by Lance Mayhew
I was recently reading an online piece by Michael Bauer about what waiters hate about their customers. 118 replies later, its pretty clear that both guests and waiters have strong feelings about the service that is given and received in a restaurant. A number of complaints by the waiters were issues that a good professional house should have no problem avoiding simply by being organized and focusing on training. For instance, one server complains of customers seating themselves at dirty tables and then complaining that the table is dirty. A well run host stand will keep patrons from seating themselves, and good communication between servers, bussers and the host stand can help ensure that tables are reset efficiently.
A common complaint in this piece is the issue of “plate stacking,” the practice by which a guest stacks multiple plates together and places them on the edge of the table in an attempt to help the server. In my experience, guests generally do this out of a genuine desire to help the waiter, and a good server should recognize this. Is it actually helpful to the waiter? Most likely not, and it may actually create a bit more work for the waiter. Can a good waiter prevent this issue? Most of the time they can by effectively managing their tables and clearing plates when the guests have finished. Is it worth complaining about in a public forum? If I were a waiter who felt this way I’d honestly assess what I’m doing at my tables and how I can do it better.
Another issue raised by waiters was tables “under ordering,” that is, guests taking a table during lunch or dinner rush and perhaps splitting a salad and drinking tap water rather than having multiple courses and wine which can raise a servers tip considerably. While I can understand a waiters frustration at this occurring (they do have bills to pay), ultimately, great service must come from within. The difference between a good server and a great server is that a great server will always provide the highest level of service to their guests, no matter what situation, because they refuse to compromise their own personal standards. Just as great actors give a command performance every time they stride onto the stage, great servers leave their personal troubles behind and ignore petty issues to ensure that each and every guest, including the ones splitting a salad and drinking water get the finest service possible.
So is it OK to under order in a restaurant? I personally think restaurants should never turn away revenue. While I personally would rather sit at the bar than take a table during the middle of lunch rush, a good server who tempts me with his description of the menu specials may entice me to eat more and perhaps complement that with a glass of wine. My advice to any professional server is simple. Look at every situation as an opportunity and do your best. If you do that, the money will come. It always does.