The Wai-ai-ting Is the Hardest Part

A few days ago Becky from Mommy Needs Vodka (actually it’s Mommy Wants Vodka but I think needs is better) and I were reminiscing on our days of waiting tables. Fun times. As a former waitress, I feel it’s my duty to give everyone a few tips on how to make the most of your dining experience.

The first thing you’ll notice when you come through the door of most any fine dining establishment is the Please Wait To Be Seated sign. Ignore it. This does not mean you. You have eyes. You don’t need to be told where or where not to sit. Just wander around until you find the busiest section. This means that your server is the “popular” server and you want to be right where the action is. The perfect table will probably be dirty so create your own personal space by conspicuously shoving everything to one side of the table. Then take your napkin and disgustedly start wiping it off.

Now you need to get the servers attention. Whistling or snapping your fingers will make your server respond with greater alacrity. As the hostess walks by seating less assertive people, cheerily call out, “Hey, we need menus!” Now your server will probably come over to your table and intrusively ask, “How are you today?” Avoid eye contact at all costs. Say nothing. Finish your conversation with your dining companion. You must make it clear from the start just who is calling the shots here – you. Your server may now make a second attempt to establish rapport by asking, “May I get you something to drink?” Shoot them down. Respond with “No thanks. I’ll just have water.” Again, you’re in control. Your server will wonder just how you’re going to ingest it if you’re not going to drink it. Intravenously? Or perhaps by spilling it on the table and absorbing it through osmosis?

When your server returns with the water tell him/her that you are ready to order. Now is a chance to really let them shine. Ask a lot of questions about the menu. Ask about the Early Bird Special. So what if it’s after 9 pm? Ask for the kids menu. If he tells you there is no kids menu say, “are you sure? The last time I was here there was definitely a kids’ menu.” After awhile your server will start to shift his weight from foot to foot looking around the restaurant at his other tables who are probably waving to get attention. This is the perfect time to ask about the specials. Vacillate between the two chicken specials for awhile and then order the pasta off the menu. Wait at least ten minutes before changing your order. Your server shouldn’t have been pressuring you to make up your mind! Flag down the busboy or better yet, make physical contact. Explain to him that you’ve changed your mind and you want the chicken special after all. Except you want it dry, broiled, sauce on the side, without the skin and no butter. Repeat no butter! You’re allergic. Wait no more than five minutes to ask what’s taking so long. After all didn’t you say you were in a hurry?

When your food FINALLY arrives the real fun begins. You are in the driver’s seat. This is the time to make your server work for their tip (if they get one) Asking for a variety of items will make him feel useful. Ask for salt. When he comes back with it ask for pepper. Oil and vinegar? you get the picture. Request some Tabasco sauce. Even if you don’t use it it will comfort you to know it’s there.

At this point your server may start making himself scarce. Track him down. Follow him into the kitchen or send your precocious four-year-old after him. Restaurant servers love children. Think of the establishment as your own personal Gymboree. Your child should be able to express themselves vocally, physically and spatially. Remember, the restaurant is responsible for their safety.

Once your server places down the check, look it over, then find an item you don’t feel like paying for. Wasn’t that rice a little starchy? Demand that it be taken off the bill. If your server hesitates even for a moment, ask to see a manager. If you feel your confrontation with the manager is not heading towards a complimentary meal , feel free to use the “there was a hair in my food” line. When your server returns with your discounted check tell him you’re thinking about dessert. But for now you’ll just have coffee, preferably with non-fat milk and decaf. Definitely decaf. You’re allergic to caffeine.

After six refills of coffee (they’re free) you may notice some of the other workers are putting chairs upside down on the table. Now is a great time to have a look-see at the dessert menu. Take your time eating because after all, you’re not just a customer but you’re a guest in their home. Once you get your last single bite of dessert boxed up to take home, settle up the check. Don’t insult your waiter who is probably lingering around in his street clothes, by leaving a tip. it is his pleasure to serve you.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on April 4, 2008 7:57 pmUncategorized16 comments  


  1. Becky said,



    I expect that MY meal will be for free.

    I want a half diet/half coke. A half DIET/Half COKE. A HALF diet/HALF coke. Did you hear me say HALF DIET/HALF COKE?

    | April 4, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  2. Christine said,

    Thanks for helping me relive some of the most precious moments in my life!

    What I miss most, however, is those boisterous business dudes who are all bravado buying rounds to show off for their companions. I just loved worked my ass off with their demands, running me back and forth all night.

    Then, oh that lovely pile of cash they threw in the middle of the table, and bolted out the door as I stole a moment for another table. The pile that didn’t cover their check (that they hadn’t asked for), let alone a tip.

    And I really miss running out into the parking lot and tracking that mofo down and demanding he pay his bill. Actually, that part was fun…embarrassing him in front of the people he was trying to impress. THAT ROCKED!

    | April 4, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  3. Newt said,

    Oh dear. I think servers are asking the devil to save a special place in hell for my husband and me. I’m a vegetarian, and he’s allergic to onions (really allergic, not just pretend allergic. He gets all puffy and hivey if he eats them!). So we’re always sending people scurrying to the kitchen to ask if the soup is made with chicken broth, or the enchilada sauce has onions. I think they cringe when they see us coming.

    I’m so sorry, servers of the world. So so sorry.

    | April 4, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  4. Coma Girl said,

    Wow, that was a stroll down memory lane. Some days I miss it and other days, like when I read this, I don’t.

    | April 4, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

  5. Kate said,

    Oh your little babes are so sweet. I love them! As for the whole waitress thing here’s a good one. When my sister and I go out to dinner the very FIRST thing she says to the server before ANYTHING else is “can we have separate checks”. No matter if there are 8 of us at the table. I just die every effin’ time. She just did it last night and followed it up with “well it’s just easier” and the waiter said “yeah..for you!”. I double tipped. Loved it.

    | April 5, 2008 @ 3:56 am

  6. Anna said,

    Holy cow, do people really do these things??

    | April 5, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  7. MereCat said,

    Reminds me of my many years as a stewardess. People do absolutely every bit of that on an airplane, too.

    | April 5, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

  8. Kyddryn said,

    OK – so before I was a bad Denny’s waitress (really, I had no business waiting tables. Why did they hire me??), I was a regular there. It was the only place open at two in the morning when I couldn’t sleep. My usual waitress and I were chummy after a while, and she told me it was OK to hit the coffee station if I wanted a refill and she wasn’t there. It got so I was making fresh pots on a regular basis…but she said it was OK! I always made sure I left her a nice tip, even when I was broke and only had coffee.

    One night, I had some local kids do a dine and dash in my station. Oh, not, not on my shift. I chased their sorry asses down in the parking lot (I guess they figured the fat chick couldn’t run. Shows what they know), hauled the ringleader inside and called his daddy – right after I called the cops. Damn punks with their nouveau-riche attitude…”My dad’s making a million a year so I’m better than you and can treat you like shit” Hah! I refused to let it slide, even when daddy tried to buy me off. I was just sick of the jack-assery, and I could always sell a kidney to make rent. They never came back, and we never missed them.

    One last blather – how many interesting places did you have to fish a tip from? I found them in water, iced tea, and soft drink glasses, at the bottom of a milkshake cup, thrown into a puddle of catsup and scrambled eggs, in the dregs of a coffee cup, and even in an ash tray that had been filled with creamer. And this was in a “nice” neighborhood where people lived in million dollar homes and drove big expensive cars. Just goes to show, money doesn’t equal class. Shoot, the best tip I ever got was from a homeless guy! But that’s another story…

    Shade and Sweetwater,

    | April 5, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  9. Elise said,

    Oh my good Lord, that was hilarious. I (obviously) was a waitress as well, and man some of those situations were right on.

    I especially love that as a mom with kids, you still say “make sure to treat the restaurant as your own personal Gymboree. Remember, servers love children”.

    That was freaking funny.

    | April 5, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  10. Catwoman said,

    Absolutely hilarious!

    And on a plane? People somehow think it’s ok to slap your ass when you walk down the aisle.

    | April 5, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  11. Anonymous said,

    Then of course, duck and run, because there is probably someone with a shotgun lingering just outside the door. LOL

    Yeah, been there done that, as a former waitress. ;o) Thanks for the giggle.

    | April 5, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

  12. Kathy said,

    I think these are the same people who become famous and then demand bowls of green m&m’s in their room.

    | April 6, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  13. whatthef*ck said,

    oh my god, thanks for the flashbacks. if i never hear the term “early bird special” again it’ll be too soon. i was a waitress for a good ten years. started in a hot dog. i dare say that i will not waitress ever again.

    by the way i was going to post about something that is actually too humiliating for me to divulge. but i feel like you might appreciate it. i went out on friday with a bunch of moms (and our kids’ kindergarten teacher), drank way too much and ended up puking. on my lawn. yes, it’s true. i’m 38 years old and i threw up on my lawn. my first bleary thought of the morning was about whether the kids would see it before i could hose it down.

    not sure why i told you that.

    complicated mama/wtf

    | April 7, 2008 @ 2:36 am

  14. carrie said,

    Please tell me that somewhere, maybe in the kitchen, someone put my food down their pants a la the french toast in “Road Trip” if that were me.

    Some people . . .

    | April 7, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  15. AddieLynn said,

    OMG! I almost peed my pants!!! LMAO! I, too was fortunate enough to partake in the lovely profession of waiting tables… Speaking of… Have you seen the movie Waiting? OMG! That is HILARIOUS!!! Anyway, just wanted to say that your post really lifted my spirits today. Thank you for sharing!!!

    | April 8, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  16. dawn said,

    As a former waitress-at Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara and as a formers slave (aka Waitress the the 4 Seasons in Santa Barbara), I am laughing so very hard and thanking my lucky stars that I have long since hung up my apron and notepad.

    My worst experience was when I worked at Cold Spring Tavern and a customer had the audacity to ask me which dessert was my favorite and I said I wasn’t really dessert person and he then replied “You certainly look like you have eaten all the desserts here”…I was not the thinnest chick–but I certainly didn’t look like I had eaten all the desserts. I told my boss that I couldn’t believe what this asshole had said to me–my boss kicked him and his friend out–after asking him to pay his bill. The dudes left pennies for a tip–which my boss proceeded to give back to them telling them that they needed that money more than I did. Of course the childish guy through it back at us, but it was awesome.

    There is nothing worse than waiting on people who have never been or have never closely known someone who is a waiter/waitress.

    Thanks for letting me relieve my glory days as a server/slave and laughing about it.

    | April 13, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

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