Archive for the ‘Tipping’ Category

Real Customers of Genius
January 17, 2009

Janet Presents: Real Customers of Genius

Today, we salute you, Mr Verbal Tipper.

(Mr. Verbal Tippppppper)

We all know servers don’t work to make tips. We just want to know we did a great job.

(I just want your approval)

They say money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy a college student booze and books. And your empty compliments can’t buy anything.


Oh, you maven of Stepford, you master of Yuppieville. I hope you feel fancy and look rich when you drink White Zinfandel in your polo shirt.

(Let’s just double the tax!)

With any luck, you’ll not only tell me how great I was, but you’ll leave a religious brochure next to that 10% tip.

(But I don’t wanna go to hell!)

So thank you, Mr. Verbal Tipper. Because when a recession hits, you keep my confidence up and my wallet empty.

Here’s to you Mr. Verbal Tippppperrrr

*Inspired, obviously, by Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius*

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Upselling. Imma hustla.
December 28, 2008

Here’s an introduction:

I think that this owner has some helpful tips, and they might work for some people. However, I’ve just been doing this long enough to understand the style of my delivery. And the fact of the matter is this: If I said, “Now don’t forget to save room for some of our homemade Key Lime Pie!!” I would come off like a used car salesman reminding my customers not to forget about the great deal on the lime green Pinto.

Not that I have the top sales in my restaurant, but I think I’m in the top 25% on the mojo score chart and I’ve gotten a lot better over time. Things that work for me…

1. Upselling alcohol

Raspberry martini

Raspberry martini

After I go over the specials (where I include a little aside about the wine menu on the specials card) I try to read how the customers react. If they seem kinda interested, I say, “Now, can I get you ladies something to drink, maybe a glass of wine to start off with?”

  • If they seem like they are kinda looking over the wine list and like they know what they are doing and need a few minutes to decide on wine – I bring them a glass of water in the meantime and take the order later.
  • If they seem interested, but unsure – I ask if they like red or white, sweet or dry, and I recommend something.
  • If two or three people order the same type of wine – I ask if they would wish to share a bottle and usually mention how if is sometimes more economical to do so (and it means a better tip for me because I get to show off those sweet wine presentation skills haha)
  • Great tip: Always try to get the person to order the second glass of wine (or beer, or white russian…what have you) BEFORE the meal comes out. You’re seriously a million times more likely to get them to order that second glass if you pay attention and make the offer before entrees.
  • Think of your own drinks that are not on the menu and suggest them.  This is a pic of a raspberry martini.  It’s Absolut raspberry, Chambord, and sour mix.  (Or try a Cosmo with Absolut Mandarin!)
  • Know the beers on tap! Have at the very least a general idea of all the bottles.
  • If they seem kinda interested in the idea of alcohol, but not wine – talk about martinis and mixed drinks.
  • UPSELLING MIXED DRINKS: Try to learn a few types of Gin, Vodka, Whiskey, Bourbon…ect. Then, when someone orders a gin and tonic you can say, “Would you like that with Bombay or Beefeeter?” For Martinis: “Would you like that with Grey Goose or Absolut?” Make them ask for well.

2. Upselling Appetizers:


Usually when I drop off the drinks I offer, “Would you like to snack on an appetizer while you look over the menu?” or “Would you like to nibble on an appetizer while you wait for the rest of your party to arrive? We have really great bruschetta and I love the fried calamari.” Just keep babbling about the appetizers until they seem sorta interested in what you are saying. Then…agree with them and make it sound like it was their idea.


Me: “Would you like to snack on an appetizer? I personally really love our calamari and the bruschetta is pretty great as well.”

Customer: avoids eye contact and reads menu

Me: “We also have a delicious stuffed mushroom dish…”

Customer: perks up and looks at me, then his wife, then me with anticipation

Me: “I know! Doesn’t that sound good? It’s tender, juicy, a little spicy – it’s stuffed mushrooms!!”

Customer: “We’ll take an order of that!”

So if you can’t interest them in appetizers…take their entree orders. After each individual orders his and her entrees, ask that person if he/she would like to start off with a soup or a salad. If the guest seems to stop for a second to consider it, remind the guest of the soup of the day or of your favorite salad. If they order it (“sure, I’ll take a salad”) offer “just a small house salad?” to get the specific order. This sells your salad because you aren’t making it sound like a big deal. And it’s not – it’s soup or salad. It’s healthy. 🙂

Note: Be honest. At my restaurant, honestly-two people can share a house salad and usually get their veggiefix. So if people ask about your portions sizes, tell the truth. Say it’s big enough to share if it really is big enough to share. Upselling is great, but honesty is better, and people will usually appreciate your help.

3. Upselling Desserts:


It’s winter! People are starting to not give a shit about their waistlines. Have your cake and eat it too 🙂

Hand your people a dessert menu as you are clearing their plates. Mention your favorite item and explain why.


Me: “Do you like chocolate?”

Customer: nods – it’s chocolate, of COURSE they like it.

Me: “Yea, me too! I love the chocolate cake here. It’s a rich, molten chocolate layer cake drizzled with a steamy chocolate sauce, and then it’s served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream. It’s sex on a plate!”

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what I say. But you get the point, you gotta entice them. Mention the coffee, the hot tea, the cappuccinos, the lattes, the after-dinner liquors. Assume they want it (because you know they always do; it’s just a matter of if they are willing to spend the money and the calories on it) Make them tell you no.

In Conclusion:

I think it’s all about reading people. You can tell when someone is just not interested in the damn calamari. So don’t push it. Don’t be annoying or presumptuous. But offer an appetizer, a wine, or a dessert. Describe it. If they seem the slightest bit interested – as though they are in some vague way giving the shyest bit of attention to your suggestion – give details. Be sincere. I don’t sell anything I wouldn’t eat or drink myself. If I don’t happen to like the soup of the day, I say so and suggest my favorite soup instead. However, I seriously do love the Mark West Pinot Noir. And the calamari. And the  chocolate cake. I’m just happy to make more money off of your enjoyment of my favorite items.

Photo creds:

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Gift Cards!
December 21, 2008

Gift cards! I can’t sleep and I thought I would take the opportunity to express my feelings about gift cards. As you can probably guess, I for the most part despise them. I will explain my top three reasons why gift cards can go to hell, then I will oblige you with an upbeat account of my first great gift card experience.

Top three reasons gift cards can go to hell:

#1. People who tip me on the check total left after they use a $25 gift card.

  • I bring you appies, martinis, and cannolis. You run up a tab of $50. Then you proudly hand me your $25 gift card along with your debit to take care of the rest of the bill. Then you tip me $5 and think you left an awesome tip because you tipped $5 on $25. No, you stupid piece of shit. Just because some secretary gave y0u a gift card for Christmas and you don’t have to pay for that food doesn’t mean that I didn’t do my job of ordering and bringing that crap out to you. So regardless of whether or not you are paying for it, I should still be compensated for serving it. So tip according to the entire tab, before your discount.

#2. Expired gift cards.

  • I had this lady try to use what she thought was a $50 gift card for her meal. I rang it through and it came out to only be worth $45. That’s because it was expired for a few months, and it decreased a couple dollars in value for every month that she didn’t use it. She played stupid (“I didn’t know it would decrease in value!” Really? Because it says so right on the back of the card…so…) and inevitably swindled my manager into honoring the full value of the card. It was a lot of extra work to re-do things in the computer, and it was right before close. And I found it hilarious that they tipped me the exact same as they did the first time we finalized their tab, even after I had stayed late and gone through all that trouble to save them five fucking bucks.

#3. The coupon mentality.

  • People expect special treatment because they have gift cards. I feel like people complain more about their food when they have gift cards because they assume that because it is free for them, it must be free for the restaurant too, so therefore it’s totally cool to return food they deem “not what I was expecting” or “just not to my liking.” So then they get those items comp’d, in addition to whatever gift card discount there is. The restaurant loses money, and I waste my time.

And now, for my great experience. I had a group of ladies come in with gift cards and free birthday dessert passes. Basically, they paid with cash the part of the tab that was left over after the discounts. They handed me the check book, said they didn’t need change, and went on their merry way. They left enough money to cover the tab had there not been a discount – meaning, I got to keep the difference as tip. I think it was like $25, which is awesome.

I don’t even expect people to be extra nice like that – I just expect them to be fair. But when people take the extra steps, it really puts a smile on my face. Maybe that’s the lesson to be learned: That not everyone appreciates the extra effort, the out-of-your-way actions. But when they do – they really do.

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I haven’t posted in FORRREVVERRR
November 23, 2008

So yea, this is like my second post in November, I’m a huge slacker since I’m no longer required to post stuff for my project. Also, I’ve been seriously hating my job lately and didn’t feel like writing another hate post.

But really, what’s just one more?

All I can say is that the “spirit of giving” most certainly does not apply to the tipping habits of customers in this frigid economy. The most pathetic scenario of late were these three women who ran up a bill of $54.00. Leaving me a ridiculous $5 tip, they sheepishly avoided me as I walked back toward my section to deliver some drinks and collect my “earnings” from the table.

Seriously? $5? Even I can afford a better tip than that. That was so pathetic.

But then the same night, one of my hostesses came in for her friend’s birthday party and I had their table. They were such nice kids and I totally enjoyed serving them. I let my guard down, got to relax and chat with them, and I didn’t charge them for drinks. They got an employee discount on the bill, so overall the bill wasn’t very high at the end and I wasn’t expecting much. They split the bill like 6 ways, and one of the splits was around $60.

He left me a $20 tip – TOO MUCH 🙂

This kid doesn’t even realize how much that meant to me. The money really really helped me out this week – it was gas in my tank! And I know that because he is a server, he tipped that much because he understands exactly where I’m coming from. It’s nice to feel understood once in a while.

So thank you. You will never read this and most likely never know how good it felt to know that someone understands your job and what you go through, and compensates for that.

November 3, 2008

You just can’t win.

This week, I had several instances when people flipped out on me for  things that weren’t my fault and it’s not cool.

For example, some woman ordered a beet salad at my table, and she was pretty pissed off when she got her dish and realized it was made with spinach, not arugula like it said in the menu.  She asked the busser to ask me for a side of arugula, which I couldn’t deliver on because it turns out we had run out of arugula – hence why the salad was made out of spinach.  And then to make matters worse, I guess there were only two chunks of avocado and she inquired – in a very smart ass way – if we had also run out of avocado.

At the same time, I had this lady at the next table over wanted:

-A big plate of penne pasta with garlicky alfredo sauce

-A side of marinara sauce “because I like to mix it together and make my own delicious blush sauce”

-A side of a half-order of eggplant parm with marinara and cheese

-The opportunity to comment that “I’ve been here three times and so far no one has gotten my order right yet”

WTF?!  What makes you think fourth time will be the charm?  Go to Olive Garden or stay home geez.

So it took me like seven trips back and forth to her table to completely understand what she was and was not asking for, making sure I was correctly communicating this order back to the chef.

Which leads me to one of my points – and I promise I do have at least one.  So much of this is about communication.  Me, properly interpreting the petty requests of irritating customers to chefs who, lucky for them aren’t paid through tips and have the luxury of not giving much of a shit what the customer thinks.  The chefs, communicating to me that, although I am being a complete pain in the ass and making their jobs very difficult, they understand my request and will reluctantly do it.  The managers, doing everything short of a lap dance to communicate to the customers how right they are, how wrong we are, and how this shitty service/hair in the food/insert favorite problem here never usually happens at this restaurant.

Most of my income completely relies on how effectively we all communicate with eachother because that is how the right food and the right experience gets to the table – and that is what the tip is based off of.  If the chef had just communicated to me that we were out of arugula, I could have communicated that to my customer.  Because I worked hard to completely understand the details of the other customer’s order, I was able to clearly communicate that to my chef, and the right order went out.  Most of my job, really, is about controlling this communication between the eaters and the food makers.

But unfortunately, this part of the restaurant experience that I actually control is only about 10% of what happens.  This idea of me only being able to control 10% of what happens is advice given to me by another server – and she has no idea how validating her words were.

And if I can only control 10% – the how on earth do I go about earning 20%?

The grinch who stole Thursday
October 31, 2008

That title refers to the stupid bitch at table 32 who had to question every little thing I did and tell me that we didn’t make our salad dressing right because we use cream and “I make salad dressing all the time and that’s not how I make it.”

Really?  Well then.  We have an opening for an Executive Chef.  Wanna apply?  Or are you too damn busy giving favors for jewelry in your Pittsford-ass cookie cutter sub-division to make something of your life?

Verbal Tippers: The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions
September 28, 2008

So I could’ve added “Verbal Tippers” to one of my dislikes on that previous post… But I so strongly dislike them that I decided to dedicate an entire post to them. Congrats.

Yesterday was a crazy busy night, very exciting stuff. I had this one table of five, a family, and the mother was super friendly and really funny actually. They were all a little bit drunk so I had extra fun with them. Their bill came to around $150 and I left the check with the dad to pay. As I said goodbye they broke out in a chorus of Thank you Janets and seemed sincerely happy with their service. I know they were because they told me so like 15 times. As they get up to leave the mom grabs me as I’m talking to another table and says, “Thank you again, hunny” and kisses me on the cheek. I don’t come from a kissy family…so that was weird for me. I look at the tip: They left me 20. On $150. You do the math. WTF?!

The bottom line is that verbal tipping – or as in this case, combined with a little non-verbal tipping – sucks. Don’t tell me I did a good job. You don’t even have to be particularly friendly. I mean, don’t be a jerk to me but you don’t have to go out of your way to talk to me and get to know me – talk to whoever you came to the restaurant with!! I sort of appreciate it, but at the end of the day, nice words don’t buy gas. 20% does.

And to elaborate, I would like to send a message to all the pushy religious people out there who think it’s cool to leave churchy promotional stuff at my tables in leau of a tip. “God blessing” me as I say goodbye and leaving 10% with a Jesus brochure does nothing for me. Last time I checked, the gas station doesn’t take Jesus brochures. I may not be an expert (and who is??) but I don’t think true Christianity is even remotely about pushing guilt on people. I already believe in God and love Jesus. You know what else I love? Money.

Bought on a cross - not with your stupid brochure.

Bought on a cross - not with your stupid brochure.

To quote a like-minded blogger:

“What teacher commends you for excellent work then hands you a C? It’s all about setting the expectation level; at least bad tippers who avoid eye contact when they leave have the decency not to get our hopes up. As I see it, verbal tippers are cowards. They hide behind their words. They’re fully aware of their meager pittance and try to cover it up. That, or they’re just plain retarded and think we work to feel pleasant about? ourselves. Sorry to break it to you, but we work to …earn money? What a concept!”

The color of your skin is a**hole.
September 27, 2008

Likes and Dislikes
September 20, 2008

I had a horrible night last night. I walked out with like $28 on a Friday night. The idiot hostess sat a guy in my section 25 minutes before I got to work, so he was obviously pissed by the time I got to his table. That’s just setting me up for failure, folks.

So to boost my morale, get some stuff off my chest, and prepare myself for work tonight, I will share with you my favorite and least favorite things about my job.

NO ME GUSTA!!!!!!!!

1. Cheap tippers! YOU IDIOTS! 15% is passe. Inflation, people! Inflation! (Sub-complaint: Canadians and Europeans who don’t understand that you TIP IN AMERICA because servers make normal hourly wages where they live.  This is AMERICA.  Fact: I make $4.60 an hour. My friend worked at Chili’s in Dallas, TX and she made $2.18 an hour. Tips are where the money comes from.)

2. Serving women, especially, ladies who lunch. They are demanding, condescending, nasty, and cheap cheap cheap. They expect the most and tip the least. They act like they are better than me. There is nothing like getting bossed around by someone who has never had to work for anything in her life. It twinges.

3. Messy children. Keep your kids in their seats with the food on the table. Are you gonna sweep that mac n’ cheese up?  No.  I am.  I once had this woman let her demonseed run all over my restaurant like it was a private playground. It is RUDE. From what my mom tells me, I am a former demonseed myself and you know what? They got a sitter. I couldn’t behave myself so I wasn’t allowed out until I could handle it.

Which brings me to my next point: Messy adults. #%&@*!!!!!!  Didn’t your mother teach you how to eat?  I can’t tell you how many thirty-something customers I’ve had that leave the table looking like someone dumped a bucket of pasta and breadcrumbs on the floor. Yucky.

4. Co-workers who don’t do sidework.

5. Co-workers who go on smoke breaks and expect you to watch their tables.

6. When people call me “miss.” GRRRR!!!!! My name is JANET.

7. When the kitchen screws up my food. Very very very rare. But when it happens, man, I’ll tell you that’s annoying.

8. Creepy co-workers.

9. People who come into the restaurant and modify every single thing that they order. Respect the menu, jerk.

10. Typical customers. Like the ladies who lunch: there will always be a caesar salad and a white zinfandel. And water, WITH LEMON PLEASE!! Phhff.

11. When I spill things on my white shirt and have to wear it the rest of the shift.

12. Sharing the employee bathroom with everyone else.

13. When I spill and/or break things.

14. Ditzy hostesses who can’t do their job. Follow the chart! My God!

15. Horrible bartenders that know less about alcohol than me or make you wait ten minutes for a freaking glass of wine.

16. Messing up on a wine presentation. It’s embarrassing.

17. CAMPERS! People who have already eaten, are on their third cup of coffee, and already cashed out.  But they sit at the table, chatting.  For seriously up to four or five hours.  It is so rude.  This is not your living room, it is a public space and you are taking up my section.  GO HOME. (Reference “Ladies who Lunch” comment.)

18.  Cheap, white trash customers who come into the restaurant and try to get their meals comp’d by making the most ridiculous allegations, including but not limited to: “The ravioli was too cheesy,” “The water was too cold,” “My well-done filet mignon took 20 minutes and that’s too long.” If you order something at a restaurant and they legitimately screw it up, tell the server and then tell the manager.  (Like if your salmon is hot pink on the inside, or if your soup is colder than your Diet Coke.) But if you just don’t like something then it’s not the kitchen’s fault – you just don’t like it.  I don’t like steak or chicken marsala.  So you know what?  I don’t order steak and I don’t order chicken marsala.

Me Gusta:

1. Good tippers! 20% or more.

2. Hanging out with fun co-workers and having them become some of my best friends.

3. When it’s really really busy and you’re running around doing a million different things – it’s a total rush.

4. Co-workers who help you out when you need it. I love teamwork.

5. Employee discounts on delicious food.

6. Meeting cool and interesting people that come into my restaurant.

7. The type of customer that tries to get to know you and seems to genuinely see you as a person, not their servent.

8. Serving boys, guys, and men. They tip better, demand less, are generally more easy-going than women.

9. All things considered, it actually is decent money. I make around $14 an hour on even a very modest (like $50 in tips) night. Other than engineering co-ops, what other job can a college student do to make that kind of money?

10. Getting dressed up in the uniform – I think it’s kinda cute in an Annie Hall/Diane Keaton way.

11. Flirting with cute chefs. A hot guy that can cook? Sign me up ; )

12. Actually…flirting with everyone I work with.

13. Having other bartenders and servers as customers. They are by far the best tippers because they know how it is.

14. People who say “please” and “thank you.” It goes a long way.

15. People who teach their children to say “please” and “thank you.” Thank you for leading a new generation of polite people. Other parents, please follow suit.

16. Good hostesses: the ones who ask you if you are ready to be sat, don’t skip you in the rotation, and are generally pleasant to be around.

17. Managers who aren’t too good to run your food or get behind the bar and make you a drink.

18. Good bartenders that are able to handle service bar as well as their own customers. Like my girl Cheryl. ❤

19. The fact that serving has helped me grow. I’m a more confident and assertive person – and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Except for the lottery, haha. After college, I will miss this.

Hi kids!
September 16, 2008

Let’s get this blog started! So I chose to write about my job as a waitress because although it may not be the most important thing I do in my life, my experiences as a server are some of the funniest and most character-building.

I began serving when I was sixteen. I worked for a banquet hall owned by a Polish family and did weddings on the weekends. I earned $30 for each three hour shift. I thought I was awesome. I always got yelled at because I talked too much and the angry owner’s wife was a freaking 75-year-old drill sargent. She could intimidate the Taliban.

From there I went on to a country club for two summers. I did mostly weddings, but also lots of showers and preppy golf parties. I’ve had an offensive amount of wedding cake in my life. My favorite memory of this job is from my first summer during the July 4th party when I got to sit on my roof with my first boyfriend and watch the fireworks. It was kind of magical.

My friends from the country club.  God, I miss this.

My friends from the country club. God, I miss this.

When I came to Rochester I worked at a pub for a month before I quit (before they could fire me first.) It was my first a la carte job, and the most difficult. I knew nothing about alcohol. I had no clue what a black and tan or a Manhattan was or hat martinis couldn’t be on the rocks and up. It was pretty tough. I was also young so I had a hard time standing up for myself when everyone else went on smoking breaks and left me to take care of the whole restaurant. The management was TERRIBLE. After two days of training (which consisted of me following around a reluctant server and getting my questions brushed off) I was thrown to the sharks of the Saturday night rush. Completely un-corporate (a very good thing) yet completely disorganized (a downside of some privately owned establishments).

From there, I went to work at a diner. I got fired after two days. I don’t know why. The place recently closed. Serves them right, huh? Pun intended.

I gave up on serving for a while and worked in a coffee bar. Although the job was fun, it wasn’t much money – at least not what I was used to. After ten months I was ready to head back to the restaurant, and got a job at an Italian place.

I was an absolute disaster. I couldn’t keep up, couldn’t answer people’s questions, spilled drinks, dropped glasses, and got upset every single time someone disrespected me. I would’ve been fired if it weren’t for an amazing manager who looked out for me, covered up my mistakes, and always sided on my behalf. Every day you meet people that you will soon forget. But some days, you meet people who make a lasting impression. People who show you sincere kindness and concern. When he quit in June, I wanted to give him a “congrats on leaving the restaurant and good luck” gift. But I soon realized that nothing could compare to the kindness he showed me. I wrote him a thank you note and cried.

All summer I wanted to leave this restaurant. Business there steadily declined. There were several lunch shifts where I got no tables at all – leaving after two hours having only made the $4.60 hourly wage. There were many weekend dinner shifts when I was cut at 6:30 and walked out with maybe $20 if I were lucky. Enough was enough – so I’ve moved on.

Ironically and arguably selfishly, I now work for the Italian restaurant across the street – their number one competitor in the region. I work with one of my best friends, and I’m just about done with all of the training. (A process, which may I add, has taken almost three weeks. Way more corporate than they claim to be, I think the training is a little excessive for someone coming in with previous training experience. But at the same time, I am completely confident now that I started slow. Upside: confidence. Downside: poverty; you don’t make tips during training.)

I’m happy to report that this is my easiest job yet. I’m actually a good server now. It really took me a long time to get the hang of this, to be comfortable at tables, to stay calm when it gets busy.  I have competitive cover averages, decent tips, and for the most part, happy customers. Most importantly, if someone is mean to me, I don’t let it ruin my night. The jerks will be out of my restaurant and out of my life in 40 minutes, afterall, so what do I care?

You can treat me like crap, like you’re better than me, like I owe you something, like I’m your servent. It doesn’t matter: I’m still me and I still know I’m great.

Which leads me to the underlying message and theme behind this blog. I will share a lot of bad customer stories and probably do a lot of whining. But my goal is to show you that I’m not just a waitress like the customers who sit at my tables see me as.

Behind every waitress (and bartender, and barista, and cashier) is a person who has experienced things that changed them for good. We are all people, and if you take the time to get to know people you will find how you can relate to everyone you meet, and you will really appreciate them. We should all treat each other with kindness, respect, and gratuity.