Trade Secrets from a Waitress

waitressInsider tips for a successful restaurant meal from someone who really knows-your waitress.

1. Avoid slow times as well as busy ones.

Most diners know that during busy times, like lunchtime, holidays or Saturday nights service can be less than attentive. The very slow times, like Monday nights, snowy days and that period between lunch and dinner can be just as bad. Only a bare-bones staff is on hand and those people are more interested in reading the paper, having their own meal or checking their cellphone messages than in making sure your water glass is full. For the best service at most restaurants, aim for times where business is steady but not overly busy.

2. We're listening

Do you like to discuss personal issues during a meal out with a friend? Are inclined to get into an argument with your significant other? If you think that secluded booth is private, think again. Restaurant servers love gossip and a juicy scene always helps to break the monotony of standing around waiting for your next table. Next time you launch into drama, notice that all of the tables around yours have a server filling the salt shakers. It's not a coincidence.

3. Skip the lemons.

How most restaurants handle that lemon that floats in your water is just plain gross. Servers pick them up with their hands-hands that have been holding trays, dining room chairs, door handles and rags-and set them on the rim of the glass. Moreover, restaurants can keep lemon slices around for two or three days if they aren't busy.

4. Go for the wine bottle, not the glass.

The trend in restaurants is to offer many, many wines by the glass, which is okay in establishments where there is a high volume of wine sales and a lot of turnover. Otherwise a restaurant might keep open bottles of wine around for days or even weeks, often in less than optimum storage conditions. Make sure that your glass of wine is fresh by ordering a bottle instead. If you and your dining companion only want one glass apiece, consider ordering a half bottle. An increasing number of places are stocking them.

5. Don't try to rewrite the menu.

The fact that a restaurant stocks the ingredients of your favorite dish doesn't mean the chef is prepared to make it, especially if the restaurant is busy. Kitchens staffs are well-practiced and skilled at quickly turning out what's on the menu, but off-menu requests put a halt to their assembly line-style of work flow. Leaving off or adding an ingredient is fine, but don't expect the kitchen to create a new dish just for you.

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October 11 2011 at 5:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LOL, well a little bit regarding the DINING OUT/about experiences from BOTH sides...Have DONE/still do at least one side, of the issue and frankly folks, REALITY CHECK TIME for there legitimate issues on BOTH SIDES !! Did the "server" gig in early days..agree that when was indeed "young" and going out got some shabby service just due to "youthful" appearance which wrongly assumed lacking TIPPING knowledge/incentive, sonsequently experienced TRULY lousy "service" and frankly, NOT INCLINED TO TIP FOR SUCH even at early age and NOT inclined to do so now either and IF "bother" to take to management, is NOT for expectation of a freebie but just as one "remarker" on this board said, if indicate so BLAISE about the customers perspective, so callous /cynical that can NOT discern a bit where there is reasonable reason, hurumph and if detected certainly would NOT patronize such establishments . True, hard work, and the "salary"...THESE DAYS still in the $2 range , toppped off with "automatic assumption of (thought/assumed) tips for tax purposes/with holdings/etc(in years long ago, was a true "skimming benefit" that allowed/justified the low hourly wage...whatever, NOT an easy gig but some really should NOT be in such positions and it does clearly show...but then too , there are those times when a customer REALLY is NOT always right as well !! Need to overall find the balance--good food/service, yes definitely tip and if able, even MORE than the now standard of 15%--soetimes thou, folks are unable--(and uh, do you opwners/iperators REALLY want all such to stay away, not even the benfit of selling ANY of your "product" /etc.? Treat others as YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED seems MOST appropriate and offers possible greater results for ALL concerned !!!)

June 20 2010 at 9:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have no problem tipping my servers and since I live in the Manhattan area tipping at least 20% is standard. Only I will not pay above and beyond if I do not feel I was treated with respect. Yes, you may receive asinine request from customer’s every day, but not every customer is alike. I do not wish for anyone to treat me superior to any other customer. I only wish to receive my meal the way I ordered it. I to have a career and just as I see that my clients and co-workers needs are met I expect to be treated the same way. I apologize if the server is having a busy day or if I have slightly amended the menu due to my morning sickness, but if I am paying full price and tipping I want to have my order exactly as it is placed. If I am having dinner at Daniel NYC where a five star chef does not allow substitutions that is entirely different from a diner where I do expect to have it my way. If you make $2.13 an hour do you not want to feel good when you spend your hard earned money? Why should you have to receive any less than what you deserve?

June 20 2010 at 3:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have eaten in many good places. I have tried to leave a good tip wherever I have gone. I have found that doubling the taxes works just fine for me. Most times I will give more than that to round it off to the nearest dollar instead of leaving change. If I go into a place and recieve poor service I will not return to that place again. There is a well know place I would go to at times. The last time I was there the service was very poor and it seems the mangager and staff were catering to the people who were spending their cash having fun at happy hour. So from then on I stop going to that place. There are many other good family places that don't serve alcholic beverages that I have enjoyed in my quest for good places to enjoy a meal by myself or with a friend.

April 09 2010 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

.....And who wires your mouth shut when his ears start bleeding, Not a Stereotype ? SHUT UUUUUPPP

April 09 2010 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pam toney

I have been a server for 17 years, and believe me, it's tough to make ends meet on tips alone. We do remember good tips and go out of the way to insure good service. I will not go over-board for bad tippers, or ones who stiff me. The special orders hold up other orders when those people have waited just as long. People also get angry and hold out on a tip because of the price of their tickets--it's not our fault--the company makes the rules and the prices. And please don't expect me to be cordial, when you're rude and demanding. Remember we are just people trying to earn a living, like you, and living on $2.13 an hour is rough!

April 09 2010 at 5:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I get good service, I have given up to 50 percent tip, depending on how good it is. By the same token, I have been at restaraunts and watched my waitres or waiter flirting with other employees while my needs go unanswered or sometimes I have have had to ask 5 times for something needed that I ordered to be brought out. Or my order has gotten messed up 3 times or more. The cook may screw it up but you know what it is and its your job to make sure I get what I ordered. Or I have had waiters/waitresses have the personality of a stone. I have bad days at work too and I dont take it out on the people I interact with. If you give me poor service, you get a poor tip. If I do come back, I better get acceptable service or I will be talking to the manager about it which I doubt goes over well. And I will be watching for the spit on my food or indication of dirt on the food. I basically give you what you deserve. I think that is fair. I think it is unfair when management has minimum tips because there is no incentive for the waiter/waitress to do really well.

April 09 2010 at 4:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Dave's comment

Yeah,it may be my job to make sure your order is right...but, i'm not about to rip open your sandwich to make sure there are no onions in it, like you requested or vice versa (with onions). There are some things that are out of the waitstaffs control.
DON'T make up your own dish. DON'T order off the kiddie menu when you don't have kids with you. On that note, if you have kids with you, DON'T let them completely destroy the table, play with sugar packets, throw food on the floor, let them scream at the table, run around the restaurant. If your kids have left me a disaster to clean up, leave me a good tip to make up for your lack of parental control.

April 09 2010 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been a restaurant manager for over 8 years and I can promise you, I have heard many customers sound off about servers. I have never terminated anyone, EVER because I had a single complaint. You don't seem to understand, we have heard every story you can think to tell us. Most of the complaints are ridiculous excuses to get something comped off your check. I don't believe the garbage I hear from the customers. You seriously think that if you treat my hard working server like dirt that I am going to do anything more than pay you lip service, possibly give you something off your check. Yes some servers are terrible and the complaints legitimate, but please never forget that is not always the case. More often than not, the customer expects far more attention than is needed to follow the proper "steps of service." I wish you would get real with your expectations instead going out of your way to make a very meager attempt at ruining a persons life or even take the food out of their children's mouths. Most of the servers are very hard working single parents who do their best to meet your needs against all odds, only to be met with impossible to please people. Really? are you so perfect at every moment of your day that you can afford to condemn others so thoughtlessly? Point being, you ask to see the manager and the manager sees you as just another self entitled jerk trying to ruin a servers life and get something for free, and free being the part we are focused on.

June 19 2010 at 9:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ugh I just got off work at a good old chain restaraunt...they forgot the most important one...never tip less than 15%...even if we give you less than acceptable service...believe me if you leave a good tip...we talk about it. Next time all your needs will be met. IF YOU TIP SHITTY OR STIFF US. Do not bother coming back. Your service will be shitty. We will bare minimum wait on you. wonder why the table next to you is happy and were joking with them...they regularly tip well. why do we sound robotic with you....your a shitty tipper. 4 dollars on 40? 5 on 50? thats horrible. I make about 1600 a month. and when I go out. i tip 20 to 25%

March 24 2010 at 3:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to wes's comment

Great articule,i worked in a restaurant and everything wrote there is a sample of the reality, i specially like #2, cause is so uncomfortable but is just part of the fact of be in a Resto.

March 24 2010 at 12:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree for the most part. I was a waitress for many years while going to college. I think that sometimes busier times are better than slower times. I would say the best time to hit a restaurant for dinner is around 5:00 P.M. on a busy night. It's right before the rush, the staff is fresh and happy because they just got there, and the food is fresh and ready to go in anticipation of the big rush. Number 2 is true, and sometimes we go gossip about it with our coworkers and laugh. Number 3 is true for any food that comes in contact with the server's hands. You might think twice about bread too, and ask for your straw on the side preferably in a wrapper. I was diligent about washing my hands after handling dirty plates, mostly because I didn't want to get sick. I know everyone says this, but I had horribly dry & cracked hands to prove it. Most of the staff was not very careful and often went straight from dumping dirty plates to picking up clean ones with food from the kitchen to serve. Number 5 is a pet peeve of servers EVERYWHERE. They don't mind if it's one or two things, but don't ask for a special dish that's not on the menu. Although, in the customer's defense I will say that restaurants need to be more understanding of food allergies. I now have a son with them, and eating out is awful sometimes. People with allergies can't help it, and people like my son can literally die if they eat something to which they are allergic. If a customer has an allergy, please just let us know what is safe and don't think that we're anal if we're asking where and how the food is prepared. Quite often any cross contamination in the same pan or on the same grill with an allergen can set off an attack, even if the ingredient is not in the food being eaten.

March 23 2010 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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