What Your Restaurant Server Wants You To Know

by Deana Morton
Originally Published: 
A restaurant server giving an ice cream to a girl who's sitting at a table next to her family
JackF / Getty

I waited tables for over 12 years. I’ve worn uniforms and served all kinds of foods from ramen to crepes to ribs to pizza. I’ve worked in places that I really loved (mostly because of the staff) and other places that I’ve loathed. Most of my waitressing shifts have been excruciatingly painful to get through. However, I’ve learned more about the human psyche and the world around me from these serving jobs than probably anything else in my 30-plus years on this planet.

I’ve seen customers have nervous breakdowns. I’ve witnessed engagements and breakups. I’ve called the cops on customers, been a therapist to others, and even played matchmaker while on the job. One problem that comes up again and again while working in the restaurant biz is the way customers handle their children.

So, on behalf of servers everywhere, I’d like to create some guidelines when it comes to dining out with your kid.

1. The Children Are Our Future — Teach Them Well And Let Them Lead The Way

If you want to learn more about the core of a person, just observe how they act in a restaurant. Eye contact, a smile, please, and thank yous from customers make a huge difference when you are serving food. However, more often than not, patrons have the capacity to act like entitled zoo animals that have just been released into society. I’m not talking about cute baby giraffes or charming little sloths, I’m more referring to feces-throwing monkeys and ravenous tigers. I’ve had a dad throw a menu at me (he thought it was entertaining if he chucked it at my head), been called a “dumb bitch” by a mom in front of her three kids, and even brushed off unwelcome sexual advance from another dad who touched my upper thigh suggestively in front of his teenage son.

Restaurant patrons, if you’re feeling stressed out and filled with anxiety, take it out in your Soul Cycle or kickboxing class at the gym. Don’t treat your busser or waiter like garbage, especially in front of your children. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that kids are like little sponges, they’re just waiting for you to set the example of how to treat other human beings.

2. A Restaurant Is Not A Playground

Like I’ve mentioned above, most places I’ve worked are small and cramped. For some reason, parents think it’s a good idea to let their little ones run amok while servers carry hot beverages and plates filled with food. The waiters and bussers are not your babysitters, nor are they dancers that can pirouette and weave gracefully around your little mini Godzillas that are wreaking havoc on the restaurant. To put it bluntly, controlling your children is not in our job description.

Letting your child stroll around a restaurant is like asking for bodily harm to your child. It’s like saying, “Hey waiter or busser, see my child over there? Please pour those two scalding hot coffees you are holding all over his head!” The last thing I wanted to do as a waitress is to cause permanent damage because of a parent’s lack of control. If your child cannot sit like a good little human in a seat or if you want to zone out on your iPhone, then strap him or her down in a high chair.

3. Tip At Least 15%

Being cheap has nothing to do with how much money someone makes. I’ve had regulars who are some of the wealthiest people in the country and they have consistently left tips that range from 5% to 8% of the total amount on the check. The whole tipping aspect of working in restaurants is frustrating, for sure, especially since a majority of places I’ve worked do not pay an hourly wage. This means that all of my income was from tips alone. If you do not have it in you to dine in a restaurant and pay at least a 15% tip on top of your check, then stay at home or go to a deli or better yet, go to McDonald’s. They have a killer Dollar Menu and a Happy Meal with an exciting prize in it for your kiddos! If you do decide to dine at a restaurant with a child, keep in mind that children usually require the most amount of cleanup and attention and, because of this, parents should leave at least a 20% tip.

4. Keep Your Table Tidy

Messy children brings me to my next point. Remember when I mentioned that the waitstaff are not your babysitters? Well, sorry to break it to you but we’re not your maids either. If you want to make a mess that exceeds the standard dirty dishes, dirty napkins, and empty glasses, help clean it up. If you are unwilling to assist the wait staff in cleaning up the excessive mess, please eat at home. What if I came over to your office or cubicle at work and allowed my child throw the spaghetti you just served around the room like we were at a Yankees’ ticker tape parade? What if then I just shrugged my shoulders and half apologized expecting you to clean it up? That doesn’t sound respectful, does it? Your kid’s mess is your mess to clean and take care of.

Thank you.

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