How to Eat Out for Dummies (and everyone else)

“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” ~G.K. Chesterton

How to Eat Out for Dummies (and everyone else)

With my recent return in to the arena of competitive food service I’ve realized that the world needs me to write a postabout how to eat out. This is an easy step by step guide for you, yes you. Because at some point in time, you have undoubtedly left a %10 tip, ran a server’s ass off, forgot your server was a person, told a host she was bad at her job, decided you only wanted a side salad, or gone out to eat without actually eating. I’m here to remind and explain to the world of sustenance connoisseurs that servers are, in fact, people with emotions and feelings and don’t deserve the sub-human treatment they receive from the “guests” they so willingly bend over backwards for. So here’s how you do it. Read closely.

1. Eat

This step should be self explanatory but unfortunately it’s not. When you go out to eat it’s a basic assumption that you will do just that. It’s important that people understand that servers are working for the money that they are (potentially) making from your tips. I have yet to meet a server who waits on tables just because they like the way it makes them feel. That said, 97% of a $0 ticket is still $0. If you go out to eat and you don’t eat, your taking up space that the server would be using for a paying customer. Your ignorance is not only frustrating, it’s also costly. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Tip

Tips are those things that you so desperately avoid at the end of the meal. They are the awkward endings to an otherwise enjoyable evening where you decide that the money in your pocket was never meant to leave its safe haven right next to your ass. Now I understand that you work hard for your money and that you don’t always feel the need to
give the person who served your meal a triple digit tip. But while you were gorging yourself on endless amounts of rolls and extra ranch, that server was working his or her ass off trying to make sure that you didn’t want for a thing. How much do you make per hour at your job? Servers make $2.17. That’s right, less than three dollars an hour. This “pay” is more of a joke than anything because all it really does is cover the taxes placed on the tips that servers earn. Now you get it, your tips account for the salary of the person who just refilled your diet coke for the umteenth time. And considering that most servers are college students, single moms, college grads in between jobs, etc. it’s safe to assume that these people do in fact have bills to pay. The LOWEST that any person should ever tip is 15%. If your server was a terrible human being who spat on your food in front of your face, then tell the manager because they shouldn’t be serving. Other than than, be nice to your server and…

3. Remember that Servers (and hosts) are People

That’s right, that human like being running around the restaurant like a mad man trying to find your son chocolate milk is a person. I know you’re shocked, but try and contain yourself enough to finish reading this post. Most people forget that their servers have souls when something goes wrong. ¬†Instead of bitching to your server about she needs to learn how to do her job, think about the last time you made a mistake at work. Did your boss tell you that you were a sub-human pile of dirt when you put the wrong paper into the copier machine? To give you an idea as to the kind of abuse that servers (and hosts) suffer, try and think of the worst mood you’ve ever been in, then multiply that by about 16 for the amount of people that most servers are simultaneously helping, then try to convince yourself that you could smile in the face of someone who just shook their empty glass at you as if you were a Beagle being trained for a dog show. In short, when servers bring you something say “thank you.” When placing your order say “please.”

4. Relax.

As much as it sucks to have a steak undercooked, the wrong order, or a forgotten side salad, it’s just food. Chances are, if you’re eating out then you’re in no immediate danger of starving to death so please chill out. I have received more abuse waiting tables then the rest of my life combined. I would like to suggest that scientists examine the possibility that humans might just de-evolve when they walk into restaurants. You’re going to get your food, you’re going to eat. No one’s forgot about you so chill out and enjoy your company. Oh and by the way, if you didn’t bring company worth enjoying then that’s your fault.

“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” ~Fran Lebowitz

So there it is, now you know. You can no longer claim ignorance although I’m sure some of you will try. For those of us who have waited tables this post should make total sense, and I can only hope that I accurately expressed the troubles and challenges of those who choose to indulge in restaurant eating. Hey servers, did I miss anything?


8 responses to “How to Eat Out for Dummies (and everyone else)

  1. Also, I totally agree with all of this. The sevenish years I’ve spent in the restaurant business have also easily been the most depressing.

    One thing I think you missed though was: If you’re going to meet people for dinner, then get there somewhat around the same time as them. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a large table sat and for about an hour only two people were there. Servers depend on quick turnaround on their tables. The faster we can turn a table over, the faster we can get sat again.

    Typical table turnaround is between 20 and 45 minutes, and 45 is pushing it. The hour it takes for the entire table to show up is an hour where we could have served another table. Therefor, we miss out on possible tips and only make our wage for that hour.

    Ergo, taking forever to show up meet your friends for dinner = stealing from the server. And it is not appreciated. So friends, be reasonably punctual. Be at a restaurant within 15 minutes of when you’re supposed to be. And don’t camp at the table forever after you’re done just drinking coffee. It’s just as bad. And I will give you the stink eye from across the restaurant.

  2. Corey touches on a great pet peeve of mine as a server— People who get a table, and are waiting for the rest of their party to join, and/or decide to stay for a long time after their meal need to realize that that table/booth and those seats in it are the servers potential for money. Although the guest may not be eating and just chilling in the table, they are wasting away an opportunity for the server to have more paying guests at the table. If you decide to come really early to a restaurant to wait for friends, or the conversation goes long after the meal is over thats fine! just be sure to add some extra money to the tip, and maybe inform the server you realize the discourtesy.

    • i just wanted to add that i’ve had many nights that any chances of me making good pay were ruined by a table of mine ( making up 25% of my tips for the night if it is a 4 table section) deciding to sit and talk through the dinner rush, and then tipping the usual 15% after they’ve taken up 1/4th of my opportunity to make money all night. That… is a shit hole of a money night.

  3. i refuse to treat either you or corey as human when you are servicing me. i mean… serving me. well, in either situation.

  4. Jordan, THANK YOU

    Corey and Konrad- totally agree, time is money!

    The only other thing I would add is that it takes not only the server, but the KITCHEN to give tables what they need. If you walk into a restaurant and it is busy, you have to understand that everyone you see already at a table are in line before you to get food. The kitchen is going to have a lot of food to make before yours, so it is ridiculous to expect to have food within a few minutes when the restaurant is mobbed. It shouldn’t take an hour to get your food from the time you placed your order, but it is going to take longer than 12-15 minutes. Think about how long it takes you to cook your own food at home.

    All that to make my point…


    Trust me, your server is back in the kitchen badgering everyone possible to get your food out as fast as possible. I always try to let my tables know if the kitchen is backed up, but no matter what I say, I take 100% of the hit when a guest gets mad. Serving is a very fast-paced and stressful job- you must maintain what seems like 1000 things at once while keeping a smile on your face. It’s another story if your server is lazy or rude, but most servers will not be that way. If you see your server running around like a chicken with their head cut off, they are doing it for YOU. They do something for you, so you should do something for them (by that I mean a TIP- a compliment or church brochure does not pay the bills). Just remember the Golden Rule- treat others like you want to be treated.

    • well said steph! Your second to last line hit on what I’m planning on writing my next blog about. Just wait, I’m gonna let the prayer card tippers of America have it!

  5. glad i read this but now i officially have no excuse now when i go out to eat and skimp on the tip {yup, i hang my head low and admit it.} and i should no better.. i used to work in the food bis… i worked for tips. so thanks for this. i so strongly agree with number 4. people can be so rude to servers! so while i’m guilty on 2 i’m pretty much perfection on 4.
    and congrats on being the first male comment on my blog! hooray!


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