UnderCover Waitress: I'll Have the Fish

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'll Have the Fish

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If you order the fish, then I will bring you the fish.

One of our most pompous regulars decided to put on a presentation over brunch to some Very Important People. I was the lucky waitress who got to serve them that day. They were a group of about twenty-four people, and nothing I can't handle.

Mr. Monarchy and his attitude aside, I do my job and I do it well. I make sure everyone has water and a menu, then I get their attention because I want to tell them "all about our specials before you make your decision." I always say that with a smile, and even with this group I got the expected "ooh, ahh."

One of the specials is an egg dish with crab in it. It's quite popular when its available; it's rich and it's good. Of course, everything on the menu is good. The brunch menu at that time included a baked halibut covered in olive tapenade with vegetables and potatoes. Also extremely yummy.

I take the drink order which consists of a few coffees. Returning, I deliver them and prepare to take the order.

Now, let me tell you a little secret about waitressing: it's not rocket science. Really! Every table has a number. And every chair diners sit in has a number, as well. And those numbers correspond to the numbers I write on my pad while I take a large party's order. Incidentally, that is why we hate people in large parties who switch seats, but that is another story.

Most people order the same thing, the egg dish with crab. I pride myself in my ability to entice diners into ordering specials. (And whatever else I feel like selling them, but that, too, is another story.)

Manager helps me walk the twenty-four plates that all come up at about the same time, and my blood runs cold as customer Harpy starts screaming that I gave her the wrong dish. I can't make a mistake on this table; I may despise Mr. Monarchy, but Owner likes him and his business. Harpy is screaming that she ordered the egg and crab dish just like many of her companions.

Everyone else has what they ordered and is happy; Manager and I check the tickets. I had put in an order for the halibut on behalf of Harpy. Manager goes to speak with her while I break out in a sweat under the searing eye of Owner. Manager returns and informs Owner that it was not my mistake.

It seems that Harpy kept telling Manager, "I ordered the fish. I ordered the fish!" and pointing to the plates of disappearing eggs with crabmeat in front of the other diners. I had, of course, brought her the fish. As a matter of fact, my hand-written pad had the word "fish" next to her seat number. That is why I brought her the fish, and not a plate of eggs with shellfish. I was able to breathe again.

None of this mattered in Mr. Monarchy's eyes, but I couldn't care less about him. Unfortunately, his followers are more likely to sympathize with him than with me, the stupid waitress who got Harpy's order wrong. I know I am not going to make good money on this now unreasonably angry table.

Mr. Monarchy is rolling in dough, but too cheap to foot the bill for his audience. True to form with cheapskates, they all want separate checks. Except for those who wish to share a check with another diner across the table, or anywhere other than sitting next to them. Twenty-four people, I had over twelve separate checks and most of them were for the same amount of money.

If the guy working with Mr. Monarchy hadn't handed me $70, I probably couldn't afford Starbuck's on what I made on that table. But the icing on the cake was the woman who "was with" the woman sitting next to her. They ordered identical meals. She admonished me for doing a poor job because I was supposed to bring the two of them individual checks, and I had put both of their meals on one check. I asked her if she needed me to bring her a calculator so she could divide by two. It was worth it.


  1. You couldn't autograt a party of 24? I would be livid if I put in the energy to have a party of that size monopolize my time, treat me like that, and then not pay me for the trouble.

  2. Not back then. The restaurant has since instigated an automatic gratuity policy.

  3. When we have large tables that split checks we lose our autograt as it only applies to tables of 8 or more where I work.

    This was illustrated nicely to me last night when we had a table of 13 in. Currently we are running promotional vouchers that allow a certain discount from the bill. These are valid up to tables of 6 and we only accept one voucher per table.

    So the organiser of this party asks me if they can split the bills so they can use three vouchers. Normally I say no, cos this ain't America and we don't do split bills in England, we just aren't that helpful! BUT I was feeling nice, it wasn't that busy and I said sure. Splitting the table into a 4/4/5 so everyone benefited from the money saving vouchers.

    Food came out promptly, everyone was happy, wine was flowing, I was so on top of everything it was amazing. Except, you guessed it, the bill. So they had one drinks bill of about £80, then 3 food bills of between £40-60 each. If all that was together I'd be looking at a good £200 bill and a tasty £20 tip....

    Scraped £5 from the whole table. Never will I forgoe I service charge again. Ever.

    I feel your pain Under Cover, I really do.

    1. That's horrible. At my restaurant, it's 8+ gets 18%, split checks or not. I've had people ask me "Why is there an 18% grat if we did separate checks?" Me: "Because you're still a party of 8+, no matter how many separate checks you have." It's amazing that people think that they shouldn't have to pay the 18% with split checks when it's more work for me. Idiots.

  4. Ouch! Oh, maxi, that's terrible! Yeah, when people really want to use a coupon, can be a warning that they are generally cheap. So sorry that happened to you.


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