So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Tag Archives: Waiter Rant

“How to drive your waiter crazy” – from CNN

How to drive your waiter crazy

By Stephanie Goldberg, Special to CNN //
Most waiters would rather have a customer complain than leave unhappy.

Most waiters would rather have a customer complain than leave unhappy.


  • Not getting a tip is just one of many things that angers a waiter
  • Also: Demanding customers who don’t make reservations but claim to know owner
  • Asking for food not on menu; sending back half a meal, claiming it was bad
  • Restaurants are not for couples counseling or day care


(CNN) — Many people wouldn’t last a day in a server’s non-slip shoes.

Refilling glasses, balancing trays and clearing dirty plates with a smile can be taxing. But the prospect of a 15 percent to 20 percent tip at the end of the meal is the reason waiters work so hard.

So after a customer repeatedly dined without leaving a good tip at KanPai Japanese Steak & Seafood House in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the restaurant decided to take action Video recently.

It is certainly not customary for servers to complain to diners if they’re unhappy about their tip, but restaurant manager Michael Lam said this was a unique situation.

“In the restaurant business, of course you have people not tipping or not tipping good,” Lam said. “You can’t just tell them, ‘don’t come.’ … But [this particular customer] made a lot of trouble. [Her party] asked for a lot of things and was never satisfied.”

Read the rest of the article here:

Our good friend Steve from the blog  Waiter Extraordinaire is quoted in the article, as well as another Steve, the Steve who literally wrote the book on waiting tables, “Waiter Rant” (the blog and the book).

An interesting article, to say the least.

One thing that should be emphasized is that waiters aren’t immune to bad days. A guest should never feel forced to tip well in the face of rude, indifferent or bad service. We waiters shouldn’t feel entitled to a certain level of tip just for showing up. However, most of the time, if there’s a situation of a less than appropriate tip, it’s because of ignorance or willful behavior on the behalf of the guest. Guests should understand that if a waiter makes a good faith effort to serve them, the waiter deserves to be compensated. Mistakes happen. It’s how the waiter and management responds to those challenges that determines whether the guest leaves relatively satisfied. I mean, how many of us are 100% perfect in our jobs? Most people get paid the same regardless of whether they have a hiccup or not in their job performance. Waiters should be treated the same. I’m not even saying that we deserve a certain level of compensation regardless of performance like most of our guests get, just that circumstances sometimes have to be taken into account and how a waiter deals with those circumstance should also be factored in. If a waiter doesn’t seem to care about a problem, either real or manufactured in the mind of a guest, then, by all means, dock them. and if a waiter performs at a high level, they should be rewarded. It’s the carrot and the stick. If a guest wants continued good service in the future, they should reward great service and penalize poor performance. It’s a pretty simple concept that sometimes eludes our guests.

To visit Waiter Extraordinaire and Waiter Rant, go to these links:

Hey Waiter, How Much Extra Do You Really Expect?

The great waiter’s site “Waiter Rant” alerted me to this rather snide article in The New york Times. It’s called, “Hey Waiter, How Much Extra Do You Really Expect”. Steve, the author of Waiter Rant, disposed of this article point by point, so I won’t repeat a lot of what he said, but I do have a couple of comments.

The first is a counter question – “Hey Customer, how much are you willing to pay for my service”? If it’s 2.13 an hour, then you shouldn’t tip anything. Yes, I work in a state that allows us to be paid $2.13 an hour. But it’s not that bad, since, because most people tip appropriately, I make a good living. Most people are willing to pay lower menu prices in order to determine for themselves how much their service is worth.

“Yes, I know you’re all underpaid. But guess what? So am I. When I get $500 for an article that I think is worth $1,000, you won’t see me e-mail the editor, saying, “Just so you know, service isn’t included.” Do I ask you to come into my workplace and supplement my meager income? No, I don’t”.

Well, my writer friend, you don’t supply a “service”, you supply a “product”, so this is a strawman.  But for just about every other “service position”, the price of service is already bundled in the cost of the product through the payment of a market-calibrated salary or wage. That’s not the case with full service waiters.

“Oh, sure, I’m cheap. But not as cheap as your boss, apparently, who figures he can pay you the minimum wage of $4.65 for servers, and the customer will just pick up the rest of your living expenses”.

Well, dear friend,  the alternative is that you pay a fixed increase in the price of your food that covers what the market has determined I’m worth (yes, this is your fellow diners). Since I make about $25 an hour in tips on average (yes, I work in a high-end place, but even the average server at Chili’s makes around $15 an hour), can you imagine what it’s going to do to your menu prices to tack on another 25 – 35% on top of what you’re paying now? Why 25% – 35%? Because you’re getting a break right now. If you fold the increased payroll costs into the cash flow of the restaurant, a strange thing happens – it now becomes subservient to the costs of running a restaurant and there’s a marginally higher unemployment tax burden that can arise as well. If you do the math, you’ll see that the effect of paying a floor staff of anywhere between 6 and 20 servers/bartenders/server assistants/food runners the difference between $2.13- $8/hr and $10 (in the case of a server assistant/food runner) – $25 /hr is an even higher than 20% increase in the cost of menu items. It’s just economics at work. and the other downside is that you won’t get the width and breath of restaurants that you have now if a brand new restaurant has to provide a full payroll. You’re giving new restaurants some breathing room for the first couple of critical years.

Oh, it turns out that David Sax is a Canadian. Why am I not surprised that he has an axe to grind when it comes to tipping? I am grateful for the fact that Mr. Sax claims to tip 15%, which seems higher than the normal Canadian. I’m grateful as a proxy for my Canadian waiter friends. Now if you could only convince your fellow Canadians that they should also tip 15% when they come to the States instead of the typical 8 – 10% that they leave US waiters, most of which don’t make anywhere near the $8/hr that most Canadian waiters make.

Anyway, here’s the link to the original article and the Waiter Rant rebuttal:

Another recent “restaurant scandal” highlighted by Waiter Rant

I’ll leave Steve to outline the story:

Waiter Rant refutes rumor about Winfrey tip advice

There’s been a rumor floating around the internet for some time that Oprah Winfrey once said, referring to the depressed state of the economy, that “It’s okay to tip 10%.” After receiving countless emails on this subject I thought I’d put this matter to rest. Oprah never said that! In fact a spokesman from Harpo Productions, Dan Holbroooke, had this to say.

“She did recently feature the founder of the blog ‘Waiter Rant’ on her show to discuss the idea that tipping less than 15 percent is considered rude.”

I’l take that as a ironclad refutation!

Read the rest of the post here:

I too was skeptical about this, mainly because I saw a show that she did at least 10 years ago where she had people in the industry talk about this very subject, and she supported the idea of proper tipping. And, of course, she had Steve from Waiter Rant on recently (which I unfortunately missed).

So, until you actually see a video or a transcript, you can completely disregard this little bit of urban mythology.

Oh yeah, buy this book:



Mystery Shopper’s admiration for the blog “Waiter’s Rant”

How Waiters See Customers

This is a nice plug for Waiter’s Rant.

Mystery shoppers are the bane of waiters, not because they are evil or anything, but because the threat of serving one hangs over the waiter’s head everytime he or she approaches a table. “Have I hit all of my service points”? “Is the kitchen getting backed up going to screw me over”? I sure hope that the lady that I dumped a carafe of wine on isn’t a shopper”. Thoughts like this go through a waiter’s head as he or she remembers the last embarassing recitation of the monthly shopper’s report in front of the entire staff (sometimes posted for a month on the bulletin board for all to see).

So it’s nice to see this particular shopper take some insights away from Steve’s wonderful blog. And every diner should take these hints to heart:

“For example, did you know that asking for a different table can affect the service you receive? Restaurants try to balance the number of customers being handled by each server, and asking to sit at a table by the window or in a booth in the back instead of the table they had chosen for you can affect the timing of your service”.


“The guidelines for some restaurant mystery shops specify that you should not order off menu or request substitutions. These types of requests not only may affect the timing of your meal, the quality may also suffer. As Dublanica puts it, “In a restaurant kitchen, repetition is the key to consistency. You want your heart surgeon to have done ten thousand bypasses before he cracks open your chest, right? Same thing with a chef—if he makes the same entree ten thousand times a month, the odds are good that the dish will be a home run every time.”

I agree with this summation:

““Waiter Rant” will also help you to learn more about ordering wine, tipping and other niceties involved in fine dining. It is an entertaining and engaging read, and it will help you to understand more about the fine dining experience from the other side of the table”.

Not only should you check out Waiter Rant, you should buy the book. You can find the link to the blog in my blogroll.


Tips on dishing on guests and work and co-workers

The recent brouhaha regarding Hung actress (that sounds weird, doesn’t it?) Jane Adams and the LA waiter getting fired over tweets about a situation with her should be a wakeup call to all waiters. If you haven’t thought about the potential ramifications of tweeting and blogging, now would be a good time to take safeguards.

Remember, the world is watching, and this includes your bosses. If you follow some fairly commonsense guidelines, you’ll minimize the possibility that you could be outed by your bosses, co-workers and guests. Nothing is fail-safe though – you’ve got to keep that in mind, especially if legal issues get involved.

First – assume that everything is permanent. Even if you go back after the fact and delete a blog post, Google has probably cached the original post and it can be retrieved if someone is determined to find it. In this sprit, remember the old email or PM rule, pause before you hit send. Take a breath. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to send this?

Second – don’t tell your co-workers that you are blogging. As much as you’d like to, this is a security breach. Rumors get started and the person who promised to keep your blog a secret today is the person who tells another trusted friend about it, who tells another, etc. Once management knows about your blog, all bets are off. They might not mind it at the time, but they will probably monitor it and who knows what kind of comment that you make will be considered out-of-bounds. Plus, you never know when some higher-up objects to any sort of blog that can be tied to your operation. Sucks, but you take a pretty serious risk if you out yourself at work.

Mask the restaurant, situations, names, etc. Don’t be too specific. Steve at Waiter Rant did a pretty good job at keeping his place of employment a secret by being vague about the location, the name and the particulars of the restaurant. His “bistro” could have been any of many in the NYC area. He was able to give a flavor of the personalities that he encountered without giving anything away. He always changed the names and descriptions of the guests (presumably), with the exception of a couple of celebrity name-dropping occasions where he was extremely positive about them (Alec Baldwin comes to mind, although he once mentioned French actor Jean Reno is a funny description of a telephone conversation). He always altered the situations slightly as not to telegraph something that could be identified later by a guest. 

Tweets are permanent. Remember, there’s a record of your tweets. The LA waiter found this out the hard way. And remember this, tweets are time-stamped – the mere act of tweeting during a shift could be cause for discipline. More and more companies in all fields are cracking down on this. And don’t forget, your tweets are public, viewable not only to your followers but anyone who can access the Twitter page.

Consider the fact that tweets are “published” material. This makes you liable for libel actions. While “truth” is an absolute defense to libel, keep in mind that “truth” is pretty hard to outline in 140 characters and is likely open to interpretation. Plus, vindication doesn’t keep you from having to waste time in the legal system. Many lawyers salivate at the opportunity to simply file suit – they hope for a quick settlement. And they can go after your place of employment, which has deep pockets, giving them further incentive to use your innocent little snarky tweet about a specific person as entry.

Don’t let your tweet name, accessable email or username give you away. While they make it easy for friends and family, consider setting up a separate account for any venue where you dish about your job.

Be careful about connecting the dots. Let’s say you work in one of the few tequila bars in town. Plus, you happen to raise Dobermans. You’re a 6′ 4″ redhead with a lisp or a lady who is the spitting image of Renee Zellwiger . Your boss is a former Marine who happens to be gay. Your co-worker actually went into labor in the middle of the rush. The restaurant’s Ansel system went off because there was a grease fire and you were closed for 2 days while you cleaned fire-retardant powder out of every nook and cranny of the kitchen. Taken separately, none of these things might give you away. But there’s a cumulative effect, especially if something triggers something familiar and someone starts sniffing around, putting the pieces together. While it’s details that makes your blog come to life, be very careful about those details. Maybe you raise Chows. Maybe you’re a redhead or tall but not both. Maybe you wait a month or two before you talk about the fire. Maybe you work in a “Mexican” place or change the setting to a “martini” bar. Whatever you have to do to blur the lines and break possible connections that people can make that will mark you. The larger the town or city that you live in, or the less specific you are about the part of town you work in, the more plausable deniability you’ll have in the event that someone gets suspicious.

Cross-platforms can give you away. You might be fine blogging but promoting your blog on Facebook can give you away if your FB profile is public (and if there are legal issues involved, even this might not protect you). Remember, a determined and savvy person has a better chance of connecting the dots the more access to your various accounts you give them. Consider going private on social network services, especially if your interests, subscribed groups or self-promotions telegraph your workplace.

Try not to forget that people have a reasonable right to a certain amount of privacy, even when in public. Addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers – all off limits. No matter how much revenge you want to inflict on someone, this is a no-no, if only for your own protection.

Be careful about admitting wrongdoing of any kind. This could be anything from discussing not claiming tips to altering food. Commonsense I know. But I see it all of the time. someone who thinks that they are anonymous feel free to take credit for legally and morally ambiguous behavior. Might not in and of itself be dangerous. But remember, you’ve made it part of the record. If you’re outed, you could very well be sitting in front of a superior who’s waving a sheath of printouts of your own words in your face. and they could include such “admissions of guilt”. And they might not even be the thing that you’re getting reamed for.

Yes, all of the is “Deputy Downer” sort of stuff. Half the fun of snarking is sharing the snark. Just remember that it’s your job that’s on the line. If you blur the lines in the right ways, you can still vent safely.

Use protection.