So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Waiting on celebrities

Celebrities are people too. They like to go out to eat. After all, they put their pants on one assistant at a time.

I’ve waited on celebrities from all areas of life. I’ve waited on celebrities from sports, politics, the Arts, science, and even reality shows. I’ve waited on a guy who served 15 years for murder. I’ve waited on the scientist who inspired “A Beautiful Mind”. I’ve waited on every Tennessee governor since 1971 sans one (the older ones were when they were ex-governors). I’ve waited on a couple of presidential candidates (one of whom is now a bigwig in the Senate and the other a shill for reverse mortgages on TV). I’ve waited on the “Bad Girls” from the “O” network. I’ve waited on local celebrities, regional celebrities, national celebrities and international celebrities. I’ve waited on celebrities on the cusp of fame, those whose fame is burning brightly (for better or worse), those whose 15 minutes is long ago spent, and celebrities who have crashed and burned. I’ve actually been around a huge number of celebrities over the years (I’ve done “celebrity waiters” gigs as well as having mass numbers of celebrities dining with other waiters).

This isn’t bragging – it’s just to show that I’ve waited on a pretty healthy cross-section of celebrities.

The important thing to remember is, despite all of the horror stories you hear about celebrities behaving badly, tipping poorly and being demanding publicity sluts/and or freakishly demanding of their privacy, that usually isn’t the case. Most celebrities are quite warm and friendly, especially if you don’t make a fuss over them or appear to be fanboyish. Most don’t mind being acknowledged for who they are, although with some celebrities, you’ll probably go farther with them if you just wait on them like anyone else.  You might say something in the middle of the meal like, “How is the veal, Mr. Springsteen”? Surely, you didn’t greet them with, “Good evening everyone, welcome to The Hungr…OH MY GOD – IT’S YOU!!!! I’ve been listening to you since 1974! I saw you 4 times on the Born To Run Tour alone!!!!” Better that you gave him a knowing glance, an arch of the eyebrow and a slight nod as you cast your eyes around the table (as a good waiter, you don’t just greet the table, you greet each person by making eye contact with them).

Celebrities expect a certain amount of attention when not deliberately dressed down – in fact, they demand it on various levels. It’s part of the deal with the devil that they made to achieve their level of fame. Most celebrities are content with a tacit acknowledgment of their status, but obviously there are those divas that demand fealty from all they meet. If you get the latter (and I must admit that I’ve never encountered such a beast), I suspect that the best tactic is just to give in and do whatever fawning seems appropriate. after all, you’d like to separate as much money from their black AMEX card as possible. Playing to their ego might very well get you the bottle of Cristal or Dom.

In any case, don’t get nervous and tongue-tied (or starstruck). It’s easy for me to say after all of the celebrity encounters that I’ve had – but trust me, after the first few, you learn that celebrities are, in the main, not much different from everyone else. They can have their moods and you still need to read them just like any other table. You still have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. You still have to hit your marks. 

If you get a celebrity in the house, don’t tell your tables until they’ve left. You wouldn’t tell the celebrity that they are there, would you? If your restaurant is known for celebrities and someone asks you if there are any celebrities in the house, your stock reply should be (as you glance around the restaurant) “I haven’t seen any tonight, but I’ve been kind of busy”. Of course, if your restaurant is known for celebrities, then you already know this; this advice is for the novice who might accidentally find him or herself waiting in a celebrity-rich environment.

Be careful about telling stories out of school, even when they are complimentary stories. This goes double for Twitter, Facebook, et. al. It can come back to haunt you, as I have pointed out a few times on this blog.

If you get a celebrity with a handler, play to the handler. They’re the ones who are there to absorb or deflect some of the unwanted attention directed to the celebrity. They might also handle the purse strings.

Speaking of purse strings, most celebrities are very generous. I said most. Your chances of getting a good to great tip with a celebrity is higher than if you wait on the average person. I can only remember a couple of celebrities who were poor tippers.Some celebrities are extravagant tippers. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to wait on one day. but don’t expect a huge tip just because a celebrity is rich and famous. Remember, they are just people too. don’t invest them with super tipping powers.

So, to recap, celebrities are like anyone else. They can be friendly, moody, pissed off, generous, cheap, annoying, engaging, interesting, demanding, bored, imperious, quiet, reserved, boisterous or just plain nice. Just because they were in the Super Bowl or acted in a movie with Gene Hackman or were famous for being a pivotal character in one of the pioneering cop shows of the early 80s or being one of a brothers’ acting dynasty or being the distaff half of the Moonlighting duo doesn’t mean that they deserve any less than your best.

Or any more for that matter.

No, that’s not Zach Braff dining with Hung from Top Chef. PSYCHE!

7 responses to “Waiting on celebrities

  1. Bread September 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I concur. most celebrities are great tippers. I’ve served actors, governors (past and present in Arkansas), and even a president (and a presidential candidate) and with the exception of the secret service folk, most tipped great!

    Of course…there is the other type of celebrity……

  2. tipsfortips September 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve had my share and am generally not that impressed by them. The are also far more generous with compliments than most guests in my experience. My childhood sports idol dines with us regularly and he still gets to me a bit. The ones that really make me nervous are the restauranteurs. Celebrities and other most guests don’t make me nervous because i trust that I know more than they do. Restaurant icons make me nervous, because they could take me to school.

  3. tipsfortips September 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I was also waiting for the Robert Pattinson reference in this post. lol

  4. ReneS September 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Very nice post! Also I wait on celebs and a lot is recognisable. I agree also with tft that other restaurateurs will make you more nervous because you know that they will observe you, like you observe others…

    Thanks also for the reminder “as a good waiter, you don’t just greet the table, you greet each person by making eye contact with them” We (I) tend to forget that🙂

  5. Pingback: Eye contact | CrazyWaiter

  6. Jeremy March 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    We had the Israeli ambassador to Canada in the club one night. He was alright. Who knew that his bodygaurds would enjoy chocolate mousse so much.

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