Eat This List: 5 ways YOU delay your meal
April 8th, 2013
03:00 PM ET
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This is the tenth installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about. Today's contributor is the pseudonymous blogger The Bitchy Waiter. He lives and works in New York City, and has appeared as a guest on Dr. Phil and a guest commentator on CBS Sunday Morning. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @bitchywaiter - and don't forget to tip.

If you have never had the pleasure of working in a restaurant, you may not be familiar with the term, "in the weeds." First off, allow me to congratulate you on never having worked in a restaurant.

"In the weeds" is what we restaurant folk (we're similar to "circus folk" except we smell like fajitas and honey mustard instead of cotton candy and clown tears) say when we are very behind in getting everything done that needs to be done.

One is thrown "in the weeds" for a variety of reasons: the dish guy hasn't run the silverware through the machine when tables need to be reset, the hostess is extremely adept at seating multiple parties at once, or maybe the restaurant is short-staffed because two servers called out sick to go to an audition.

Sometimes, it is the customer who throws us in the weeds and they have no idea they are doing it. Here are five ways that customers, unknowingly, throw their server into the weeds.

1. Asking for water for the entire table
Not all restaurants automatically serve water to every table and plenty of places only bring water when a customer specifically asks for it. Cocktail servers very rarely bring water to every guest. If you are thirsty, ask your server to bring you one. Do not, however, say, "Can I get a glass of water? In fact, just bring everyone a glass of water."

Do you know for certain that all eight people at your table actually want that water you just ordered for them? Think about how much time is going to be wasted for the server to retrieve eight glasses of water when only two or three people will drink them.

2. Saying you're ready to order when you're not ready to order
Any server will tell you that he does not have time to stand in front of a customer to watch him silently read the menu. As I stand there watching you try to decipher the difference between a grilled chicken breast and a fried chicken breast (clue: the grilled one is grilled), I can see other tables needing my assistance too.

If your server says something like, "I can see you're not quite ready, so let me give you some more time and I'll be back in a few minutes," just agree. I promise that the server will come back. If you say, "No, wait, I'm ready," and then proceed to say, "Ummmm," your server will be displeased.

3. Letting your child order for him or herself
Look, I have patience with kids and I am all for them learning to place their own orders. However, know your child's limits. If the little one is too shy or scared to order their chicken fingers and tater tots on their own, just do it for them and let me get on my way.

"Tell the man what you want, honey. Go ahead, you can do it. Don't be shy, sweetie. You told me what you wanted, so now you can tell the nice man. C'mon honey, the nice man is waiting. What's the matter, you don't know anymore?"

I don't have time to coax an order out of a child. Give them a chance to order and if they can't live up to the task, do it for them. They're kids, for crying out loud. Don't make them talk to the waiter if they don't want to.

4. Not listening to your server
How many times can I list the beers on draft to one table of four people? Four, that's how many times. There is no reason for a server to have to repeat the beer list, the dressings or the specials. We say it once and we expect everyone at the table to pay attention to us and not be engrossed on their cell phone so they can check in on Facebook.

When your server is talking to you, he's doing it for a reason. He is conveying information because he already knows what the specials are and you don't. Repeating the specials an extra time is fine, but four times just means that you're not paying attention and you're wasting my time.

5. Asking for separate checks at the end of the meal rather than at the beginning
These days, computers in restaurants make it pretty simple to offer separate checks. However, it's really helpful to have that information when we are ringing the order in rather than having to split it up at the end and trying to remember who had what. If you wait until the check is presented and then say, 'Oh, can we get separate checks?" there is a good chance it's going to take a lot longer than it would have if you'd asked at the beginning.

Servers don't mind doing separate checks, we really don't. What we do mind is having to rush through it when you are ready to go. And by the way, if you are doing separate checks, it's helpful to sit in close proximity to the people you are sharing a check with. Pointing to some random person at the other end of a 14-top with whom you'll share a check with is the opposite of helpful.

Do you want that wrapped?

Contrary to popular belief, servers want you to have a good time in a restaurant. We also want you to be able to move in and out quickly because the way we make money is by turning the table over and getting more people in our section. We don't want to be in the weeds anymore than you want to wait a long time for your food.

If we servers try harder to keep ourselves from falling behind and customers try harder to not give us tasks that will put us in the weeds, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Of course, it could also just be a financial transaction where one party leaves with a full stomach and the other party leaves with an apron full of tips. Either way is good.

Complaints? Share 'em in the comments below. See more of The Bitchy Waiter's musings at

Eat This List: 5 ways to complain effectively in a restaurant
It's pronounced hos-pi-tal-it-tee
Give a snarky quip (and no tip) and thy receipt shall end up on the internet
Eat This List: 7 deadly restaurant sins that keep customers from coming back
Keeping the peace, one table at a time

soundoff (1,347 Responses)
  1. annoyed

    After reading this article and seeing some of the posts such as "Worst offense of all: slowing down everyone's food by reworking the entire menu. OMG I can't eat gluten, dairy, fruit, what can I eat?" or "No time for 'cuteness' and being independency when a child orders. He looks like a fool, all embarrassed and shy. Have the kid show off when they go to McDonald's instead."

    I have decided to chime in as a server myself for almost 20 years...

    First off this article brings up a good point but not in the way you would think... the point it brings up is that some people should not be servers and obviously have no idea how to manage their time, ask for help from their busboys, managers, and co-workers, and in general just have a very lousy attitude towards their JOB and their work in general.

    These types of comments and blogs are ALMOST ALWAYS by people who should NOT be working this line of work... period.

    As a server IT IS MY JOB (and your's too if you're a server) to:

    *SMILE AND BE PLEASANT (even if I don't want too)
    *LISTEN to what a customer has to say (regardless of if I like it or not)
    *REPEAT MYSELF multiple times if necessary to answer a customer's questions
    *MAKE TIME FOR CUSTOMERS even if that means waiting for a child to order (Yes that's directed at you wewom).
    *BRING AS MANY DRINKS/FOOD ITEMS AS IS ASKED FOR (in stark opposition to what this article says)

    But any good server knows this going in...

    Customers in restaurants aren't a walking dollar bill to be rushed in and rushed out at the whim of a server. And yes things do slow us down and tie us up, but none of the things in this article will have any real effect on a decent server if said server knows how to manage their time properly (this means COMMUNICATING WITH KITCHEN STAFF, MANAGERS, CO-WORKERS, AND THE CUSTOMERS.... EFFECTIVELY!), treat their customers well regardless of what customer does, help their customer's make their decisions and purchases, and (most importantly) know how to ASK FOR HELP when things start getting weedy...

    A great restaurant (and subsequently a great restaurant experience) isn't made by quickly turning over tables, it's made with good reviews and even better than that (a truly novel idea)... repeat business... and repeat business comes from satisfied customers who have felt like they're royalty (even if it was only for a meal).

    My suggestion for the blogger that posted this and other servers posting how their troubles are everyone else's fault (including the customers) but their own is this... you can make a customer happy by stepping up to the plate and being more than a glorified fast food clerk trying to turn a buck thereby not passing the buck onto the customer for your failure at successfully handling your job correctly and fulfilling ALL of the above JOB DESCRIPTIONS of this stressful and difficult PROFESSION!.

    A very annoyed server sick of articles like this that try to blame everyone else for poor service but the restaurant and it's staff....

    March 24, 2014 at 3:28 am |
  2. Priscilla Elvis

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    My name is: Priscilla Elvis

    i live in UK

    March 8, 2014 at 9:02 am |
  3. NYC Fitness Events

    Not listening to your server and Asking for separate checks at the end of the meal rather than at the beginning probably are the biggest pains. How often do you ask the waiter to repeat the special's?

    January 29, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
  4. Genny

    All thanks to DR.LOVESPELL

    January 15, 2014 at 5:29 am |
  5. Gwen0000

    I have been on both ends of this spectrum.

    When I sit down in a restaurant, I want what I want. It may not always be exactly the way the menu lists it (please put that sauce on the side, and skip the onions). I expect promptness, politeness, and my salad should be pushed to the side BEFORE you bring my main dish. Even at Applebee's folks....give me my extra 3 minutes of leisure, please.

    As a server, I learned very quickly that "If you don't have time to do it right the first time–when will you have time to fix it?". Get the order, correctly; Be on time; SMILE (even if he is a jerk); and if you are behind, ASK FOR HELP. The busboy and manager are there to assist you–you don't have to be superman.

    December 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • rabi

      Get out of that restaurant. In fact get out of this line of work, if you are a waiter and think liks this writer.

      I appreciate waiters in general and tip them well (that means 15% as the minimum), but you should know that I don't come to dine at your place so that you can earn your paycheck the most convenitnent way possible. If you can't handle my good faith requests and may be some of my quirks, you're in the wrong line of work.

      I hope this is a case of the blogger writing this, because writing something, anything, however pointless, is what bloggers do, and that this is not most waiters think.

      December 7, 2013 at 10:49 am |
      • rabi

        my post above is not a reply to another post, just got posted there by mistake.

        December 7, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  6. random comment

    I don't want to keep a waiter at the table when I'm not ready to order, but I find that if you're waiter comes over to you two seconds after he hands you the menu wanting to know what you want to order, if you ask for more time, you won't see him again for 20 minutes. It's frustrating as a customer, trying to tell if asking for a minute or two is going to result in a 45 minute wait just to order.

    And if you think I'm exaggerating, I have had that exact experience. After ordering and receiving an appetizer, (the person I was dining with showed up just as the appetizer arrived, so we asked for a few minutes), we were not able to order for at least half an hour afterwards. We finally had to flag down another waiter to get put in our order. Finally the waitress returned about five minutes after we ordered to get "details" of our order.

    Granted, most cases are not as extreme, but asking for a few minutes has more often than not resulted in a 10 or 15 minute wait for the waiter to come back. So I can see why sometimes people keep the waiter there at the table if they can.

    October 30, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  7. Joleen

    I agree with everything EXCEPT the separate bills thing... Why would the assumption be that there should be one bill? If I'm at a table with 7 other people, the waiter can't know what kind of relationship I have with them and shouldn't assume I want to share their bill... because as you say, that seems like the easier way UNTIL the end of the meal when I (in utter shock) find out my bill has been lumped with everyone else's although I just had a salad – not an appetizer, meal, three glasses of wine and a dessert like everyone else. I always appreciate it when the waiter asks "Should I put this on the same bill?" after taking an order... Saves everyone a lot of stress.

    October 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Libbykins

      I was taught when I was serving that it is in my best interest to ask a table of they would like separate checks or not. HOWEVER, not all establishments permit separate checks with large parties. And not everyone was trained to do so. So, when in doubt communicate that to your server. Assumptions hardly work our for anyone. It is a two way street Mr.!
      Thank you.

      October 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Jen

      Most of the time, separate bills aren't a problem at all, because there is a computer system to facilitate breaking up a check. However, I worked in a very old-school restaurant (open since 1963) that still used handwritten tickets. Asking me to break up a bill for 20 people and add the gratuity on each individual ticket can take quite a lot of time. Many times people would not understand this, and ask me to break up a bill 3 minutes before they needed to leave for a show. Once I got their checks out, it then took several minutes to run 20 separate credit cards. Letting a server know before the meal that separate checks will be needed allows them extra time to accommodate your table if need be.

      December 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  8. simon

    No I'm not wasting your time. It's your job.

    October 16, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Libbykins

      Where in the fine print does it say separate checks are my job? Things are always easier when you know what is expected upfront rather than being side balled later. How hard is it to say to your server when you are ordering "I would like a separate check please?" Because if others in your party want it too, you just started the ball rolling. Furthermore, it is really frustrating when a table looks like they are only family and would be on one bill and then it turns out not to be but of course only after I just got triple sat and have three orders in the window. Additionally, if I had a dollar for every time I have taken the mass amount of time it takes to hand write 5 separate checks just to have one guy pick them all up I could literally retire and pay off my school loans. Moral of the story, don't be a jerk! And communication - on both sides - server and customer.

      October 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  9. wewom

    Yes it is the worst when a child orders food. Why? Cause it's crunch-time dinner time. I would rather put in an order for business people who know what they want in a few minutes flat. They order, eat and leave, bada-bing. No time for 'cuteness' and being independency when a child orders. He looks like a fool, all embarrassed and shy. Have the kid show off when they go to McDonald's instead. Yes, also the worst is when you have a bunch of women hens gaggling and laughing and trying to flirt with the waiter and then half of them are all on some stupid diet. Or the cheapie multi-level marketing group of 6 who is broke as joke, will take up valuable tables for guests who want to actually dine and this cheap group will only have enough money to order large pots of coffee and a bunch of crackers.
    Oh yes, the separate checks too.... make up your minds and decide before we have to go in the back, cuss profusely, and because you said separate checks, YES, your inconsiderate move is now my turn.

    October 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  10. Waiters: See How To Easily Create Massive Regular Income By Easily Creating Repeat, Regular, Big Tipping Restaurant Customers Fast!

    Employees need to see their customers as more than 20% tips in order to give them the consistently superior customer service.

    Sorry to shock you with its simplicity but as “social” as the world
    is now you cannot use the business model of the past and still succeed.
    Your customers have proven a fickle bunch moving on to the next “new,
    hot restaurant or type of steak” at the drop of a tweet or “like” of a
    page and you better catch up. Your food and location are no longer the
    major factors in guaranteeing regular, repeat customers anymore, your
    service is.

    One way to achieve the success you are looking for is by helping your
    servers to genuinely love their time with your customers. Help them see
    your customers as allies and partners in your employee’s dreams and
    ambitions and you will accomplish this twofold.

    When guests return repeatedly and get woven into the fabric of your
    restaurant’s community it’s just human nature for them to take an
    interest and begin caring for those who care for and serve them.

    But ask yourself this, why should your employees work at creating
    good strong relationships with your customers if you view those
    customers only as your customers?

    Good restaurant managers tirelessly generate regular clientele,
    repeat business, a following, great customer relationships for our
    boss’s business and for our employees all the time, that’s what we’re
    paid for but why should your wait staff? Would you go to someone else’s
    business to create rock-solid regular, repeat and referral customer base
    on top of the job you are already doing? A solid base of regular
    customers that you are cordially invited to leave behind after years of
    development if you choose to work elsewhere? Well if doesn’t make sense
    to you why would it make sense to the intelligent people you have hired?

    That would be like constantly arranging dates with supermodels for someone you barely know and going home alone every night.

    Look, do you yourself a favor and realize the sentence “The customer
    is never an interruption, he is the reason we are here,” is falling on
    deaf ears. Your staff feels the entire job is an interruption to their
    true passions.

    Whether it be acting, writing, singing, sports, going to school,
    saving for a car, home or college or college for the kids believe me
    their passions lie outside of your restaurant and you don’t even
    acknowledge it.

    Unfortunately standard business practices has you duped into
    believing that your food or your restaurant is the most important
    element of your business success and the remainder of your success
    relies on your guests, yet it is your wait staff who are the pure,
    unadulterated embodiment and face of your business, the go-to people and
    sole point of contact and representation of your business during each
    customer’s meal. It astounds me that acceptable practices still treat
    waiters like an afterthought or even worse.

    Let’s face it your food alone can’t carry you. Your customers are
    always looking for the next big thing & once they get “it”, guess
    what? They move on.

    A rock-solid, true relationship with a server will guarantee your
    customers are coming back plus trying new dishes, referring friends,
    hosting new events and creating new friends. A great steak can’t do
    that. No matter how wonderful a steak is it can’t introduce your guest
    to the chef, ask your guest when he is coming back or invite him to
    upcoming events. Only a relationship can do that. (And unless you plan
    to be at every table to keep your business profitable, you need to help
    your staff create relationships. (They won’t see how easy or
    advantageous it is for them on their own.) You need to empower your
    employees to want to make each and every guest return, return more often
    and bring more friends. Only then will your restaurant .. more:

    October 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  11. Alicia

    Worst offense of all: slowing down everyone's food by reworking the entire menu. OMG I can't eat gluten, dairy, fruit, what can I eat?

    It's food, just eat it!

    September 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  12. Lilliana

    My name is Lilliana from U S A,i never believed in love spells or magic untill i met this spell caster once. when i went to africa in june last year on a business summit. i ment this man called powerful he could help you cast a spells to bring back my love’s gone,misbehaving lover looking for some one to love you, bring back lost money and magic money spell or spell for a good job.i’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 2 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 8 years… i really loved him, but his mother was against me and he had no good paying job. so when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. and in 3days when i returned to U S A, my boyfriend is now my husband he called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married..i didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do… well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid,and my husband also got a new job and our lives became much better. in case anyone needs the spell caster for any kind of help,

    September 3, 2013 at 11:10 am |
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