As mystery shoppers, we are in the business of evaluating the service provided by waiters and other service providers.
Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip–Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, a new book by someone called “The Waiter,” (but since publication, identified as Steve Dublanica) tells the other side of the story: what happens behind the scenes at a restaurant and what waiters really think of the customers.
“Waiter Rant” is often wickedly funny, such as in the descriptions of the various types of tippers, or the 40 tips on how to be a good customer. Those tips include, “Do not snap your fingers to get the waiter’s attention. Remember, we have shears that cut through bone in the kitchen,” and “Never say, ‘I’m friends with the owner.’ Restaurant owners don’t have any friends.”
Some of the stories shared are touching or even sad, and others are a little scary. You will think twice before sending food back (especially multiple times) after reading this book.
Having a better understanding of the restaurant business can help us be better mystery shoppers, especially if you want to do fine dining shops. For example, did you know that asking for a different table can affect the service you receive? Restaurants try to balance the number of customers being handled by each server, and asking to sit at a table by the window or in a booth in the back instead of the table they had chosen for you can affect the timing of your service.
The guidelines for some restaurant mystery shops specify that you should not order off menu or request substitutions. These types of requests not only may affect the timing of your meal, the quality may also suffer. As Dublanica puts it, “In a restaurant kitchen, repetition is the key to consistency. You want your heart surgeon to have done ten thousand bypasses before he cracks open your chest, right? Same thing with a chef—if he makes the same entree ten thousand times a month, the odds are good that the dish will be a home run every time.”
“Waiter Rant” will also help you to learn more about ordering wine, tipping and other niceties involved in fine dining. It is an entertaining and engaging read, and it will help you to understand more about the fine dining experience from the other side of the table.
I realize that there are nightmare customers, and that’s a different story, since they probably can’t be reformed because of their incredible solipsism and sense of entitlement.
But what I read in this piece is that good customers smile through their pain, they shut up, they don’t complain, and they’re happy to eat whatever they’re given. (Food poisoning and mismatches between what they ordered and what they get are their own damn fault, as are all other problems.) Their job is to be quiet and pay the prevailing tip, which, incidentally, has done nothing but increase over the years. At one time it was 10%, then it was 15% for a long time, and now supposedly it’s something like 18% or 20%. You know, between the 7-10% sales tax and the 20% tips, I can’t afford to eat out any more, so it’s all moot, anyway.
Cathy Stucker says
I would disagree that either the book or this post says that customers should shut up and accept poor service or quality. Keep in mind, though, that “Waiter Rant” was written by a waiter from his perspective, so it shows what life is like on the other side of the table.
As mystery shoppers, it helps us to understand how restaurants work so we can do our jobs better. After all, when we are mystery shopping we are not there simply to enjoy a meal. We are working. Knowing that asking for a different table can disrupt the timing of our service, or that ordering off-menu or asking for extensive changes can affect the quality of our food gives us insight that can make us better mystery shoppers.