Do Not Ask Your Server This Question:

The number one most hated question I ever have to try to find an answer to was asked not once, but twice last night. When I approach a table and say, “Hello, may I take your order?” the correct response is not:

What do you have?

Oh, Lordy give me the strength to not take this tray and pop this bitch up against the side of her head for asking that stupid ass question. What do we have? We have menus, lady, that’s what we have. Menus. I work at a cocktail lounge so we have a full bar with the usual suspects; vodka, gin, wine, beer, martinis, etc. My response is always the same to this question: “Well, we have a full bar so whatever you like. What can I get for you?” It is always said with a smile. Last night we happened to be out of Tanqueray, but other than that, we had pretty much anything she wanted. She was confused by that answer. Perhaps she was waiting for me to pull out the Mr. Boston Bartender Guide and rattle off every possible drink known to mankind and then she could make an educated decision. I didn’t do that though. I just told her that we have a full bar as well as juices, sodas, coffee, hot tea and bottled water. Her forehead wrinkled so much as she pondered that I thought her head was about to cave in. “If this bitch’s head caves in and makes a mess all over my station I am going to be so pissed off,” I thought. After wringing every last ounce of power out of her moldy sponge of a brain, she ordered red wine. I chose for her to have Cabernet because I honestly felt that if I gave her the option of that, pinot noir or merlot, she would have had a meltdown.

Five minutes later, a man asked me the same question. He had some vague Eastern European or Russian accent. “Whut dyou you haf?” he asked. I gave him the same answer I had given Little Miss Easily Confused who now had her glass of red wine but didn’t seem to understand how to drink it, poor thing. “Dyou you haf someting to read weeth the du-rinks?”

“You’re holding it in your hands, sir.”

He looked down in surprise to see that he was in fact holding a menu. He eventually ordered a cranberry juice as did his wife who I had a horrible time understanding because of her accent and/or her oddly shaped teeth that didn’t seem to want to allow her to form vowels.

When it came time to give out checks, I first went to the Cranberry Russian. He handed me twenty-five dollars and told me to “kip the chunge.” His bill was $23.95 so that dollar was going to be great once it was split three ways with the rest of the staff. And the extra nickel was the icing on the piece of crap cake. Little Miss Easily Confused had a bill that was $63.00. She left three dollars which at least is easy to divide by three.

Let us review. If you go into a restaurant, bar or club and are not sure what you want, don’t ask such an open-ended question like “what do you have?” We don’t have time to read the menu to you. I certainly don’t mind if someone asks me which entree I like better or if I have a preference for this martini or that martini. (I don’t have a preference, martini=good.) But don’t plop down and say “what do you have?” It’s annoying and it makes you look stupid.

Brad, the host at work, told me a story of a woman who used to come into a restaurant he once worked in. She came in at least twice a week and always asked the same thing. “Do you have banana daiquiri?” Every fucking time, she asked this and every fucking time they told her no. Lady, nobody has banana daiquiri, but if you are really that desperate for one I can give the busboy five extra dollars to stick his banana up your daiquiri and you can call it a day.

I can’t be the only one who finds the “what do you have?” question irritating, can I?

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25 thoughts on “Do Not Ask Your Server This Question:

  1. Adam

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE, you are not alone. In the airport yesterday I was stuck behind a woman at Starbucks who asked the barista: "So the holiday favorites are back, huh? What are my choices?" I found this really disturbing because her understanding of the "holiday favorites are back" came as an exact quote from the sandwich board/menu signage that she clearly read on her way in, both of which LISTED THE HOLIDAY FAVORITES. All three of them. Gingerbread, eggnog, and peppermint fucking stupid mocha.The unwillingness to skim a menu for nothing but key words amazes the shit out me.

  2. Rdhdstpchld

    I LOATHE that question, and I'm asked it almost every bartending shift. The only time I have the slightest amount of tolerance for it is when it comes from someone who just turned 21.We're a bar. We have drinks. We have many drinks, and I will sample some after I am done dealing with your dumb ass.

  3. Gretchen

    I hate that question as well. As a former barista, I would get that a lot – like Starbucks hasn't been around for ages and you have no idea what is on the menu (hint – mostly coffee). Now I never minded the question, "what's your favorite drink?" because I could tell them what I enjoyed most and it made me feel semi-important, like my opinion actually meant something in this crazy world.The "what do you have" is almost as annoying as when you are trying to schedule an appointment for someone and they say, "It doesn't matter."This is a fairly normal conversation I have with people…Me: "When would you like to come in for your treatment?"Them: "Oh, whenever."Me: "Okay, how about next Tuesday?"Them: "Oh no, I work that day?"Me: "Okay, when is your next day off?"Them: "Oh any other day than that."Me: "Okay, how about Wednesday?"Them: "Oh, I have a doctor's appointment and then have to pick my kids up from soccer practice."Me: "Okay, WHEN CAN YOU COME IN?"Them: "Oh, whenever."

  4. aachren

    I hate, hate "Is blank item good?"Seriously. It almost wipes my smile off my face every time.I just hope there never comes a day when my mouth runs away from me and I say, "It's terrible, which is why we sell it."Or "Tastes like death on a cracker."

  5. Mark W

    I once worked in an airport snack bar. I stood in front of the register to take the order, with the menu board hanging, literally, inches above my head. It listed every item we had, as well as the prices.Naturally, the most asked questions were "What kind of drinks do you have" or "How much is such-and-such item?" Whenever I was asked this question, I immediately turned around, looked up at the menu, used my finger to show them I was searching for the item, then I turned back around and would say It looks like ______," filling in the blank with either the drink name or the item price.

  6. Mickey

    as I have been bartending for 16 years…my most hated question isn't really a question but when some ass-munch orders a "beer". Really??? The bar I work at has 18 beers on tap and I don't know how the many bottles we fucking have. Your not cute. Your not funny. And I don't have the time. So the next time you come in and order a "shot and a beer" I think I will give you a shot of from the swill bucket and a bottle of some god forsaken beer that no one drinks so it has to be skunk.

  7. California Girl

    BW, Adam,, I think skimming for key words is more prevalent nowadays because of the sheer magnitude of information to which we are exposed. We skim our computers, our cell phones, our tablets, our books, etc. When was the last time anyone read the online contract(s) we're required to sign before downloading or using a site, software, whatever? It's a sign of the times.That said, I get it you have dopey customers who don't even read, much less skim, their menus. We are all becoming lazy, impatient & unwilling to take time to browse.

  8. TacoDave

    I have a similar problem with my wife when we go in the Taco Bell drive through. I'll say "What do you want to eat?""Wait until we get up to the menu. I need to see what they have…"THEY HAVE THE SAME FOOD THEY ALWAYS HAVE. TACO. BURRITO. NACHOS. It's like she expects a huge, radical change in the menu and wants to see what it is. "Oh, look! They have gnocchi now!"

  9. Crystal

    I work at a homecooking style resturant in Tn. My biggest pet peeve is when an idiot looks up and asks, "Do you guys have brown gravy here?" when there is another person or worse they themself have potroast and gravy….No sir we are all out…LOL

  10. Anonymous

    I work in a brewhouse, so we have about 7 of our own beers, 40 beers and 2 wines on the tap wall, and about 20 bottled beers, and I seriously want to KILL every person who has the menu right in their hand [huge beer list right there on it!] and asks me what kind of beers we have. I'm fine recommending beers, telling you my personal favorites, fine. But most of the time, these assholes just want a Bud Light.

  11. Cool Beans

    Oh my crap, this drives me nuts. (Preface… I work at a seafood restaurant whose name dictates that we are more than likely a seafood restaurant.) More than that question, though, we get the "well, do you have ANYTHING other than seafood?" before they even look at the fucking menu. You know, at the large section titled "Shit That's Not From the Sea."

  12. SkippyMom

    The comments are great! And so true, as is the post. I laughed and empathized through it all. Not to disagree with CG – but customers doing this [with more frequency] has absolutely nothing to do with our recently acquired skills in quickly scanning the newest technology. This annoying habit [laziness] has been around [in abundance] way before the first cell phone or laptop rolled off the assembly line. I remember. I was there serving. And I don't miss that question 10 times a night.

  13. Shannyn

    I answered a call at work where this woman asked what we have. I was confused so I started explaining what type of restaurant we are when she interrupted with "No, whats on your menu?" I'm never going to read a menu to someone much less over the phone, so I told her to go to our website (where the menu link had been taken down) and hung up. More frequently though I get a variation of the question and that is something along the lines of "do you have shrimp cocktail" "no everything we carry is on the menu" "oh, do you have spaghetti?" "no, you're holding the menu, we only offer the things on the menu" and so on and so forth. I've found an effective tactic (also works well in grocery stores) is to just repeat yourself until they start to wonder why you sound like a broken record and pay attention to the strange mouth noises you are making.

  14. Anonymous

    My least favourite question is 'Can you give me a discount?' I don't make the prices and I don't have magical coupons floating around. If you have one, I'll apply it, if not, too bad so sad.

  15. Mary A.

    A LOOOONG time ago, I worked at McDonalds. People would stand there looking at the board as if they had this momentous decsion to make.You could have a burger & fries or fries and a burger. This was before the McRib, which REALLY musta screwed everything up.20+ years later, I'm still pissed.

  16. Kaylee

    Definitely not alone. At my Italian restaurant I always get asked if we have anything without pasta.Which, you know, happens to be under the sections labeled "Chicken" "Steak" and "Seafood". Or "Salad". Or even "Appetizers".What do you have is also so damn time consuming. After recovering from the shock, then you have to explain a small portion and then they always have other questions and it always takes like 20 minutes to get through to them that they might just want a water.

  17. Amy

    My favorite is when they ask, 'what's good here?' When the menu ranges from breakfast to dinner. I always want to respond, nothing. Go to McDonalds, or learn how to read, so you can make the decision of What's Good Here?

  18. Caveman

    People never cease to amaze me. You are not the only one going through this. I work at a bar with a very wide range on options. We have Sakes, Ports, Cognacs, Grappas, Specialty Cocktails, a huge selection of beer and wine, etc. Every now and than some idiot will stumble up to the bar and ask if I have vodka. Are you fucking kidding me?Thanks for the post. I enjoy reading your stories. Keep it up!

  19. Maria

    I am sick of people holding the menu, with their right thumb literally pointing at the section marked "TWO SIDE ITEMS" and ask, "what sides do you have?"of course, only to be followed by my monotonous recitation of the list they're holding, which inevitable is interrupted with my single least favorite question of the whole debacle: "What exactly is the difference between the sauteed mushrooms and the grilled mushrooms?"I need you to pause, say that question again, to yourself, and then get the fuck out of my section.I've stopped responding entirely. I stare and wait for them to just shut up and choose the friggin salad, no tomato, extra cheese, with bacon and extra dressing on the side.

  20. Eric

    It pisses me off when I’m trying to read the entire menu aloud to a friend of mine at a new restaurant, and the waiter gets impatient with us for not being ready when he/she wants to take the order. Folks, we’ve never been here before, and my friend is BLIND. Have some freaking respect! Nobody’s asked the server to do anything extra but wait a few minutes to take the order. And blind people should be allowed to get hungry during lunch or dinner rush just like anyone else, without being made to feel guilty for their disability. This has happened to us a few times, so we now end up going only to places that we’re familiar with, rather than branching out and enjoying new tastes and experiences. Sad that servers think their problems are the only ones that matter.

  21. Dani Banani

    I work at a pizza place with a substantial list of available toppings as well as tons of non pizza food. My three worst pet peeves that inevitably happen at least twice a day-

    Demanding I read them the entire list of dozens of toppings that are already listed in front of their eyes then selecting pepperoni

    Starting at the pictures of pizza all over our menu then asking ‘do you have pizza’

    And answering the phone with ‘will this be delivery or carryout’ and receiving a completely unrelated response such as ‘yeah I’ll take a large sausage and mushroom’ ‘hey do you guys deliver’ or just ‘yeah’.


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