So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Reading tables pt.3

What to do with the couple that’s seated in your section?

First, you group them roughly by age. Are they middle-aged or young? Are they elderly or in their early 30s?

This will help you form a strategy.

If they are well-dressed and middle-aged or in their 30s, you might ask them what their plans are for the evening. Are they going to a theater performance? Are they going to the big concert that you know is going on in town? Are they having a “date night”? Sometimes they are getting away from the kids for an evening and they’ll be quick to tell you that. If that’s the case, try not to move them along too quickly. Believe it or not, more often than not, they’ll stay a normal or slightly normal amount of time. You’d think that they’d be campers, but in the back of their mind, they’re envisioning their babysitter throwing a wild party in their absence or worried about the kid sneaking out with the keys to the convertible. they usually don’t stay as long as you fear. You might offer champagne with something like, “Wow, not that’s a special occasion these days, isn’t it? This calls for a couple of glasses of champagne or some wine, wouldn’t you say”? Be there for them but try not to interrupt too much unless they need you to. Be watchful but not intrusive.

If it’s a really young couple, it could be a first or second date. Unless they’ve worked in the restaurant business already, don’t expect too much from them. Remember when you were 17? You barely had money for gas, much less the expected “nice dinner” and a movie. Nowadays, this is money taken away from iTunes, Aeropostale and the latest Twilight movie and paraphernalia. and have you priced the cost of going to the movies lately? So, you’re really not going to have a lot of disposable income available for your tip. There’s also the fact that they haven’t had a lot of dining out experience so, unless their parents have taught the correct way to tip, you can expect 10  – 15% at best. Of course they deserve good service, but this isn’t a table that you’re going to jump through hoops for. First of all, they going to stick with the cheapest entrees. They aren’t going to get very many appetizers or other “add-ons”, so it’s not really worth the effort to try. But this doesn’t mean that you write them off or ignore them. You are one of their initial impressions of dining out and you should reinforce what a privilege it is to be able to have someone else cook and server your food for you. While it might not pay off for you, future generations of waiters will thank you. I suspect that some of the cheapskates of this world were moved in that direction by less-than-caring service in their formative years.

So, what tack do you take? Try to be sympathetic and informative without going into a lot of detail about the cuisine. They don’t care that confit is something low cooked in fat, although telling them that confit is a French preparation might add to their experience. If they seem to stumble over something, gently help them out. Remember, you were young once. You didn’t always know all about food either.

The saving grace for this table is that they probably won’t be campers either. They either have a movie to go to, a gathering with their friends or the desire to find a dark cul-de-sac with daddy’s car.

Elderly couples can be hit or miss. Obviously, some elderly people are pretty miserly with tips. Either it’s because they’re on a fixed income, or they’re just past caring. They also are hung up on 15% because they’ve lived with it most of their life. 20% is a far more frequent tip these days than it was in the 60s or 70s. However, not all elderly folks are cheap. don’t assume that they are just by appearance. You can usually tell by the way that they interact with you. If they are warm and friendly, then you’ve got a good chance of getting a better than average tip if you return the attitude. If they seem curmudgeonly, oddly enough, you might get a decent tip if you play along. It’s the disengaged, slightly sour elderly folks that will stick you on the tip (but isn’t that the case with all tables?)

Remember that we should venerate our elders and try to especially respect them and their needs, even if it means eating a bad tip along the way. Remember, there are plenty of generous, friendly warm and “just glad to be anywhere” elderly folks. Don’t correct pronunciation because, let’s face it, they’ve been saying it that way all of their lives and there’s nothing gained at this point. Don’t snicker when they order a “Chablis” because, frankly, they’re more correct than they sound; while Chablis is a specific place in Burgundy, it is Chardonnay after all. You might say, “We don’t have a true Chablis, but we do have a nice California chardonnay. Would you like it”?

Some of us tend to look down at singles or couples, especially if they’re sitting at a larger table. But remember, dining with a significant other or a friend is part of the glue that keeps dining out an important lubricant in our lives. We can’t always dine out with lots of people, not should we. this is part of the fabric of the customer base and we should know how to manage them, just as we need to know how to manage an 8 top. Besides, it’s a good percentage of the tables that you are likely to see, right?

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