Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why You're Probably a Douchebag (When you go out to eat)

It took me about 35 years, but I finally figured out that I don't have any career aspirations. I mean, sure I'd love to write a million dollar screenplay or write music for a living, and I pursue those activities, but they remain pie-in-the-sky imaginings as to actual income production.

What I have discovered, after being everything from a Gov't Contracts Project Manager to a Security Guard, Massage Therapist to a Cust Svc Rep for Highlights magazine is this - money and career don't motivate me. I like to have money, but it's not a life direction determiner.

So now, at 37 I'm making a little money as a writer for, but make my nut from serving at Longhorn Steakhouse. It gives me the flexibility to be a dad for my kids during the day, and still make a decent living at night. Especially when you take into account the savings on daycare and commuting costs that I'd incur if I went and got a "real" job again.

Overall I dig it. Work stress doesn't come home with you, and it's a fun group of people. But it's also one of the sharpest insights into the human mindset you could imagine. The way people act when they are out to eat sometimes defies belief, and so to save you the wonder of if you are a douchebag or not when you go out to eat, here's a primer for ya:

1) Don't camp out - We make money by volume. You spend $100 and tip $25 because you're a good tipper and your server did a great job. Outstanding. But then you hang out for another three hours drinking coffee during the dinner rush and chatting away with your company. You've just cost me three rotations of that table, and anywhere from $25 - $60 on average. That's theft my friends. If you are going to hang out then you should strongly consider paying rent - an extra $5 to $10 for each extra hour. Don't like it, go sit at the bar.

2) Don't forget your manners - "Please" and "Thank you" will go a long way towards making your service better. Your server isn't your servant. Also, don't shake your glass at them or point, or grunt, grimace, demand. Unless of course you want everything at your table to take twice as long to get as it could.

3) Don't ask for extra strong drinks - Drinks are made how drinks are made. The only thing you'll do by asking for extra liquor for free is tell the server at the outset that you're a terrible tipper and you'll probably get ignored for most of your time at the restaurant. If you are a regular who has shown you take care of your server then benefits of this sort may come your way without even asking. Otherwise don't bother.

4) Don't think we like like you - It's a servers job to be personable and make you feel comfortable. Whether or not you're funny we're going to laugh at your jokes, and whether or not you're cute we're going to smile at your flirting. But it's just as sincere as a hooker would be. If you think you've really got some chemistry with your server then you've never been in the back of a restaurant.

5) Don't assume we should be working somewhere else - People love to ask why we're not doing "something else", as though serving is beneath a competent person. I've done just about every job under the sun, and the unique and varied skill set it takes to be a server is more demanding than what's required for 95% of the work I've done. Sure a lot of servers want to get out because it's very hard work, if you're not working you're not earning, and the benefits are largely non-existent, but make no mistake, we're probably out earning most of you.

6) Don't verbal tip - Leaving a 12% tip after telling us what a great job we did makes the tip suck even more, not less. If you think you're server did well enough to note it, then you should be thinking about leaving 22 - 25%. Otherwise, STFU.

7) Don't leave less than 20% - 20% is standard and if you think that's too much then make your own fucking food and serve it to yourself at your house. If you go out to eat with the attitude that your server needs to earn your tip, then you're basically disrespecting that person because you are not an expert on how to do the job. If you'd like someone who doesn't know how to do your job coming in to determine that your expected salary is too much, then you have a leg to stand on for tipping poorly. Otherwise, tip the 20% and get on with your life.

8) Don't forget how to do math - $8 is NOT %20 of a $48 check. $10 is NOT %20 of a $65 check. $20 is NOT %20 of a $140 check.

9) Don't ask for ToGo drinks - Asking for a ToGo cup for the rest of your drink at the table is fine. So is asking for a box for any remaining bread, but asking us to bring you a fresh drink to go, or a fresh bunch of bread to take with you makes you look cheap and greedy.

10) DO remember that we WILL remember you - If you suck, we will remember. When you come back to eat at your favorite restaurant your service will suffer. We will tell other servers how much you suck. If we're out, and see you at a bar, we'll tell the bartender (who we probably know very well) how much your suck. If you find that every time you go out the service isn't good enough to impress you, it's likely that you've brought it on yourself. Like going to the doctor, once something is noted in your file, it is there forever.

So if you fall into any of those categories, just know that it's not too late to turn things around. You CAN be a good restaurant guest with just a little work. And if you take only one thing from this, then take this -


Thanks for listening, and don't be scared to educate those you love too :-)