Tales from a Former Server: It's Called the Hospitality Industry for a Reason

By an Anonymous Former Server, as part of our new 'Tales from a Former Server' column

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

The other day my coworkers and I went out to lunch. I won’t say the name of the restaurant, but we are there quite often and it has become our usual lunch spot. Being a local sports bar, we do not expect the level of service one would find at a fine dining restaurant. Sometimes the food takes forever to come out or is made incorrectly, and usually we say nothing and accept it for what it is. As a former server, I tend to be very forgiving when it comes to mess-ups. When I go out with friends or colleagues, I tend to get defensive on behalf of our server. Yesterday was one of those instances.

We were a party of six: pretty large group for lunch, but manageable none-the-less. We ordered everything at once and were very clear on what we wanted. Yet, despite our efforts to be cooperative consumers, we were not met with the same level of understanding by the staff.  

This restaurant usually has good drink specials, with that day’s being $2.00 Modelos (don’t judge us, beer actually helps the thinking process). We each ordered a beer, but when they got to us, only mine was cold. They did serve the beer with a chilled glass, but the point was the beers themselves were warm. My coworkers took issue with this. Maybe it was empathetic nature toward restaurant staff, or the fact that mine was cold, but as my co-worker complained to the manager I couldn’t help but be annoyed by him. You got your beer, there’s a cold glass. Deal with it. I didn’t say anything to him — that is, until his chicken sandwich came out wrong. He began complaining about that, too, and as he began, I said, “Do you ever just accept what you’re given or does it always have to come with a complaint?

Well, that was apparently the wrong thing to say. He got defensive and replied, “I paid for it. It should be what I want it to be. I don’t care that the beer was warm, I care that when I said something, the manager looked at me like I was an idiot. I don’t care that my sandwich came out grilled instead of blackened, I care that when I asked, the food runner looked at me like I was an idiot, put the dish down, and walked away without addressing my complaint. I’ve worked in the service industry before; I know what apathy looks like.”

As I sat there listening, I thought, “Well I’ll be damned, he’s right.” It wasn’t that some things came out wrong, it was the way they were handled. So to all you restaurant workers out there, listen up.

Anticipate

If Modelo is going to be on special, it only makes sense to stock enough for the day. If this means stocking it the night before, then so be it. I wouldn’t drink warm beer at home and so I certainly wouldn’t want warm beer served to me at a restaurant.

Communicate

Maybe they ran out of the cold, stocked Modelo and just brought out a new case. Shit happens. But if that’s the case, explain to the table what is up. Let them know they can either wait for it to cool or accept the frosted glass as a substitute — or not get the beer at all. Communicate with your guest and don’t just assume things — because you know what happens when you assume, right?

Act Like You Give a Damn

When the food runner dropped off our food and my co-worker asked if his was blackened or not, the runner gave a face. We all know that face: the one we make when we act like we care and want to make it right, but are really thinking, Dear Lord, please don’t ask me to do anything else. He made my co-worker feel uncomfortable about asking if he got what he wanted. Very uncool. It’s your job to deliver food to tables. And not just any food, but the right food. Act like you care, if not to be empathetic toward the customer, then at least to fulfill the sole purpose of your job.

It’s Called ‘Hospitality’ for a Reason

If you went to someone’s house and they gave you warm beer, wouldn’t you think they were a crappy host? Likewise, if they are feeding you and ask you what you would like, but then bring you something completely different, wouldn’t you be disappointed? Now granted, that’s at someone’s house, and chances you are not paying for what they are giving. But the traits of a good host are to anticipate and meet their guests’ needs. TO BE HOSPITABLE. This same principle applies to a restaurant. No matter what your position is, you should treat the customer as if they are at your home, and how you treat them is a reflection of how you are as a person.