11 Things to Reconsider Before Asking Your Waiter
Updated: Apr 7
I've been working in restaurants, bars and cafes for quite a while now and I've met a multitude of customers: some fantastic, some bizarre, some weird and wonderful. I enjoy working with people. I like cooking and baking, I'm a huge fan of whiskies, wines and beers and I like seeing everyone having a good time with their friends and families while enjoying delicious food and drinks. I enjoy my work, but sometimes (more often than you'd think) I encounter some situations which could easily have been avoided. I've made a little list with the things that make a server's job more difficult than it should be and it's not helpful for you as a customer in any way. I'm there to help you, please let me.
Here we go:
1. 'We booked for 14 but it's only going to be the 3 of us'.
And you couldn't call before? Showing up like that and not calling the venue before is definitely not cool... You have a phone in your hand most of the day. You're an adult, call in advance, you didn't just bump into your friends at the entrance, I'm assuming you talked to them before getting here. Talk to us as well. We need to prepare. We have extra staff working that time becase we want to be ready. Also, if you booked for 3 and show up 13, chances are we won't magically have a table ready for you there and then. You're going to have to wait, I might not have anything available for the next two hours or anything at all and service might be slower since we didn't expect more than the usual number of customers for that given day.
2. 'I know it's only 2 of us but can we sit at that big table over there? We need a lot of space. ' You mean the one set up for 8? I'm afraid not .You don't need that much space unless you plan on having a nap on the table. Also, If I don't have any bookings and the table remains empty, it's ok. It's not your personal property. If a party of 8 does show up, I have where to sit them down. I can put a 2 on an 8, but not an 8 on a 2. We're a business and need to make profit so we can continue to be open, it's not your friend's house so you can do what you want, bear that in mind please and no, telling me it's your birthday won't change anything. 3. 'Can the Chef do something special for me?'
'I had a wonderful beetroot salad last time I was here.' You mean the dish we had on the menu last winter? I'm afraid not. We don't have all the imaginable ingredients in house, we have a system of preparing things and we have a menu for you to choose from, that's why it's there. 'But they did it for me before' – yes, when it was on the menu, in 2018.
As a side note, if we can remove certain ingredients from a dish, we obviously will, or add something else which we have in the menu but if there's nothing on the menu which you like maybe you're in the wrong restaurant...
4. 'I forgot to tell you I'm allergic to shellfish'
It's your life, your health. If I've asked the whole party 4 times if anyone has any allergies and you personally tell me you've got none, only to magically remember an hour and a half later, (once you've had a bit from everything on the table) that you have a 'quite severe' nut allergy I honestly wonder how we got this far as a species.
Please don't lie about your allergy. I take my job very seriously and I take any allergy very seriously. I'm there to make sure you have a good time, enjoy some delicious food and don't have an allergic reaction. You telling me you have a severe nut allergy and then admitting you 'Just don't like them' are 2 very different things. If you tell me you have a severe allergy, we take extra time and care to make sure there is not a single chance of cross-contamination because we really don't want to make you sick. Telling me you're coeliac, making a fuss about 'only' having 30 items in the gluten free menu when the regular menu has about 35 and then proceeding to eat some of your friend's regular bread because 'This one just tastes so nice' makes me want to scream (unfortunately I can't).
5. 'Can you try this for me?'
No, I'm afraid I will no try the last bit of food left on your plate or the last sip of wine and please stop pushing it my way. If you think there is something wrong with your wine, I will take it away from you, chuck it down the drain, and try the bottle from which I or the bartender poured, or I will ask the kitchen to look into it. We're not that close for me to want to do that and its completely unsanitary with or without a pandemic going on. Health and safety is for everyone, not just you, keep your germs to yourself.
6. ' I didn't like the last dish that much. Will I get a discount?'
After I've asked you throughout your meal if everything is alright and you said yes every single time, if I cleared your plates away and they looked like they were licked clean, don't tell me you didn't like whatever dish because that is a blatant lie. Tell your server if something is wrong, I am there to help you, please let me. If you ate every single little thing of the plate it's because you liked it, no one is forcing you to eat what you think might be off. If you bring it to my attention that a particular dish is undercooked/overcooked/has something wrong with it, we will look into it and 99% of the time we will replace it but please do it as you notice the mishap, not at the end of the meal when there isn't anything else I can do.
7. 'I come here all the time and I always sit at that table'
We try to give the best service to everyone, whether you've been here before or not. Also, if you have to tell me you're a regular, you're not. We are here all the time. If I don't know you and my colleagues don't know you, you're not a regular. You come here all the time, you always have this whatever dish – you mean the one that's not even been in the menu since November last year? If your usual spot isn't available I'm not about to move that person midway through their meal because of you, please follow me to your new table.
8. 'We each want to pay for our own meal. I shared the olives and a bottle of wine, had the steak and salad and shared the chocolate cake - how much is my bill?'
I can't split the bill a million ways while you want to pay for individual items. If you want to pay for your glass of wine, starter and the dessert you shared with your friend Sarah, please don't ask me how much that is, because I honestly don't know. I don't have the full list of items and their price in my head so I can quickly divide what you and your pal had. You need to know how much you need to pay. There's a price list on the menu and the bill has all the individual items printed out.
We live in a world where most customers coming into our restaurant have a mobile phone with a calculator. If you want me to divide the bill in 7 and you're all paying equal amounts, I will still get my own phone out and use the calculator because it's not my job to know what £345. 98 is divided by 7. I don't mind dividing it, but don't start telling me that you want to pay for Susan and Mary and want to also buy some olives to take home and maybe have another glass of wine in the lounge because I can't possibly add all that up on the spot.
Also, don't desperately call me over because you want to pay, only to realise that you want to do the math then and there, adding every other item from the bill, then dividing it with your partner and then waiting for the rest of the party to do the same. I'm not there to supervise your math capabilities. If you need me, call me over, if not, I need to go to the other customers that actually need me.
9. 'Why don't you join us? Come on, take a seat...'
I'm at work, I don't know you and I'm not interested, also, you're pretty much telling your party that they're so boring you had to ask someone else to join. We might be getting along wonderfully but I'm here to do my job.
10. 'I want to order now' - While I'm talking to the customers at the table next to you
If I'm talking to the customers at the table next to you, don't start asking me questions and please don't interfere. You can wait another 20 seconds while I finish taking their order or you can get the attention of one of my colleagues. Unless it's an emergency, you're being rude, not just to me, but to my customers as well. Please wait.
11. What's the best dish on the menu?
There is no such thing as a best dish. We consider all of them to be good. Our chefs have created these and we only select the best and most interesting to be on the menu. Also do you mean starters, mains or desserts? Do you mean best for me or are you asking if I conducted a survey amongst our customers?
Feel free to ask what the most popular dish is from a certain category and you will definitely receive an answer. I might consider a very cheesy dish to be the best in the world because I love cheese, but if you're lactose intolerant that won't help you much. Be specific if you're looking for recommendation – most popular dessert, fish dish and so on. It's ok if you want to ask what's my favourite one, but I don't eat meat, so if you're waiting for me to recommend the steak, you can keep waiting, it won't be my favourite.
We want everyone to enjoy themselves, we're here to help, not just put food on your table and take payment. Let us help you get the best experience possible. Some of us have worked in the same place for many years, trust us, we know what we're doing, and if you happen to have a waiter who is 17 and just started, remind yourself how you were in your first job. Have a bit of patience please.
Pubs and Restaurants are slowly reopening these days and things are still different, it's not suddenly all back to normal. Please bear in mind that we have procedures we need to follow so we can keep both customers and staff safe. I fully understand you were used to things being in a certain way before, so was I, but for now we need to adapt to whatever comes our way and respect the rules for everyone's safety. If we tell you some things can't be done right now, it's not personal and you wanting to talk to the manager won't suddenly sort out the pandemic which is the reason why things are so different.
We're all in this together.
I hope life is treating you well.