In order to buy my first car and put myself through college without the burden of high-interest auto and student loans, I spent roughly eight years of my life working with the public as a restaurant server. This job gave me a tremendous amount of financial freedom and comfort. However, it also taught me invaluable lessons about the challenges and tribulations that most every server faces while on the clock.
1. Spilling a beverage on your guest is every server’s greatest nightmare. Spilling a beverage on a guest at your table is, honestly, one of the worst things you can do as a server and is simultaneously one of the hardest to bounce back from with a table. Fortunately it’s typically a mistake you only make once because once you experience the awkward consequences of spilling hot coffee on a guest, you refuse to let yourself make that same mistake twice.
2. Don’t sit down next to the gentleman while taking a couple’s order. It’s not uncommon for servers to sit on the edge of a booth bench at a table and take a couple’s order. Turns out not all restaurant patrons appreciate this personal level of service. This point was made quite clear in the case of Elaine vs. Crazy Jealous Wife. After sitting next to the husband and taking the couple’s order I was followed into the back kitchen by his wife and publicly reprimanded for five minutes about the inappropriateness of the signals I was sending her husband by choosing to sit next to him instead of her.
3. Avoid the terms “ma’am” and “sir” if you aren’t 100 percent positive of a patron’s gender. This is actually more of a life lesson but one I learned firsthand as a server.
4. Cake is everything. On an ordinary, non-work day, cake isn’t something you put a significant value on or really desire. But during a serving shift, where you’re running on your feet for 8+ hours, a slice of birthday cake becomes the only thing worth anything to you. When the table you’re serving is celebrating a birthday and brings in a cake, you’re main priority becomes getting offered a slice of cake. On the flip side, if you want great service at a restaurant, just walk in with a cake. You’re welcome in advance.
And my final piece of advice goes to restaurant patrons:
5. If you say something to a server, you’re saying it to every single server at that restaurant. If you’re the type of person to flirt with your server, make outlandish comments, or if you’re downright rude, be advised that it’s something the entire restaurant staff will be aware of by the time you get your meal. Servers talk and compare tables amongst each other every shift, so if you don’t want to be the talk of the restaurant avoid any extreme statements, remarks, complaints, etc…