An Ex-Waitress Explains How Not to Be a Jackass in Restaurants

Emily Monaco
(Photo: Getty)

Hi, my name is Emily, and I used to be a waitress. I’m telling you my name, because that might remind you that I am, in fact, a person, and not a service robot. Sometimes people forget that.

Here’s the thing. I know that most of you just read that paragraph and nodded along knowingly going, “Yeah, most people really are jackasses.” But here’s the thing. Even if you’re a well-meaning restaurant goer, you’ve probably done something that makes the life of your server more difficult at some point… and a night full of micro-aggressions is what makes us angry at the world.

 

Use Full, Complete Sentences

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Check. 4. Bathroom? Water. Ice? Steak knife.

I have heard all of these coming out of people’s mouths in my general direction. They’re not sentences. They’re nouns. If you need something, ask for it. Why is it so hard to say, “Hi, we’re going to be 4 for lunch,” or “Could you bring the check when you have a sec?” I know I look busy, but I appreciate a sentence, at least. Please is nice too, but let’s get that sentence out first.

 

There's a Menu for a Reason

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I know, you have an excuse. You’re allergic to wheat/corn/gluten/peas/parsley/garlic/flavor. You want to make sure the kitchen is making everything fresh to order because you cannot digest salad that has been in contact with the air for more than 17 seconds. You have a right to order things the way you want to, because you’re King Customer and you’re paying for your meal, damnit!

Here’s the thing. You also have a kitchen at home where you can cater to your own every whim. When you order off-menu, even just one small detail off-menu, you throw a wrench in the works of the perfectly oiled machine that is a kitchen of overworked, tired people. Usually, this means that mistakes get made, which means one of two things: either the chef yells at the server who placed the order who caused the mistake, or the customer yells at the server who brought out the mistake that the chef made.

“But what about…”

No. Stop. I once took an order for 6 of the same Gorgonzola Salad we had on the menu, but the first woman asked for no cucumber. The second wanted dressing on the side. To my horror, as the table continued ordering, I ended up with a pad of six different salads, all starting from the same base.

I ended up having to plead with the cook at the salad station, even volunteering to get back behind the counter and make the damn salads myself, before he would let me put the order in.

The menu has lots of choices on it. Pick one. If you can’t find one thing on the menu that you like, go somewhere else. The chef designed the menu to be delicious, so it won’t be that hard.

 

Don't Shoot the Messenger

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As servers, we are the face of the restaurant. Anything that makes the customer’s experience a bit less than wonderful ends up being placed on the server’s shoulders. And while I do accept that, being in a service industry, we should be doing everything in our power to make your experience a good one, consider what the cause of your poor experience is before letting it reflect on your server’s tip or even the way you speak to him or her.

If the server was downright rude to you, go ahead and dock her tip. If she took 45 minutes to bring you your cocktails without an explanation or an apology, or if she poured gravy on your pants, yeah, OK, sure. Let her have it.

But if your steak came out medium when you ordered medium-rare, let her know. Give her an opportunity to fix it. Don’t just smugly tip her 7% at the end of the meal, thinking, “That’ll show her!” Because it won’t show her. It’ll just make her night a bit more difficult, and the next time she sees you, she’ll be a little less likely to laugh off your skeevy flirting.

Because yes: no matter how cute you think you are, it’s skeevy to flirt with your server while she’s working. Don’t do it. 

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