Every server has his or her “go-to” book of phrases and actions for every diner. Some customers might not understand why we are asking certain questions or saying and doing certain things, but there is usually a reason behind every single utterance and move. Here are a few of them.
“Hello, my name is Bob and I will be your server tonight.” You may not care what your server’s name is and the truth is that Bob probably doesn’t want you to know his name either. In some restaurants, especially chains, it is policy to state your name when you greet a table. And you know that restaurant where the waitress writes her name on the paper table cloth? She’s probably required to do that too. Every once in a while, a server voluntarily announces their name because maybe they’d rather hear you bellow out “Bob, I need more Ranch!” than “Hey, I need more Ranch!” I would venture to guess that nine times out of ten, when a server tells you their name, they had to.
Placing a bev nap on the table. What do those things really do anyway other than get balled up or thrown on the floor? Are they acting as coasters? Are they to stick under the wobbly table leg to make it level? Well, in some restaurants, a bev nap on the table is a signal to other staff that this table has already been approached. It’s a marker to let the manager to know that ‘Yes, I greeted them and I am aware they are here.”
“Would you like bottled water or tap?” Of course everyone knows this is an attempt to raise the check average so that the restaurant can make more money and the server can get a bigger tip. However, in some places, a server’s shifts are determined by their sales, so for every person who orders tap water, that server’s sales are a little bit lower and consequently their shifts may dwindle. Is it fair? No, but now you know why so many servers are pushing bottled water.
“How is everything?” We genuinely want to know how how your food is. This is the time for customers to voice their concern about any problems that the server can take care of. If your steak needs to be cooked a little bit more, now is the time to say so. Don’t say “everything’s fine” and then grumble to your friends how miserable you are with your food. If a server asks how things are, tell them. If you say it’s good when it isn’t, you missed your chance to have it made right. And don’t leave a bad tip because the server didn’t so something for you when you didn’t let the server know there was a problem in the first place.
“Can I offer you dessert or coffee?” See bottled water explanation above.
“It’s my pleasure.” Does anyone really think that a server receives pleasure from removing a plate of leftover baby-back ribs? Of course not. It’s just what the server was told to say instead of “you’re welcome” or “no problem.” Pleasure usually involves something that does not happen while clocked in at a restaurant and wearing an apron. That is unless you worked at a certain Bennigan’s in the early 90’s where the hostess was sometimes known to offer pleasure to a couple of different bus boys in the walk-in.
“Do you need change?” Yes, this is annoying and I agree that all servers should assume that change is needed, but they really are just asking if you need change or not. They aren’t trying to finagle a $40 tip on a $60 check. A better way to say it would be, “I’ll be right back with your change” which would then give the customer the chance to say “Yes, thank you,” or “No, it’s all yours.”
Failing to fill your water glass up after you have paid the check. The server is officially done with you. Giving you more water is going to make you possibly stay longer when the server is ready to say good bye to you, clear the table and get someone else seated in their section. The more turnover there is, the more money there is to be made.
“Thank you, come again.” Even the worst of servers knows that their income is dependent on customers. No matter how phony it may sound, the server wants you to come back because if you don’t, their job is in jeopardy. If you left a 20% tip, the phrase may sound genuine. If you left a 5% tip, it may sound sarcastic. Your tip will determine the tone.