The Secrets Of Working As A Restaurant Server

Working as a waiter or waitress in a restaurant is no easy task. You’re on your feet and multi-taking at all times, not to mention having to deal with unsavory customers more often than not. Often an overlooked profession, in reality, restaurant servers are highly-trained employees that make running a restaurant possible. Like any other trade, there are behind the scenes secrets that servers both keep to themselves and wish that customers knew. Check them out to see what they are!

They Have Ways Of Getting You To Consider More Expensive Items

Waitress waiting to help someone
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

When ordering, especially when it comes to alcohol, some waiters can trick their customers into buying the more expensive items. Waiter Kristen Bailey shared to Eat This, Not That!, the trick up her sleeve she usesto get customers to purchase the most expensive drinks.

According to her, “If someone orders a Long Island Iced Tea, I ask ‘Do you want top-shelf or……’ and stare at them without blinking.” She estimates that nine times out of ten, the customers will go with the top-shelf liquor is she stares at them for long enough.

They Can Give Away Free Food And Drinks

Woman carrying plates of burgers
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When it comes to being a waiter, the best thing you can do is make sure that the customer is as happy as possible, because if they are, it might mean a bigger tip in your pocket. Well, one way to make any customer happy is with free food or drinks of course!

Typically, there are a few items on the menu that cost the establishment next to nothing to make, so servers might give them out for free to make the customer feel special so they’ll hopefully come back again. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

They Speak Deliberately For A Reason

Woman serving beer
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The next time you decide to go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, listen very carefully to how you waitress or waiter is speaking to you. Most likely, they will be constantly trying to get you to purchase add-ons without ever telling you how much extra they charge or if they cost more in the first place.

Most waiters will ask questions like “would you like cheese” without hinting that it costs extra until you see it on the bill at the end.

They Don’t Care If It’s Your Birthday

Pink birthday cake
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A lot of people like to think that when it’s their birthday, everyone owes them something. While some places might give you a free slice of cake and sing you a song, they’re not obligated to, and it’s a hassle for everybody.

However, it’s important to remember never to ask for anything for free if it’s your birthday, it’s the restaurant’s job to make money, not celebrate their customer’s birthday. Michael, a server from Portland, explains, “If you’re out with friends, that’s the friends’ job to buy you something.”

Bussing Your Table Isn’t Always Helpful

Man bussing table
ANNA ZIEMINSKI/AFP/GettyImages
ANNA ZIEMINSKI/AFP/GettyImages

While stacking your messy cups and plates might seem like the courteous thing to do for your server, it isn’t always as helpful as you might think. In fact, it may actually be doing more harm than good.

In some instances, certain cups and plates aren’t meant to be stacked with each other, which can result in them breaking or the waiter having to reorganize everything. Most of the time, waiters like to do it themselves anyway, because they have a system that works for them and is efficient as possible.

They Don’t Always Care About Your Personal Life

Waiter talking to guests
Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Although it’s not uncommon for waiters to strike up small talk with customers, they don’t always want to hear your life story. Especially if the restaurant is busy, they don’t really care about what’s going on in your personal or social life, because every second they stand there listening is time they’re taking away from other diners.

One waiter explains that “Most servers don’t want to offend you or be seen as a jerk for stopping the conversation to walk away,” so it’s best to keep this in mind when speaking to your waiter.

They’re Not Always Healthy

Waitress with face mask
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Unfortunately, constantly interacting with countless customers a night, it’s not unusual for servers to come into work sick. This means they’re handling the silverware and at times your food, raising the likelihood that they might get a customer sick too.

However, they don’t come into work sick because they want to. Usually, it’s because most restaurants don’t offer health care or are too short-staffed to let people take a sick day. So, they have no choice and have to act their best to not appear sick at all.

Servers Split Their Tips With Other Employees

Picture of a tip jar
Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

One reason to be generous when you tip after a meal is that the money you give doesn’t always just go to the server who helped you. Most of the time, the money that you leave behind is actually split up between more than one person.

Especially if there was more than one person helping you throughout the evening, it’s almost a guarantee that your tip is going to multiple people. So make sure that you tip accordingly!

Their Schedules Are All Over The Place

Man setting the table
Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Unlike typical nine to five jobs, servers have to be ready to work at different times each week, work at night, on the weekends, and even holidays. This can make it difficult for them to balance their social and personal lives, more so than someone who has a set schedule.

To demonstrate how difficult this can be, one server explained, “I was leaving for work as my family arrived at my house for Christmas. I missed a New Years’ party at my house. If I hadn’t requested if off as soon as I began working there I’m almost certain I’d have to work 15 [hours] on my birthday.”

There’s A Way To Maybe Score A Free Drink

Man pouring drinks
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Asking for free stuff won’t get you anywhere, but there is a way that you can get a drink free of charge, but the trick is that it has to be non-alcoholic. If you wait until after your meal is served and order a soda or another cheap drink, chances are that your server won’t charge you for it.

Especially if you’re already paying for other beverages, sometimes the server might be too busy or not care enough to go and add it into the system. Voila, a free beverage!

Servers Do More Than Wait Tables

Server in blue shirt delivering food
Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Most customers only see a little bit of what a server actually does. Although we know that they wait on tables and bring people their food, there’s actually a lot more to their job description.

One waiter noted that when they’re not busy dealing with customers, they’re most likely “rolling silverware, filling sauces, cutting lemons, rotating salad bars, stuff like that […] It’s not just serving and you leave; there’s usually something else behind the scenes that the server has to do.”

Spitting In Food Is Mostly A Myth

Woman delivering bowl of food
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

While we’ve all heard the myth about servers spitting in ruder customer’s food, it’s not something that happens very frequently, or at all. One waitress, who has worked in the industry for over 10 years stated:

“It is extremely rare that someone will ever mess with your food […] Even if you are a total [expletive] about your complaint, we still won’t spit in or mess with your food. Your service may rapidly go downhill, but your food will always be clean.” At the end of the day, it’s not worth it, especially if the customer discovers something’s wrong.

Pay Attention To The “Daily Special”

Woman taking orders
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Although the daily special that’s advertised may be tempting because it’s usually cheaper, you won’t find most servers eating it themselves. This is because the specials are usually made up of items that are about to expire or haven’t been selling on their own.

However, if a server specifically announces a special, you might want to pay attention. This is because the dish could be seasonal or that chef specifically prepared it because it’s one of their favorite dishes, so it might be worth looking into.

Altering Dishes Is A Pain

Woman serving at a Mexican restaurant
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Even though servers will be happy to change a dish to best suit your taste, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a hassle. One server, Emily Carver commented, “These tiny modifications you would like, such as butterflying your steak, cooking a steak well well done, getting no bell peppers, etc., are often bigger and more time consuming than you think.”

A lot of the meals are prepped in advance, so it isn’t always easy to remove or alter the ingredients. However, if you do make a request, don’t be surprised when your meal takes longer to get to your table.

Saying That You’re Vegan Or Vegetarian Doesn’t Change Much

Server delivering breakfast
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

If you walk into a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in vegan, gluten-free, or vegetarian meals asking your server to customize it to fit your needs, it’s most likely not going to happen. Sure, you might not be served a plate full of steak, but your most likely going to be eating something that was made with chicken stock or gluten.

If restaurants strictly followed your order, that means the chefs would have to start from scratch, which is something their unlikely willing to do.

Servers Aren’t Always Experts About The Menu

Server walking with dish
Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Although you may assume that a server knows everything about the menu, that isn’t always the case. They may have a basic knowledge of it, but the chances that they know all of the ingredients or information about each dish is less than likely.

Often, they might recommend things that they know and like to make it seem like they know more than they do. If you have a question that the server doesn’t know if they can answer themselves, they’ll usually go and ask the chef to make sure you get the right answer.

They Lie All Of The Time

Server helping woman with menu
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images

When you ask a server what their favorite dish is at the restaurant, you’re most likely going to tell you the truth because they have no reason to lie. However, they for sure aren’t going to admit that they don’t like something on the menu because that would just look bad.

Often times, if they don’t have anything to say except “Oh yea, that’s one of our most popular dishes,” it probably means they don’t like it. If they have a feeling you won’t like it either, they might suggest something similar.

They Hate When You Ask For Hot Tea

Man pouring tea
Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images
Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you ask almost any server, a lot of them will say that their biggest pet peeve is when customers order hot tea. It’s not that hot tea is necessarily hard to make, but it’s once of the few processes that aren’t streamlined in a restaurant.

Because so few people order it, there’s no need to make it in big batches for servers to use. Instead, the servers have to make it themselves which means getting a pot, boiling the water, getting the tea and bringing it all out to the customer. It’s a lot of work for a simple request.

Avoid Asking To Move Tables

Crowded restaurant
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although it might not seem like a big deal to the customer, asking to move tables once you’ve already sat down can actually create a lot of problems. Typically, restaurants are divided into sections with each server responsible for a certain section. So, if you ask to move seats which may be in another section, it can mess up the flow of a restaurant.

This results in a server losing their potential tips from that table or overwhelming another with too many tables. It’s not the worst thing in the world if it’s a slow night but it’s best to avoid when it’s busy, especially on the weekends.

They Appreciate It When You Learn Their Name

learning a server's name can result in a more enjoyable dining experience
John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Often, servers walk around wearing name tags, and it’s not for their co-workers to see, but for the guests. The reason that they introduce themselves using their name is so they don’t have to hear people call them nicknames like “sweetheart” or something else demeaning. This is especially the case for female waitresses.

Also, if it’s evident that you went out of your way to learn their name and treat them with the respect they deserve, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll have a much more pleasant dining experience.