Waitstaff

People think waiting tables is easy. I hear it all the time. “Why should I leave a tip? They just bring the food from the kitchen to the table. Anybody could do that.”

The truth is, waiting tables is one of the most physically and psychologically taxing jobs you can perform, and it takes a spry, keenly attuned individual to execute the role properly. Most who attempt to do it do a poor job, not for lack of skill, but because they underestimate the full scope of the role.

At its core, waiting tables isn’t just serving food. In 2021, people have many other avenues to obtain and ingest sustenance. They choose to go out to a restaurant because they want an experience. The experience they want varies from customer to customer, so it requires a real empath and people person to deliver a successful EXPERIENCE to a customer.

Serving is entertainment, and if you don’t see it that way, you’re neglecting an opportunity. I too have been the surly misanthrope who dared not look up for fear of making eyes with my server… However, there is a style for every season, and the seasoned professional can distinguish higher and lower needs guests and fine-tune their service accordingly. You’d be surprised how “seen” you can feel when a server reads your energy, optimizes your experience and allows you the luxuriously spacious brunch you’d been craving – or that wry recognition of the underground reference on your shirt, or just some warm chatty nonsense – goes great with most dishes. Those brief, affirming moments of human connection are so invigorating, the food order itself was literally a red herring (literal misuse of “literal” because I hope you don’t literally order red herring.)

If your server is really good at their job and NAILING IT, you often won’t even notice that it’s happening. Your meal will simply be seamless; you will feel invincible; like you and your stomach are holding hands, strolling down a pillow soft cloud together. But DON’T BE FOOLED, this is no accident! There is a meticulous mastermind orchestrating every detail of this intoxicating utopia; weaving miracles as quickly as they can roll silverware, and believe you me, these miracles warrant compen$ation.

Serving a table is the smallest open mic show you’ve ever performed, over and over again. Every table is a new chance to practice your material with a new slant, slight variation of timing, or different delivery. If your material lands, you can look forward to 10, even 15 or 20% gratuity on most of your checks. That is, if people don’t pay half in cash, half in card, then leave the tip based on just the credit card charge. We hate when they do that.

But, I digress. Serving tables at restaurants, bars, pubs, is one of the oldest trades. Always necessary and chronically undervalued. To do the job well means to psychically manage multiple databases full of names, prices, locations, events, processes, and juggle them simultaneously with such precision it should give any overpaid IT project manager imposter syndrome.

Our food servers are the unsung heroes of our local communities. They make us laugh, they fight to ensure our orders are made (and remade!) correctly – to the correct temperature, and ultimately, they keep our guts safe and happy. We trust waitstaff with our lives, so why don’t we treat them with the relevant amount of gratitude? And why don’t we tip them the same amount or more that we would pay to go see a good play or comedy show? They are, of course, performing live theatre for our pleasure. A standing ovation might be nice too, now that I think about it.

Ash Strayer

Funny, in spite of ovaries.

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