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Servittude, Part One June 3, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Servittude.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, restaurant servers are an illusion. We are. We are paid a commission by the customer for the privilege of making the customer feel wealthy enough to own another human being to do the work of entertaining for them. We are, in a very limited capacity, Rent-a-Slaves. But if we are smart waitstaff and pick working environments more for their high menu prices than any other reason, we can be well-compensated Rent-a-Slaves.

In exchange for being an illusion, we tend to harbor highly frangible fantasies about our customers…or, I should say, Temporary Masters. We want to think our Temporary Masters are kind, intelligent, sympathetic to common human failings, and, most importantly, have the ability to think for themselves and communicate their wants and needs clearly and politely.

Ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha.

Waiting tables is the only profession I know of where the customer is allowed to punish the employee monetarily for any reason whatsoever, or no reason at all. You don’t go to the grocery store and ask to get free groceries because you waited longer than you’d liked to get checked out. And you certainly don’t demand that your grocery checker’s wages get docked simply because s/he couldn’t wait on you AND wait on the customer with the ten wagonloads of food in front of you at the same time. And you would NEVER suggest that your grocery checker’s pay be withheld because you bought something that, for whatever reason, you didn’t like. But people do that to waitstaff all the time.

A tip is a whip, and most people would be surprised at their capacity for mercilessness when it comes to how they treat their waiter or waitress.

What surprises me most about waiting tables is the fact that customers (and many servers themselves) don’t realize that the server is a SALESPERSON and makes more money the higher the SALES are. People tip more for the privilege of being sold more food and beverage, and more expensive food and beverage, than they do for good service.  It’s the truth.

Don’t believe me?

A server’s lousy tips are more indicative of their sales inablility than of their ineptitude as a Rent-A-Slave.

Let’s say you sit at my table and I’m your server. I’m not slovenly, or rude, or slow; just the opposite.  I’m friendly, polite, and efficient.  However, I’m a terrible salesperson. Here’s how a Lousy Server handles this breakfast. Watch the dollar signs:

SERVER: Hi, welcome to The Restaurant. What can I bring for you today?
CUSTOMER: I’ll have a cheese omelet ($8) and a glass of water ($0).
SERVER: Very good. I’ll have those out for you in just a moment.

Total Bill: $8

Tip: 10% = .80, 15% = $1.20, 20% = 1.60

Here’s a better server:

SERVER: Hi, welcome to The Restaurant. What can I bring you today?
CUSTOMER: I’ll have a cheese omelet ($8) and a glass of water ($0).
SERVER: Very good. Now, our omelets don’t come with any toast. Would you like some toast with your omelet?
CUSTOMER: Yes, I’d like some wheat toast, please. ($2)
SERVER: Wheat toast. Any juice, milk, or coffee with your omelet?
CUSTOMER: How about some orange juice?
SERVER: Would you like a large ($7) or a small ($4)?
CUSTOMER: Small’s fine.
SERVER: Very good. I’ll have those out for you in just a moment.

Total Bill: $14 (with a potential for a $17 bill if the customer had opted for a large orange juice)

Tip on $14: 10% = $1.40, 15% = $2.10, 20% = $2.80
Potential Tip on $17:  10% = $1.70, 15% = $2.55, 20% = $3.40!!!

And if it were me, I’d have offered a side of bacon, ham, or sausage at $3 to $4 a shot.  Other servers I know would have mentioned a cappucino or coffee, or even a mimosa or bloody mary.  It’s all a matter of how much you’re comfortable pushing.  You judge each table indivudually, but they’re all potential upsells.  Every last one.

See how it works? The better server, the one who makes more money at the end of the day, can offer absolutely LOUSY service, but still do better on a 10% tip than your first server, who makes only .20 more on a 20% tip!

A successful server can manipulate the whip.

Now that you understand the fundamentals of how a successful waiter’s brain works, I feel I can talk with you more intimately about Servittude…but please, let me not bombard you with 100 Reasons Why You’re An Idiot When You Sit Down At My Table. Let’s have a coffee together. It’s on the house. Read a few more blogs, then we’ll discuss your myriad shortcomings. 🙂 Thanks, and Come Back and See Us Again, Soon!



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