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5 Things You Wish Your Customers Did Better

If I could print this out and insert it into every menu in every restaurant in this country, I would so totally do that. But I can’t, so it’s up to us to share this until the whole world sees it.

Understand a seating rotation and chart. We don’t want them to sit anywhere they damn well please. If half of the restaurant is empty, it’s probably because there is no server to work in that section. It’s not an open invitation for a customer to seat themselves and pretend they are in their own private dining room. And when they choose their own table, it could mean that the server in that section was was just given a 10-top and will not have time to get to them any time soon. The next thing you know this customer is complaining how long they have been sitting there without any attention when, if they had sat down where we suggested, the server whose turn it was would have been ready to server immediately.

Order their food. When your customer doesn’t know what they want to eat, it’s fine. But when they insist that you stand there, order pad in hand, as they read aloud every menu item, we don’t have time for that. If they aren’t ready, we need to be released from their grip so we can use our time more wisely. Besides, we know they’re just gonna order damn hamburger anyway.

Use their manners. Correct way to ask for a beverage: “May I please get a Diet Coke with no ice?” Wrong way to order a beverage: “Bring me a Diet Coke and don’t put so much ice in it this time.”

Stack their plates. Thanks for trying, but if they are going to put plates of food on top of other plates of food making it necessary to now scrape the bottom and the top of the plate, I’d just assume they leave the plates where they are and let me do it. Also, when done with the silverware, it’d be great if they could put it anywhere other than directly into the leftover sauce on the plate. I don’t want to drag my fingers through old marinara to retrieve a fork.

Tip. As always, the tip should be based on service. It should not be based on the temperature of the dining room, the noise levels of the booth next to them, the supposed dryness of the roasted chicken, how much money the customers has in the bank or how long it took to get a table. If we did our job in an efficient manner and did everything we could to make the dining experience as smooth and as enjoyable as possible, we would like to be tipped 20% of the bill, including the liquor and to-go items, please. Those count as sales and that is what the government bases our taxes on, so yeah. Tip better.

Texas Roadhouse Responds, But I Don’t Believe Them

Two days ago I posted an article about a Texas Roadhouse receipt that had some fuzzy math on it when it came time to suggest certain tip percentages. I questioned how they thought that 20% of 126.35 was 19.60 and requested that you guys go to their Facebook page and ask them about it the questionable totals. You did not disappoint. Dozens and dozens of you went there to express your concerns and Texas Roadhouse replied. Well, I what I should say is that the person who runs their social media page reached into their asshole and pulled out a response and then cut and pasted it on almost every comment. Eventually, it seems they stopped replying. Here is what they said before control/paste became too much trouble:

Carry-out items are not figured into the tip guide. In this instance, the 8 oz. smothered Dallas Filet was ordered as a carryout item. The total cost of the filet was $21.98. On the pretax amount, $119.98 minus $21.98 is $98. 20% of $98 is $19.60, 18% is $17.64, etc. At Texas Roadhouse, the strength of our brand is our people. We appreciate our server’s efforts in delivering legendary service to each and every guest every day.

Umm, I don’t know if I believe you, Texas Roadhouse. First off, how does the person who came up with this response even know that the 8 oz. smothered Dallas Filet was ordered as a carryout item? It doesn’t say that on the bill anywhere, does it? Am I missing something? (And by the way, who the hell pays an extra 1.99 for gravy?) Did this person happen to be in Elyria, Ohio that night and happen to remember that this particular table? Doubtful.

Second off, plenty of people wrote to tell me that the tip guide may not include alcohol which could reflect in the tip totals. We can see at the very top of the receipt that there appears to be a margarita. I can’t be sure because it looks like it’s a 16 oz. cocktail which is pretty impressive. Maybe it’s a 16 oz. margarita-flavored hamburger or something, I just don’t know. If it is a cocktail, then they do include the alcohol on the tip guide if we can assume that the Dallas Filet is the only thing not covered in the total. I also was told that the tip guide is almost always before tax. I get that. Personally, I always tip on the taxed total, but that’s just me and probably every other server who is reading this.

A few people told me I was “reaching” for a story here and that may or may not be true. (It’s totally true.) My problem with tip guides is that too many people will look at the them and take them to be the gospel of tipping, not paying any mind to the fact that maybe it doesn’t include alcohol or to-go items. If those items go into my sales total at the end of the night, I’m sorry, but I want a freaking tip on them. Why can’t we just let customers do their own math and tip what they want to tip rather than having these tip guides that are full of fine print?

I also heard from several employees of Texas Roadhouse, many of whom told me that their restaurant did not have the tip guide on the receipt which means it varies from location to location. Maybe by sending people to the main Texas Roadhouse Facebook page, I was focused on the wrong target. The Elyria, Ohio location has their own Facebook page so let’s ask them to get to the bottom of this. Go to their page and ask them to explain the totals and let’s see if they come up with the same reply we were already spoon fed from corporate. Go ahead, do it. It’s fun to make a big corporate restaurant try to prove that they think the strength of their brand is their people. Bitch please, we know the number one thing for you is the bottom line and right after that comes the customer. Your employees are on the list somewhere between parking lot cleanliness and food costs for Tater Skins.

5 Lessons That Waiting Tables Has Taught Me

Having been in the food service industry since I was but a wee gingersnap of child, many lessons have been bestowed upon me that I wish I had known several years ago. Because I am a giver of all things, and not just sides of mayo and extra lemons, I want to share with you some of these lessons so that you can become wise beyond your years. This is what I know:

Most people in this world are nice, but some people suck ass and there’s nothing you can do to change it. In the course of a busy double, it is possible for us to interact with dozens and dozens of different people. When you come across one of those people who seem miserable for no apparent reason, let them stew in their own crappy broth and focus your energy on others. When I first started waiting tables, I would see those people as a challenge and would try my hardest to put a smile on their face thinking it would increase my tip. It doesn’t. We don’t know why they are unhappy miserable POS’s (in this case, POS stands for “pieces of shit” and not “point of sale.”), but don’t waste your time with them. They aren’t worth it.

Great co-workers can make a bad job more bearable, but don’t let them keep you there. I worked at Houlihan’s for a long time and I absolutely loved all of the people I worked with. Seriously, it could be so much fun and even though it has been over 15 years since I worked there, I am still friends with a lot of them. However, I stayed there far longer than I should have. The working conditions were difficult, the hours sucked, the clientele was awful and the tips were all over the place, but I stayed because I liked working with my friends. That is not a good reason to stay at a job you don’t like. I finally quit and made sure to maintain the relationships that made working there so great. Never stay at a job you don’t like just because you like the people you work with.

When you punch out, don’t think about your job anymore. We are not doctors or lawyers or teachers who have to take our jobs home with us. When we leave, the only thing that will leave with us is our apron, our tips and the stench of restaurant food. If you find yourself thinking about how a certain table upset you or how you forgot to take that third Diet Coke to table 9, let it go. It’s done and it doesn’t matter anymore.

For every bad tip there are two good ones to make up for it. As servers, we tend to focus on the negative,. Hell, you’re reading a blog called The Bitchy Waiter for crying out loud. When someone leaves us a bad tip we are quick to complain about it, but what we seem to forget is that the majority of people tip nicely. If you get a shitty tip, and you will, don’t focus on it too long. Shrug your shoulders, shoot them a side eye, curse them under your breath and move on because it’s more than likely that the next table or two is going to leave you something that will make you forget all about that cheap asshole. Waiting tables is like driving on a hilly road. You can never know what’s over the next hill, but every once in a while when you get to that peak, you are rewarded with an awesome view and it’s all worth it.

Our job is pretty great. No matter how often we may complain about it, waiting tables can be a perfect job. In a way, we get to choose our own hours and we always have the opportunity to work extra shifts if we need more money. It can be stressful sometimes, but that stress leaves completely as soon as the last customer waddles out the door and we put the closed sign in the window. We can take days off when we need to and even though we don’ get paid for them, at least we have the option. Sometimes it’s worth it to take that Friday lunch shift off and go to the beach or something. Not all jobs have that flexibility so embrace it. And if someone ever tries to pass judgement on you because “all you do” is wait tables, make sure they know that you’re good with it. It’s the job that works for you at this particular moment in your life and the only person that should matter to is you.

Yep, I wait tables. And I learned some stuff while doing it.

I hope you will consider buying my book. It’s called The Bitchy Waiter and you can buy it on Amazon.

Is Texas Roadhouse Encouraging Customers to Leave Bad Tips?

I need your help. Math has never been my strong suit and if you don’t believe me you can ask Ms. Huddleston who was my 10th grade algebra teacher. I remember her telling once how important is was for me to learn a specific algebra theorem and I assuredly told her that I would never need it in my adult life because I was going to be a famous actor. The famous actor part didn’t work out but I have never once needed to know algebra. Sorry, Ms. Huddleston, but I was right. Anyway, someone sent me a receipt from Texas Roadhouse in Elyria, Ohio. At the bottom is a tip guide with the suggested gratuity for 15, 18 and 20%. Now maybe this is my math handicap that is getting in the way, but these totals don’t seem to add up.

If the total (after tax) is 126.35, I would automatically tip about $25 which is what I consider 20%. For some people who don’t like to tip on the tax, so they would look at  the pre-tax total of 119.98, so a 20% tip would be about $24. But look at the totals they suggest:

20% = 19.60
18% = 17.64
15% = 14.70

Ms. Huddleston, that ain’t right, right? Let’s give Texas Roadhouse the benefit of the doubt that they are creating a tip guide on the pre-tax amount. But a 19.60 tip on 119.98 is not 20% it’s 16.33%. And 17.64 isn’t an 18% tip, it’s only 14.7%. And that last tip of 14.70 is only a 12.25% tip. What in Rattlesnake Bites and Fried Pickles hell is that, Texas Roadhouse? Stop encouraging people to leave a shitty 12% tip.

We all know that the info added to the bottom of a receipt is individualized at each restaurant, so this can be changed. I also see that it says “this guide does not reflect To-Go orders, Comps or Promos. Please adjust accordingly.” Ummm, Texas Roadhouse, you know that people barely read the receipt, right? You think someone is going to see that and then use their brains to figure out the right tip? No, they are going to see the 20% tip total and assume that it’s a good tip and mosey on their way.

So, here is the help I need, everyone. We need to go to the Texas Roadhouse Facebook page and ask them to explain this or to fix it. We servers work too hard to get bad tips from customers who are being led to believe they are leaving good tips. It’s not fair. If you’re going to put a tip guide at the bottom of a receipt, at least do it where it will help the server and not hurt them. Also, Texas Roadhouse, that one salad you have called a Chicken Critter® Salad sounds gross. It makes me think it’s a salad filled with all kinds of random farm animals. When you change the tip guide on the receipt, go ahead and change the name of that salad too.

How To Deal With Endless Apps at TGI Fridays

Dear Bitchy Waiter,

I’m a server at TGI Fridays and this endless apps is driving everyone who works here into having nervous breakdowns. I’m not making nearly as much money as I used to and am doing 4 times the work, being belittled and run ragged, staying hours later than usual and the clientele is awful. Corporate doesn’t care, but any advice on how to handle it?

Signed,
Krystal

Dear Krystal,

First off, my deepest condolences to you and your coworkers for working at TGI Fridays. Having done my time at Bennigan’s, Houlihan’s and Pizzeria Uno, I understand your pain.

You are correct with your claim that corporate “doesn’t care.” They have their eyes on the bottom line and if they can sell 500 fried pickles to one customer for $10, they are still ahead because they probably bought 1000 fried pickles for a dollar and a hand job. TGI Fridays CEO Robert Palleschi is sitting at his desk (it’s made of BBQ Chicken Flatbread) and rolling around on a pile of Pan-Seared Pot Stickers counting his money and not giving a second thought to a girl named Krystal who has put holes in her non-skid shoes from making twelve trips to Table 10. So what can you do?

You have two options: quit or deal with it. I mean, that’s how it is for almost anyone who has a job, right? If it’s something that we absolutely cannot handle, then we have to find a new option that will make us happier. Just quit. After all, what is the point of living a live if we are miserable almost every day? If you hate it, change it.

Or you deal with it. In this case, you go to work and when Betty Lou and Bubba Ted plop their asses into the dirty booth and ask for an order of Endless Mozzarella Sticks and Loaded Potato Skins with two glasses of water and extra lemons, you take a deep breath and let it go. Sure, you know they are going to tip you two bucks and run your feet down to stubs, but when they’re gone they’re gone. You don’t have to think about them ever again. Go into the kitchen with your coworker bestie and complain together so you can get it off your chest and then slap that fake ass smile back on your face and get them their fourth plate of fried food. Not every single table is going to be this bad. That’s the beauty part of serving: every customer is different and for every Betty Lou and Bubba Ted, there is a Mr. and Mrs. Totally Nice Moneybags who might make up the difference. Every job has something about it that someone doesn’t like. Granted, some jobs have a lot to not like about them and if that’s the case, you go back to option number one, which is to quit. However, should you decide that serving Endless Apps is not a deal breaker, I would also suggest getting chummy with the bartender. It’s amazing how much more tolerable something can become if you have a steady supply of white wine, tequila or a Grey Goose Punch Shaker.

Mustard and mayo,
the Bitchy Waiter

Observations From a Drunk at the Bar (Me)

As I am wont to do on my day off, I went out last night and had far too many margaritas with my husband. Since Rosie’s has a happy hour, we felt it was our social and financial responsibility to drink as many as possible in the two and a half hours we were there. While sitting at the bar, I couldn’t help but notice the other customers sitting around us. It’s the curse of working in restaurants for almost thirty years, not being able to go into one without observing the staff, customers and every single thing that happens around me. I want to write about my observations:

The girl who didn’t know the name of her cocktail: She breezes in to meet her friend at the bar. The two hug each other warmly and as soon as the hug is broken Late Comer orders a drink. “Can I get a Paloma but with vodka instead of tequila, no lime juice and no salt rim?” she asks the bartender. He nods in agreement and begins to make the drink. I stare at this woman and use every ounce of strength I have to not tell her what I am sure the bartender is thinking. “Hmmm, a vodka and grapefruit…that’s called a fucking Greyhound, lady.” I bet sometimes she orders a Grasshopper without the crème de menthe or crème de cacao and has the bartender put vodka and Kahlúa instead because she doesn’t know it’s called a freakin’ White Russian. Twenty minutes later, she orders again, this time asking for a vodka and grapefruit juice. The bartender replies, “You mean another Paloma?” I know that bartender is being a smart ass and I love him for it.

The guys who were Instagramming: At the other end of the bar, I see two drunk gay guys being completely silly who look like they are on their way to a pretty decent hangover. Surprisingly, I am not looking in a mirror. I watch as one of them takes off his H&M-looking scarf from around his neck and wraps it on his head like Norma Desmond on a bad hair day. His friend positions it just right and then the cell phone comes out. I watch as a complete photo shoot happens. There is some major smizing happening and I half expect Tyra banks to pop out from the kitchen at any second to adjust the lighting. Then I watch them scroll through all the photos, deleting and editing as necessary. I wish i knew the Instagram account because that bitch with the head scarf was working it.

The girl who drank alone until her friend showed up: She seems sad and lonely. I watch her eat three tacos and play with her phone as she sucks down a couple of margaritas. When her friend shows up, and she begins talking, there is definite slur in her words. She is suddenly animated and full of life. And drunk.

The girl who showed up late: When she arrives, she seems irritated that the bartender does not drop what he’s doing to make her cocktail. I also notice that every time he looks her way, she is not paying attention to him. At this point, I too am in need of a another round so when he makes his way toward her, I swoop in and place my order since I can tell that when he does ask her what she wants, she won’t even know. H makes our drinks and it is obvious she is not pleased that ours were made before her. After he sets down our drinks, she order a margarita. “And water,” she yells out after him. He either didn’t hear her or chose not to. I watch her as she holds her empty glass in the air so he will see that she is parched. I don’t like her. When they leave, her friend who drank alone is sure to say thank you. This girl does not.

I’m sure there were other observations that could have been made, but by this point my eyes are too bleary to see them. After our third margarita, but before the fourth one, our bartender gives us a shot of Mezcal. Then things get really fuzzy. I do recall going into a pet store afterwards to get Parker a chew toy and some treats. I also recall dropping a rawhide bone on the subway platform and someone picking it up for us.

Maybe someday I will be able to go into a restaurant and only pay attention to what is happening to me, but that seems unlikely. After so many years in the restaurant business, I feel like every restaurant I set foot in is an extension of mine. And I will probably always be watching to see what customers are doing and how they are treating the staff. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take another aspirin.