Hi, I'm your waiter.
"Good evening! Is this your first time here?"
Stories from the waiting floor:
I was asked by a woman as the appetizers were literally being walked out (which, by the way, was all she ordered) if I could bring out the appetizers one at a time. Sure! No problem. I'll reheat these. And by reheat, I'll put them on the counter in the back.
"Can you package these to go?" "Oh absoluteleigh!" After taking them to the back, I slop the food into a to-go package as quick as possible in a heap and throw that into a bag. "Here you go. Thank you so much!"
I got a margarita for a lone customer sitting at a two-top. After lifting my glass 3 inches off my tray, the bottom of the glass makes a clean cut and separates, falling flat back onto my tray. I'm left holding a perfect cylinder of glass and there is liquid margarita and ice all over the floor and her table. Don't put cold ice and liquid into a very hot glass!
There are areas just for waiters that have supplies, silverware, plates, and glasses called side stations. We all share items and oftentimes need to visit multiple side stations to get supplies (though we're always uber annoyed that "my side station is NEVER STOCKED"). Well, of course, my side station has no glasses. None are in the kitchen, so I go to the side station where the party is (because I know they hog the glasses so they can reset after the party.) I quietly jack a good half of what they have since my side station has zero and start to walk with 8 stacks of 3 glasses each on my tray. Now the hard part: dodge anyone that uses that side station. Well, I fail instantly, as a Server Assistant sees me. My solution? Walk faster. I make it just fine to my side station and empty one stack of glasses. Well, my hand holding the tray decides that one stack at a time is not enough and tips the tray over, SMASHING all but 5 or so. Waiters that followed me: "*GASP!* Are you okay?" Me: "If I can't have them, no one can!"
I have a fan club. All waiters get them. If you're part of my fan club, it's NOT a good thing. These are customers that say, "Oh, you've been amazing!" Or "best waiter I've had EVER." Or, the kiss of death, "I'll take care of you with the tip, trust me." My first fan club guests were so flattering toward me and I felt SO good. Especially when he said he'll take care of me! He leaves. 11% tip. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?
The rule of our nice restaurant is to wait to be acknowledged before speaking. So stand next to a table and at MOST 30 seconds later, someone will look up and make eye contact. I had two people from Iceland once who were deep into catching up with their lives. I stand next to their table to greet them and after 2 minutes, don't get eye contact. I return 2 minutes later and wait again. I finally get the female's eye contact for about 2 seconds, so I know this is my only chance. "Hi, is this your first time at Rosa Mexicano?" After another 30 seconds, I STILL get no response! All night, they IGNORED me. Word to the wise, I touch your food. Don't mess with me.
I got trashed recently and met a cute, tall guy (from Germany, actually) at a bar. He was staring at ME, so I got up and approached him. After buying me two drinks and having great conversation, my friends were leaving the bar, so I put it out on the table that I'd like to stay if he's interested (cuz I am!). He told me to go ahead, so I felt dumped. That's fine. Well, 3 days later, and I'm working. He RANDOMLY gets sat at one of MY tables with a friend! WOW! He must have come from my suggestion (which he later confirmed). I greet him with an obvious "I know you" heeellllllloooo, but don't start any other conversation after that, because I do not know what he's thinking. Halfway into appetizers when I'm checking on him, he says, "Leigh, this is my boyfriend, Danny."
Advice for those of you who are not waiters:
When waiters are great, tip them 20%. When they are outstanding, surprise them with more. If they're just decent, give them a typical 15%. You seriously decide our paycheck. The word "tip" is VERY misleading. It should be called paycheck, because that's EXACTLY what it is.
When it's busy, puhhLEIGHze don't ask for a larger table than the number of people you have. This includes taking a 4-seater booth when there's only 2 people. Waiters earn money flatly on percentages of the bill, so if only 2 of the 4 seats are filled, that's half the sales they could have made and the waiter loses out on that money completely.
A waiter's bad dream: "We're going to just have appetizers." I also tend to have people ask right after that if it's okay. You're going to be tipping me at the end! OF COURSE I'm going to say it's okay.
A waiter's nightmare: "We're going to split an entree." You know what would make this okay? Tip 40%. I kid you not. Because otherwise, you're filling a seat for someone that could have ordered an entree each. A low 15% of TWO entrees is 1/3 MORE money than a nice 20% tip of ONE entree.
Another solution is just to eat fast. The faster you leave, the more tables I get.
Speaking of which, DON'T SIT THERE. The longer you sit, the longer your tip must last. Say you tip $10. If you sit one hour, I've made $10/hour. Sit and drink decaffeinated coffee an extra hour and you've lowered me to $5/hour. Nothing has changed except my wallet. I could have had another customer in that time. LEIGHVE me. Go to the bar, drunkie.
Also, for restaurants that use computers, turning table times and/or checking out for the night are factors in a waiter's job, so if we drop the check, it doesn't always mean to leave, but please DO PAY. If you don't pay, we many times seriousleigh just sit there waiting for you to pay.