How To Eat At A Restaurant Like An Actual Human Being

Serving is a good job. Hell, I think we can all say as rational Americans that any job isn’t such a bad job anymore. The economy, am I right? Serving tables might be one of the last great blue collar jobs you can work in the United States as a young (or old) experience-less body and make your ends meet. All the management really wants to see is: How often can you smile and say “Absolutely” to 45-year-old women running you like a dog before you crack and have a full-on panic attack in the back room while a co-worker says “Shhhh. Shhhh. It’s going to be ok”? They want to see how much composure you can keep when someone is beckoning you to the table by sarcastically calling you  “genius.” “I want genius right here to fill my water glass, thank you very much. This genius is going to get me a new one.” They want to find out if you can handle your manager telling you that he or she is going to “fucking kill themselves” if you do XYZ again and they want to know if you squeal to HR about it like a little rat. If you’re a sadist like me, you embrace these pains and tell yourself that an average tip percentage of 14% is worth it.

But I’m not here to tell you all my sad stories. I’d like to instead discuss some topics that address how we both can maybe have a better, more enriching time at the restaurant. Of course, you don’t have to listen to me. However, you probably have a few friends who work or have worked as a server or host or bus boy. Know that if you don’t listen to me, there’s a chance you’ll be dining out with one of these friends of yours and know that they might be taking small mental notes about the atrocious way you act at the table. Maybe it’s a girl or a boy you’re trying to see naked or maybe it’s a wise older adult who has had a long, varied life whom you find quite worthy of adoration. Know that they are judging you. Sure it’s on them. Glass houses, stones, Jesus etc. You’re not worried. You’ve got manners. But maybe you should take a quick look because you’re definitely not getting laid tonight if you act like a complete cock in front of your date.

If you don’t have money to tip, you don’t have money to eat out.

Seems like a pretty obvious concept. I know there is not an actual requirement to tip. You can pay for your food and be on your merry way but for fuck’s sake, come on! If you sit down at a table in the United States ready to eat some food, you’re entering into a social contract. You’re saying, “I understand the rules” and the rules state that it’s reasonable to expect for you, the patron, to tip 15-20% on whatever is purchased. I, in exchange, will bring you any beverage of your choice, deliver your food in a timely manner, and walk past your table every two minutes in case you need ANYTHING to ensure you have a pleasant time. That’s it. I will pretty much do anything within reason that you ask for. You have all the leverage. My managers do not, I repeat, do not care if you tip. They will not go to bat for me against people who don’t. When that happens they still get paid and the restaurant still makes money. They will welcome your non-tipping ass with open arms seven days a week because you’re paying an up charge on your meal that ranges somewhere between 25-500%. They just want you to tell your friends, Instagram your meal and login into FourSquare from the restaurant. This lack of leverage is why I’m bringing you 1000 lemon slices so you can combine them with sugar packets into water glasses for free lemonade. That’s why I’m smiling when you ask me if I wouldn’t mind only bringing you half of your entrée and keeping the other half in a box in the back away from your greedy little hands until the meal is done. Because you’re a child — I mean, because I’m here to assist you in any way possible. And in turn, I assume you will tip me.

You know what happens when servers aren’t working for tips? They get to use this word you aren’t used to hearing. It’s the word: No. No, your kid can’t have all my pens to scribble with and stick in their mouths. No, you can’t substitute the chicken in the CHICKEN salad for salmon because it’s a chicken salad and we don’t serve salmon salad. And no, I’m not going to bring you a hot towel and lemon in between courses because you’ve gorged yourself into a sweat. I’m going to get you in and I’m going to get you out without any accommodations made for you because I’m no longer here to serve. I’m here to distribute. Please don’t tip if you want to live in that world. But if you want any and I repeat, any kind of accommodation, you will tip me. This agreement includes broke college kids (go eat ramen you little free loaders), and men (or women) seemingly spending big on a date and then drawing a little line through the tipping space after your date has left the table. I’m sorry you blew your whole wad on dinner and have nothing left for the tip. I’m not sorry that when you’re in the bathroom and your date is at the door, I’ll causally go up and feign like you forgot to sign the slip. I’ll show her your lack of tip so she knows what kind of cheap douche you really are underneath that facade. I will cock block you without sorrow.

Also, side note: Are we all agreed on clam jam? Is that the female-alternative? What about muff bluff or Clitorference? I need to know.

You will tip me 15-20%.

I really wanted to just write “You will tip me 20%” but I’m going to keep my standards lower and just hope you’re feeling like a big spender. Why do you have to tip well? Why is there a standard? You may not know this but servers in my state (Illinois) make $4.95 an hour. That means I could work a night shift from 4 PM to 12:30 AM (very common) and make $42. I could do that five times a week, racking up 42.5 hours on my feet, and make only $210 for the week. That’s before taxes. But I need more money than that if I’m going to eat food three times a day, pay for rent and generally exist. The accepted “living wage” for someone living in my county? $10.48, according to these dudes at MIT who invented the calculator I found online. The poverty wage — meaning I would be living in what is scientifically described as “impoverished” — is $5.21. So if you don’t tip me or hardly tip me, I am literally not making enough to be even classified as impoverished.

But I’m also dependent on decent tips because not only am I paying for basic things like rent and food on my meager wages and your generosity, I’m probably also covering any type of health care cost out of pocket. Most people either do it through a private plan with a healthcare company (expensive) or we’re just winging it without health insurance because it’s insanely expensive when you don’t have access to a group price. It’s like the difference between Aldi and Whole Foods. Luckily my employer set up a group price for us but most servers don’t have that.

So yes, I need you to give me $20 on top of the $100 you paid the restaurant for an appetizer, two glasses of wine, two entrees and a desert. I need it to live because no one else (the restaurant, the government) is going to provide me adequate compensation for my time. They already assume you do. And if you don’t? Then I can’t pay for groceries, let alone something like that filet that just cost you $40. Plus $20 for sitting at my table for two hours is $10 an hour to have someone serve you on hand and foot. That’s a good deal. Offer it to your roommates and see what they think. I bet they’ll laugh at you. Don’t be cheap. Support otherwise impoverished service professionals. You’re our Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope.

You may not change your order after the food has come out.

A year ago I wouldn’t have even thought this was a problem but I guess I should thank my mother for not raising me to be a heathen when dining out. Listen, I’m sorry that you thought the Prime Rib sounded really really good but then you saw your boyfriend’s Rainbow Trout and your compulsions changed. I understand that. My girlfriend always orders the best things on the menu too! Sometimes I know she is going to order it, and obviously we can’t order the same thing (what to share then?!) and I choose something I feel to be lesser. That’s love. But sometimes she sneaks it in there like a curve ball that drops right into the zone when you least expect it. It’s awful. Nothing is worse than knowing you could be enjoying something better. But you know what? I asked if you had any questions, and you took your time to look through the menu. You’re accountable to at least pay for that entree. If you get my manager involved, or make a stink, yes I will bring out something else for you — free of charge. But I shouldn’t have to because you’re big boys and big girls who can take responsibility for what you ordered. And don’t we all want to live in a society where individuals are held accountable for their actions?

Don’t be a camper.

A table at a restaurant is an acceptable place to do what of the following?: A. eat a meal or B. have a business meeting. If you answered A, or both, you’re correct. If you answered “Well can it be A and then B?” then, no; you’re wrong and I’ll tell you why. A reason: one of you has an office. You know what offices are for? Business. If you have business to discuss, please take it to the appropriate place. I don’t mind you talking business, discussing finances, whatever, while you eat and finish up your beverage. Stay 10-20 minutes after everything is done. I get it. I get bloated and I don’t like walking around when I feel like I’m carrying around a 10-pound fart baby. But don’t sit here for the next two hours after you paid for your $30 lunch. Thank you for your $6. But while you sit here, I am still expected to be your server. So that $6 is now stretched out over three hours, and you’ve cost me any number of (probably two) potential customers wanting to sit down and bestow me with gifts. My tables are real estate and I’m their slumlord. You know what happens when you don’t pay rent? You get evicted.

Don’t order like an asshole.

You know who you are. You order something but amend it like 20 times so by the time our sandwich gets to the table it’s just meat. “Uh I’ll take the turkey sandwich without the bread, roasted peppers, arugula. And then instead could I get tomatoes, avocado and some leaf lettuce? Thanks.” Cue every “you can’t have it your way, this isn’t Burger King” joke ever. Even worse, you tell me it’s because you have an allergy to gluten and vegetables. Did you know that if I screw up an allergy order I could lose my job because the patron can die or some shit? But none of that will happen if it’s a diet. Just tell the truth. And anyways, this is our menu! You came into the restaurant because you liked what we advertised. So all I ask is that you keep it to three amendments. It’s only reasonable unless you seriously have like 1000 allergies and then duh, of course, order what you need to order.

Leave your dreadful children at home.

God, I don’t even know where to start so I’m just going to tirade here for a second. It is not ok to let your kids to rip up every sugar packet and throw it on the ground in glee. I don’t care that you are tired and have been with them all day. GUESS WHAT? You’re with them for the rest of your life. Tough shit. Your tiredness is not an excuse to let them behave like little barbarians for two hours, running around the restaurant, tearing up shit and what not. No, we don’t have a kids’ menu because we don’t want kids in our restaurant. Maybe if you didn’t let your 6-year-old rub their mouth all over our glass doors for an hour knowing that someone had to clean up after them, we would have a kids’ menu. I don’t care that they only eat grilled cheese. We don’t serve it. Yes we can make it, but we don’t. We can also make 20 steaks, stack them on a plate and call it “Stack O’Steak.” We don’t do that either because our menu is a reflection of what we are choosing to serve. This is not your kitchen at home. We don’t have pork products and thus I can’t bring your kid out a plate of bacon. WHAT? WE DONT HAVE BACON? Nope! We don’t have ranch either. I can’t find it for you “in the back.” It’s not there. I know you want to eat out and have kids. Hire a fucking babysitter. I’m sorry if you can’t afford it. That’s life. It’s about decisions. Kids or happiness. I guess you made the wrong choice.

Don’t get mad at me about things I can’t control.

I can’t adjust the wait times, or make your wife stop texting her gym trainer. I can bring you a new steak because this one is clearly overcooked and I’m actually happy to do so. But don’t get mad at me, because I didn’t cook it. I’m clearly your server and not your chef. That’s why I came up to the table and said “Hello. My name is Trey and I’ll be your server this evening.” Don’t tap on glassware like you’re standing up to make a speech to get my attention, and don’t snap or make noises that you would make to call over your dog. I’m definitely not your dog. I know you’re hungry and sometimes we’re not our best-selves when hungry. I’m a little fucking shithead full of sass when I’m hungry. But please, if you do anything that I’ve described above, tailor your ways. If only for your own sake. Here’s the secret: We will buy you desert if you are cool and nice. We will buy your appetizers. We actually treat decent people like they’re gods, and go back to our private area to tell the other servers that table seven is a real treat. You will make our night and in turn I will do my best to make yours. Otherwise, you’ve been warned. TC Mark

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