|Messy table. Photo: Jason Rosenberg, flickr|
Hanna Raskin's first waitressing job was at a small Greek diner in Michigan. In the 15 years since, she's worked at a chop suey joint in Mississippi, an exclusive Arizonan country club, a vegetarian eatery and an Irish pub. She currently picks up odd shifts at a seafood eatery in the North Carolina mountains, where she cracks crab legs for helpless tourists. This is the tenth in a series of posts.
As a server, I should have boundless patience with my fellow overworked, undertipped brethren. But as anyone who's dined out with servers knows, food industry pros are often the harshest critics of front-of-the-house shenanigans.
Since servers know how restaurants work, they know exactly who to blame for the mishaps that spoil their eating-out experience. The French onion soup's taking too long? That's so not the fault of the server (many of whom would probably be thrilled to pack all three courses in to-go containers and send their table on its way). The halibut doesn't taste good? That's likely the reason the server skips the employee meal.
Diners should never discount their tips for things beyond the server's control: A corked bottle of wine, too long of a wait at the host stand and dirty bathrooms are comment card fodder, not tip-lowering offenses. But there are certain server behaviors for which I'll almost always knock down a gratuity a few percentage points.
I can't stand when servers leave finished plates on the table. I understand some restaurants coach their staffers not to clear until everyone is done eating, but any server who has time to refill water glasses has time to whisk away a few dishes. When a server has to move empty plates aside to make room for the dessert tray, that's evidence of negligence that would be punished in server court.
I'm wary about docking servers for perceived service flaws that really just reflect personality quirks, but a few idiosyncrasies fall well beyond the bounds of good service. I once had a server return to the table to tell me the kitchen had 86'd the pasta dish my husband had ordered. No problem, I said: He'll be back from the bathroom in a moment to make another selection. The server, who apparently couldn't wait, grabbed a menu and confronted my husband at the urinal. Any server who makes their customers that uncomfortable doesn't deserve 20 percent.
Finally, I'm tough on servers who refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes. Servers who say, "I'll be sure to tell my manager about that problem," or blame the poor busser when a service error is brought to their attention are good candidates for a lousy grat. Serving means always having to say you're sorry.
What's a surefire way for servers to earn less than 20 percent from you? Are there server behaviors for which you'll always deduct a percentage point or two?
|Bad hygiene.||97 (7.4%)|
|Ignorance of the menu.||89 (6.8%)|
|Something else (tell us more in comments).||56 (4.3%)|