Lot 48: behind the counter: confessions of a waitress

November 18, 2014

behind the counter: confessions of a waitress

during high school and college, i was a waitress. i was a waitress for a total of 4 years.  4 years and 5 restaurants.  i have a certain respect for servers.  it is not as easy as you might think.  in fact, it is really, really hard.  so today, i am going to give you the skinny on what it is really like to be a waitress.  because there is a certain lack of respect for this profession, and i would like to do something about that.

you usually have to stay up to 2 hours after your shift ends.  let's say you work an 8 hour shift.  8 hours of serving people, lifting heavy trays, dealing with rude people and countless spills and messy plates.  all you would want to do is go home and shower, right?  well what people might not know is that at every restaurant, there are tasks you have to do in addition to serving.  such as, cleaning the soda machine, refilling the dressing bottles, restocking the salt and sugar, rolling silverware, etc.  it sucks.  when i worked at cracker barrel, it was the worst.  that was the place where i had to stay the longest after my shift.  you had a ton of chores to do.  and after every shift, you had to roll at least 100 silverware sets.  the manager would write on the board at the beginning of each day how many silverware sets you had to roll and it was always between 100-200.  it took forever.  then you had your other tasks to do too.  cracker barrel was the most intense and i hated it with every fiber of my being.  they acted like they were curing cancer or something.  everyone took their job so seriously.  and before you even started training as a waitress, you had TWO DAYS of orientation to learn about the history of the company.  then you had to take tests to memorize the menu, the place settings, what dish went in what plate/cup/bowl, etc and tests on the founders.  then after you had been trained, you had to come in 2 hour early before your shift to do more testing and training.  the point was to give you the opportunity to progress in the company and give you the option for promotions, to make a career out of it.  but i was just a college kid needing a summer job, so i thought it was really stupid.  but i will tell you this: cracker barrel food is made from scratch and is every bit as good as you think.  they do not  cut corners, and i can guarantee you whatever you eat there is the freshest.  you also had to get uniform checked when you arrived for your shift.  if you apron wasn't pressed right, you were sent home. 

it's really hard to remember small requests. like "get me a napkin" or "i need an extra spoon" or "can i get more gravy?" and if you are really really busy, you are likely to not be able to get that customer said thing for a while.  if you have food ready to be brought out, that is always the #1 priority because you don't want it to get cold.  one time, a guy asked for more gravy and by the time i brought it to him, he was done eating.  that's how crazy it can be.  and it isn't the server's fault.  you can only do so much.  there is only one of you, and you have a billion things to do, and it gets really, really, reallllly stressful.  so next time your waiter doesn't bring you a straw or a napkin for a while, cut them some slack.  they are probably swamped.  

servers have to have a really good memory. i mentioned this a little above, but if someone asks for a napkin, you never write it down, right?? what about when the next table asks for something else, and the next? and then the hostess seats a new table for you, and you have to attend to them, and then there your food is up.  what to do?  you have to remember each request, each task.  in my first waitressing job, it was at a nursing home.  the seniors had two choices for dinner, and i would refill their water and get them drinks and bring them their food.  i also had to bring food to their rooms everyday for those who couldn't make it to the dining room, and i saw a lot of old people butts.  scarring for life.  but at that job, the cook told me something to help me remember that was golden.  he told me that when someone requests something, imagine it floating above their headt.  this was immensely helpful.  so every time i walked past someone, i saw that ice cream sunday they wanted that i had to make, the straw they wanted, the water refill.  i would imagine it floating like a little sims character icon floats above their head.  i always remembered things if i did that.  weird, right?

customers can be so inconsiderate.  this is a no brainer, but i'm not just talking about customers being openly rude.  and this one is open for discussion, but i am talking about when a server is super super busy, and the customers make you stand there for a full two minutes while they decide.  you say "i'll give you some more time and i'll come back later" but they say "no, no, i think i know what i want..." and you just stand there freaking out thinking about everyone else you are holding up and everything you have to do.  if you don't know what you want, please set the server free to get things done while you decide.  also, and this is the discussion part, don't be chatty.  now i know that people go to a restaurant to enjoy a good time and if they are in a good mood and friendly, they often talk to the server before they even let you get their drink order.  if you're busy, this is extremely annoying.  especially if guys started flirting with me.  i don't have time for this!!!! shut up and tell what you want to drink!! you had to wait 30 minutes for a table, do you think it's slow here? do you think i have nothing to do?? that may seem rude and it probably is, and i'm sorry to the kind old folks who like to chat with the server and get to know them, but often, you just don't have time for it.  

servers are only human.  and we make mistakes.  gasp!!! people are soooooooooo unforgiving if you make a mistake.  it is so easy to put an order in wrong, give someone the wrong thing, forget to refill your water, etc.  like i said, it's crazy.  there is so much to do.  the biggest thing that would happen to me is that i would bring people their check without adding their dessert.  this is another annoying thing.  servers have to make the salads, desserts, and soups.  this takes forever and really slows you down.  and since dessert is at the end and if i was in a rush, i would often forget to add it to their bill.  or if they ordered a second beer or a second drink that we didn't give free refills for, that is hard to remember to add it to their bill!! so i would walk up to their table and hand them their check and just before it left my fingers, i would see the extra beer or the extra dessert and say "wait! i'm so sorry! i forgot to add your -------!!" usually, people made a joke like "well too bad for us, you remembered!"  or "oh so close to getting away with it!!" but sometimes they would just stare at me like i was an idiot.  which was no fun.

your hourly wage is $2.87/hr.  i am not kidding.  some people don't realize how much servers rely on tips.  it is literally how we make our money.  it is really ridiculous how low the wage is, but the restaurant expects you to make money on tips and it is legal to pay a waitress that much.  when i was a buser, {which is when i did everything for the waitress except serve the actual meal, she did nothing} i got paid $4/hr and then i got a percentage of the waitress' tips.  i think the wage is higher in nevada, but everyone else, like in utah, the wage is under $3.

and the worst thing of all.....

your parents will visit you at work and take pictures of you while you are working.  how. humiliating.  seriously, i about died.  

have you ever been a waitress or had a job like this?  people in retail, i am sure you can relate.  tell me your stories!! 


  1. I worked in result and as a waitress through college and grad school. For me working retail was kind of fun, but waitressing was horrible. It stressed me out to be responsible for the enjoyment of so many people at one time, especially when everyone wants/expects different things out of you.

  2. I've never worked as a waitress but I have tons of respect for those who do! I would not handle that kind of stress well at all!

  3. I've never worked in a restaurant but get so angry when I see other customers treating their servers poorly. I try to give them the benefit of doubt if things aren't going smoothly - it's a tough gig!

  4. I've never been a server, but there's no way I could handle it. I had a roommate who worked at Famous Dave's and I got to hear all the stories. No thank you! But I am always super kind to servers because of it and try to always tip generously.

  5. I have never been a server but can totally emphasize with all the hard work that goes into it. That's why I always try to be nice and leave a good tip :)

  6. Oh my goodness, I could never be a server. My brother did it though, and I was impressed by how much money he was able to make doing it. It sounds like a really difficult job though!

  7. I can't imagine working as a server...my family owned a restraunt for awhile and it just seemed exhausting and awful! Props to you for serving for so long, it's hard work!

  8. This post rocks. Being a server is extremely difficult & not at all as lucrative as people thinks -- guess that depends on where you work. I'm sooooooooo glad that part of my life is behind me but it helped me be more courteous to servers waiting on me. :] // ▲ itsCarmen.com ▲

  9. I always try to be as nice as possible when dealing with my servers. Like you said, they are only human. & someone could have already made their day hell! Its just food, so I feel no need to get crazy or mean.

  10. haha I would have loved to have seen the pics your parents took of you! I normally try to be forgiving as a patron, but there are some waiters who are jerks. like the one guy who was too busy flirting with another waitress to do his job...at all.

  11. I work at WM and have for the past almost five years, first as a cashier and now customer service and oh the stories I could tell! My biggest thing is when old men come in and are absolute jerks. Or they talk down and patronize me like I'm a five year old child.

  12. Such great points! Although in DE the hourly wage for a server/bartender is $2.23 an hour... cause yes I still bartend (unfortunately) and that is my hourly wage. It definitely stinks when people don't tip or act inappropriately. I just keep thinking that this job is helping me to build character!


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