50 Things a Server Should Not Do: Part 2

by nofrillsfood

So, following up from last weeks Part: 1, this is the final 25 in my ‘50 things a server should not do!’
As like last week, the following is in no specific order of importance, it’s not definitive, (I’m no hospitality Tsar for Christ’s sake!), just suggestions of mine from things I’ve witnessed, learned and have gradually built into my own personal pet hates!
It says server in the title but I’m going to include in that bar tenders, bar-backs, baristas, management, sommeliers basically anybody who has a face to face interaction with customers. I think that’s fair!

25. Do not call a guy a “dude.”

Sounds petty doesn’t it? Well I guess it does, but ‘dude’ has no place in a servers lexicon. ‘Sir’ in a restaurant, ‘Mate’ & ‘Pal’ maybe in a bar, you get my drift, but never ‘dude’. You’re not on a beach, you’re serving a guest at a table. It’s rather basic really.
Another common complaint from guests and friends who dine out a lot is the turn of phrase “Hi Guys” as a greeting. Doesn’t really bother me that much, but I can see why it does others. I imagine It’s because it sounds so impersonal, especially when you hear the same server utter the same greeting over and over to the rest of their tables.

26. Order Fuck Ups.

Be honest, if you’ve served, you’ve at least fucked up one order. I’m guilty. Whether its simply putting a tick next to the wrong dish and counting them up wrong before you enter them onto the computer (guilty), forgetting an item on the ticket, or forgotten to mention to the chef on the pass any allergies on a persons dish then said guest going into anaphylactic shock because they received the wrong dish (True Story, the guest was OK, the server even kept her job, she was nervous, new, but good!).
The best thing to do, which is the hardest, is admit to it straight away. Own up and rectify the problem as best and as fast as possible. It might not change the outcome but you have to try irregardless of how much of a tit you feel.


27. Make sure glassware is clean.

Inspect them before placing them on the table, who wants yesterday’s lipstick? No, me either. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been guilty of this one once or twice when I’ve been in the shit, but it looks really fucking bad and is so simple. It’s not a game breaker but it sets the tone, same as a hair in food. It’s not a criminal offence it doesn’t reflect on the flavour/taste but it can ruin some people’s enjoyment.

29. Tray Skills.

It seems petty but I cringe a little when I see a drinks tray carried badly. It isn’t that hard, takes a bit of practice but should only be using one hand to carry it rather than the two handed wobble!

30. End of Service Clean Down.

It’s late, there is always one table who just wont go. Sure it’s annoying but they are still guests and as long as they still have drinks they reserve the right to be treated as such. Don’t get me wrong, it can really wind servers up, but hovering, mopping the floor or loudly pulling furniture around is bang out of order. It wont ruin a persons night, (unless they are a James Isherwood type!), but it will put a dampener on it. Remember, you go to a restaurant for its food but return for its hospitality.

31. Know your Restaurants Menu.

This is the servers, supervisors and manager’s responsibility. How shit is it, when you ask your server about a certain wine or dish and they not only don’t know even vaguely what you’re talking about but they simply no nothing about the next three things you ask. Now everyone has to start somewhere but there really are levels of acceptability when it comes to menu knowledge and, frankly, looking like Forrest Gump when asked where your meat is sourced or what beurre blanc is simply unacceptable.

32. Clear Tables, Properly.

By this I mean debris. One of the best GM’s I ever worked for and witnessed working a floor continuously rammed this into all the floor staff and it’s a great habit to get into. The table should be as clean as possible with as little, minimal fuss as possible. Don’t be ridiculously overt with it, it’s all in the subtlety of movement. We are like silent dancers on the floor, only interrupting where necessary.

33. Never use the same glass for a second drink.

I guess this is for customers as well as servers , how often do we hear “oh its alright just put it in that (dirty glass) one pal“, It looks cheap and shitty, it’s illegal too. And it proper winds me up!

34. Always clear a table all at once.

Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Watch and Wait, wait, wait. The clue is in the job title!

35. Wine Etiquette (A few points in here but I thought it prudent to lump them in the same section)

Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle.
Never assume people want their white wine in an ice bucket, ask. Same with a Red, do they want it decanting, airing. Always ask. Yes, it’s time consuming but it’s our job.
For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or if they prefer to have it poured.
Do not pop a champagne cork excessively it looks and sounds wank. Ease the cork out gracefully. The less noise the better. Yes it should pop but not the sound of a trident missile hitting home. The flipside of this is obviously popping a wine cork. It is complete amateur hour If someone doesn’t know how to open a bottle of wine, sodding practice it.
If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two.

36. If a Customer wants to speak to a Manager, let them.

I was taught that a section waiter should command his/her section to such a degree that a manager shouldn’t really be needed for a complaint. If, for whatever reason, the guest is being particularly obstreperous inform the manager who’s running the shift. Get them to do the check back, take over dessert menus, whatever opportunity is afforded for the GM to spend 2 minutes to let the guest know they are being looked after will very often suffice.

37. Table Neglect.

Picture it….It’s rammed. Your section is packed, almost instantly and you know your going to get cluster fucked. The likelihood is out of 10 tables you’ll ‘build’ or have a good serving relationship with 3-4 tables who really want to engage you. This is good, it can be time consuming but very rewarding for everyone concerned. The tables around you will see your passion for service and food shine through and, although not directly, will, I believe, improve their opinion of the restaurant and the service.
However, this shouldn’t mean the other tables on your section get left to fester like a shit toy from auntie Joy at christmas!

38. Don’t talk Politics!

If a customer asks your opinion on something inflammatory, politely refuse by saying this is conversation for after work sir. After all, why risk making the guest look bad. Besides it’s easier to do this subtly with a slight refusal to join an inflammatory conversation. Once an old regular of mine, who supported a rival team to the one I follow made a horrendous jibe regarding the Hillsborough disaster. It ended in embarrassment for everyone on his table, for me and him.
Lesson being, always be mindful of exactly what you are saying and to whom!

39. Never assume the change is a tip.

Every server has been there… The bill is something like £72.80 or£35.50 and £80 and £40 have been slapped down respectively, the table have had a good night, food and service has been on the money, so a tip is coming right? Who knows, they might be non tippers.
Even if they are, its not the servers final choice to make so just put it back. Yes it can feel a like a bit of a charade, if you know its yours, but it’s a façade you have to keep up.

40. Never Run (even ‘runners’)

Making yourself look busy is a skill that has taken me years to perfect. I remember as a commis being told by a chef de partie that even when there is nothing to do there is always ‘something’ to do. If there isn’t and your struggling make it look like your working or you’ll be given all the shit jobs, or worse get a reputation as a slacker.
That said there is a difference in looking busy, occupied and attentive to running round like a headless chicken. Even if you want to, need to RUN you mustn’t. All it does is create unease amongst guests… It’s the mark of being in the shit! Which happens, but guests shouldn’t really have to know that you are!

41. Music.

Some places don’t bother with tunes, they don’t need to. I remember (name drop alert!) walking into many starred dining rooms with no background music. This is simply a statement which says that the proprietors feel the atmosphere is created by the environment, the food and the service. This works in fine dining but not, say, in a gastro pub.
Music, if played shouldn’t be overtly loud, too quiet or offensive. It should enhance not detract from the ambience of the establishment and NEVER be over repeated, for example back to back albums by the same artists!! (My personal pet hate is the ‘chill out’ albums that flood our markets and contain slowed down, shite covers of classic tracks!

42. The Service Charge.

Different places have different rules. Some places its on every table and in some it depends on the table size, normally 6 or more. What I’m getting at here is the doubling up service charge! If a guest, who has had a bit to drink, is unsure that the service charge has been added politely inform them it has. No one wants to feel robbed!

43. Team Communication.

Now, without sounding overly corporate! Communication is everything. No place more so than on the floor, how annoying is it when you order something two minutes later after your order has been sent the servers back to inform you it’s sold out. So you order again and the server runs back to inform you that the 2nd item you’ve ordered has gone. This is purely a communication error and is real amateur hour

44. Language.

I’m not xenophobic, nor am I a prude. I consider myself rather liberal. That doesn’t mean I want to hear the person serving me swear, ever. It’s not the place, in ANY establishment to do so. Why mention Xenophobia, well it’s often embarrassing for all concerned when a table cannot understand there server due to the servers English being very poor. I’m not talking accents here, I’m talking ineligible use of language. It puts unnecessary pressure on the server and the guests and isn’t right.

45. Up – selling Dilemmas.

There is a very fine line between promoting a product for a customers enjoyment and pushing a particular product to help the chefs/sommeliers GP or winning the bar/waiters bingo contest to win a scratch card or bottle of proseco at the end of your shift! In the worse case scenario you’ll sound like a pompous del boy best case you’ve really impressed some guests with your quite enthusiasm and knowledge and they’ll recommend your establishment to others

46. Announcing Dishes.

Whose the Tart?!
Are you the trout madam?!
Funny right? Yep I guess it is, but for some it can be a bit insulting!

47. Calling in Sick.

It happens. In my experience only in the catering industry are you so lambasted for doing this. Normally because it’s very hard to get cover for your shift. It’s a very warped badge of honour to not call in sick. The phrase, “only if your leg has fallen off” , is one I’ve heard a lot.
My opinion is if you’re sick you’re sick, but don’t take the piss.

On the other hand, I think it is an industry wide problem that proprietors and GM’s try to squeeze every last drop out of the staff with out giving very much back. This has to change in the UK and fast as less and less young people see Hospitality as a proud and viable trade

48. Table Turning Times.

This is a bit of a modern trend. I get it, I really do. Restaurants have to flip tables on busy nights in order to maximise profits. Whilst this isn’t a customers concern, rightly so I may add, I think its only fair they realise this. However, guests should be well informed if they have a table for a specific amount of time only and if needed be given a departure time, if this is accepted then no mention of this should really be made during the meal as it comes across as being even more rushed than is necessary.

49. The customer isn’t always right.

But it’s our job to make them feel they are, if they’re not, gently educate them.

50. Front packing a section.

If there are many open tables, do NOT cluster your customers in a string of tables, leaving the rest of the place empty. It’s a quiet lunch and your on your own or very low staffed in a big floor restaurant. But still tables should be adequately space out so they don’t feel crammed in. The same can be said of putting children next to a table who are clearly having a business meeting, it’s just simple common sense

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. Like I said at the beginning this list is by no means definitive and all inclusive. There are probably many issues and points I haven’t raised but these for me are ones that spring to mind often when dining out and/or working