Booze, booths, canoodling and credit cards: dinner out on the town can be a recipe for awkwardness, both for diners and the staff that serves them.
A restaurant is a salad bar of human behaviors: There’s the couple on their first date, the man cashing in his bad luck on Irish whiskey at the bar, the colleagues pretending to like each other in order to impress the client.
The majority of the time, the server-customer interaction passes without incident. But, every now and again – whether in the form of a declined credit card, overserved customer or the couple getting steamy in the corner booth - it’s up to the front of the house, or waitstaff, to get things back on track and make sure other guests’ experiences aren’t negatively affected.
“I’ll be taking care of you this evening”
Jason James, the general manager of Barley Swine in Austin, Texas, said he would rather have one angry guest leave because he told them to be quiet than 10 angry guests because he did nothing about it.
“It is absolutely necessary for the FOH [front of house] to maintain peace. If for no other reason than to heighten the experience of those around you,” said James.
Justin Warner, the co-owner of Do or Dine in Brooklyn, New York, and the latest winner of "The Next Food Network Star, embraces the human element. “When you go into the boiler room of a restaurant there is generally a little box labeled 'chaos' which powers the restaurant. Too little chaos is a dull and lifeless robo-restaurant. Too much and it's, well, chaotic.”
“I think that the front of the house has more opportunities than the back of the house [kitchen staff] to turn liabilities into assets, and therefore regulate the flow of chaos a little bit more,” he added.
According to the blogger who writes under the pseudonym The Bitchy Waiter, servers are the go-between for the kitchen and the guest - and there is a delicate balance between the two.
“Customers want to blame us for the kitchen's mistakes and the kitchen wants to blame us for the customer's mistakes. It is up to the servers to bridge that gap and make sure that no one actually blames us for anything,” he said.
“I’m sorry, but your card has been declined”
Take for instance, a declined credit card. Warner said blame it on the machine, the bank, anything but the fact that the customer may just not have budgeted accordingly.
The Bitchy Waiter runs the card at least three times before returning to the guest so when the first thing the guest says is, “Try it again,” he’s already one step - or in this case, three swipes - ahead.
“Personally, I rarely use the word ‘decline.’ It just sounds so negative. I usually say something like, ‘I'm not sure why, but for some reason this card is not being accepted. Perhaps you have another one that I can use instead?’” he said.
“On very rare occasions, I have known servers to tell rude customers that the card was declined even though it wasn't just to shame them a little bit,” he added. “It's the little things that get waiters through their night.”
“You’re cut off”
Speaking of rude customers, the drunken, obnoxious customer is another inevitable and potential minefield for the front of house. Every server at some point or another is going to have to cut someone off, and the act of doing so, the gentlemen agree, is all in the presentation.
Alcohol often facilitates aggression, so Warner advocates dropping the check, doing a last call, anything other than declaring, “You’re cut off.”
“That's the worst verbiage to use to someone who is wasted. Sometimes I recommend fictitious bars that have a great happy hour all night which is just around the corner. Anything. Just get them out,” he said.
James says while he handles with care, he also makes it clear it's not up for debate.
"I use an assertive tone with them so that they get the picture. If at any point I decide they should not be driving, I will let them know that I will call them a cab. If they refuse then I tell them it is that or the police. The cab has always won that case," he said.
“Get a room!”
As for the heavy petters, there’s less coddling.
James says for the most part, people who are engaging in serious PDA (hopefully) know they are doing so in front of others, so there's no need to sugarcoat it.
“I did have a couple once give me the ‘That’s rude" at which point I replied ‘Well, you are also being rude to the people around you.’ They left and were not seen here again. No worries,” he said.
"It's worth it"
So, why not just punch out of the gig for good? Because, these restaurant veterans actually enjoy their jobs.
Warner admits, “To me it is about control. It feels good to control the chaos. If people leave happy, even better.”
“As much as I want to say that these kind of things are off-putting, they are paled in comparison to the genuine guests I deal with every single day,” says James. “It is the other 99% of my guests that are happy, giddy, and can't wait to come back that makes it worth it for me.”
Do you think it’s a server’s job to keep the peace, or would you rather they stayed out of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below - and please share your stories of horrible customer behavior you’ve witnessed. You, of course, behave like a saint at all times.
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I have found a not-so-subtle solution to the inattentive server who continually fails to refresh iced tea glasses. After a reasonable number of attempts to get that person's attention, I'll get up myself and go find the iced tea pitcher and refill the glass myself. Preferably when an owner or manager is watching. I've even been known to bring the pitcher back to my table and refill my co-diners' glasses. No need to say anything or complain. The situation is obvious.
My family was on vacation at Disney World and one of the big highlights was a meal at a very nice seafood restaurant, on a boat, in downtown Disney (a non Disney restaurant) After we were seated a large party of about 20 people were seated adjacent to us. It was clearly a business dinner. They proceeded to give speeches which eliminated any opportunity for conversation. I was furious. Our waiter was very nice , seemed sympathetic and claimed " they were trying to do something" They did nothing and after several people finished their speeches , it culminated in someone standing and singing a loud song. Followed by lots of clapping. At this point I had to leave the restaurant or I may have attacked someone at their table!My family was a little worried about that. Certainly this group brought in a lot of money that evening , but at the expense of everyone else's meal. I will never return to this restaurant. Poor management decision.
I was always taught that it was simple: Excellent service = excellent tip; Good service = good tip; bad service= no tip. The server knows they don't make much & their wage depends on their desire to do their job well, it's the toughest part of the job; but the idea that a tip is based on how well they do it supposed to encourage better service. The real problem may be that management doesn't hire (or put on the schedule) enough people to keep the server-to-table ratio reasonable &/or they just hire anyone to the job.
I got to agree! I have been in the business for 20 years (same place!) I have dealt with all the chaos. If ONE customer is making anyone feel uncomfortable, it has to stop, even if it means asking them to leave. You can not allow the place of business to be viewed in a negative light. You will get more business by being known as a safe place, then allows a person to act rudely. And the credit card decline advice was right on! Always try to soften the blow. I always say I've been having trouble all night with visa/master card/ etc! No harm done with that white lie!!
The manager was not mentioned once in this article. As usual, the waitstaff has to bear the full weight of being judge,jury and executioner.
I agree: once in a little Italian restaurant, the owner came out and told a loud man on his cellphone to leave. Then man said: "I'm paying for my meal." The owner replied: "So are they", meaning all his other customers. The man looked around and, seeing no support for his selfish rudeness, left.
wait until the food stamps make their way into regular chains, then it will hit the fan.
serving is a glorified game of fetch. i get tired of hearing the wait staff complain when on a good weekend they make more than the cooks make in a week. waa waa waa is all you hear. shut up and do your job. if you are going to whine about people and freak when people are rude and dont tip, you are in the wrong business. i have noticed after cooking for 25 years the better the waiter the less the complaining.
There's a woman in Denver, 60ish, who for years has always licked her plate clean then complained that it wasn't very good to get her food comped. She has also done this at ski resorts. She will ski all day then go to the resort office in the town and complain to get free lift,tickets. If she was told this is stealing she would be horrified, but it is just that.
So quit whining and tell her already.
Is she a Kennedy? I read they buy dresses in expensive shops, wear them out and return them for refund.
The wonderful thing about social media and customer review sites is that bad establishments with terrible service can be called out in public, and other potential customers can be warned to stay away from them. When they get enough bad reviews and nobody eats there any more, they can go out of business. Then they'll wonder if it was worth it to treat their customers like that. Remember, customers can always go to other restaurants, but if nobody patronizes your business, you don't have anything else going for you.
This is why people like you need to go to places like McDirt and Kentucky Fried Crap. Then you can wallow at the trough with the rest of the pigs and be content. Plus it will get you back to WalMart faster so you can stock up on pork rinds and Natty Light.
Leave the real dining to the civilized and we'll both be happier.
Joe, you sound like a minimum wage busboy who's really angry that diners have a choice to review, and not accept substandard service and products. Whats wrong with the picture? Its survival of the fittest, and if your establishment doesnt make the cut, the sooner it goes out of business, the better off the customers are, and you can always find a job cleaning bus station toilets – you'll still be a busboy !!
Would love to see where you got your Ph.D. in psychology from. Based on your responses to my 2 posts I'd say it was from Photoshop U or MSPaint State. Both response were, of course, dead wrong. Actually one of my replies got attached to the incorrect post so it looked way off. It was supposed to go on the post below it. So be it.
And if you must know, I'm no longer in the food service business. Haven't been for years. I have a quite comfortable lifestyle thank you and probably support your welfare fraud existence with the taxes I pay every year.
I think you need to work in the business before you downgrade anyone in it. I bet you're one of THOSE customers! Bussing tables, cleaning toilets are an honest job. Have a little respect. They are mking YOUR food. Does that make you cheap and lazy? Funny when the tables are turned.
Im so sick of low scale casual restaurants with servers. I go to your establishment to save money, not to spend an extra $3 because you think I need to order my food from a booth instead of a cash register. A server does not automatically make the experience better, a lot of the times it makes it uncomfortable and over priced, not to mention it adds about 20 minutes of pure waiting which is not a good thing on your lunch break (waiting to be seated, waiting for them to come back and take your order, waiting for the check, waiting for them to pick up the check, waiting for them to return your card). I have to pay extra money to wait 10x longer? What exactly is the server adding to my experience besides length of wait and bill amount?
If you are "fast casual" and you are employing servers then you dont understand the concept of "fast" or "casual." If you think food needs to be delivered to tables then invest in some paper with numbers on them and hand them out at the register.
All those casual places take to go orders. I just call ahead with my order, and it's ready to go when I get there. No fuss, saves time and money, and you get the food you want without having to deal with wait times or kids running around screaming.
You have the choice of not going. You pay for convenience, and know- going in -what to expect. I guess you think you should have top priority, huh? I wouldn't be surprised if they are making you wait on purpose. You sound miserable.
How to say this in a public forum...Well, I once had a girlfriend do a job involving her hand under the tablecloth at The Palm Too in NY.
I'm a chef, and just a word of advice to the jerks; Watch the movie 'Waiting', then go be an a** to your server!
I prefer to cook at home. It's tastier, healthier, and I don't need to worry about whether your kitchen is a health hazard or not. If everybody did like me, people like you would finally be out of a job. Chew on that.
There are certain people in this world you don't want to cheese off. People who handle your food should be on the top of everyone's list.
On the other hand, say complimentary, calming things to a harried wait-person, and you'll often end up with free stuff – or at least a heartwarming smile.
Some advice to servers and waiters out there. There is new firmware being downloaded into many credit card terminals and POS systems. It has to do with the use of certain debit cards when used as credit cards at restaurants. In my case, its called the Bank Freedom Card. It is a pay card used by many employers. It can be either one. The problem restaurant staff have with it is a simple sentence on the bottom that confuses them. It says, "Transaction available balance: 0" That is NOT A DECLINE. You can tell it because there is an approval and transaction code. If a transaction is declined, there is NOT an approval code. I have had two occasions where a restaurant has told me the card was declined and I paid cash. I then went home and saw the transaction posted on my account. In both cases, the server did not know how to read, "Transaction available balance: 0" Just for you benefit, that means that for the transaction conducted at the restaurant in which food and beverages were consumed, the customer owes no balance after the transaction is complete.
Don't make the mistake other restaurants have made by thinking its a decline message. I go apeshirt when they do it and I usually get the entire meal comped.
So you have an odd debit card that's fairly uncommon (I know I work in the industry) and has only been around a relatively short time and you think that gives you the right to go 'apeshit' on some poor over-worked server. Then you get the meal for nothing and probably stiff the server so you can feel like a he-man. When I was in the restaurant business (many years ago in school) we waited for a**holes like you to come back. Then we got our revenge. Ever notice an odd flavor in your food?
What an ass.
Joe, you're just a sick little twerp at the bottom of the totem pole. Its seems you have some serious psychological inferiority complex issues to deal with. Your aggressive tone demonstrates it. Please get some help, otherwise you may reach breaking point and get to work some day and attack your co-workers with a frying pan.
You may not like it but it's true. Think twice before returning to a restaurant you acted like a fool in. We will remember you.
Both sides have a point:
* You packed the restaurant with more pople than you can possibly serve. Our dinner was horrible, you're in-the-weeds, and I'm a complainer.....Really???
* I came to celebrate my 20th anniversary and you sat my wife next to the "Yale drinking team"???
* Our waiter acts like Simon Cowell......and I'M A COMPLAINER???
I was a waitress and bartender for years while I was in college. I always tried to make each and every customer comfortable and happy with each experience. I also worked for a high end Hotel where I ran the room service dept. for several years. I knew of several customers that came in looking for things wrong so as they could get dessert or appetizers free. Nothing wrong with the food or service but just came down to they were quite proud of themselves when they could brag they got something for nothing. My ex-father-in-law was one of those. I hated going out to dinner with them, he would be extra picky and demanding so he could gloat by the end of the meal that he got something for free. I usually would excuse myself to the restroom so I could find the waiter to apologize and give him a few extra $$$ for putting up with him.
My personal pet peeves weren't necessarily children but when mom would pack a cheerios/cheeto/cracker dinner for junior to eat and every bit of it would be on the floor because junior wasn't hungry...
another one was those people coming into the restaurant that have the attitude that "you took this job, deal with what you make" and they never tip but they were the ones that were overdemanding, sucking down sweat tea faster than you could fill their cups, and laughing at you cause you are busting your butt trying to keep them happy only to be stiffed. If you don't want to tip, go to the buffet where you don't have to, or fast food.
And you corny joke guys that like to joke at the waiter or bartenders expense, yeah, thanks...whatever.
I made it through college and not only work my job, currently I have my own side business as well, but if I ever had to be a server or bartender again, I would, but hopefully I won't.
One story I do have though made my day. Around Christmastime, the restaurant was really busy, everyone was giving 110%. I had a 6 top table and I busted my butt to serve them, perfect service, perfect food and they even said how everything was just wonderful...the bill $450, my tip, nadda. I was so upset. A young couple sitting near that table had witnessed me being snubbed and when they paid their bill they left me a tip and note. The tip $100 and a note "don't let the jerks get you down, be who you are and you will go far". Now every Christmas when we go out, I pass it along and I do the same for our server.
Red Lobster needs a giant neon sign - TIPPING IS NOT ILLEGAL, especially when you asked for more cheese bisquits 5 times
I know of a Red Lobster in Fairview Heights, Illinois, where the wait-staff has been assaulted by patrons not once but twice within the past year. These assaults were so serious that they resulted in arrests and prosecutions.
If you want to be treated nicely by a person who works day in and out with the public, it's YOUR responsibility to set the tone – be nice first. Remember, the waiter/waitress/mechanic/cashier/flight attendant has already met 24 thousand people that day, while you're meeting them for the first time. Nice is so much easier than hateful.
As a customer, and by the way I ilve in Palm beach county Florida. I despise people who dress up their pets and take out to restarants. They should be shot!!!
Sadly, the animals are usually better behaved than the kids.
Oh great another one who wants to be tipped for doing nothing more than his job. You do know most of us go to work every day, do what's expected of us, and don't get a tip?
You do realize that servers only make $2.13 an hour, because you are expected to tip for service, correct? If you don't like it, stick to fast food or cooking at home. Yes, most of us do go to work and earn money without expecting to be tipped (myself included), because we're making at the very least $7.50 an hour. Get off your high horse; it's obvious you've never tried to wait tables. I hope your servers mess with your food when you go out. I would.
I admire folks whose pay depends heavily on merit, every single day. Most of us work our jobs at whatever level of satisfaction to keep them, but don't put our daily pay on the line.
I have been working in the food service industry for a little over 12 years now. I am 24. That's 50% of my life. And that's only the time I've been on the payroll (my father owns a restaurant). More recently, I began bartending, so I have both BOH and FOH experience. Over the years, I have come to realize that for some reason, human behavior changes drastically as soon as people are waited on. People who are otherwise fantastic individuals can become total monsters in a restaurant setting, while at the same time, people who typically come across as snobby, arrogant, or ignorant can turn out to be easy to wait on and, more often than not, fairly decent tippers. Why these seemingly contradicting behaviors take place is a total mystery that even Freud would have a difficult time explaining, but the fact remains that it tends to pan out that way (not always, but often enough). That being said, the "difficult customer" can be the most mentally devastating feature of a service industry job. I have seen weak servers mentally crumble in the wake of that one jerk that for some reason was just served the WORST meal of all time (yet finished every bite), and is on a quest to make everyone in the establishment aware of it. It is a true test of mental fortitude to deal with this person. I feel that for this reason, servers (while they are ultimately tasked with the duty of handling these individuals' issues) are owed a break. I would implore conscientious people all over to boycott dinner out with your jerk friends. Make it clear to them that behavior is unacceptable and embarrassing. Solidarity will overcome. Viva la Revolucion!
The explanation is easy, a lot of people really dont want to be waited on, especially the ones from the 80's as they are a "do it yourself" generation and have learned to distrust sales people (which the server essentially is). Not only do they not want to be waited on but they have to pay for something they dont want with a tip which just gets them frustrated. Then there are some people who love being waited on since they dont like doing anything themselves, like older people.
That's funny because when I don't want to be waited on, I eat at places where they don't have waiters. It's a really neat trick that works out just fine.
That bit about "people turning into monsters..." A good check of the new beau or belle is to see how they treat the waitstaff in a restaurant. That's going to be you some day.
Notice that 1 percent who responded with, "I'll behave how I want, and no one should dare to challenge that"? That is the small percentage of people this article is referring to. Thank you other 99% for making it worth while!
American children should not be allowed in public restaurants. Go to McDonalds, KFC or a takeout joint. Your kids are noisy, dirty pigs!
Is that right?! Well, at least our kids aren't dirty little gang bangers shooting up people and spraying gang names everywhere.
Children should be sterilized, de-loused, immunized, and probably just sedated before being admitted into a restaurant.
too funny.... actually too pathetic. I hope you've never had children or worse yet, not a grandparent... cause i'd feel sorry for both.
I take my 8 chilldrens to the restaurant so that they can be in a place with other adults to supervise them so i don't have to. I just want to sit with my glass of chardennah and relax after a long week you know. the other adults in the restaurant can supervise and raise them that hour and a half i'm there. it takes a village, people! be nice to my children's and set an example. Or are you racist?!?!
Wow, you are worst than the kids. Restaurants are not daycare. They are your children, thus, your responsibilty not "other" adults. Drink at home so restaurant staff does not have to deal with you or your 8 kids!
JD, are you familiar with the concept of sarcasm?
I'm sorry, American children? What does that mean? Since you are obviously not American, NOTHING you say about America matters, so keep your comments to yourself! Be proud to be here, or leave!
Oh no, go to Europe and observe how those children act in restaurants. It's an eye opener. I'm a born American raised by immigrants, but I when I was little, I wouldn't even *think* about leaving my seat and running around, or throwing a tantrum in public.
this is VERY true,thanx!I am a serevr too!
So they are complaining about the customers, well what about bad service from servers and they still want a good tip No way.
Hahahaha I totally agree!!
I took a waiter job for about 6 months because I needed the extra money. Ever since then, I have a greater appreciation for what waiters and waitresses do for a living. It's NOT an easy job. Now when we go out, I don't expect the world, but if I get good service, I tip VERY WELL. However, on a few occasions, the service was really bad (not everyone is cut out for it), I will ALWAYS ask for a manager at that point.
I am the same way (I worked as a cook for a number of years). If I get great service I leave a really good tip but if I get mediocre cervice I will leave 15% only and if I get bad service I ask for the manager. I have also asked to see the manger if I get phenominal service as I want them to know that I was extremely pleased with the service (managers will often get a bit flustered at that because it is not that common to get called to a table for a compliment)
I don't think the article really dealt with the main issue that I see as a problem for most servers: a guest who is expecting a bad time. Whether its the food, the service or the environment, a guest who expects a terrible time is a horrible guest. Now don't get me wrong. I have certainly experienced bad food, bad service and bad environments, just few and far between. The person that I am talking about is my father. Never have been to a restaurant with him were he has been totally happy. Something is always wrong and that something is making the experience crappy. Guys, that guest sucks and never actually deserves a great time. And they never get a great time. Too bad for them. Moreover, although I don't give a darn about that guest, the server in me still tries to give them the best experience I possible can. Not because I care about them, but because thats the best way to control the situation. A server must be in control of their tables and that is why this type of guest sucks because they want to be in control of everything. Luckily they are less than 1% of the population.
Great point Matt. I've been a server/bartender for many years and I now own a restaurant. I try not to let those "hate the world" guests get to me. I see them as a challenge. If I can make them happy, then I did my job. Who knows, they be the type that tips really well for putting up with them. If you can win over "pain in the ass" guests, you should be proud, because you are good at what you do. You are absolutely right about the fact that "you", the server, control the table and the guests experience, not the guests. I may see things from a different light being a business owner and not just a staff member but even horrible customers are customers spending money. A "pain in the ass" customer is better than no customers at all.
I don't think the article really dealt with the main issue that I see as a problem for most servers: a guest who is expecting a bad time. Whether its the food, the service or the environment, a guest who is not expects a terrible time is a horrible guest. Now don't get me wrong. I have certainly experienced bad food, bad service and bad environments, just few and far between. The person that I am talking about is my father. Never have been to a restaurant with him were he has been totally happy. Something is always wrong and that something is making the experience crappy. Guys, that guest sucks and never actually deserves a great time. And they never get a great time. Too bad for them. Moreover, although I don't give a darn about that guest, the server in me still tries to give them the best experience I possible can. Not because I care about them, but because thats the best way to control the situation. A server must be in control of their tables and that is why this type of guest sucks because they want to be in control of everything. Luckily they are less than 1% of the population.
The customer is in the final analysis responsible for his or her own behavior and it is to be hoped that most people are not so boorish that they would cross the behavior line in the first place. But after they do, it would be ideal if their dining companions could reel them in and calm them down, alhtough so often it's not a solo gig. In which case the waitstaff seem stuck with the task. I would hate to see it fall upon other diners, who themselves came for a hopefully pleasant evening out. Anyone with a "to heck with you, I'll do whatever I want to!" attitude should be bounced, nobody is entitled to ruin a restaurant's business for their own entertainment. Meybe restaurants should keep at least one big, burly guy on staff who is trained in martial arts. And Lars, we 'real' women find putrid vile excuses of ED such as yourself to be the most repulsive thing on the planet. You are clearly just engaging in wishful thinking since you cannot perform, and your only jollies can be gotten off by being as offensive as you possibly can online (the only place you could ever hope for companionship). Too bad your vocabulary is no better than your foreplay.
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