I tell people I’m often intimidated by my waiter.
I look down and avoid eye contact, usually leaving my wife to make the normal, healthy interactions.
And I’m not quite sure why this is. Yes, I’m an industry person who waits on people from time to time and customer service is very much important. But I guess it’s because I know.
I know the crap they have to deal with and I want to be the complete antithesis of an awful customer. Maybe at the risk of seeming too withdrawn, this is my issue.
Don’t get me wrong. I do smile and say thank you and order clearly. All things a waiter asks for. But to an extent, your dining experience is in their hands and you definitely don’t want to be seen (or known) as “that” customer.
Being kind goes a long way. I can’t emphasize this enough.
I often tell folks that I could do anything in the industry but be a waiter. It takes a special kind of person with a special kind of confidence to do it well.
As a kid, my mom and dad, on very rare occasions, would take us to Doug’s. It was a classy place with nice napkins and utensils and shrimp cocktail. We were taught to cut our own meat and to order off the menu as proper budding young adults.
I was terrified, but it was helpful to eventually have control over what you wanted to eat.
There’s still something so “on the spot” about it — a conversation between you and someone who will be taking care of you in some way or the other. You want this to be a good relationship. You want them to remember you when you come back. If not your name, then what you like to drink and eat. Because we do remember these things.
Here’s some advice:
Know your beverage. There is a small moment where you first sit down and are given a menu. If you’re with people you haven’t seen in a while, you will probably get caught up in catching up. Be aware that your waiter has a system and a rhythm. If you mess that up, you mess up the rest of their flow. You should know what you want to drink on the first pass by. And don’t try every draft they have on tap. If you don’t like it, drink it up and move on with your life.
There will be a secondary pass where appetizers are ordered or whole meals. This is a good time to ask questions and hone in on what you plan on consuming that evening. I feel like this is the best time to order. But, it’s understandable, given that you were maybe asking a question or were given the specials of the day. You know, when you have what you want in mind and they drop that insane dish in your lap screaming, “You know you want this!” It can and will mess up your thought process making you re-evaluate your entire life.
Also, remember what you ordered. I can’t count how many times I’ve walked up to a table with food items and have them stare at me blankly while I call out plates. Say something! You just ordered this 10 minutes ago! Be attentive to your waiters as they are attentive to you. Answer them yes or no. Pay attention to them as you would another person because waiters are human beings just like you.
If you haven’t ordered by the third visit, the waiter is probably getting annoyed.
It’s time to move on.
It’s time to order.
The restaurant is busy and relies on turning over tables to make more money. This is also how waiters make more tips. Basically, order your food when you feel confident, but don’t drag it out.
Since we’re on the subject, don’t sit at your table longer than you have to unless it’s a special occasion and they’re expecting you to take up precious real estate for a certain amount of time. Like I said, restaurants rely on turnovers to make money. The longer you sit hoggin’ a table, the less people they’re able to fit in.
Eat. Enjoy your food. Laugh. Pay your bill. Thank your waiter at all times. Leave at least a 15-20% tip.
We are 20% percent people. But that’s because we’ve been and are currently industry folk. We know the importance of the almighty tip, and your waiters will notice.
Notice your waiters. Next time you’re out and about, watch them work and how many things they juggle.
When you and your waiter got it goin’ on, it changes things. You don’t become a burden, but an ally.
And that makes all the difference.