Whether it’s a business lunch, or a date, there is a lot already on your mind. Where to go, what to wear, etc. One thing that can give you a leg up is understanding that your server or bartender is there to insure that you have a great time. These are some tips that will help you get on the good side of your server, and hopefully impress your date. A lot can be said for a person that shows respect and consideration for servers, and with these tips, you’re a shoo-in. Develop a great relationship with one of us, and the benefits can be numerous (within reason of course).
1. Give us a timeline.
If you’re in a hurry to catch a show or movie, let your bartender or server know in a polite way. “We have a show/party/wedding/funeral to get to and we want to get a quick drink/food.” This is SO helpful for a bartender or server, a lot of times we can make things happen quickly so that you can get to your bar mitzvah, or whatever it is. Most of the time, I’ll try to space things out and let my guests enjoy themselves, but if you’ve got to go, I will do everything I can to let you enjoy yourself – quickly.
On the other hand, let us know if you’d like to take your time! It’s always nice to know the pace you expect, and I don’t want to rush anyone that’s just enjoying their cocktail and relaxing. This way, you won’t be asked 3 times if you’d like to order food.
2. Cash rules.
Servers and bartenders make their living on tips. The hourly rate for us can be as low as $3.35, and a lot of restaurants and bars only dole out credit card tips every other day – or sometimes every pay day. Paying in cash, or at least tipping with cash will be GREATLY appreciated. We have bills too, and most of us need groceries or a drink in between pay day. If you regular a spot and pay in cash, we will be sure to remember at least what you drink. Also (this tip may lose me a few bartender friends), if I’m behind a busy bar and you tip big on the first drink, I will come to you first every time.
Cash tips will make your bartender VERY happy.
3. Trust us.
We spend 90% of our time behind that bar, or serving tables. Most of our eating and drinking occurs at work, so we know what’s good. Instead of sticking with your usual, or getting a gin & tonic, ask for recommendations! Usually, we know some secret menu item that can elevate your experience by a lot. Nothing makes my shift better than knowing that my recommendations made my customers happy.
4. Don’t get too complicated when splitting the tab.
Separate checks or evenly splitting checks is easy breezy for most places. What’s NOT easy is splitting items and this drink on her tab, that on my tab, half of this entree on his. Most of us start a table with separate tabs, so if you’re going to split things weird, let your server know asap. This also goes for knowing your party size. If you show up for a reservation for 12, but think you may have more or less people joining, tell us right away so we can accommodate you – or at least try.
5. Speak up!
If you are unhappy with something you ordered, please please please let us know right away. Don’t feel like you have to stick it out or deal with it. I am more than happy to get you something you like, or fix an issue. What kills me is picking up an empty glass and hearing you weren’t happy with it, or even worse – reading about it on Yelp! Whether it be a long wait, mistake, or even just something you didn’t like – please be vocal (politely). 9.9 times out of 10, it will be fixed and you will leave happy.
If something is wrong, say so. Unless your server is Horatio Sanz. Never if your server is Horatio Sanz.
6. Please play nice.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in the 13 years I’ve been in the service industry, it’s that you can get practically anything you want if you play nice. I will go out of my way, bend over backwards, get you that retired cocktail or extra sauce if you just ask nicely. Don’t sit down and immediately start waving about for for waters and menus. We know that you’re there, and we are probably already on our way with said items.
7. Be aware.
If you walk into a bar or restaurant and it’s packed, please understand that if your server is running around like a maniac, that he or she is giving it their all. If you don’t have time to wait, consider this before sitting down. (See #1)
This is a mixture of all of these tips. If you’ve finished dinner and are done with your night, it is perfectly fine for you to hang out and chat… IF the restaurant isn’t slammed. If you’ve been at your table warding off the poor host that just wants to fill your water for 2 hours and you see a line at the door, get the hint. No one is going to ask you to leave, or kick you out. But please be mindful. If it’s dead and you want to chat for 2-3 hours, have at it. These tables represent not only your servers money for the night, but also the opportunity for those poor folks at the door to have a great time.
Crowded campground – it’s ok to stay. Crowded restaurant – move it along. (photo credit)
9. Is this thing on?
I get it, you’re out with friends whom you haven’t seen in years. You all finally find your seats and are so busy catching up that you couldn’t care less about the menus in front of you. Your server approaches and asks if you’d like to order drinks… But you’re listening to a story about how your friend just got a promotion and everyone else is laughing at a video your pal found of a piglet dancing. Your server tries again, this time a little louder. Nothing.
For a server or bartender, this is not only disrespectful of their time, but hurtful. Our job is to provide you with great service, and that’s difficult when you won’t even look at us. If you want to catch up, (see #1) let your server know that you all just need a few minutes and when they return, FOCUS! Take a moment, decide what you want, ask questions. Then order.
For me, getting the cold shoulder is the worst. I feel awful for interrupting, but then I feel worse that you don’t see me as a human that’s just trying to do her job. If your friends are the types to ignore servers, take charge. I love the one person at the table who gets the attention of friends and directs ordering. If you are that person, I love you. You, yes you sir, you will get my undivided attention.
10. Human? Me too.
No one is perfect, really. Sometimes we have off days, just like you. If you have an off day with a server or bartender, don’t sweat it. We have off days too, and there’s always next time.
About the Author: Ashley R. is Bartender in Boise, Idaho. She’s known for challenging traditional expectations regarding what a cocktail should be, and having an intuitive understanding of the way flavors interact.