A Beginners Guide to Not Being an A-Hole at a Restaurant: Pandemic Edition

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Alright people- this is happening. Frankly, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working in restaurants for over four years now and, for the most part, I’ve kept my server rage to myself. A lot of times I’ll think about writing something in the moment and then I don’t end up doing it because I get home and I’m too tired to think and then I’ve calmed down.

But times are different and after two weeks of being back at work, I’m annoyed enough with the world that this shit is going to be said.

I really don’t know what I expected when I returned to work a couple weeks ago. I was excited to be back and making some sort of money since Florida Unemployment is a raging dumpster fire. I had really thought that anyone choosing to dine out in these crazy times would be patient and kind and understanding. While I didn’t expect money flying at me hand over fist, I expected people to be a bit more generous when it came to tipping.

Boy was I so damn wrong.

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I will be honest in saying that not everyone has been a giant douche-canoe of a human being but enough have to make me shoot flames out of my ears. To be honest, working right now is mentally and physically exhausting. We’re at reduced hours but I’m still coming home feeling like I just ran a damn marathon. Everything hurts, including my brain.

So I’ve decided to let ya’ll know what’s what when it comes to dining out during these crazy times (and frankly during regular times in some cases).

SO BUCKLE THE FUCK UP KAREN- THIS IS HAPPENING!

TIP YOUR DAMN SERVERS

The minimum wage for tipped employees in the United States is $2.13 an hour. Thankfully, most states have a higher minimum- Florida, for example, is at $5.54 as of the beginning of 2020. But that’s still pennies once you take out taxes and everything. My most recent paycheck after returning to work was for $11.46.

My point- we rely very much on tips to survive. More so, we are putting ourselves at a lot of great personal risk to return to work to wait on you. Many of the people I work with have had next to no luck with Florida unemployment so returning to work felt like the best option. If you don’t tip, we don’t make money.

My first night back I was royally stiffed by a table. They were so rude I actually asked my manager if I was being punk’d because there was no way anyone could be this terrible, especially in these times. I wasn’t, they were just horrible people. After running me ragged and treating me like shit, they tipped $2 on a $60 check.

At least once a shift after that first night, I would get stiffed by a table in that fashion. Normally, I’m not the type to look table by table but rather focus on what I’m taking home at the end of the night. But when I came to the end of a 7 hour shift on a Saturday night and walked out of the building with $45.00, I was a bit annoyed.

MORE SO- You servers have to tip out. Thankfully, I am the bartender and I don’t have to tip anyone at the end of the night but the normal servers do. I reached the point where I told servers not to tip me out because they were making so little money- it didn’t seem right for me to take more from them.

One night one of my co-workers took a party who stiffed her on a pretty significant check. When you do that, you actually cost that server money. If I had not said no to tip share- she would have essentially paid to wait on that table.

Ya’ll fought so hard to get things reopened- your “thanks” isn’t enough to pay our bills- your default tip should start at 20% and only go up from there.

WE. ARE. STRESSED.

One of my regulars came in and admitted that he was shocked to see me back upon the Phase 1 reopening. I was too but we have Florida’s unemployment system to thank for that. At the time I was still waiting to get paid by them. This was the case for many of the few servers who returned. We had no income and it was getting scary. Many of the returning servers are parents and needed the money to take care of their family and DEO was giving us nothing.

I didn’t feel super great about returning to work but I wanted to be able to pay my bills and have food to eat so I sacrificed my safety to come back.

So yeah, I’m stressed the fuck out. Many of us are. So keep that in the back of your mind when you go out to eat. We’re not thrilled about being back to work and it has nothing to do with being lazy- we’re scared of getting sick but we’re even more scared about losing our homes and starving.

Even more- we don’t know what we are bringing home. My first few nights back at work I was coming home and stripping on my doorstep and immediately running them to the washer to be cleaned. I calmed down a bit over time (I stopped putting on a show for my neighbors) but I was worried I was bringing something home. So my clothes were still being washed every night the moment I got home and I was taking scalding hot showers. Do you have any idea just how stressful that is?

THIS MASK IS NOW A PART OF MY REQUIRED UNIFORM

Let me go ahead and share this story with you.

First Guest of the Night:

CRANKY OLD MAN: (referring to my mask) I can’t hear you with that damn thing on, you need to take it off.
ME: I’m sorry I’m not allowed for my safety and yours.
CRANKY: Well I’m sorry because I’m not allowed to tip you if you’re wearing a mask.

At this point in the game I’ve seen all sides of crazy when it comes to people. Some of the biggest “conspiracy theorists” have tried to educate me in my civil rights and tell me that I don’t have to wear a mask if I don’t want to. My retort to that is quite simple- the mask is now a required part of my uniform. Even if it wasn’t I would still be wearing it for the safety of my guests.

Now that our county has issued an order requiring everyone to wear masks expect for obviously during eating and drinking- I can only imagine how people are going to act. I just keep referencing those signs you see on occasion- “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”. Just add masks to that.

YES THERE ARE EMPTY TABLES- NO YOU CAN’T SIT THERE

Business has definitely been picking up. My first night back was slow as hell and I walked away with $45 after a seven-hour shift… which sucked- but things have been picking up. In the state of Florida, restaurants can operate at 50% capacity, which means we aren’t using at least half of our tables. Weekends have certainly been picking up which is nice but people are still twat-waffles.

The other day a family came in expecting to be sat right away. When they were told there would be a wait the mom FLIPPED OUT on the poor host.

“What do you mean we have to wait- half these tables are empty!”

“We are operating at 50% capacity due to the regulations in place”

“That’s ridiculous!”

Ya’ll- it’s the law. We don’t control the law.

PLEASE WAIT TO BE SEATED- DAMN IT.

Once upon a time, our lounge was self-seating. Which was annoying as hell in the best of times because naturally people would want to sit at the only dirty table and would be dicks about it. It’s worse now.

Management tried to tell me that it was still self-seating and I argued that we really can’t do that. We have to disinfect every table every time we clean it.

The other day I cleared a table but hadn’t gotten around to wiping it yet. It was very obvious that the table was still dirty. The host had wandered off and two gentlemen went ahead and sat themselves at that table (I won’t even go into how I had three very clean tables they could have gone to).They complained that the table was wet and I said I was going to have to move them because people just left it and it needed to be cleaned and disinfected. They were fine about it, thankfully but others have been a pain.

This was actually when I got into the argument with management about it. Because I felt that A) the host should be at the stand whenever they’re not seating a table and B) the bar area can’t be self-seating right now because we need to make sure we clean the tables!

This leads me to:

YOU’LL SIT WHERE WE PUT YOU AND YOU’LL LIKE IT

Not only are we working at a reduced capacity but we’re working with a skeleton crew. There have been some nights where there would be me in the bar/lounge and another server in the dining room and that was it. Two people running the show. Yes, we’re at reduced capacity but that’s still a lot for just two people. We’d work on a rotation to keep things even and fair but also to lighten the load on each server.

Problem is that people who have never worked in a restaurant can’t get that through their skulls.

Yeah- I get that you want a booth but right now I just have tables- deal with it.

One day I was by myself during the shift change which wasn’t a big deal. People were trickling in an a good pace and I had things under control. Until one family came in and was so damn insulted that we tried to seat them at a table. But it was the only thing available in my section. She insisted that they be sat at one of the open booths elsewhere. Even after it was explained that there was only one server on at the moment and that was outside of their section- she couldn’t be swayed.

So her and her kids were sat well outside of my purview. I’m the type where if I can’t see you- I’m going to forget about you.

And I did.

If you’re making the choice to go out to eat right now, you need to respect that we have to operate a certain way and you’re going to have to deal.

And on that same vein-

YEAH- THINGS ARE GOING TO TAKE A BIT LONGER THAN YOU’RE USED TO

As you begin to venture back out into the world you need to realize that nothing is like it used to be. The world has changed and you need to understand that the “normal” you are used to is gone. The same goes for dining out.

As companies are reopening, they are doing to with skeleton crews. Some because their employees might be too uncomfortable returning to work and others because they are trying to save on payroll. Just because things are opening doesn’t mean these businesses are rolling in money right now. Also it’s important to remember with restaurants that just because the dining room doesn’t seem busy- doesn’t mean the kitchen isn’t busy. To-Go business is booming right now and they are working their asses off back there.

More so, there are new regulations we have to follow. When I first started back we had to wear gloves and change them at each touch-point. Basically what that means is every time I touched something new, I had to change my gloves. It was annoying.

They since did away with that because it was creating a lot of waste (as a bartender I was going through almost a box and a half of gloves a night). This also made things very slow going.

Even with removing gloves from the equation, things are still slow because of how much we need to wash our hands. Granted, as a server, you wash your hands a ton as it is but now we’ve had to double and even triple that amount.

We don’t want to get sick and we don’t want to get you sick. So understand that means things are going to move slower because we have extra steps to take for your safety.

CONTROL YOUR CROTCH GOBLINS

At the best of times you shouldn’t let your children go running around a restaurant. They get in the way and up the risk of a server dropping something. I damn near lost a tray once because a child running full speed around a corner nearly took me out. Had that try fallen on him- a trip to the hospital would have been involved.

It shocks me that even with a pandemic people still aren’t controlling their kids. They are running around and touching EVERYTHING. Yeah, I get that they want to play with the little computers on the table but has it been cleaned? You don’t know. They are running around touching everything and you don’t know who else has been touching it. More so we have to reclean anything they touch with is taking time away from taking care of our guests. Control them or leave them at home.

SOMETIMES WE RUN OUT OF STUFF, GET OVER IT

There’s an interesting side-effect of this pandemic that people doesn’t seem to understand. The interesting ripple effect that comes from things closing down. As business slowed and demand for certain things dropped- supplies became scarce.

As an effort to save money we might not be ordering like we were before which means we’re going to run out of things. For example, most liquor vendors require a minimum order of $300. If we just need a couple things- we’re not going to spend the money over ordering just to meet that minimum. So I’m sorry you can’t get a shot of Fireball right now Chad- get some real liquor like a damn adult.

DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THE INTERNET

Our county has been on and off curfews, which has affected hours. Our company decided to close an hour earlier which mean Sun-Thurs at 10 and Fri/Sat at 11. No this isn’t reflected when you search us online or ever on the hours on the door. This has led to many people yelling at me when making last call or even when the come in right at close and being informed that we were closing. Yeah, Google shows our old hours but they also have a note saying that COVID-19 may have affected these hours so please call.

SITTING RIGHT BEFORE CLOSING TIME IS A DICK MOVE

This actually applied for when we reach our new “normal”. Coming in and sitting down five minutes before close is a dick move. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. We still have a ton of work to do before we can go home and we’re only making $5.54 an hour to do it. The longer you keep us there, the longer we are working for basically no money.

Worse is if you are still waiting on people.

We had a group come in about 15 minute before close, which is also last call. They were a party of 5 but only three were there. We told them we were closing soon and they started hemming and hawing about whether they actually wanted to stay. As time ticked on we kept letting them know that we were coming up on closing. They finally decided to sit 5 minutes before close. They wasted ten minutes. Then they tried to order alcohol. I denied them, which caused them to pitch a fit. They had been warned. On top of that, we were out of certain things simply because at the end of the night it makes no sense to make a full batch of something for one person. They weren’t thrilled. They ended up ordering to-go and leaving but it still added 30 minutes to my night and the cook’s because they couldn’t make up their minds.

Don’t do that.

BRING SOME DAMN COMPASSION TO THE TABLE

We’ve been out of work for months and jumping back in is harder than you can imagine. First off, we’re running out of energy a lot faster because we’re still getting used to not sitting on the couch watching Netflix. So many policies and procedures have changed so it takes us a little longer to do things. Hell, opening the POS those first few nights was like trying to read a Game of Thrones book in Latin. I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

We’re also stressed. We want you to have a good experience and we want to be safe. Trying to do both at the same time is some much more of a strain on your servers mentally and physically. Understand that- you’re going to learn the same thing when you go back to work.

I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting so please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.

As a slight disclaimer, I think it is important to note that between the time I stated writing this post and the time I posted it- I ended up quitting my bartending job. I have a feeling we’re going to see this happening in a lot of service positions. Many of us have lost our tolerance for the bullshit that we are put through. At the end of the day, it wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave and it wasn’t just the customers. It started becoming very clear that management cared more about profits than it did their people. I was actually nice about the argument we had about self-seating in this post. I even made complaints to corporate, which fell on deaf ears.

That’s a post for another time.

Good luck ya’ll.

3 comments on “A Beginners Guide to Not Being an A-Hole at a Restaurant: Pandemic Edition”

      1. I have a bit of an idea. In college, I used to wait tables at Hard Rock Cafe in New Orleans. Yeeeeaaaah, I lasted for only two months. Hopefully, your new job is a bit less annoying.

        Like

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