After greeting, pouring water, delivering drinks, sharing specials, folding napkins, taking orders, firing tickets, dropping food, retrieving sides of A1, sugaring a crème brulee, saying happy birthday, leaving a check, cleaning dishes off of a dirty table, and wiping and re-setting the table, I grabbed the little black book with my tip in it and walked back to the kitchen to see what dollar amount had been left in return for my ... errand running. And we have a winner! Yes ladies and gentlemen, I, Taylor Ferraro, waiter, entertainer, food runner, hostess, busser, etc. had received a 20 percent tip. As I punched my reward into the computer, I thought to myself, how LUCKY am I?! I get to make conversation with new people, bring them some food, make sure they have enough alcohol and water throughout their dining experience, give them a check, collect my tip and send them on their way. But not all nights are that simple.
During one rocky night of catering to peoples’ needs, I looked at the clock, feeling I had been in the windowless restaurant infinitely, only to find that it was 7:30 pm. “Only an hour and a half more of this,” I kept telling myself. My coworker must have seen the disappointment on my face because she asked me, “How is your bucket?” By bucket, she meant my positivity bucket. Was it full, empty, had it been kicked over, etc. I explained that someone had knocked my bucket off my head so hard that I couldn’t find it anywhere. Dramatic. But at the time, true.
I was upset because despite doing my best to juggle six tables in the dining room and one large (needy) table in the bar, the service that I – one person – provided these 23 people was just not good enough, and I needed to be told that. The woman who sat at my table in the bar pointed her index finger at me and called me over with it. She told me that she “comes here all the time and has never received such terrible service.” I dropped the bill at the table, and told her, “Because I didn’t take care of you tonight, the owner of the restaurant did. You will find that you weren’t charged for many of your happy hour appetizers. And thank you so much for sharing that with me.” Without another thought about the disgruntled customer, I walked calmly back to the kitchen to feel sorry for myself.
Later that night, the same co-server who had asked me about my bucket told me that she had recently read an article that stated being a waiter is more stressful than being a neurosurgeon. All I could think was, “If I make a mistake, people won’t die, if I make a mistake, people won’t die, if I make a mistake, people won’t die.” And of course that’s true. I may hit a nerve by bringing the wrong drink to your table, but at least you won’t be paralyzed ... right? So no, after some thought, I don’t think serving is more stressful than being a neurosurgeon, because mistakes made with alcohol and food are forgettable, even forgivable. But mistakes made with a 10 blade on a brain, the customer will not be pleased.
The thing is, some nights you may go through that same repetitive cycle with each table. Deliver food and drinks on time, share a preschool-appropriate joke (because its less likely to offend someone if it’s a joke about a pile of kittens ... meowwwwwtain – get it?), and still receive a below-average tip or a negative comment. And that’s okay, because waiters are gamblers. Our rent, student loans, groceries, bar tabs and electricity bills depend on peoples’ stomachs ... and their bank account balance. So come on in and sit in my section, my name is Taylor. I am not a doctor, but I will be taking care of you.
Taylor Ferraro provides five-star service and entertainment at the Red Snapper. She is also a massage therapist and KDUR DJ. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.