Serving kindness to servers: the importance of expectations

Michael Capasse, Staff Writer

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“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” – Matthew 7:12.

This verse, while maybe not immediately familiar, is biblical wisdom that you may have heard propagated under the name “the Golden Rule.” Treat others the way you wish to be treated; pretty basic stuff that I’m sure you all uttered in excess with teachers during your early years of schooling.

Of course, no matter how many times this phrase is repeated to young people by their parents, schools or mentors, it just never seems to stick. The Golden Rule, if people were to truly follow it, would make for a better world. I acknowledge that it is naïve to believe that we can all treat each other the way we want to be treated, hold hands, sing songs, etc. Even with an understanding of human differences that make it impossible for this rule to be upheld indefinitely, I am constantly perplexed as to why some never think to apply this rule to workers in the service industry.

Your waiter, busser, AAA agent, drive-thru attendant, cashier at the supermarket and anyone else who makes it their business to do something for you is actually a human being just like you! It should be apparent that their humanity makes them prone to the occasional misstep from perfect service, so they should not be antagonized at every minor inconvenience you perceive to be their fault.

As someone who has worked in restaurants, I can guarantee that (from my experience) everyone in and out of the kitchen is doing their best to give you an upstanding dining experience. My coworkers and I would strive to keep everyone happy and well-fed at their desired pace, not only because we care deeply about reputation and good service, but because it is our job. Let me spell it out: if we do not try our best to give you good service, we get paid less. We do our best to give you a flawless dining experience, which in turn results in the best possible tips for the staff.

With that being said, some people fail to understand that when I can’t grant you a part of your desired experience it isn’t because I hate you, it’s just because I physically cannot. Here are some anecdotes:

A couple enters the restaurant and asks for a window seat. I tell them that, unfortunately, all the window seats are taken. This sends one of the pair into a rage. Within moments, there is a man screaming in my face saying, “What do you mean taken!? I asked for a darned window seat so I shouldn’t need to ask twice! Don’t try and seat me somewhere else, you incompetent fool! Just tell me the darn wait time for a window seat!” Amidst this customer’s rage, a manager stepped in and offered to sit them at the bar until a table by the window opened up. He hastily looked for a window seat at the bottom of several bourbon old-fashioneds, but had no luck. In 15 minutes’ time the man had left without being seated or eating dinner, even though there were plenty of other tables he could’ve taken.

On another occasion, I noticed a table discussing abortion. Two men and two women were on the cusp of heated debate and outright arguing when, fortunately, they all began to calm down. At this clearing in the thick of their dispute, I asked to clear the dinner plates that were obviously finished. One of the men looked to me and said, “Young man, what are your thoughts on abortion?” I politely explained I really didn’t wish to get involved, but that I would happy to bring over some dessert menus. The man cuts me off: “No really! I insist on hearing your thoughts.” I stutter and say “S-s-sorry sir, I- I have other tables that need my, uh, attention.” What this anecdote serves to illustrate is how not to engage your servers. A friendly “Hello, how are you?” And “Please and thank you” are the few words you should need to use with your servers. Servers want to give you food, refill your drinks and clear your plates. We do not want to pick sides on your arguments.

Here are some rules of thumb for dining out:

1) Treat people the way you want to be treated. How would you feel if someone stepped into your place of work and spoke down to you?

2) Try not to be too upset about things that are out of the staff’s control. Trust me, I really wish I could’ve given that guy the table by the window, but pouting won’t change the fact that they were taken.

3) You’re paying for a quality dinner experience when you go out, so relax and enjoy it. Getting upset because the restaurant is out of goat cheese and you can’t have your favorite salad is comparable to paying for a vacation to the Vatican and getting upset that the Pope isn’t around. There is still lots to see in the Vatican and there’s lots of other food on the menu.

This same ideology need not just apply to the waitstaff at a restaurant. Consider the employees at Union’s own dining halls. The school is responsible for hiring and filling so many roles that are designed to expedite and facilitate our college experience. Without their help, this school would absolutely come to a halt.

In that regard, it is important to maintain patience, especially around those who may be new to the wrap-rolling practice and need to double-wrap your burrito. It will be okay, it is understandable that you are stressed about your papers and your midterms and all you want is to get a loaded burrito without any issues, but that may not always be the case.

Take my advice, go about your lives with fewer expectations; it will make life that much better when things go in your favor.

With an au revoir and adios, I leave you, my beloved reader, with an anonymous quote. “The fact that some people go to a restaurant and treat the staff like trash is abhorrent. You chose to go out to eat. If you feel the need to be rude while you’re waiting for your food — stay home and yell at your microwave.”