Are you still working on that?
June 18th, 2010
11:36 AM ET
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Hey guys, we’re Eatocracy, and we’ll be your food blog today. Our special is annoying restaurant speak, served with a side of sexism, disappearing right when you need the check, verbal specials recitations and not writing down your order so it comes to you all wrong. And of course we won't tell you any of the prices.

We polled our friends and colleagues – including several former servers – about their restaurant pet peeves, then sat back and watched our inbox explode.

Here's what they had to say.

Take these phrases off the menu

“How are WE doing tonight? Do you know what WE’LL be having? Are WE still working on that?”

“'Are you still working on that?' Um … is there food left? Have I pushed it away or asked for a box?"

“'Did you save room for dessert?' Because, if you technically have any space left, let’s cram it in there! And to make sure my curmudgeon factor doesn’t get too high, I’ll note that servers tend to be wonderful human beings and a little earnest service buys a lot of goodwill from me."

Solo diners unite!

“I don’t need that pitying look from a waiter who asks, 'Is it just you honey?' Solo diners of the world unite and take over! Oh – and don’t get me started with where they place the check when you’re out with a male friend or significant other.”

“Why is it that every time I sit down to eat at a restaurant they wait forever for my date/friend/significant other to arrive and automatically assume I’m not eating solo by setting a second place and water down (how wasteful!). I eat out alone, and I’m proud!”

Should they stay or should they go?

“I can’t stand servers who come visit you every 4-5 minutes to check up on you, then are nowhere to be find when it's time for the check.”

“'How is everything?' before you’ve even taken a bite. Then, repeat that question every five minutes throughout the evening. If the chicken was fine at 7:35, odds are it’s still fine at 7:40. And surprise, I still like it at 7:45! There’s a fine line between being helpful and attentive and being disruptive or annoying.”

“Servers who fill up your water/soda/iced tea glass even when said glass is more than half-full.” (Editor’s note – we totally don’t mind this one bit!)

“When they hover over you – I always feel, especially in New York, that I’m being rushed so I’m eating super fast!”

“Definitely when the waiter comes over to take your order immediately after you sit down. If you ask for a few more minutes to look over the menu, it takes forever for them to come back. It’s like you get punished for needing a moment to think.”

They’ve got the write stuff - why don't they use it?

“Almost every time the waiter/waitress doesn’t write my order down, I say to my friends two minutes later, 'He/she’s gonna screw it up somehow.' And four out of five times, I am correct!”

“I’ve waited tables before and I know how difficult it is when you DO write down the order. So I can’t fathom when someone doesn’t. It’s a li’l bit arrogant.”

It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world

“I hate it when they call me 'honey,' period. Especially when they’re younger than I am! I think that one’s mostly a southern thing, but when a 17-year-old waitress - it’s always the women who do this - asks me, 'What can I get for ya, hon?' I just want to look at her and be like “Um, really?”

“Just because I’m the chick does not mean I ordered the salad. Maybe my husband ordered that. I got the steak and baked potato. Don’t just assume and put the little plate in front of me, and definitely don’t act cute about it when I switch it around.”

“I really hate when I clean my plate in a restaurant and the server (especially if it's a male server) says something like, ‘Wow, I'm sorry you didn't like your food!’ If I want to eat everything on my plate, I'm going to do it!”

“They don't know if someone's got eating issues, ran a marathon, or just really loves the food. What – do they think it's more ladylike to leave a heap behind? UGH!"

“Why yes of course! ‘Ladies’ should order salads and only eat half of them! Oh and sip their vodka sodas! I'll take heavy beers with my burger and fries any day!”

Oh no, you didn’t

“A good server - or, hell, one who wants to be good - is a beautiful thing. It takes pretty open disdain to turn me to the dark side. Like the one recently who responded to my wife's query as to whether first course was coming after an hour wait with, ‘You ordered them, didn't you?’”

“The ONLY time I've ever complained in a restaurant because the service was SO horrible, my waiter said, "I'm sorry I didn't pay enough attention to you." And walked away! I was so mad!”

Whew!

These folks have had their say, so let's turn the tables. Servers, what customer behavior would you like to see get 86ed, and readers, we are still working on this. What should we add to the menu of complaints?

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Filed under: Bite • Restaurants


soundoff (1,657 Responses)
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    August 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
  2. Talon

    wooooww these people sound like all the rude people I serve on a daily basis that push all my pet peeves and make my life hell.

    December 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  3. JJ

    Jeez, have you ever worked in a restaurant? Maybe if you had you wouldn't be talking so much crap. Our bosses require us to ask if you are still working on your food because its surprising how many people don't push their food away or ask for a box. My boss puts a high priority on having the waitstaff check to make sure people are done eating and take plates, rather than waiting until everyone leaves to bus the tables, or waiting until you ask for a box or push your plates away. Long story short, if I didn't do what you are saying I shouldn't do, my boss would probably fire me and find a replacement for me who would. So suck it up, and realize that waitstaff doesn't do it because they love to, but because they have to.

    September 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
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    July 18, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  5. Noxious Sunshine

    I absolutely -hate- when I run another server's food and the customer complains immediately to me...

    "I only wanted 1 piece of catfish! & my broccoli is supposed to be very soft!" (we only serve dinner portions sat & sunday & the man hadnt even tried his broccoli – which turned out to be perfect). Like I'm psychic.

    Then tries running me to death lile I've magically become their new server & dont have anything better to do (lile take care of my -own- customers).

    And the rare customer who actually wants to know what's going pn in my life & whether I'm a college student or not. For me, that's a painful story & not something I particularly like to talk about. No, I'm not going to make something up – I'm an honest person. But I also dont want to sound like Debbie Downer & drag down the mood of my guests & I certainly dont want a pity party.

    September 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  6. FormerWaiter134

    For those of you nattering on about "rewarding" and "punishing" servers with tips, I'd like to remind you of something.

    The IRS tax rules for waiters ASSUME that they always get at least 10% tip. Every time you don't tip at least 10%, you're stealing from the server. That's right. You're taking money out of their pocket. It doesn't matter if its cash or credit. The server will be forced to pay out the percentage at the end of the night. It is entirely possible, if a server gets no tips, that they would have to pay out more than they earned in their hourly wage for that shift (a measly 2.10 an hr).

    So get off your high horse. You want real changes to how servers do their job? Lobby for a change in minimum wage rules for servers. They should get the same as everyone else. Take tips out of the equation.

    September 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Renaldo Clutch

      How a server is compensated really isn't my concern, nor should it be...that's between the owner and the server. Sorry.

      September 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
      • Em

        Technically, the government and the server. Do us all a favor, don't go out to eat if you cannot afford to tip.

        April 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Ken

      I'm going to have to agree with Renaldo on this one. Furthermore, I assume you understood the compensation when you took the job, right? And being familiar with society, understood that not everyone would tip well. There are plenty of minimum wage jobs that would pay you a predictable salary if that's what you want.

      Personally, I prefer to tip based on service provided. If you drop the food in front of me and never return until it's time to pay, why should I give you 10% of what could potentially be an already expensive meal? On the other hand, if the service from the waiter is excellent, I will often tip way above the "recommended" amount.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • breathlessbloom

      hear, hear!

      September 19, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  7. For Pete's sake...

    This article is just an invitation for people to whine about stupid stuff. It's pretty obvious from the responses who has had to wait tables or work a customer service job. I am thoroughly unimpressed with a lot of the posts here. What a load of self-important twits who are angry because people can't read their minds and instantly know all of their little preferences and pet peeves. Honestly, I think the best posts are from the current and former servers. To them, all I will say is this: thank you for doing a job that sucks. People are jerks and don't get how much punishment you take, including your diminished pay, for things you have little or no control over. The majority of people who have waited on me have done a fine job to outstanding. There have been a few that I'm sure competent servers would see as failures at their tasks, and those are the only times I tip adequately instead of well. Anyone who thinks they are justified in leaving *no* tip should work for free for a while and see what it's like. No, I'm not a server, just someone who understands what it's like to deal with arrogant self-important customers.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Chris

      Sorry, a tip is just that, a gratuity, a reward for good service. If you do a lousy job, you are not getting a good tip. (I never leave no tip, I'll leave change so they realize it's intentional and we didn't forget).

      That said, you have to really be AWFUL at your job to do so. I'm totally understanding of it being busy and EVERYONE is waiting for their food, no big deal, it happens. Sometimes the server gets the order right and the kitchen mucks it up. Again, not the server's fault. But if I run into someone that clearly just doesn't value my business (ie, they have been ignoring me for 20 minutes when I need another soda while chatting to their friends at the bar), then I'm most certainly not tipping well.

      September 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  8. Valerie

    This article reminds me of one posted on CNN a few years back when some elitist food critic harangued servers for things such as recommending the week's special or promoting a new dish. I worked as a waitress for eight years in a few different venues, including a college bar, a local dinner, and a corporate chain; the unifying factor of all of these restaurants is that the servers do what is expected of them. I don't always want to offer you this drink or that meal, but my bosses have made it abundantly clear that if I don't I will not be meeting company expectations. Similarly, I am instructed to stop by your table at regular intervals and to make sure that your drink is never empty. If you don't enjoy that particular corporate policy, please feel free to dine elsewhere. Some servers do have a better sense of timing than others and I, when dining out, tip accordingly to how well they balance between being helpful and being annoying. When I say 'tip accordingly', however, I NEVER mean that I start mentally docking their tip by counting every perceived injustice– no, instead, I accord terrible service 10-15%, perfectly acceptable service 20%, and anything above that I tip appropriately. Some servers are phenomenal and earn every penny. Yes, asking questions such as whether you're "still working on that," or "what are WE having tonight" sound flippant and unintelligent, but please, for goodness sake, stop being so easily offended– if these things really push your buttons, clearly you've never worked in a job where you get blamed for your AND every other staff members' mistakes to the person holding your effective paycheck ('cause baby, $2.83/hour ain't much!).

    September 13, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Holly

      As a server, I completely agree with you, Valerie. I have been serving for 5 years now, partly as a banquet server and now as a restaurant server. I generally enjoy my job and try to make every table I have feel like they are being taken care of, yet I still have tables that absolutely infuriate me and make me wonder if there is something about me that comes off badly or they have just been living in a fallout shelter for the past fifty years. I don't understand how a table can be SO NEEDY... to the point that they jeopardize my time and keep me from my other tables... and then leave me 10 percent or less.

      I feel like I'm pretty self-critical when it comes to the service I give when I'm doing my job. I try to think of it as, "Is this the service that I would be happy with if I were the customer?" And when I can say to myself honestly that I gave a table great service and they leave me next to nothing, it is very hard not to take it personally.

      Also, when I go out to eat, I like to observe my server to see how big of a section they are handling, and how busy they are. Please, if you see me going from table to table to table and running around, PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  9. Chris

    Bad Service
    – no refills (no such thing as to many refills)
    – don't inform me of extra charges "Can I have some salsa" "sure" later – wtF is this 2.50 salsa charge?
    – excuses. "kitchen is slammed" or "we are short x" you know what – I don't care. If your restaurant cared, they could of optimized a little more effectively.

    December 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Valerie

      "your restaurant..." yes, as a waitress I assure you that I had some say in which kitchen staff were cut and when. I also determined whether there would be an unexpected rush, and I can definitively tell you that I planned to have the local Little League show up unannounced with a party of 25 half an hour ago. While I agree with you, sir, that as a customer you deserve the best possible service whenever you eat out regardless of the situation of the restaurant, I would hope that you understand that under-tipping your server for said reasons is like yelling at a customer service representative. We don't make the policy, we just have to constantly apologize for the collateral damage. Some servers are actually terrible and I promise, they will quit sooner rather than later because no one will tip them well, as is appropriate. For the others, though, sometimes they just want to explain to you why your service that night might not be ideal, but to please not fault *their* attempt at good service given the situation at hand.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  10. anything for you massa

    Sauce is what comes on your meal, dressing comes on the Salad. Identify the bread as what it is, not everything is a roll (this might be just in the South). If you can't pronounce something on the menu, go ahead and give it a try, it gives us servers a refreshing laugh. Don't say "bless your heart." Don't tell the server his/her tip depends on something, give me a break you wannabe elitist.

    November 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  11. Aubrey

    Went to a Jungle Jim's a while ago and our server came over and sat down at our table to take our order. I'm thinking, what the hell do you think you're doing, get the hell up from our table and take our order.The assumed familiarity really ticked me off. The guy was our server, not a good friend we hadn't seen for years. I can do without that annoying crap.

    October 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  12. Shooting Star

    Most of this forum is giving customers a bad taste in their mouths about servers and I just want to clarify a few things. I've been waiting tables for the past 10 years and I now do it as my 2nd job, not that I have to, but because I want to. When I put on my uniform and strap on my apron, I am excited to go into work. Not only am I working with people I consider to be my friends, but I'm waiting on great people who actually come back to see ME. I take pride in making my guests happy and have a great feeling if they leave with full tummy's and smiles on their faces. The matter of tipping seems to be a huge issue on here and it is! I feel that, if you get crappy service, then tip accordingly. I understand if you feel that leaving 10-15% seems sufficient to you because of whatever reason, that's okay. Because for every one of your 10-15% tips, I'm getting 20% or higher from someone else. You win some, you lose some and that's all a part of life. All of this "they should make your pay minimum wage and cut out tipping" would only make finding good help impossible and your dining experience go even further down the tube. Yes, it's not a hard job, but we put up with a lot. Don't believe that all servers hate their jobs and hate people. Some of us actually take pleasure in making your experience memorable.

    October 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  13. Your Server

    I hate it when I have ppl who appear to have never eaten their dinner at a table before, I find it's especially true for large parties or buy out guests. But if you put your fork and knife together flat across your plate and your food it is the international symbol for i'm done. When you do this silent symbol I will pick up your plate and clear it out of your way thats my job. So it drives me insane when you get huffy when i've got your plate, you signaled was done, and treat me like some kind of moron who can't do her job. You've got a table use if for you cutlery and I won't touch your plate. If you've truly never eaten at a table before and don't know what else to do with your fork and knife i'm sorry for cursing you out in the kitchen.

    October 12, 2010 at 12:23 am |
    • aef

      What are you saying here? It doesn't make an sense.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  14. Don't be that guy...

    In the United States; it is our culture that engineered the food service business to rely on gratuity as payment for the serving staff. Do not agree? Well, then f**k off commie!

    So, with only five weeks and two days left in my serving "career" I will graduate from college with a degree and a job waiting for me. All of you [on here] that have self righteous delusions of whether or not you will tip; I hope this next comment hits home (one of my patients said this to a co-worker of mine in front of me... yes, I said "patients" my degree is within health care and that is all I'm going to say about that).

    "I don't think you understand how horrible you are"

    This was after an exam, and at first; I chuckled in my head. Then, I thought about it.

    You do the same, and leave a tip jack ass.

    Now, here is my verbal tip to you: servers are everywhere in every profession in every city, I hate serving, but it taught me so much about the world and about cultures, and in a small way; about myself. So, f**k you all, here are my middle fingers, I'm out...

    "well that's not the way a health care worker should talk!' Yeah well, we do. From clinical techs to MD's; when you're pissed off, you're pissed off; education can't hold back that reaction.

    June 24, 2010 at 1:47 am |
    • Wow

      You need to grow up.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  15. WildomarMom

    I didn't know there were so many tools out there. Yikes! I truly wasn't aware of these issues with dining out. I've never been a server, but it looks like a lot of work, and in any case, it is important to be polite and respectful of those waiting on you. I've been out with people who are all the sudden really weird when ordering – like they are in charge for once....whoopty dooo!

    June 22, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  16. Kathleen

    my pet peeve: the server coming up to the table and constantly calling us "guys". Are you guys ready to order? What beverage can I bring you guys? For every time we hear "guys", the tip gets knocked down.

    June 22, 2010 at 9:26 am |
    • Ex Server

      Oh, Kathleen. It's people like you that make people like me despise waiting on the general public. Has it ever occured to you that maybe that server does not realize you are so offended by being called "guys" . Really, its just a little four-letter word that the young man or woman has to use a million times a day with cranky people who think the word server and servant are interchangeable. Well maybe that tip you are witholding is the difference in whether or not that server will be able to make rent or his/her child's daycare payment so they can show up to their demeaning job. Just be glad the only four-letter word you are hearing is "guys", because I'm sure the server could think up some better ones when dealing with you.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  17. Former Server/bartender

    springs1-
    I'm going to pre-empt one of your forth coming insults here and say obviously that "second of all" at the end was mistakenly put there instead of at the beginning of my second paragraph. I apologize!

    June 22, 2010 at 9:19 am |
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