A Server’s Perfect Little World
Written by: Les Noteworthy – Re-Edit by: Tom House
It’s been said that we are in control of our own destiny. I’m not certain whether or not I fully believe it, but there exists a hint of truth to that age old adage, especially as it relates to the restaurant business. Many people think that waiting tables is such an easy job…after all; don’t we just take orders and serve food to hungry patrons? What could possibly be difficult or stressful about that?
In my perfect little server world, every guest would be interested in what I had to say. They would actually listen to my table greeting, laugh at my tableside humor, and genuinely feel happy that they are sitting in my section. They would eagerly await my menu suggestions and effortlessly accept my recommendations on wines. They might even be receptive to multi-course food and wine pairings. Okay, that’s my perfect little world. Most of us servers never get close to being this lucky.
However, shifts like this do happen, and contrary to popular belief…we can do a great deal to insure an increased frequency of these so called “lucky” nights! Think how YOU would feel when your very first table of the night leaves you a very generous tip.
It puts you in the clouds. It increases your confidence, your sense of authority, your efficiency, effectiveness and ultimately your ability to perform…and it shows! Imagine that your second table also follows suit! What kind of mood are you in now? You are on a roll baby! Keep it going. Table after table. Great sales, great attitudes, great tips! Everyone is ordering Dom Perignon and Cristal Champagne…is this a dream? (it probably is). Hey…it’s that perfect little server’s world we fantasize about!
Because your first table was a great one, it set the tone for your entire night. Guess what? It also makes customers feel good to be a big tipper. The key word or emotion here is satisfaction. Being “on top of the world” brings your guests right up there with you. It makes their dining experience better than it otherwise would have been if you had been having a “bad day”.
Back to Reality: That’s all well and good, but what do you do when your first table isn’t so great? Iced teas and tap water all-round, instead of Stag’s Leap or Caymus Special Select! What do you do? You pretend of course! This is show business! Pretend that those iced teas are glass after glass of the most expensive wine on your list; pretend that the split entrees are all Filet Mignon with sides of Lobster Tails. Pretend that you actually like these people! Continue to pretend that these folks are actually out for a dining experience, not just having dinner because they don’t know how to cook! They are not ordering ice teas because they are cheap! Remember Rule #113 – Many times the tables you think are cheap, leave the best tips.
Later in the night, you may have to pretend that the 15% tip you just received is really a big fat 25% tip. It’s more than you had when you got to work, so lucky you! You have to pretend to be satisfied, and realize that you must take the good with the bad in an even tempered way. Long time servers know that “it all comes out in the wash“! In other words, you will soon get a giant tip that will make up for the really bad one…so why over react? That’s where the true professionalism really comes in. The rules of the game are that restaurant guests are required to pay the total at the bottom of the bill. Nothing more. If you’ve knocked yourself out for somebody and they don’t reciprocate, look it as their failure, not yours.
Don’t take it personally! They failed to appreciate your efforts, failed to respect your hard work, failed to enjoy themselves and yes, failed to tip what you appropriately. If you let this situation ruin your night, you will affect the rest of your gratuities that shift in a negative way as well!
Maybe they were on a fixed income, maybe they have lots of bills at home and this is their only chance to escape from their problems. I always say, “It can’t be Christmas every day!” Maybe that “bad” tip was really generous by their standards. Who knows? Who cares? We’re moving on.
A poor tip is always better than none at all. No tip is still a lot better than having somebody bolt on a check…the ol’ “dine and dash!” Still, your attitude continues to carry a lot more weight than you think. You will attract what you exude…
Next shift, walk up to your first table thinking about the last great customers you waited on…and that big fat tip you got! Greet this new table with a cheerful hello and pretend if you have to. Pretend that they are the biggest, fattest tippers in town and that they are going to make your night.
Who knows, they just might! It’s The Law of Attraction!