Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Do restaurant servers have an easy job? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I was a server for a long time.
I think people have this notion that servers are idiots, or lazy, or make bad decisions, and somewhat like incarcerated felons, deserve the social ire that they get.
I am no idiot. In fact, I quit serving to go to law school, and I’m doing pretty decent. I am not lazy. In fact, I live in cold Michigan, and heat the house with wood. You think I haul and chop for my heat? You bet. For weeks and weeks every year. I make bad decisions like anybody, but I chose to receive an awesome education, I choose to remain stable in my relationships, and choose to be engaged in my children’s lives, and when I finally got completely tired and worn out from serving, I chose to create a better career.
I have hundreds of stories about people treating me bad while serving. From the nicest fine dining restaurants to the dive bars to the busiest restaurant in town to the corporate soul-crushing profit-mines (I’ve worked in every imaginable restaurant, and trained new workers at some), people everywhere are assholes to servers. However, there are also wonderful people in every place. Most of the wonderful people are working with you, and the absolute best customers are the ones who come in ready to be assholes, but then you do something, you give them exactly what they want before they knew they wanted it, they soften, and you exploit that opening to ask them how their day is, or what brings them into the restaurant at that particular moment, and they open like a flower, and now they smile every time you come by the table.
They ask about you, they come back, and ask for you to serve them, and now you meet their kids. Those are the best customers, and a good server will create that relationship, not just react to the negativity people bring with them every day. Ultimately, this is what makes servers the hardest workers. When everything looks like shit, to a customer, a server works so hard to change that. Harder even than the jaded people who love you.
To enter their mind, and retool it, and come out the other side without them feeling violated? Go ahead, try it sometime.
Serving is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and maybe that is why I did it for so long. Law school? Easy. I sit on my butt and read and write all day long. I don’t have to keep 5 tables in my mind; 362 needs water, I need to take the order from 352, I need to put in the order from 353, and 363, and greet 361. Quick, which comes first? Grab water, ask a friend to greet for you, input orders quickly, pour water, take order, head on a swivel, follow up on greet, run food, keep moving, drop check, talk to people and make them constantly ebullient and happy, rinse, repeat.
Your mind and feet need to be faster than is even possible, but servers can approach the realm of the impossible. Is it easy? No.