Truths/Myths of being a server

I feel like being a server is a right of passage for many young adults, but depending on where you are working it could potentially turn into a career…

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I know, I know… Who would actually choose to be a server as a career?

Since I spent several years as a server, I have a little bit of insight. I don’t want to give away all of the secrets, because then everyone would want to get in on the action. I will tell you, however, for those of you who have never had the privilege of serving, it’s an experience unlike many other jobs you’ll have.

So where do I begin…? I suppose I can start by mentioning some aspects of serving that outsiders (people who have never held a serving position) think about it. What they believe servers do, how much money they make, their education, etc… Then I’ll explain the differences in reality from the opinions being mentioned.

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Myth– Outsiders tend to think that individuals holding a job as a server are less educated than themselves. They conclude with no questions or reason that no one with any intelligence could possibly want to do this for a living. Or they think that if these people were educated, they must have other opportunities for work.

Fact– Serving as a whole provides a job for people of all walks of life. I’ve worked with people you genuinely felt sorry for, and wondered how they could possibly make it through life without having a shred of common sense. On the other hand, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. A lot of people choose serving as a job they can keep while they put themselves through school because it’s flexible on scheduling.

Myth– Servers don’t care about their customers. That’s why they forgot to bring the extra napkins. That’s why they haven’t refilled that drink yet. That’s why the steak that was ordered “well done” hasn’t come out yet, and it’s been 20 minutes already.

Fact– There are ranks of servers…

  • The elite level – Servers who can handle large sections, remember everything, pre-bus, get every order rang in correctly, helps coworkers when they are “in the weeds,” and is basically a rock star. All while keeping a positive attitude.
  • The mediocre level – Servers who are great with their customers, who genuinely work hard to do well, but they inevitably forget something and can start a snowball effect of mess-ups. The servers on this level teeter between being really great some days, but off their game others. These are the ones who are always in a great mood until one thing goes wrong. Then you see their attitude shift in an instance because they are focused to revert the impending train-wreck that is their night.
  • The dead-weight level – Servers who show up late a lot, are always in a bad mood or having pity-parties for themselves, are slow as molasses no matter how busy their section is, are always complaining about their section or their customers, forgets (very frequently) tasks they are supposed to be tending to.

Now that you know the different types of servers at any given establishment, I can elaborate more. From my personal experience, I would say that the majority of servers in any given shift are from the top two levels. There is usually only 1 shitty server (if that) in any given night. Therefore, if you have the luck of being a customer for a server from either of the top two levels, I assure you, your server does care about you. Not in the sense where they want to know your bio, or talk about your sick cat (unless you are a regular), or even see you again after this night. But while you are sitting at their table, they care that you are provided the best possible service to their ability. You are the bread and butter of how they pay their bills, and the only way to ensure their livelihood, is to make sure their customers are satisfied. Those napkins they forgot, small potatoes. The drink they have yet to refill, whether you know it or not, it’s in their mind on the never-ending checklist full of things they need to remember. They will get it done. The well done steak that’s taking forever…? Please don’t make me explain this…

Myth– Servers are poor.

Fact– HA! This is probably the most believed myth about servers, but also the most inaccurate. On the contrary, servers make pretty decent money (as long as they are on those top 2 levels). The actual paycheck of a server is not even gas money. The hourly rate is ridiculously low, so servers are tasked with making enough money to pay bills from what you generous people give them. Could you imagine relying on strangers to be satisfied with your service enough to give you a decent tip in order to pay your rent, car payment, insurance, phone bill, daycare, etc.? Servers have the same bills everyone else has, and somehow they get paid… You know why? Because good servers make more money than someone in their 5th year of nursing (one example). Picture this- You work 5 nights a week and you bring home $200 a night? Yep, that’s $1000 a week. If you do that every week for a month, that’s $4000 you brought home that month. That is the reality of it. Since it’s not guaranteed, obviously it fluctuates from month to month and night to night. You will have slow nights where you only make about $100, but then sometimes you have a really kick-ass night and bring home about $400. Depending on where you work (more high end restaurants), you could be making outrageous amounts of money. So yes, people actually choose to stay in this industry for years because of the liquidity it allows. Many servers enjoy vacations, nice cars, and other fancy materialistic perks.

Myth– Servers drink a lot.

Fact– This one is actually true… After power-walking for about 8 hours of your shift, then another 2 to do side work (cleaning everything, refilling condiments/sauces/dressings, washing/rolling silverware, power everything down for the night, etc.), you are tired, and beat. A lot of servers will either stay after to have a “shift drink” once everything is done and everyone has clocked out. Or, if everyone isn’t too exhausted, the entire group might go to the nearest bar that is still open for another hour or two. If the bars are closed, the server that lives fairly close and is able to have people over is where the whole lot ends up. Whether you’ve had a terrible night, or whether you’ve had a really great night, all servers deserve a cocktail (or 10) after a shift. They work their butts off.

Myth– You have the right to not tip your server.

Fact– Where this is technically true (the customer will dictate how much of a tip they leave), it should never even be questioned if you will or won’t. If your server greeted you, brought you a menu and your drink, took your order, brought you your food, checked on you throughout your visit, complied to all requests, tried to fix any mistakes that the cooks may have made, you better fucking tip that server at least 20%. If they did every single one of those things with efficiency and a good attitude, you better tip them more. If they did about half of those things, you still better tip 20%. If the server literally did 2 or less of those things (obviously you were unfortunate to get the bottom level server), you should still tip 10-15%. If your server did anything at all for you, they deserve a tip. Also, a lot of establishments have tip-outs… Let me explain what that is. At the end of the night, the server does a “ring-out” which will show what they sold that night in the form of retail sales. More times than not, the server will have to tip the bartenders a percentage of their beverage sales, and sometimes a percentage of their food sales will be tipped to the kitchen staff. That means if you buy a drink or food, part of your tip is going to other people besides your server. If you don’t tip anything, it literally costs that server money to wait on you. That is not why servers are there. Look at it like this- If you are only wanting to pay retail, go to the store, buy the ingredients, and cook and serve your damn self. If you’ve gone to a restaurant, it’s expected you are paying not only for the meal, but for the services. Think of it as tipping the establishment, not just your server, because more than just one person made your dining experience (good or bad) possible… I believe that tips used to be paid before the dining experience even begun “To Ensure Proper Service,” but as we all know, the tip is given at the end. You come in to have a good meal and maybe a couple drinks. You want your dining experience to be smooth, friendly, and to your satisfaction. Your server is there to make that happen for you (and about 50+ other people at the same time). Just be patient with them and take notice of how fast they are moving. They are seriously dancing around the restaurant trying to get everything and everyone taken care of.

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If people would start looking at their servers as actual people trying to earn a living rather than think of them as scum who are just there to obey their every command, you might get friendlier servers.

I don’t want to divulge too many insider secrets, because only fellow servers understand the reality of what goes on out of customers’ view. You know, insults in the kitchen, pranks that are pulled on newbies, the way everyone knows that one guy who always has a ridiculous order and everything has to be just right, the way that when you get a customer that is (or has been) a server you know you’re getting a great tip, and just the bond and genuine sense of family between the staff.

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I’ve made some great friends through my experience as a server, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s a place that I know I’m always welcome back if I need to make quick cash, I’ll be able to pick up a shift.

To my servers far and wide, keep that shit up!

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