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Stirring Straws: Being a Server
It's All in the Wrists...
The Road to Serving
You are a student. You live with your parents, but you're hoping to move out of their house and venture into the world on your own. But first you need a job. One day you find an opening for a position as a server. No problem, you think, this will be easy. The place you've applied to is desperate to hire someone. So, they tell you to get ready. You start tomorrow. And you're in for one of the most interesting experiences of your life. Get ready, it's not quite what you are expecting.
The Pros and Cons to Being a Server
- The Pros and Cons of Being a Waiter/Waitress
There are a lot of different points to think about before considering a job as a waiter or waitress. To some it may seem like a step back in their career, but don’t really understand that it has the potential of being an excellent line of work, where
The First Week: This Isn't So Bad
Welcome to your first week of being a server. The restaurant that you work at has taken the first two days to show you the ropes. No problem, you think. This isn't so difficult. On day three, they show you how to take orders, check food, fix up to-go's, etc. All of the things you need to know to be successful. It's all simple stuff. On day four, they give you a couple of two tops (tables with two people). You serve your four people without making any mistakes. You think "Yay me! I'm so awesome." And you are. By day six you feel like a pro, even though you've only had two tops. Day seven you're off. Everyone asks you how the first week at the new job went. "It went great," you say. It's the end of the week and you're ready for week two.
Just Me and My Tray
The Second Week: Things Are Getting Complicated
The second week is a little like the first, but things get a little more complicated. Instead of two and three tops, they have upgraded you to four tops. It's a little more challenging, but you think you've got the hang of this serving thing. Wrong. Because it's day one of week two and you've already forgotten what toppings go on which salads and the difference between white wine, red wine, and juice glasses. Wonderful. You almost drop your tray, but save it in the nick of time, and while you're only doing four tops today, you have three of them. No worries though, you put a smile on your face and trudge through. Things will get better, you think. But they don't because the next three days you are given two 2 tops, one 4 top, two 6 tops, and a one top. A total of 21 people, each day. That is 21 different orders of food and drink that you have to take care of, as well as making sure not to forget that table six wants ranch, table thirteen asked for fish lemon, table eighteen wants two pieces of bread on the special plate that she always gets, and table twenty-one needs more salt. By day four you are exhausted, but you pull through. Keep your eye on the prize, you think. It will all be worth it. Day five is a good day. It's every servers dream. Three tables, all of them two tops. The orders are simple. You're able to finish your side work early and help out your fellow co-workers. You get several thank-you's and a nice tip. Job well done. Day six is a little busier, but it's still a good day. You're asked about your week. You tell them, "Eh, it was alright. I didn't get a chance to finish all of my assignments because I was there so late the first three days, but it was good." In your head you are wondering about week three.
Swoozie: Not So Sexy Server
Week Three and On: All Hell Breaks Loose
By week three you have down a system. You get drinks first, then come back to take their orders, serve food, next table, clear, refill drinks, serve food, do a little side work, next table, clear again, ask about desserts, refill drinks, get desserts, ask if they need anything else, no?, okay give check, ring them out, next table. This goes well for you, at least until the kitchen gets backed up and everyone's orders are coming out late. The customers are angry as you explain to them "just ten more minutes," they leave without tipping. On day two the dishwasher breaks and you run out of the special bread of the day. People are unhappy, and who do they blame but you. On day three everything looks like it's going to be okay, but it's not. Two other servers have called out sick and the better of your three chefs has gone on vacation. This means that you have extra side work to do, you picked up three extra tables, the food is backed up, and you forgot to fill the ice machine so it takes awhile to get your tables drinks. This is just not your week so far. You hear the diners saying rude things behind your back such as, "This is horrible service" or "Can I get a different server, he/she's not doing a good job" and sometimes "I'm definitely not tipping them or giving them a recommendation, this is just uncalled for." The comments make you feel like shit. Your boss tries to tell you that you're taking all of this well for being here less than a month. It does nothing to cheer you up. You leave, dejected and thinking that you've been doing a horrible job. Days four and five aren't much better. Day six is another slow day, and you're thankful for it. However, you've still had a shitty week and a ten page paper left to do. This is the moment where you ask yourself: Why the hell did I get this job?
Are you a server?
The Truth Is...
The truth is that not all serving jobs are this bad. A majority of the time there are mixed days of good and bad. Someone becomes a server for several reasons.
2. They need to make a living in order to survive.
3. They really love people. Talking with and interacting with others is the highlight of their day.
4. They have nothing better to do with their time.
These are just a few of the many reasons that people become servers. There are definitely more. And the reasons I did list are not necessarily in this order. Number three up here is most likely the number one reason on other people's list. In any event this is just to give you a glimpse into what it's like to be a server.
But That's Not All...
There is a lot that goes on in the background when you work at a restaurant. If your server repeats your order to you several times, it's because they don't want to mess it up. They want it to be perfect for you and save themselves some future headache. If you are table A, but they take table B's order first it might be because it's a smaller table and it's easier to take their order. Likewise, if you see a table that came in after you get served first, it might be because there is a problem in the kitchen. If your server forgets something, it's most likely because they're trying to remember thirty plus other things. A simple reminder is all they need. Trash talking a server, or being rude to them because they made a mistake is wrong. They are humans, and they will make mistakes. They aren't horrible people and shouldn't be treated as such. As for tipping, if it is allowed at the restaurant that you're being served at, you should definitely tip your server. In most places servers are paid about $2.13 per hour (give or take a dollar) and rely solely on tips. Some places will offer minimum wage if the tips don't equal out to it, but that doesn't happen everywhere. I guess the moral is this: Be nice to your waiter because odds are they're having a shitty day and you being nice could keep them from quitting.
I'm Human Too...
And I can say these things because I myself am a server. There are days where people get upset with me at my place of employment for things that are out of control. Some things are definitely my fault, but again, we have to remember several things at once. Being a server isn't necessarily hard, but it can be stressful. Especially when you feel like your guests don't respect or like you. It's hard to put on a smile and be nice to people who are rude to you.
So remember this the next time you go into a restaurant: Treat your server the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. And, if you're not sure what that's like, apply for a job as a server and find out. It's not always easy and it's not always hard. Sometimes the day that a server is having hinges upon the customers/guests that they are serving.