UnderCover Waitress: January 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Welcome to My Home

People eat out for many reasons, hunger being just one. Eating out is a form of entertainment and a social event. Restaurant workers put on a bit of a show for their customers. In the theater of the restaurant industry, customers are honored guests in our home and come to join us for a meal.

Remember the last time a good friend visited for a home-cooked meal? Perhaps you were upstairs putting the finishing touches on your appearance. Putting in earrings, blotting lipstick, and making sure hair is perfectly kept when the doorbell rang.

Your adult child graciously opens the door and you hear her warmly greet your friend. "Welcome!" she exclaims. "Please come in and have a seat. Mom (or Dad)  will be down in just a few minutes, but I can get you a glass of water now."

You are pleased with what a polite adult your child has grown into, and how well she answered the door. Smoothing your front, you walk gracefully into the room and greet your honored guest with a warm smile.

"Hello, how are you this evening?" you say in your most charming voice.

Without rising, your guest replies, "Hungry. Can we get bread and I want a drink."

And so the illusion is shattered.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Make Bigger Tips eBook Excerpt

Want to know how to get a job in the restaurant industry? Or already there, and want to maximize earning potential as a waiter or waitress? The following is an excerpt from my ebook on the very subject:
Empathy may be one of the biggest assets a server can have. The server who has empathy for her tables will be able to give each and every one of them just the amount of personal attention that they want. When the customer's personal needs and wants are met, the customer will feel most respected and liked and will like the server back. Liking the server results in bigger tips.
People eat out for different reasons at different times. Some people need a quick bite before a movie, others are looking forward to a leisurely dinner full of conversation for two, and still others want to have a party. The server who makes chit chat with the people in a hurry isn't paying attention. Just because the chit chat created a good customer relationship at the party table does not make chit chat appropriate at every table. Servers who make big tips do so by developing a unique customer relationship with each individual table, based upon what the customers want.
Little things matter when waiting tables. Those of us who work in the finest restaurants cannot play the psychologically manipulative games such as squatting at the table. Nor should we want to (it looks ridiculous.) The nicer the restaurant, the more money a server can make, but she has to know how to interact with her customers. Learn the secrets and increase your earnings now.

Available for Amazon Kindle:  How to Make Bigger Tips 

Monday, January 17, 2011

You Know You're a Bad Tipper if...

The big question that restaurant customers ask themselves: Are waiters and waitresses entitled to tips?

Yes: Waitresses are tipped employees, as as such most states still pay servers under a living wage. The tip is expected compensation for working. People in other types of employment get paid an hourly wage regardless of whether they make a mistake.

To complicate matters, servers are required to "tip out" bussers and food runners as if they made 20% of their sales, even if they did not. The IRS looks at a waiter's sales and charges him income tax based upon what he "should have" made.

No: The arrangement in a restaraunt is different than most other employment situations. It is up to the customer to tip based upon the level of service. Waiters know this.

A waitress enters into a business relationship with the customer. She provides table service and the customer compensates her. Waitresses remember their customers and how well they tip. After eating in the same establishment a few times, the type of service received is a reflection on the expected compensation, ie, you get what you pay for.

While no professional waitress is going to risk her job to make a statement about a cheap customer, nor will she go out of her way for a client who does not pay.

Your Might be a Bad Tipper if...

You walk into a restaurant and the wait staff draw straws.

You walk into an empty restaurant but the hostess cannot find a seat for you. This is because every server has already slipped her a $20 to keep you out of her section.

You get the new waitress. Every time.

The decaf. coffee keeps you up all night.

You must repeat your "usual." Every time.

Other tables get better service than you do. Every time.

And yet, the "do I have to tip" debate rages on. Feel free to leave comments regarding the tip debate -- do you have to tip? If yes, how much? What if the service is bad? Sound off!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Food Allergies and Restaurants

Somewhere, in some "foodie" magazine, some writer must have been on deadline. Writing to the entitled yuppie masses, he advised people who don't especially like certain foods or ingredients to bold-face lie to their waitress and claim to have a food allergy. While customers who lie are responsible for their behavior, this writer owes the entire restaurant industry an apology.

Food Allergies are Serious

Real food allergies kill people, and some food allergies are not common. For example, am acquainted with a woman who is allergic to strawberries. She was served cake with "raspberry" filling in a restaurant and was rushed to the emergency room. (This was years ago and I am happy to report she is fine.) Nut and peanut allergies are so severe many schools now have "nut free zones" in the cafeteria.

When restaurant customers claim to have a food allergy, the kitchen must be alerted. They must either clean and clear a safe area, or alert the customer about possible contamination in the food preparation area.

Bad Customer Behavior in Restaurants

There are many reasons customers should not lie to waitresses:

  • It is morally reprehensible.
  • It causes a massive inconvenience to the kitchen.
  • A good restaurant will accommodate food preferences, within reason.
  • Waitresses know when they are being lied to. Really. Be embarrassed. 
Some of my favorite memories of liars: 
  • Carrot allergy: does not want carrots on her plate or in her salad. Ordered lentil soup. Soup is full of carrots. Response: oh, but its okay 'cuz they are small and cut up. 
  • Shellfish allergy: decided to eat shellfish. 
  • Me: are you allergic? Woman: Uh....okay, yes? Me: Don't lie to me. Woman: No, I'm not allergic. 
Good Customer Service

If a dish can be prepared without the olives that you detest but are not allergic to, any good restaurant will accommodate your request. If they can't because it was made ahead of time, order something else. If they won't because the chef is in a mood today, eat somewhere else. A good restaurant will be happy to accommodate your preferences. 

Real Food Allergies

To those of you with real food allergies, please, please, PLEASE tell your server that upfront. It is not possible for restaurants, especially good ones that make your meal to order, to list every single solitary ingredient every time. 

Served dessert to a woman who was incensed that there was raspberry sauce on her plate. She never mentioned a raspberry allergy. When I asked her if she was allergic to anything else, she gave me a dirty look. 

Bottom line: your server may not like you but she does not want to kill you. Tell her your allergies and avoid anaphylactic shock. 

And whatever you do, do not lie to your server. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Children, Restaurants, and Good Manners

The following article about restaurant etiquette for children first appeared on Suite101 on September 13, 2009. 

The bottom line is that children are members of society. Children are neither pets nor things to have; they are people and must be treated as such. I remember a couple who requested moving when a family with children was seated at table near them. They said, "Children should not be brought to restaurants." What baloney; I truly wish that couple would simply stay home. I hope they never have children. 

That being said, parenting is a responsibility and when families go out together the adults must be vigilant to keep the children safe and teach them appropriate behavior. 

Children are members of society and should be brought places and taught appropriate behavior. Adults with children are responsible for exposing them to the world and for teaching children how to act. Children who are taught restaurant etiquette will be welcome restaurant customers.

Sitting at the Table
Restaurant walkways are busy places. Servers hurry by with hands and arms laden with dishes, or holding up heavy trays on their way to tables. Servers have their hands full of dirty plates and use their feet to kick open the dish room doors. Plates are hot, knives are sharp, and glasses do occasionally break. The bar is full of slippery ice, glass and sweet, sticky liquor.

In this setting numerous adults who are hungry for conversation irresponsibly let the children in their care run around the seemingly "open" space of entryways and server walkways. The possibilities for injuries to both the child and restaurant workers boggle the mind.
    Young children cannot be expected to sit for as long as adults. One adult in the party may bring little ones outside to stretch their legs. It is appropriate to bring entertainment for children at a restaurant. Paper and crayons, books, or a favorite toy will help keep children in their seats and safe.
Restaurant Ordering Etiquette
Children learn best by example, and polite adults tend to raise polite children. In addition to displaying appropriate behaviors themselves, adults can actively teach children good manners.
    Teach children to listen politely. Teach them to listen to the waitress recite the specials, and gently correct children who interrupt. Allow children to ask the waitress questions, but without interrupting. Allow children to order for themselves, and require that they say, "May I please have..." Require that children thank the server when food is placed in front of them. If a child is rude, immediately and gently correct the child and offer a brief apology to the waitress.
Table Manners
The same table manners that apply to adults apply to children.
    Napkins belong on the lap. Use the napkin when needed; do not wipe mouth on sleeve or hand.
  • Children should use utensils when physically capable.
  • Chew with mouth closed, and speak after swallowing. When eating bread and butter, break bread into bite-size pieces and spread butter on the small piece before eating. Do not slather a large piece of bread with butter and then bite into it.
  • Cut all food into reasonably bite-sized pieces; do not attempt to shove large amounts of food into the mouth at once. If children need help, cut their food for them.
  • Do not drink with a mouth full of food (unless being burned by something too hot). Swallow, then take a drink.
  • Do not rush, eat at a relaxed pace when dining with others.
  • Participate in table conversation (the amount a child can do this depends upon age).
When teaching the above manners, always keep in mind the child's age and what is reasonable to expect. For example, a three year old will most likely lose the napkin on his lap, but a nine year old can be reminded to keep track of his napkin. Age appropriateness matters while teaching anything, including good manners.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Michael Lynn

Michael Lynn is an interesting character. A psychologist who teaches at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, he studied what server behaviors result in the biggest tips.

The results are humorous. Next time a waitress squats down at your table, she is trying to manipulate you into seeing her as a friend, or "on the same level" which will encourage you tip her well. If she touches you, it is intended to make you feel amiable toward her -- which results in bigger tips.

In fine dining, squatting at the table can lose a waiter his job. And touching? The worst case scenario is that touching will result in a sexual harassment claim. People don't eat out in order to be touched.

There are appropriate ways in the fine dining environment to earn the favor of customers and consequently earn larger tips. How to Make Bigger Tips as a Restaurant Waitress in eBook form includes information about how to get hired by the best establishments and then make the biggest tips without making a fool of yourself.