Guest post: Etiquette for the server-diner relationship

Guest post by Josh Spokes.

As a former waiter of many years from greasy spoons to fine dining, my politics are entirely on the side of the serving class. Wait staff are regularly abused, and a tipping culture is merely cruelty and theft codified.

However, there are certain standards of service that wait staff at any type of restaurant should observe. They are not difficult, they are not demeaning, and when used correctly they make each party’s day nicer and more efficient. I find eating out so annoying anymore—and specifically because of wait staff—I avoid it. Here are the reasons.

1. We are in a customer-vendor relationship. You, “Justin,” are not my friend. That doesn’t mean we have an adversarial relationship, and it doesn’t mean I get to be rude to you. It means professional distance, which you need to learn.

2. Do not ask me “how are we doing?” That’s false and condescending folksiness. It’s like the infantilizing way doctors talk down to old people. A simple, “Good afternoon, how are you” works just fine.

3. When I ask for another cup of coffee (or mayo, or new cutlery, or anything at all), please say something other than “not a problem!” I know it’s not a problem. I understand that it is not an outrageous request, but standard. All you need to say is “Certainly” or “I’ll be back with that in a moment.”

The endless “not a problems” during table service . . eesh.

4. Stop hovering and conspicuously looking at my plate every time I put my fork down. Stop swooping in to pre-bus someone’s plate the minute they stop eating. It’s rude.

5. Do not ask me, “How is that tasting FOR you,” with that queer emphasis on the “for you” part that I’m hearing in almost every server’s voice. I’m not a kindergartener, and you don’t need to make sure Little Higgins likes his special Kids Menu treat [the fact that child menus are universal in the US is a symptom of another problem]. You’re also not my teacher.

6. Don’t ever ask a diner, “are you still working on that?” Seriously. Listen to yourself. See #5 reminding you that you’re serving adults, not pre-schoolers.

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