When you’re at a restaurant, a waiter becomes your one connection, your one messenger to help you get meals, drinks, and anything else you might need. And the truth is you could probably be doing more to let them know you appreciate their help.
We talked to three waiters to uncover their pet peeves, hear their tips for customers who want to go that extra mile, and learn what they wish patrons knew about their jobs.
Realize that most of the time a waiter isn’t ignoring you ― they’re just busy
A delay in delivery of your food or drink can be annoying, but that isn’t an excuse to be rude to waiters or try to get their attention when it’s clearly a busy day at the restaurant.
“If I’m at another table, and I’m dealing with another customer I don’t need to be yelled at,” said Olivia Sehl, who has more than five years of experience in the food industry and spent about three of them as a waiter in the Hamilton, Ontario, area.
It’s like a Broadway show. Every day and every night, it’s a different scenario. Hamdy Elamrousy, on being a waiter
Sehl, who is the marketing manager of The Chef and the Dish, a company that offers cooking classes with chefs all over the world via Skype, told HuffPost her biggest pet peeve was having customers snap at her to get her attention.
“I’m not a dog,” she said.
Hamdy Elamrousy has been a waiter for 35 years and currently works at Gallaghers Steakhouse in New York City. He is also a member of Unite Here Local 100, a union for workers in restaurants, bars, airports, and other venues. He echoed Sehl’s thoughts about just how busy it can get for a waiter.
“It’s like a Broadway show,” he told HuffPost. “Every day and every night, it’s a different scenario.”
With that in mind, have some patience, and remember, the waiter is usually on your team when it comes to your dining experience.
Don’t be afraid to say what you want
D’Andrea Garner, who has waiter experience at chain restaurants in the Southeast as well as food industry experience at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, told HuffPost she knows not everyone is outgoing, but communicating with your waiter is key.
“If I drop a steak at the table and it’s overcooked, please let me know so we can get that fixed for you,” she said. “I understand some people don’t like to speak up or be a bother (I’m like this, too), but we want our customers to have a great experience and if they don’t speak up and they go home and send in a terrible survey on how our establishment is the worst, it doesn’t help anyone, it just makes us look bad.”
She also suggested that if you’re looking for a speedy dining experience, knowing ahead of time what you want to order or what you want to ask for (silverware, napkins, etc.) can be a huge help.
If you’re looking for something else to do that could help make a waiter’s day easier (and possibly yours), they’re usually not opposed to you trying to help with the clean-up.
“A big thing that stands out to me personally is when you kind of just help clear the table,” Sehl said. “I don’t expect you to do my job, I really don’t, but if I’m reaching for a glass on the other side of the table, if you sort of help me out, it’s huge. I don’t want to be stretched out and right in front of your face, either.”
Everyone should work in food at least once in their life to get a better understanding of human beings and to gain more compassion. D'Andrea Garner, an experienced waiter
Tips for tipping? Keep these in mind
For every inspiring story about a waiter receiving an enormous tip, there are many more about waiters being completely ignored by customers for their service.
“Don’t get me wrong, if a person encounters a bad server, by all means tip accordingly, but not tipping at all, is unacceptable,” said Garner, who added that she hasn’t been tipped properly “a lot.”
Sehl also noted that if customers use a gift certificate or participate in a two-for-one type of deal, they should consider the full amount of work the waiter still completed and tip accordingly.
Remember, waiters aren’t invincible from making the occasional mistake
At times, your dining experience won’t go exactly as you hoped it would, and that’s OK. Waiters make mistakes like everyone else.
“At the end of the day that person is just doing their job and you’ve got to have some sympathy,” Sehl said. “I’m not saying every server out there is good, but for those of us who are trying our best out there, it’s nice to have the customer recognize that, too.”
When asked if he had advice for fellow waiters, Elamrousy offered some wisdom that customers should heed, too.
“Treat people the way you like to be treated,” he said. “Even if they are bad, treat them the way you like to be treated. Don’t get angry with them.”
For Garner, being a waiter has exposed her to some of the less appealing personality traits of some people. But overall, she said she’s learned a lot.
“This life isn’t the most glamorous, but it’s a living!” she said. “You meet so many people with different backgrounds and cultures and it’s nice, and I feel like everyone should work in food at least once in their life to get a better understanding of human beings and to gain more compassion.”