Recently I've noticed an upswing in the amount of "suggested" behaviors that servers and food professionals have graciously asked that we, the diners, take. I've read them carefully over the past few months, and after a slew of bad service experiences, I've decided to put out a helpful piece for Denver's wait staff. Let me begin by giving you my background. My very first job was in the service industry. At the young age of 15, I worked as a bus boy at the Arvada Red Robin. Being a social young lad, I knew that the service industry was where I wanted to be. All through high school I worked as a bus boy, before moving onto becoming a server.

I always enjoyed providing guests (never say customer) with amazing service. Yes there were times where I was frustrated, angry, and downright seething pissed at the sheer stupidity of the general public, but I tried to hide those feelings based on one simple notion. Those people were my paycheck, and that paycheck could choose to be spent at any number of different establishments around town.

It wasn't until college that I truly began to master my craft. I helped open a pizza joint owned by a very reputable chef, and learned from one of the best service individuals out there. I learned that a service experience is something that a lot of people don't understand. I wasn't writing orders down; I was creating an experience. I was doing things that I would enjoy had I gone out to dinner that night. Having this train of thought made me very good at what I did.

Seeing as how my college education took me 8 years (please feel free to make fun) I had the opportunity to continue what I loved on a bigger stage. I left where I was at to work for a very well known restaurateur in Cherry Creek. I won't say this person's name, or the restaurant, just know that it's a difficult place to serve. Servers were expected to turn tables quickly, while hitting a remarkably difficult number of service points. We were tested regularly from secret shoppers and let's just say the turnover rate was ridiculously high.

I hustled. I knew my wines. I knew my menu. I knew my service points. All of these resulted in one thing – a noteworthy dining experience for my guests. I took pride in what I did, and the fact that I did things by the books. Were there assholes? Of course. It's Cherry Creek. But knowing those people were my paycheck, I bit my lip and kept hustling. I carried this on for two years before being asked to interview for a position as a corporate trainer. This would essentially mean that I would travel from new opening to new opening,teaching servers how to give great experiences. I had to turn this offer down because I finally graduated college and was ready to embrace my new career. The fact remains though that I was respected highly enough to be considered for this position.

Ok, at this point I know you're wondering why I haven't really given any insight to the wait staff of Denver. Well, it's coming. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

 

 

 

Every profession deals with ridiculous complaints that are unjustified and piss you off.

This is my biggest pet peeve that I hear about from servers. "Someone sent their fish back because they thought it was medium rare instead of medium…even though the CIA trained chef in back KNOWS that it's a perfect medium." Tough shit.  You dealing with nonsensical complaints is no different than anyone else out there. Work sucks sometimes, which is why it's not called fun. Get over it. I can't count how many times I had to bite my lip as as server, but that's just what you do. I've also had to bite my lip in my current career. That's life. If you want to see really ridiculously rude people, get a government job. Of course if you did that, I'd be reading a blog on how to act appropriately at the DMV.

 

I'm your paycheck. That doesn't give me a right to be rude, but remember the fact that…well…I'm your paycheck.

Look, I know you want to get off work so you can hit up the Aesop Rock concert at Summit, but here's the deal. You're at work. This is your job. I had no prior knowledge of your plans to hotbox your car and go to a show. Had I known, I would ask for a different server that enjoys the money I'm about to give them. So if I seem a little turned off that you're trying to rush me out, don't complain about me being a dick.

 

Regardless of how I'm dressed, treat me the same as you would any other guest.

Ok, we live in Colorado. This isn't exactly Madison Avenue. Yes, I probably could benefit from shaving, and throwing on a blazer when I go out to a decent spot, but I like good food! What the hell does that even mean, you ask? Well sometimes my friends and I are out and about and want to go somewhere a little nicer, but we're not dressed the part. That doesn't mean I'm not going to drop the same amount of loot that I would had I dressed up. The last few times my friends and I were judged on how we were dressed at a nice establishment, we ended the experience at one drink and one app, when we would have racked up a decent sized bill had we been treated appropriately.. Don't judge. I've sat at Cap Grill's bar drinking Stoli Doli's in flip flops and jeans, and those guys have never even batted an eye. And they always get tipped well.

 

Don't be a lazy asshole.

One thing that drives me crazy is servers that don't go the extra mile. A truly unique and incredible service experience should be seamless. A diner should never wonder what's going on, should never ask why they don't have something they need, and they should never wish they had something additional to make their experience better. I was recently on a day-date and met a girl at a overwhelmingly popular breakfast/brunch spot. After waiting for 55 minutes for a table (the food is worth it) it then took an additional 15 minutes to get greeted. Then an additional 25 to get our food. Then an additional 7 to get silverware. That's right, as our food that we had now waited an hour and forty three minutes for got cold waiting for something to eat it with, your tip went down. Weird how that happens… Don't be a lazy asshole. It all comes back to this…I'm your paycheck. Do you want a larger paycheck or a smaller one? It's a simple concept really.

 

Think of what you would want.

As a server at a nice restaurant and I'm positive you're no stranger to dining out. What pisses you off about service when you go out? Can you honestly say that it doesn't bother you when someone says, "you should hang on to your fork."  If I'm paying for a $15 dollar app, I'm almost positive that the water and electricity costs involved in washing that fork so I can have a new one is included in that price. Replacing silverware should be accepted as common practice. Don't give me your "conservation" argument either. I've seen plenty of dish racks go through the dishwasher half empty. You can easily fit a bin of silverware in that rack.  No one wants to wipe their fork in a napkin, forcing them to then have a crummy napkin in their lap. If I wanted that experience, I would go to Denny's. But I don't, which is why I come to your restaurants. So just do it already.

If you need a good case-in-point, take this story for an example. My last trip to New York I was fortunate enough to eat at Thomas Keller's per se. I know you're not dealing with the magnitude of check totals that those servers are, but bear with me. As the server brought a basket of breads, and explained all of them, I noticed there was a pretzeled roll in there. Being 3 cocktails in at this point, I jokingly asked if they had any mustard to accompany my pretzel. The server smiled and said, "Let me see what I can do."

He returned two minutes later with an array of four types of mustard, and placed it right in front of me. While I was kidding, he knew that I secretly did want some mustard, even if I was at one of the nicest joints in Manhattan. He knew that's what he would like. Think of that as you approach your tables. What would you like to experience?

 

Don't scoff at the notion that people want to split a check.

Not too long ago, my friends and I went out for Sunday Funday at a Sloan's Lake restaurant. Aside from the simple fact that I've been a server, I also know that we're in the year 2012 and that restaurants have ample technology to split tickets in a variety of ways. These programs assign items to seat numbers, making it very simple to separate items per person. If you ring things in correctly, then you can easily figure out how to separate things. If you're a lazy asshole (see above) then you probably just punched in the drinks all on seat one, because it was far simpler than actually assigning them to the individual that ordered them. This is not my fault as a guest. Yes, we should let you know every time before hand because it's polite. But the funny thing is you don't seem to care about social graces as you rack up a huge tab with my booze sales, that is, until you realize that we need it split. Then suddenly I'm the worst guest in the world for requesting the "unique" favor of splitting my bill according to what we ordered.

Don't be a lazy asshole. Ring your shit in properly and you won't have to worry about this dilemma.

 

Yes, some people have kids. You were a kid at one point, and probably acted unruly.

I get it. Kids don't spend any money. The simple fact of it is, that kids are going to come out with patrons who want to eat at somewhere other than their local pizza spot. Kids can often be unruly. This is the unfortunate thing about taking kids out to eat. But…if patrons don't take their kids out and teach them how to behave in public, then how will they ever learn? It does suck that this is on your behalf, but remember this. Those people are your paycheck. Oh! There it is again. Also, that family splitting entrees and drinking lemonades may be doing that today, but then later in the month the parents might be going out for dinner alone, and drop some cash on a bottle of Cakebread. That's the thing. This individual experience may suck, but look at the greater picture.

 

My final message to you is that being a great server is a very rewarding career. You have the ability to make people's nights amazing. Will you have to deal with a few bad apples? Yes. We all do though. It's part of life. Vent to other servers at the bar later that night. That's what I always did, and it always seemed to do the trick.  Here's the beautiful thing though, you can turn an bad apple into a smiling face. You can then turn that smiling face into a repeat customer. And after more amazing service experiences, you can then have people request your section. Amazing service = happy people. Happy people = busy restaurants. Busy restaurants = more money for you. So it's simple really. Just provide every table with a service experience you would be happy with, and in the end, you'll have more loot in your pocket to have fun with.