I’ve Worked as a Server for 3 Years, and Here Are My Job’s Insides Every Customer Feels Curious About
My name is Tatyana and I work as an author at Bright Side. Previously, I used to work as a waitress and I would like to share some interesting details about this job. They say, an experience is a set of our actions that makes us understand what we shouldn’t have done in the past and what we should do in the future. I’ve had plenty of these. When I was a sophomore in college, my boyfriend left me and I quit school, having decided that my life was over. A couple of weeks later, my senses returned to me and I realized that my parents would kill me once they found out about what I did. So I decided to urgently find a job and waitressing seemed the most attractive to me.
Rachel McAdams used to work at McDonald’s, Sandra Bullock was a waitress in a Manhattan restaurant, and Kate Winslet was a cook and sold sandwiches. All this meant to me was that there was nothing scary about being a server and I started to work in one of the popular pizzerias right in my city’s downtown. I imagined that I would be sitting on a sofa like Rachel from the TV series Friends, chatting with my friends, and running orders from time to time. On the first day, I realized how wrong I was. During my training I accidentally poured chocolate on a plate that had a savory pancake. And then I somehow managed to ask my customer, “Would you like me to change your order?”
So, especially for Bright Side, I am going to talk about all the advantages and disadvantages of this line of work, as well as answer questions that many customers feel curious about.
Is it true that waiters finish the food that patrons leave on their plates, do something gross to mean customer’s dishes, and drink alcohol at work?
There is a funny joke about this: a customer calls the waiter over and asks him, “Is it true that you eat the food that we don’t finish?” The waiter answers, “No, it’s you who eats the food that we don’t finished.”
In reality, we always had a strict accounting of all products as well as cameras watching us everywhere — so grabbing something tasty would have been pretty hard to do. But when it came to dishes that clients ordered but didn’t finish, there were several options for their future destiny.
If a dish wasn’t even touched, then all of our kitchen staff could share it. If it was touched but not finished, then these products were kept in separate containers and we gave them out to the homeless and needy at the end of the day. The food that was about to expire, we shared equally and took home. That was one of the most pleasant bonuses at my work.
Movies often show scenes where an insulted waiter spits into his bold client’s coffee. In reality, I have never noticed anything like this during my work as a server. The presence of cameras turned any desire to do this into a good reason to be fired.
Of course, I met clients whose character could be described by the phrase, “Waiter, if that is coffee, I want tea, if that is tea, I want coffee.” But we all understood that every customer is what makes or breaks our paycheck, no matter what kind of character they have. That’s why all we could allow ourselves to do was discuss their nasty personality behind their back or give them a nasty look, again behind their back. Because the customer is always right even if they’re not.
However, there were cases where clients had unexpected finds in their food. For example, a hair in their soup, a small bone in their salad, and a paperclip in their pizza.
We were provided with free food, but we couldn’t just choose any dish from the menu. Usually, there were 2 people that cooked food for the whole staff. It was always something simple like soup, potatoes with gravy, and a very simple salad.
If someone from our staff had a birthday, we could drink a glass of wine or champagne in the kitchen and then continue working. There were nights when we could add a little alcohol to our normal drinks and drink it unnoticed. These situations took place when we were extremely tired or had too many rude customers.
A 12-hour-shift (sometimes 16 hours) would make anyone feel exhausted considering that most of this time was spent walking and standing. Usually servers revived themselves with the help of energy drinks or coffee combined with Coke. It wasn’t very good for the heart. In fact, the most often used medicine from the first aid kit was for the heart.
How are waiters punished for broken plates and dropped dishes?
While working in the pizzeria, each server encountered a lot of funny and curious situations. We dropped pizza, got burns from hot dishes, cut our fingers, mixed up orders, spilled drinks on pancakes, and broke entire trays of glasses.
There was a case when one of the waiters fell asleep right at the counter where dishes were given out because she had spent the previous night at the club. The chef, not wanting to wake her up, put a plate with hot pizza in front of her. But he slid it over pretty sharply and the pizza slid off the plate and fell right on the girl’s feet. This happened in front of a full restaurant. By the way, that girl ended up having severe burns and hasn’t fallen asleep at work since then.
As for what happens when servers drop a dish — it was only the cost of the ingredients that was subtracted from their salary and it usually wasn’t big money.
Our job was not just us delivering orders and taking away dirty dishes. We helped other workers too — we made milkshakes, hot drinks, and fresh juices, wrapped cutlery into napkins, went to the supermarket if the pizzeria urgently needed some product and there was no time to wait for the delivery from a regular supplier.
After working there for a while, all servers get ’their’ clients. Those who had worked in there longer could afford to be lazy and choose only the best and most profitable tables wait on.
What was the most pleasant and the most difficult thing in my work?
Working as a waiter is actually quite interesting. You communicate with so many different people and learn to stay friendly and kind in any situation, you move a lot, and you are never hungry.
It was nice to see how people started to relax, smile, and become more beautiful influenced by good food, a cozy atmosphere, and good company. We observed everything — how a man proposed a girl after he hid the ring under a piece of lettuce on her plate, how business deals were made, how a husband shared the biggest part of his pasta, having noticed how longingly his wife was looking at it.
Life was always hectic at the pizzeria, we didn’t know what boredom was, and there was never a dull moment.
On the other hand, there are people who treat waiters as serving staff only without even a bit of respect. John Green, the author of the novel The Fault in Our Stars, wrote that one can judge a person according to the way they treat secretaries and servers. Sometimes I had to repeat the statement “the customer is always right,” as a mantra to hold myself back from giving another abrasive client a rude answer. Fortunately, there were not many of these situations.
At first, I was very surprised when I found out that almost every employee in this pizzeria smoked. One month later, I started to smoke myself. And I didn’t start because I got pleasure from smoking. We had a big hall and a terrace, and on summer days the pizzeria was always overcrowded. There were long lines, hungry clients waiting for their orders, and nervous staff. So having a cigarette became the only opportunity to get a break from all this mess. Those who didn’t smoke had to work the whole time. Since I needed smoking only as a reason for a break, I easily gave up this bad habit after leaving the pizzeria.
Still, the most difficult thing was the fact that waiters were forbidden to sit if there was at least one client in the dining area. By the end of each shift, my legs were so tired that the only thing I wanted to do upon coming back home was to dunk them to icy water. 3 years of working in a pizzeria resulted in varicose veins that I am still trying to fight today.
I graduated from college and found a job in my specialization. But I don’t have any regrets because working as a server gave me good experience and made me stronger. Now whenever I visit a restaurant or a cafe, the first thing I do is assess how well the staff works together and I pay attention to different small details. Sometimes I take a deep sigh and think, “Back in my day, we....”
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