One of the best aspects of social media is its ability to bring together individuals with similar interests for the sake of discussion, banter and, especially in the case of servers, commiseration. Pretty much any site that relies heavily on user-generated content has at least one account, page, or feed dedicated to the lifestyle of restaurant workers. These groups can be hilarious and relatable, but they can also be edifying and hateful. The relationship most under fire is the one between servers and their guests.
I began working in food service shortly after my 16th birthday at the local fast food drive-in. Once I reached legal adulthood (by seller/server standards), I entered into the full-service industry. During my tenure, I have worked in a casual, family-friendly restaurant, a late night comedy club, and a pricey Mexican eatery. In all of these places, I’ve dealt with the needy, the impatient, the thankless and the downright hostile. But I’ve also waited on the flexible, the considerate, and the gracious. Yes, guests come in all personalities and temperaments, but I can tell you the good far outnumber the bad.
That might sound surprising as customers are the butt of most food service jokes, but it’s true. While there are some people out there who are just plain mean, most of my guests are quite receptive or at the very least indifferent to the service I provide. They smile, mind their Ps and Qs, and leave me a twenty-percent tip.
Not all guests subscribe to this lovely routine, but “dealing” with them is my job. They choose to ask me about an item rather than read the menu? My job. They forget to ask for a side of ranch when they order? My job. They need to send back a cheeseburger because they didn’t realize it would have cheese? Stupid, but my job.
Having the patience to work with difficult guests can be challenging, but it is one of the skills for which I am paid. It is the reason that I make more money than hosts, bussers, and kitchen staff who interact minimally with restaurant goers. But it is not the restaurant that pays me this way. My employer provides me with a product, a venue, and traffic. It is the guest who pays me. It is the guest with whom I must build a relationship. A relationship that social media threaten to complicate or destroy.
Guests are not the enemy. Guests are our allies. We provide the service and expertise to help them have a wonderful experience dining out and they provide us with the income to live our lives (and pay our bar tabs after work). With the popularity of fast-casual concepts, waiter service is now more than ever optional. Let’s not make the people on whom we rely feel as though they are crossing into enemy territory by tearing them down on the Internet. Let’s welcome them with a smile and give them a reason to not the settle on Seamless.