Author Archives: The Bitchy Waiter

About The Bitchy Waiter

I wait tables and bitch about it on my blog, The Bitchy Waiter.

Restaurant Critic Tells Us How We Should Do Things

Tom Sietsema is the restaurant critic for The Washington Post and he eats out all the time, even “doubling up” on the occasional lunch or dinner just so he can share his restaurant wisdom with everyone else in the world. Thank you, Tom, for your service. Anyhoo, at the start of the new year, he wrote an article with 10 “resolutions” that restaurants should enact to make them better. You know, since he eats in restaurants all the time, he knows fucking everything about them, Right? Uh huh. Yeah. Sure.

Several people have sent this article to me get my take on it and, believe it or not, I actually agree with most of his points. Don’t get me wrong, I still get rubbed wrong every time someone who isn’t a restaurant worker or owner decides to write an article about our industry telling us all the ways we should do it instead. Please allow me to go down his list and discuss:

Honor reservations. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you don;’t want to wait for your reservation even though your table isn’t it ready. I get it. I don’t want to wait at the doctor’s office until 1:30, when my appointment was at noon, but shit happens. Believe me, if we could tell customers to get the fuck out when they are done eating, I’d be the one to volunteer for that job every shift. But we can’t and sometimes customers linger longer than they should. I do agree with his suggestion that restaurants could offer a free glass of wine or something if the wait is too long. That’s a nice idea. Maybe we should give them foot rubs and blowjobs too.

Be willing to seat incomplete parties. No, no, no! Sorry about your grandma and the guy with the bum leg, but we can’t do it. They may be “on the way” but that two minutes can easily stretch to ten fifteen minutes or even longer and it’s going to throw everything off from drink orders to announcing the specials to serving the food. Every server has been burned by this: a party of eight, but only three of them are there and they persuade us to let them sit down. So we push the tables together for eight people and twenty minutes later we learn it’s just going to be four of them But the four of them have spread out over two table and now we can’t use it. You know what else that affects? Reservations, so if you get pissed off that your table isn’t ready at your time of reservation, it might be because we were willing to seat an incomplete party. Fuck that.

Bring up the lights. What, so you can see that I didn’t bother polishing the glasses or the silverware? I don’t think so.

Keep menu introductions brief. I agree. I don’t want to talk you anymore than you want to listen to me talk.

Learn to “read” guests. I agree. Every customer is different and I pride myself on being able to tell which one of my many personalities to turn on for which guest. I could ask the same of customers: read your server. If I look like I don’t give a shit about the reasons you can’t eat dairy, I don’t want to hear it.

Do not ask diners for accolades, as in, “Is everything delicious?” I agree. I’ll ask if it’s good. You answer. That can be the end of our personal interaction.

Banish from your delivery the string of words “Are you finished working on that?” I agree, but jeez, come up with something original to complain about, Tom. You are about the one-millionth journalist to say that. Yawn.

Treat restrooms as if your parents are coming over. Yes, we all like to have clean restrooms. Sadly, most customers are fucking pigs who don’t treat a public restroom as they would their own and they seem to pee and poop anywhere but the toilet. If the restrooms are a mess, I can guaran-fucking-tee it’s the fault of the customers. But I’ll tell the busser or the dishwasher…

Keep your website accurate and up-to-date. While I agree that the website should be up-to-date with menu and prices and clearly state the address and phone number, why does it have to have public transportation and parking information? Figure that shit out yourself, Tom. We can’t do everything for you.

Remember that little things are big things. Yes, we should wipe crumbs from the table and return the correct change, of course. Diners will notice these things. You know what little things we notice, Tom? We notice when customers don’t make eye contact or when they ask us a question and then don’t listen to the answer. We notice when they take garbage out of their purse and drop it under the table and we notice when they never say please or thank you. So yeah, little things are big things.

Thanks for the article, Tom. Keep up the good work of eating for a living.

Saying Goodbye to a Regular

Today I raise a glass to Naomi. She has been sitting in my section ever since I started at my restaurant almost seven years ago. In the beginning, I found it irritating that she would remove cushion from the front window seat and move it to where ever she as sitting so she could be more comfortable, but eventually I started doing that for her as soon as I saw her come into the restaurant. She died two weeks ago and I miss her.

These are some of the things Naomi taught me in the seven years I knew her.

  • That age is just a number and if you have a good attitude and an easy smile, maybe you get to live longer than a lot of other people and not die until you are 87 years old.
  • That you can ask for exactly what you want from a restaurant and as long as you come in all the time and are always nice and kind, the staff will be happy to cook you something off the menu.
  • To appreciate everyone who works in a restaurant and to bring each staff member an envelope with their name on it and a tip inside at Christmas time, even if it’s a random amount like six or seven dollars because that’s all you can afford.
  • That you can be 87 years old and still go to Mexico for two weeks even though you have cancer because you go to Mexico every year with your friends and you’re not gonna let a silly little thing like late stage lung cancer change your life.
  • That I can grow to admire and respect a woman who is so much older than me and even consider her a friend and check up on her every now and then since she only lives two blocks from me.
  • That it is possible to cross the street against traffic without even looking to see if cars are coming and you will get safely to the other side. (This might only work for Naomi.)
  • That a hug from an 87-year old woman is a really great hug because they have been giving hugs for decades and practice obviously makes perfect.
  • That if you take the time to talk to a senior citizen who lives alone and is maybe eager to talk, you can learn so many wonderful things.
  • That complaining about your lot in life does no good and your only option is to decide how you want to live your daily life.
  • That you never know when you’re going to see someone for the last time, so make sure every visit counts because saying goodbye to someone in a dream is not the same as saying goodbye to them in person.

Goodbye, Naomi. I’m glad I knew you.

Servers Fired Via a Note From a Cowardly Manager

If you have worked in a restaurant for a long period of time, there is a real good chance that either you or someone you know has been “let go” in an unfair manner. This business will chew you up and spit you out and too many managers don’t give a rat’s ass about your employment. It has happened to me twice; once when working at VYNL here in New York City. We all suspected for weeks that the restaurant was shutting down, but even when we asked point blank about it, they lied to us and said it wasn’t closing. A couple of weeks later, we were given two days notice that we were all out of work. (Fuck you, John.) The other time was when I was working at an unnamed restaurant here in the city that fired me for blogging while I was working there but they were too afraid to admit that was the reason they were letting me go. (You can read about it in chapter 6 of my book!) In both cases, the managers and owners were cowards. Well, a woman named Destinée has come across a manager named Larry who puts the Cowardly Lion to shame. She posted on Facebook her story of how servers at her job found out they were no longer employed:

The new John Daly steakhouse in Conway, AR apparently finds this an appropriate way to fire employees. Weekly, we receive our schedule via a post on groupme from an employee in store that takes a picture for the manager and posts it. The other day we received 2 pictures. The schedule, and another one of a small yellow note that reads this: “if you don’t see your name on the schedule, some unfortunate cutbacks have been made. If you have any questions call me Saturday after 10am at the store. Larry” this picture was sent for the manager, on groupme, via another employee. No reason, just because managers play favorites. A total of 6, yes 6, waiters and waitresses were let go from John Daly steakhouse via this meaningful note. An excuse of “we had to make cuts because we have too many servers” was made. While a brand new training waitress employee sits at the table beside me. Politics and favoritism is the epitome of this place. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

That’s right. Larry, of John Daly Steakhouse, didn’t have the courage to tell six people that he was firing them. Larry just left a note for someone else to take a picture of so it could basically be texted on his behalf. That’s some low-level, shady as fuck, gutless bullshit right there and I am going to call Larry out:

Dude, really? I bet you’re the same guy who breaks up with a girlfriend by text message or email, right? If someone gave you the responsibility to manage a restaurant, that means that you are expected to be a mature individual who handles uncomfortable situations with emotional intelligence. Firing people with a fucking note is not emotionally intelligent. I’m not even going to get into the “favoritism” claim, because I don’t know anything about that. (Not like favoritism would be a surprise coming from someone who fires people in this manner.) Man up, Larry. No matter what the “financial cutbacks” were you should have had the decency to speak to those six people and tell them to their faces that they would be losing their jobs. It’s nice of you to let them call you with any questions on Saturday after 10AM, but at that point, who cares? They’re unemployed! Their questions are going to be like, “How small ARE your balls?” and “Do you KNOW how big of an asshole you are?” I’m sure these six employees were the same ones that you were asking to come in last minute to cover a shift or maybe you told them to leave early when it was slow and they did it, because it’s part of being a server. Well, guess what, Larry. Part of being a restaurant manager is treating your staff with respect and you failed. Hopefully, this public shaming will make you think about your actions the next time you have to let an employee go. In the meantime, I have a note for you:

Good luck to Destinée and all the others who lost their jobs. I hope they soon finds a place to work where management treats them with respect and decency, because even though we are “just servers,” we are entitled to that, especially by our bosses.

Vegetarian Was Accidentally Served Chicken and Wants Written Apology

A woman went to Chili’s last week and had the worst experience of her life. Seriously, out of everything that has happened to her, the most horrific thing occurred at a Chili’s when she was just trying to live her vegetarian life and a server accidentally gave her a quesadilla with chicken in it. You see, Aayushi has never had any “non veg” in her mouth so having a piece of chicken in there was a shock to her system. In the past, she has always loved the quesadilla from Chili’s, so in her haste to have that delicious vegetarian concoction all over her tongue, she failed to inspect the quesadilla before she crammed it inside her face. Hence, Aayushi got some chicken in her mouth.

And then she wrote about it on Facebook. She acknowledges that it was a mistake by the server, but it’s what she demands that requires me to blog about this. She claims that management was unconcerned about the mistake. I highly doubt this. Knowing management in corporate restaurants like Chili’s, I bet they did everything they could to smooth the matter over including giving her a gift card, stroking her ego and providing her with a barf bag to regurgitate said chicken quesadilla into. What they were unwilling to do was provide her with a written apology. Yes, Aayushi wanted a fucking written apology from Chili’s.

Bitch, please. So someone made an error. It’s not like you ordered some guacamole and they accidentally brought you a bowl full of hemlock sprinkled with boric acid and a shot of bleach. Someone grabbed the wrong plate of grilled tortillas and instead of peppers, yours had chicken in it. It’s not the end of the world and it wasn’t intentional. If you have set very strict guidelines on what you will and will not eat, then you need to share that responsibility when it comes time to eat food you order in a restaurant. Had you simply peeled back a tortilla to make sure it was what you had ordered, you would have seen that chicken beak smothered in yummy Monterey Jack cheese and known right away that this was not something you were willing to have inside your mouth. I get it, you’re a vegetarian and you don’t want to partake in the eating of delicious fleshy animals. However, it’s not like you chose to eat it. It was an accident so you’re off the hook. The animal kingdom will forgive you because you didn’t know what you were eating. However, don’t hold your breath for the written apology because I’m sure it’s not coming.

Because I am a giver, I will write one for you on behalf of Chili’s. You can print it out and frame it and then next time you are eating a garden burger full of soy and nuts, you can read it and feel better about that one day you accidentally had a piece of chicken.

Dear Aayushi,

We are sorry for putting you though the worst experience of your life and we are sorry that you had to deal with the atrocity of grilled chicken. It was certainly not our intent to upset you, but sometimes mistakes happen. We hope this written apology will make up for our egregious error and we also hope that the gift card we sent you will encourage you to come back and try one of our many vegetarian dishes. Finally, it is also our hope that you will bend over and let us press our lips so far into your asshole that we can taste the tofu that you had for dinner last night.

Love,
Chili’s

Good luck taking this forward with your formal filing of a complaint in a consumer forum. Whatever forum you are referring to isn’t going to care. My advice to you?  Get over it. Mistakes happen. Just ask your parents. They know.

The One Joke We Don’t Need to Hear Again This Winter

Most of the country is in a deep freeze and everyone is colder than a witch’s tit.(Incidentally, a witch’s tit is pretty darn cold. If you don’t believe me, you should check out the director’s cut of The Wizard of Oz where we see the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North shoot icicles from the breasts in a war over the ruby slippers. Ultimately, the scene was cut, but you can still see it here.) Anyhoo, as we servers make our way through a sea of black coats and scarves that are piled in our station because customers think that the table next to them was placed there to hold their winter belongs, there is one joke we all keep hearing over and over again. It’s not a funny joke, nor is it original. We hear it all day, every day and by the tenth time, we can no longer muster up the energy to even pretend that it’s even remotely entertaining:

The customer enters the restaurant after braving the Arctic winds outside. As they stomp their snowy boots onto the floor and shake the snow off their hats with reckless abandon, the eagerly look around the restaurant to see who will be the lucky one to hear their joke. Hostess, busser or server? It matters not to them as long as someone gets to her their attempt at humor. Once they catch eyes with the poor unsuspecting soul, it happens. The customer says something like, “Man, it sure is cold outside.” They then turn their attention to the back part of the restaurant or the area that one would normally go to be seated outside. And then it happens.

“Can we sit on the patio?”

And here is my response to your joke:

 

Stop it. It’s not funny. Grow the fuck up. Try a new joke. We’re tired of you. The patio is fucking closed.

Trump Puts a Lemon in the Water. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

This post was written by attorney Drew N. Herrmann who wants to help us understand the proposed changes to our tips. This is is website if you’d like more information. And if you would like to leave a comments about this proposed tip change, the Department of Labor is looking for your opinion here. Thank you.  -BW

You may have heard that Trump’s Secretary of Labor has proposed a new regulation concerning the tip pool laws. Lots of commentary has been written concerning the new proposed regulation. With that comes the fake news; I have read several misleading headlines regarding the interpretation of the new regulation. Specifically, headlines such as “Trump is About to Make Tip-Pooling Legal Again.” Headlines such as this one seem to predispose with the idea that tip pooling is and was illegal – which could not be further from the truth. Since 1938, tip pooling has been legal. However, what is and still is illegal is the participation in a tip pool by back-of-the-house employees and managers. In fact, this will remain true, in part, even under Trump’s new regulation.

This article will be a two-part series.  In part one, I will cover the history of the tip laws, so you have a better understanding of the development of the law and how we arrived at this point. In part two, I will give my assessment of the new regulation and how the new regulation affects restaurant employees.

The FLSA – A 1938 Post Depression-Era Employee Protectionism Law

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a 1938 post depression-era law that was enacted to set a minimum standard of living by imposing a minimum wage, overtime requirements, and other employee protections. The FLSA also contains the laws on paying tipped employees – known as the tip credit. The “tip-credit” is the provision of the law that governs the relationship between employer and employee when it comes to employees who earn tips or gratuities. The tip-credit also allows an employer to pay “tipped employees” less than the federal minimum wage – or as little as $2.13 per hour. However, the FLSA strictly prohibits an employer from taking any of those tips for themselves and prohibits a tip pool that includes participation of any non-service staff  including managers, cooks, dishwashers, and bussers.

 

The 10th Circuit Ruling

We thought the law was settled until a class of restaurant waiters and waitresses working at the Vita Café in Oregon sued their employer – Woody Woo for operating an illegal tip pool. Woo required its waitstaff to share their tips with everyone in the restaurant, including back of the house employees (cook, dishwasher, etc.). It appeared an easy win for the waiters and waitresses because it was well-established that a server could not be required to share or pool tips with back-of-the-house employees. However, Woo contested the allegations stating that the tip laws only applied to employers who paid their employees a sub-minimum wage. Since the waiters and waitresses in Woo were paid minimum wage, Woo argued the tip laws did not apply, and Woo could do as it pleased with the tips earned by its waitstaff as long as it paid a direct hourly wage of minimum wage or higher (i.e. federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour). The 10th Circuit agreed,  holding that an employer who paid a direct hourly wage of minimum wage or higher was not subject to the tip laws – meaning Woo and any other employers who paid at least minimum wage could take and do as it pleased with the tips earned by waitstaff.

The Development of the Tip Laws During the Obama Era

In response to the 10th Circuit’s ruling, the DOL under the Obama-administration issued a regulation stating that the FLSA’s tip laws apply even when an employee is paid a direct hourly wage that is greater than minimum wage. In other words, this Obama-era regulation required employers to allow their employees to keep their tips regardless of how much the employee earned.

The 9th Circuit Disagrees with 10th Circuit and Sides With Obama-era Regulation

Next, a group of casino dealers sued Wynn Las Vegas, LLC (Wynn Casino) for requiring these dealers to share their tips with box people at the craps tables, etc. (i.e. pit bosses). Similar to Woo, Wynn also contested the case saying that it could do as it pleased with its employees’ tips because it paid them at least minimum wage. Wynn cited the Woo case to support its position. However, the 9th Circuit disagreed with the 10th Circuit; the 9th Circuit, siding with the Obama-era regulation, held that the FLSA’s tip laws apply regardless of the hourly rate an employer pays its employees.

What’s the Law of the Land?

Therein ensued a battle to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 9th and 10th circuits disagreed. Who was right? Do the tip laws under the FLSA apply to employers who pay their employees a direct wage that is equal to or greater than the minimum wage? That question is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, Trump was elected and immediately withdrew the Obama-era regulation, leaving everyone to wonder; do the FLSA’s tip laws apply when an employer pays its employees more than minimum wage? Well, now Trump has issued his own proposed-regulation, stating the exact opposite of the Obama-era regulation: if an employer pays its employees an hourly wage of at least minimum wage then the employer can do whatever it wants with the tips earned by its employees.

Here is what that means. Under the text of the proposed regulation, if your employer pays you at least minimum wage, then he can do whatever he wants with your tips. Yes, your employer can require you to share your tips with the back-of-the-house and anyone else your employer sees fit. However, your employer could also choose not to share your tips, but pocket them. There have been several employee-advocate groups who have proposed that the law, at a minimum, include a provision prohibiting employers from taking the tips for themselves.

Just to be clear, if your employer does not pay you a direct hourly wage of at least minimum wage, but instead pays you a sub-minimum hourly wage (e.g. $2.13 per hour) the new regulation has no effect on you. You can still be required to pool your tips, but you cannot be required to share or pool those tips with managers, back-of-the-house employees, or other non-service staff.

Now that you know how we arrived here, in Part 2 I am going to tell you where I think we are headed — discuss the possible ramifications (positive and negative) once the new proposed-regulation is passed.