Diner vs. Waitress
1. SPLITTING CHECKS
Waitress: Don’t expect to come in on a Friday night with ten people, and have a waitress graciously agree to split the check ten ways. Ever heard of cash?
Diner: Even the storefront Thai place in my neighborhood has its own credit card machine and doesn’t care. What’s the big deal about splitting a check?
Waitress: It’s time consuming to split it among ten different cards, especially if one person wants to put $25 on this card, “well I’m going to put $16.50 on that card”—that’s just ridiculous. And I’m not carrying ten pens on me, so you’re going to get three or four pens. You can’t stop at an ATM real quick?
Diner: What you’re telling me is that your time is more important than my time. You want me to go to the ATM so I can come and eat in your restaurant? Why don’t I eat at the restaurant next to the ATM?
Waitress: We have an ATM in our restaurant. On your way to the bathroom, you can take 20 seconds, pop your card in, and take some cash out. That’s how convenient we’ve made it for you.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I’m ruling for the waitress. That’s just jerky behavior on the part of the diner.
WAITRESS 1, DINER 0
Waitress: If you want our turkey chopped salad, dressing on the side, minus the turkey, eggs, bacon, blue cheese, and tomatoes, stay at home and make it yourself.
Diner: When I go to a restaurant, I want what I want. If you can’t provide it, there are plenty of restaurants in Chicago that can. Simple as that.
Waitress: You picked this restaurant for a reason. You don’t like tomatoes? Fine. We’ll leave off tomatoes. But must we take out everything that makes the chopped salad a chopped salad? Just throw some lettuce in a bag and eat it at home.
Diner: How hard is it for a chef to make changes? Is it because everything is so carefully plated in his precious kitchen that he can’t take the bacon off a salad?
Waitress: It’s not that hard. But when you have ten women at a table ordering ten different salads, and they want this on and this off and this on the side, it gets really complicated. I don’t have an hour to take your order.
Diner: So it’s about women.
Waitress: I guess they are a little pickier. What’s the point of a chef customizing his own dishes if you’re just going to butcher it by taking everything off of it?
Diner: Maybe I’m making the dish better. Maybe I’m smarter than the chef. Maybe my wife dragged me here and all I want is a plain salad and the only salad your restaurant has has all this crap on it.
Waitress: Check out the menu beforehand. If you don’t like what this restaurant has, go somewhere else.
Diner: Maybe I will next time.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I rule for the Diner. It’s a customer service business and if a diner takes a chopped salad in essence all the way down to a plain mixed greens salad, that’s part of your job. Whatever it ends up being, you give the person what they want. If they want to pay $11.95 for nothing, you let them.
WAITRESS 1, DINER 1
Diner: Do you think I cannot see through this ruse when I inquire about a $30 bottle and you push a $70 bottle?
Waitress: The $70 bottle is priced higher because it’s a better quality. If you want a cabernet, I wouldn’t recommend the crappy $10 glass. I’d try to give you the $18 glass that’s actually going to make the rest of your meal taste better. I am trying to make a living.
Diner: If it’s crap, don’t put it on your menu. If I inquire about a $30 bottle, that’s obviously what I am comfortable spending. You recommend a $70 bottle and that puts me in an awkward position. If I go back to the $30 bottle, my guests think, Oh, we’re not good enough for a $70 bottle? This feels like extortion. We’re in your restaurant, we’re paying two and half times markup, and you’re trying to get me to spend even more.
Waitress: I’ve suggested good wines then the person shoots me down and goes back to the bad pinot noir, then they tell me, “This is a bad pinot noir” and send it back. Now I have to comp your wine? I warned you.
Diner: Why take it out on the diner? Why don’t you go back to wine guy and tell him, “Here’s another diner who didn’t like the pinot. I’m getting screwed out of my tip because you’re picking bad wines for the list.”
Waitress: Some people aren’t wine drinkers and they’re perfectly happy with that $10 glass of wine, while others want a more sophisticated wine. During our training, they train us to try and upsell. It’s more money for the restaurant. It’s making your tab larger. More money is more money for everyone.
Diner: Not for the customer.
Waitress: $30 for a bottle of wine is not that much. For four people? Come on, cheapo, spend the $70. That’s how they’ve trained us.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I have to rule with the diner here. In the end, it’s not the diner’s fault that they’re cheap. When a diner asks about a bottle, they’re basically saying, “That’s how much I’m comfortable spending.”
DINER 2, WAITRESS 1
4. REMEMBERING THE ORDER
Diner: When I give you my order, please write it down. Are you trying to impress me with your memory?
Waitress: The restaurant I work at, we are required to write it down. But I know at other restaurants they think it looks more proper if the server can memorize the whole entrée. I have been doing this all day for probably a year; I think I can remember that you want the chicken breast, no mayo, lettuce on the side. Why do I need to write it down?
Diner: Just a second ago you said, Oh you’ve got all these other tables, you’ve got a million things going on, you’re so busy. How l do I know what you can remember or what you can’t remember? You seem like a fairly smart kid; maybe you can juggle all these things in your head on your way back there, or maybe you’re thinking about your boyfriend who broke up with you. I don’t know what goes on between after you leave my table.
Waitress: Usually when I take your order, I’m going directly to the computer screen and putting it in. The fact that you’re even questioning my intelligence kind of makes me mad, and calling me a ‘kid’.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I’m going to rule for the waitress on this one. I’m guessing they waiters generally just don’t make that many mistakes. If they do they make customer service amends.
DINER 2, WAITRESS 2
5. THE DREADED COAT ISSUE
Diner: There’s always such a push to get us to give up our coats. Do these coats ruin your service if we hang them on the back of our chairs?
Waitress: I have almost killed myself from tripping over someone’s coat while I was carrying a tray full of glasses. Business guys, they come in with coats down to their ankles. These coats don’t magically shorten when they’re on the back of your chair, and then they get mad if there’s a small scuffmark on them. We have a free coatroom in the back, we have offered to take your coat for you so you don’t have to get up, yet you refuse to depart from your coat!
Diner: Well, there aren’t too many restaurant that do it for free anymore. Frankly, the restaurant, when they create the space, should take into account that people are going to have stuff on the back of their chairs. That’s what people do. The back of my chair for the next two hours is mine. I can put whatever I want there.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I rule for the diner.
DINER 3, WAITRESS 2
Waitress: We are not babysitters. Leave the kiddies at home or strap them to their chairs.
Diner: Wow. You guys have booster seats and high chairs? So, it’s safe to assume that you don’t mind children being at your restaurant? Do you expect people with kids to come to your restaurant?
Waitress: We don’t want to count them out.
Diner: Okay, so you don’t prefer them obviously? That’s what you’re saying?
Waitress: Take it however you want to interpret it.
Diner: If my child, who is two years old, comes into your restaurant and at the end of the meal is acting like a two year old and is not being taken out of the restaurant . . . Oh, I just talked myself into a corner. OK. It is difficult to expect a two year old to sit in a chair . . . Wait a minute, this is not a good argument either.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: That’s it, I rule for the waitress.
DINER 3, WAITRESS 3
7. WHOSE TABLE IS IT, ANYWAY?
Diner: Do not hustle me out of my table the second I’m done. I am allowed to linger if I’ve just dropped $300 at your restaurant.
Waitress: $300? OK, yeah, I agree. But there’s a difference between lingering for a second and lingering for an hour. What diners don’t know is that waitresses get cut at a certain point in the night. Meaning if all their tables are gone they can go home. Yes, you may have spent $300, but you are one of my three tables. If you sit there, I don’t get to turn the table.
Diner: Again, you’re telling me your time is more important than my time. I have purchased that table for my comfort for as long as I want, provided there are not other people waiting it. I’m happy to give you your tip, we could close out, whatever, you can go home. But for me to have to go to the bar because your restaurant isn’t making any more money off me? That’s not what it’s all about.
Waitress: How long are you lingering? And are you spending money or just drinking water?
Diner: No, I’m not spending any money. I spent my money. I just spent $300. If I finish my meal in two hours, and I want to linger for another 45 minutes to an hour, I think I’m entitled.
Waitress: An hour? I would kill you. You’re OK with taking up a table and ruining the chances of a waitress making money just so you can sit there for another hour?
Diner: If you allow me to linger and make me feel welcome then I will tip you well. If there’s any sense that you’re trying to rush me out of there, I don’t think that’s very kind to the diner.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I rule for the waitress. There’s a kind of denial of the fact that a restaurant is a business. The situation you just described sounds like abuse to me.
WAITRESS 4, DINER 3
Waitress: There’s a reason we put you at the table by the bar instead of the booth by the window. This isn’t musical chairs. Please stay where you’re sat.
Diner: I would love to know what that reason is, because I always get the worst possible seat. I see there’s an empty booth. Why can’t I have it?
Waitress: There’s a formula to the restaurant business. In order for each sever to get a fair amount of tables, the hostess has to go in a certain order to make sure it’s spread out. My owners like the front of the restaurant to get sat first because it looks more full.
Diner: I guess in a lot of cases I see some dumb hostess who doesn’t seem to have any formula and just puts me at a crap table. And when I say I would rather sit elsewhere I get attitude because I screwed up your precious little system.
Waitress: I get those customers who come in and they sit at the booth, look around, and they’re like, “Hmmm, no.” They don’t even tell the hostess. They just get up and sit down somewhere else, after we’ve already poured their water, so now we have a waitress following them around the restaurant with their waters, waiting for them to pick a spot.
Diner: I would gladly carry my water to a more comfortable table.
Waitress: Well, I’m glad you and your wife are going to come in and take up my booth that would sit four people. I’m glad you guys want more room and more space, so we’ll give it to you, with a smile.
Diner: What happens to you if I pick another table outside your section?
Waitress: I lose the table. There are better sections that you can have. And sometimes a server will get a bad section, and not get a table the whole night because no one likes her section.
Diner: Why are you stuck in that section?
Waitress: It rotates.
Diner: So it doesn’t matter how well you do, your best server could still get stuck with a crappy section?
Waitress: They try not to, but they are pretty fair about it.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I rule for the diner. There’s an element of human behavior that a restaurant can program against. I may be wrong about this, but I would hope diners wouldn’t try to do it when it’s really crowded.
WAITRESS 4, DINER 4
Waitress: Would it kill you to acknowledge my presence when I approach the table, rather than averting your eyes and continuing on in conversation?
Diner: I think at a restaurant there is an unspoken rule that a wall exists between the staff and the diner, and when I’m in the middle of a conversation, for you to stand there and wait for me to finish or to interrupt or insert yourself in my conversation—you may as well be sitting down at my table. You weren’t invited. You’re there to serve my meal.
Waitress: So you want me to perch 50 feet away, stare at your table, wait for the second that one of you stop talking, run over there, and try to get in really fast before someone else starts talking? Or pace back and forth waiting for a break in conversation? Do you think it makes me comfortable, waiting there for you to be quiet, so I can take your order? You think we like hearing your conversation?
Diner: Maybe I am at the best part of my story. Maybe I’m about to propose to somebody. The people at Tru manage to be out of your vision and there magically when you need them. You have to be constantly judging these things and adjust. If early on, it’s obvious this is a table of talkers, you have to figure out a away to get in there without it being intrusive.
Waitress: And how do you propose I do this?
Diner: I don’t know. Somehow the good waiter and waitresses manage to do it.
Waitress: OK, then when I come up to you and greet you, why do you just stare at me, like I’m some kind of monster, like you’re so confused as to why I’m there. Just like a “how are you” or a nod. Would that kill you?
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I rule for the waitress.
WAITRESS 5, DINER 4
10. ARE YOU READY TO ORDER?
Waitress: You’re either ready to order or not. Period. If I ask, “Are you ready to order?” you either say “Yes,” or “We need a few more minutes.”
Diner: At a restaurant, there are all these rituals, and sometimes you’re with people you don’t know very well. You’re making decisions together. You’re placed in this sort of intimate situation. Basically I’m doing this dance with my guest, and you ask if I’m ready to order, and maybe I’m ready and they’re not. Maybe people have questions. There’s all kinds of negotiating about if they get this, maybe I should get that.
Waitress: Yes, if you have a question I would gladly answer it, but I don’t have time to sit with your table for eight minutes discussing every item or waiting to hear what you guys decide to share. That should be done before I get there.
Diner: But how can I gauge whether the other people at the table are as ready as I am? Or do I have to be the one: “Hey, is everyone else ready?” It turns into this sort of camp counselor thing. Somebody at the table has got to take control. You’re the one who should be in control.
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I vote for the diner. The ordering ritual is complicated and it is absurd to expect the table to survey itself. It’s the waiter’s job to stand there, prompt the table, and then deal with them.
WAITRESS 5, DINER 5
11. PHYSICAL CONTACT
Diner: Do not touch me for any reason other than to keep me from burning myself on a hot plate or spilling something.
Waitress: OK, let me get in the mindset of [waitress’s name deleted], who touches people. OK. I’m a warm, friendly person. Wait, how do I touch you?
Diner: Maybe a hand on the shoulder, like, “Hey, you guys ready to order?”
Waitress: Some people like to be touched. They like the comfort, like to know that you care about them—
Diner: Care about me? Just serve me my damn meal.
Waitress: I don’t think I can do this one. I don’t touch people.
Diner: Let me ask you this: Why don’t you touch people? Cause it’s creepy?
JUDGE’S VERDICT: I rule for the diner. You shouldn’t touch a diner in a restaurant setting. I’ve worked in restaurants and they tell you, don’t touch your face or your hair. So it’s probably also a cleanliness issue. And it’s creepy.
FINAL SCORE: DINER 6, WAITRESS 5