Call Me Old Fashion... (the Restaurant Wait Staff Manifesto)

But hovering really annoys me. I know it’s not the waiters fault. His job is to keep people moving through the restaurant, but still. Let me enjoy my meal. Oh, and the check… I’ll ask for it when I need it. Hopefully, you’ll have it handy since you were thinking ahead, but still. Putting the check on the table when someone still has food on their plate and saying “no rush” still implies there is a rush.

Ok, so I’m out at Chile’s tonight (I know, horrible of me in the first place) enjoying a meal and talking more than I’m eating - a hazard of meals with me I guess. The waiter asks twice if we’re up for desert - amazingly, the answer was no both times. Then plops the check down with the ol’ “no rush” line. We’re enjoying the evening. The restaurant isn’t near capacity, just chill out…

Contrast that with my experience at the Yard House (a chain still, albeit a much smaller one) a while back. I’m there on a Wednesday, and on this no particular Wednesday there’s a 30 minute wait which turns out to be more like 45 minute. No problem… I’m going solo, so I’m sure they’re not dying to seat me. Once I do get a seat, I end up being there for nearly 3 hours, eating, chatting with the wait staff, writing, and drinking (note to concerned family members: you know me though, three hours doesn’t translate into falling down drunk, I’m a slow drinker).

Not once during that entire time was I asked if I was ready for my check. I got it when I was ready and declined when asked if I need anything more. Think about it. A hopping restaurant with nearly an hour wait, they seat one guy at a table for four, and not once do they try to run me through the place like I’m cattle on the way to have my wallet slaughtered. It did take a little longer than they said it would, but that was just because they weren’t trying to run the other patrons out so they could seat me. Just like I probably held up a few other people.

I can’t really hold my waiter responsible for tonight. I’m sure he’s just following orders from management, who’s following orders from corporate, who’s following orders from the (hat’s off, show some respect) ”market”. There’s a few lessons to be learned.

  • Ditch the Wait Staff Phrases for Dummies book. Learn more than how to ask if they’re ready to order and if “everything [was] alright.”.
  • Once someone sits down at a table, they own it until they’re ready to leave. Seriously, just because you say there’s no rush, doesn’t mean we’re taking it that there’s no rush.
  • Unless you’re charging to refill whatever is in a glass, there’s no appropriate time to ask “would you like a refill.” If it looks like they might need one, go for it. What do you have to lose except $.025 in liquid and ice?
  • There is a difference between being unobtrusive and bordering on being rude. The former is good, the latter is bad; and it’s a good idea to be able to recognize the difference.
  • There is also a subtle difference between these two phrases. “Are you ready for the check?” and “Is there anything else I can get you?”. If the difference doesn’t smack you over the head, consider changing career paths into something less demanding. If your new job description includes “watching grass grow”, it might work for you.

So there’s my rant for the week… :)