A Look At Life: Waitressing

20th July 2012

Table For Two: How To Treat Your Waitress

Stevie Martin

Going out for dinner is an experience – a night off from chopping carrots, oversalting the potatoes and worrying you’ve left the bay leaves in. Most people know how to treat the waiting staff but, since supplementing my income with a spot of weekend waitressing, I’ve discovered that it’s surprising how many diners fall foul of treating us like idiots. If I forget to take your order, be annoyed, yes. If I come to take your order and inadvertently ruin your ‘flow’ while you're telling that hilarious joke about a man dressed as a polo mint, it’s not my fault. I'm trained appropriately – but there are, sadly, no training courses or guidelines for those unable to behave appropriately; it’s time to eradicate clicking fingers, the word ‘oi’ and the comments that provoke me go into the kitchen and kick an oven. Here are my thoughts:

1. Do not wave waitresses away like mosquitos.

I'm not draining small amounts of blood from your fleshy upper regions, I'm just checking you’re okay. There are five happy couples needing black pepper, one unhappy couple asking for the bill through their tears and it would be easy for me to get caught up with 20 Toys R Us co-workers all celebrating Phil's leaving do ‘with a big one’, but I didn't. Sorry. I'll leave you to your menus and you'll never know we just ran out of steak, so good luck making informed choices.

2. It is not the waitress’s fault that the kitchen's run out of steak.

I haven’t eaten them, and please don't ask someone else for a second opinon; this isn't a conspiracy whereby I pick one table to lie to about 25 day-old rib eye. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there's nothing I can do, no matter how disappointed you are. I'm genuinely sorry. Why not ask me to recommend an alternative? Also, thanks for not being dismissive (see above).

3. It's not usually the waitress’s fault your food is taking a long time.

If your waitress is rude, then complain away. A good waitress will apologise, explain and offer an olive branch of free coffees, bread and olives or a discount, depending on the length of the wait and whether she's personally responsible. It's more likely the kitchen's working flat-out thanks to Phil's aforementioned ‘big one’, making 19 burgers and a bland risotto for Kooky Geoff from accounts who ‘doesn't like garlic’. If there's a valid reason for the delay, don't remain angry. You've got a bottle of Merlot, some good dining partners, and an evening of great food lying ahead. C'mon.

4. Gentle flirting is ok, unless it's not ok.

If anyone came up to me and said ‘You're pretty, can I have your number?’ it would make my day. When a man stares down my top while I'm serving him and his wife Baked Camembert, it doesn't make my day. If a group of lads come in and joke around with me, that's a pleasant way to continue my shift. If a group of lads come in, turn each foodstuff into a sexual innuendo and refer to me as ‘waitress’, that's not a pleasant way to continue my shift.

5. Do not refer to your waitress as ‘waitress’, ‘oi’ or ‘hey’.

Catch my eye and I will drop everything within reason (and not literally) to help you in whatever way I can. Raise your hand and I will do likewise. Click your fingers and I’ll become engrossed in polishing cutlery for a good five minutes, come to your table, then spend thirty seconds yelling, to the alarm of the quiet Polish man in the kitchen who washes the pots.

6. This is supposed to be nice.

Some people just turn up angry. They're angry because the table they wanted isn't free. They're angry because we're out of steak. They're angry because they're stuck in a loveless marriage. Hell, some people aren't angry, they're just high on the power of having someone ‘serve’ them. But wait… Does finding fault contribute to a good evening? Does treating a human being like a slave actually impress the girl you’re with? If yes, then go ponder the concept of basic human empathy and social interaction. Or look at a picture of a kitten.

If no, then try shedding your stress at the door because, hey, I'm working 16 hours because I can't afford to eat otherwise and I'm smiling, right?

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