smile and pleasantly suggest that they go ask someone who might know," she says. "And they will."


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27 comments
asprings131
asprings131

""I have horrible short term memory," she admits. "But you always apologize when you space bringing something small like that to a table because you are busy. You just have to always remember that you're working for your guests. They're the ones paying you.""

I have a very bad short term memory myself. That's why I *WRITE* things down if I expect to remember them and reread the list.

So I HATE, DESPISE servers that make this memory thing an excuse, because you should be writing down *EVERY* single solitary request and go back to that list, EVERY SINGLE TIME you leave that table and when you head back to that table. Scratch out the things you did do.

A lot of servers would highly disagree and actually had someone on my blog about how to be a good server about that "you're working for your guest." They tell me they were working for the restaurant, but I told them who's paying the majority of your wages? So yes, our servers work for us, not the restaurant.  That means even if a manager isn't approving something, you should try to do it anyways if you want a good tip whether it's for example, giving me 2 half-filled containers of  mayo if they won't let you fill them to equal one.  You aren't working for your manager, because that's not who is paying for the service.


I am just tired of servers forgetting things when most of the time, it's because they are too lazy to write things down and they walk off before you can tell them everything.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I can tell the difference between a competent but busy waiter at a busy restaurant and a lazy fool that ought not be serving people in any fashion.

I'll still tip well if the kitchen screws up my order but my server is earnestly trying to right the situation, but I'm not going to tip a person that flat out doesn't give me good service because they are tired, late, preoccupied or just plain bad at their job. Tipping an incompetent person might give them the idea that they can actually make a living by serving people poorly - why would I want to encourage a person like that to continue to wait tables? 

todd
todd

"Speak to a manager rather than stiffing your server," Ariana says. "That way the issue[s] can actually be addressed. Stiffing someone won't accomplish anything."

Four of us were were dining in the greater Boston area and received substandard service (our server brought new beers to numerous other tables, while our beers warmed at the server's stand, failed to clear salad/appetizer plates when entrees were served, disappeared for 10-15 minutes after taking our CC).  We tipped < 20% of our share and our companions spoke to the manager - who told our friends to not leave a tip.  Talking to the manager may not result in a server friendly outcome.        

AmyS
AmyS

This was really a great post! I love a bartender who looks through the wine glass to make sure it's spotless. Or the server who takes a minute to manicure your table, not just remove dishes. But I especially love it when the restaurant family works as a team. Last night we ordered a salad with extra dressing on the side. While the original server brought the salad, we assumed the side was forgotten - until the kitchen sent it out immediately after with another runner. Somebody covered someone elses back. And that's good for everyone.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Lay off the servers, already.  The kitchen staff can sling around any old slop and still they get paid and don't have to face the customer.

alejandrofazd
alejandrofazd

Yea she's right, I was s waiter for long time and now I like to go out and eat and the first thing I glance is where everything is, how the waitstaff acts and their moves around the dining room,

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

No need to thank me (polite bow)for the following;  I originally had a five 5 page dissertation about Lake Lewisville, but, I digress.  

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

I am never critical of the staff; they can make your stay horrific, just go straight to management and start yelling....it'll be comped! The only thing a waitperson can do to make me mad is to sit down; I don't want you to sit, I don't want to hear about your toils and troubles, I've got my own f+cking problems. Even utter incompetence can be passed off as humorous. We once had a kid make guacamole at our table for 1/2 an hour; just went about our business. 


ps-I spent the majority of my weekend doing yard; my recommendations for music:

-Yardbirds Greatest Hits, my mom's introduced me to it-it is Beck at his best........he sounds like a freight train on the end of "I'm A Man". Thank god Clapton quit. 

-The Beatles White Album:  The first full run through this in 20 years.  It is the second most complete Beatles album after that freaking masterpiece, Revolver. St Pepper......it's alright.

-The Byrds/Sweethart of The Rodeo-Largely considered GP's coming out party, but Hillman and Clarence White have something to say about that. Master stroke. McGuinn is relegated to the bottom of the order. 

-The Animals Greatest Hits......no tighter rock band was ever assembled. "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"; that baseline, those vocals-haunting.


Top 5 Things Tom Thumb Sells:

Large, Frozen Scallops-Goes well with rice or penne pasta. I like to lightly grill the scallops, then toss them in a pan with a little butter.

Jalapeno Bagel-Goes well this.....I dunno, I always eat it before I get home

Ready-To-Bake (Safeway Select) White Wheat Pizza Dough-Perfect for making a Priazzo Pie; fill contents of pie with Serrano peppers, ricotta, mozzarella and turkey pepperoni.

Salsa Chipotle (Bufalo).....Goes good on ANYTHING!  Well not yer nuts, it'll feel like a gorilla is ripping them off.

______

Trip de Jour:

Queen Wilamena State Park-Dude, it's 2600 feet up, close to Dallas, has bears, tree's and is always 10 degree's cooler than at the base of the mountain. We went a couple of weeks ago and the high was 78.  Don't forget to ride the choo choo, cheap, it's only 4 bucks.  Need supplies? Amble down the side of the mountain for provisions-or breakfast.......Steve, the owner, makes the sweetest pancakes you'll ever put in your mouth. The Quachita trail runs straight thru the property.  Also notice the dwarf tree's on Skyline drive, the firetower, and the pioneer cemetary. Want an adventure, take your vehicle down the dirt road that divides Arkansas and Oklahoma; when we took it last we had to move tree's and large boulders out of the road......I didn't think we were going to make it. Want a REAL adventure?  Go down the Cossatot (skullcrusher) when she's going full bore; it once put a hole in my kayak the size of a basketball. 

Best things to do at Beavers Bend/Broken Bow Lake:

-hike, kayak, bon fire, choo choo, trout fish, Grateful Head Pizza, surf when the Reclamation Dam is released, watchthe hayseeds swinm in the river with jeans on. 

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

Don't you just want to scream when you ask a server, how is the ------? And they respond, Oh, I can't eat that because I'm allergic to ------

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@todd 


One thing I have noticed about New England, especially Boston, they just don't give a f+ck!  It's that attitude, and the rampant bleakness that makes 90% of those folks hideous.  It's that accent, and the ideal, that soon, all the tourists will be gone, and they'll be sitting in 8 feet of snow, for 8 months. 

For years I lived "On Cape" and on more than one occasion stood on the Route 6 bridge, and gave the finger to tourists as they left; then I realized, these people are the lifeblood of this economy!

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@AmyS 


Boy, you must not EVER get good service; these are basic 's you just mentioned!  Any establishment worth a hoot does this with ease. 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 


The kitchen staff makes whatever the eff'ing minimum wage + is now; service staff can make $$ depending on the establishment. 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@alejandrofazd 


not me, I'm worried about eating as much as a I can, and having some "drinks", talking and looking at the other patrons.......you must have alot of time on hand!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@kergo1spaceship KERGS!!!! My man.  Gawd I spent 2 days in Moncs Corner SC on lake Multrie fishing and cooking said fishies for dinner, sleeping with the windows open breathing fresh clean air, and walking trails around the neighborhood on the lake.  Followed that by laying my ass on  beach for 6 days, drinking dat berra while the 1 y.o, drug nana and meme up and down the beach for hours on end.  It was fabulous sir, just fabulous.


Seafood, tons of seafood, fresh catches right from the ocean, fresh picked fruits and veggies everything was so wonderful and fresh. 

 Now back to reality, olds at my tom thumb bitching how the fruit is shitty and how mean the baker was bc she couldnt produce a German chocolate cake in 5 minutes and Paula from Pantego waddling her fatass down the middle of the isle so no one cold get around her on either side.  Ill give her credit though, at least she wasnt in that motorized cart with her ass hanging out both sides asking everyone if they can reach the can of tomato paste on the top shelf.  Seriously, when that motorized carts front basket is filled with oatmeal pies and and nutty bars, you need to rethink the diet 

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@kergo1spaceship Kergie, happy to see you back in top form again! I kind of missed the old "rant on and on" Kergie. Welcome back to the fold, my man!

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@kergo1spaceship  I could have read 500 Facebook comments in the time it took to get through all of that.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@AmyS @kergo1spaceship 


oh snap, I forgot the chili garlic sauce, which is great with pretzels, on fish (maybe a nice smoked salmon) or as the base of an Italian Hoagie.  Proper way to make an Italian Hoagie:

-French Bread, remove most of the interior breading, then lightly coat with balsalmic and chili sauce.

-Add salami, ham and a meat of choice, I use Turkey. Top with provolone and broil.

-Dice tomato's, pickles, peppers and onions, and pplace on top of meat with a liberal dash of oil and vinegar. 

-Let said "hoagage" sit in paper for a bit......then enjoy. Bring a bib, or atleast some naps, because this shite is going to run down yer arm. 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@ScottsMerkin

two thing the Merk:

-"Moncs Corner SC on lake Multrie fishing and cooking"....sounds of paradise.

-"motorized cart with her ass hanging out both sides"....I've run into a bunch of Paula's from Pantego's in the last week; I usually utter or mutter "or just stand IN the isle so I can't get by?"; pisses my daughter off, and she says it's rude. Oh, well. 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@ChrisYu @kergo1spaceship 

Right?!  And that was edited down. This is what happens when I have free time. The wife and kids are at Disney, and here's The Kerg's banging away about nothing on his first day of vacay, while waiting for the guy to come cut down the tree in the backyard. Next time I cut the eff'ing tree down myself, and throttle meself to southern Colorado. 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

@ChrisYu @kergo1spaceship 

Rubber Soul and Revolver are the same to me; Revolver has more psychedelia.......pretty good run from 1965-67 on those three albums, huh? Most great bands have one great piece of work one in them, the Beatles had three in a row.  IN A ROW!

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