From the Server’s Eyes

By Guest Author Emily Stueven, Hostess, Server & Bartender.

Ordinarily when u walk into a restaurant your expectations are high. You expect to be greeted and seated within a reasonable amount of time while being surrounded with an atmosphere filled with comfort and excitement. When you’ve worked in the service industry, as I have for ten years, your expectations tend to be higher. Or are they?

Some would think, oh, well if they’ve served they’d be more understanding. I believe this is true.. to a certain extent. I feel more closely it creates restaurant tolerance. You often become more tolerant and considerate of specifics than others may never have thought of.


Previous Waitress & Bartender at Milwaukee Hofbräuhaus.

Timing is key in the restaurant industry. I’ve experienced it from the customer’s perspective as well as the server’s. Timeliness is often a part of dining, that as a server dining out, you may become more considerate of. If the place is packed or you may have noticed they are understaffed, you’d probably be more understanding if service is slower, not throwing a fit because your drinks took fifteen minutes when you know that responsibility often lies in the bartender’s hands, and not your server’s. Or when your steak shows up rare instead of medium and you nearly want to throw you steak knife across the room. Yeah, that may not have been your server’s error. It could have been the chef and his lack of timeliness or skill. Of course all of us in the service industry know this goes both ways, but with restaurant knowledge, you realize it isn’t always black and white.

Understanding the difference between a bar atmosphere and fine dining is also a key to tolerance. Bars are laid back, expectations should be lower. It’s casual dining. You shouldn’t be surprised if your silverware and condiments are in a basket and your server isn’t pulling out a crumb scraper to wipe the non-existent table cloth. There is a difference! Expectations should reflect this. I’ve dined out at numerous restaurants of all spectrums. I’ve solely worked in sports bars or casual dining settings. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when customers come in and are angry because it took ten minutes to get two beers for them when the entire bar is jam packed. Customers – please pay attention to your surroundings! You are paying a premium to have a server’s assistance. You often may wait even longer at the bar to get a drink when it’s slammed. Don’t be angry, be considerate! To all my fellow servers – keep your patience and hold that smile. For every one customer that doesn’t understand our work environment, there’s five more that do. And if you’re one of those individuals that doesn’t understand, hey, at least you’re reading this and are trying to meet us halfway.

Every time I walk into a restaurant I like to view it in its entirety. I think too often customers allow one small thing to create their experience. Restaurants function as a whole filled with various employees and a multitude of responsibilities. Ultimately it comes down to one simple rule. The things that ARE doable SHOULD be done. Cleaning the tables and making sure they are presentable for the next customer. Seems like a given. Sure maybe the restaurant doesn’t have a host or busers. That server should be running to that table and quickly making sure it’s presentable for you. Smiling and being kind and courtesy is another given. Heck isn’t that what exceptional customer service is? A lot of us have worked in it throughout our lives, one way or another. Smiling goes a very long way. Too many times I’ve had a server that doesn’t even look me in the eye when they’re speaking to me. Hello? Is anyone in there? I’m a real person and would love to have a conversation with you! Let’s state the obvious, mistakes happen. Whether it was the responsibility of the server or another entity of the group. Recognition for lack of consistency on their behalf or their coworker’s behalf, is key. Apologize without having someone expect it. “I’m so sorry the drinks took so long. My bartender is backed up beyond belief so I went ahead and poured your drinks for you to prevent any further delay.” Don’t all of us ultimately just want others to be considerate of our time? I know we all get frustrated when those servers are down right rude. There’s zero excuse for that. Suck it up and throw on a smile, I don’t care how brutal your day has been. I’ve been near tears in the middle of a rush, had people angry with me over things I couldn’t control and acknowledging the issue and apologizing for the inconvenience made all the difference. Yes, I almost always get 20% tips.

Let’s talk about cleanliness for a moment. Why do servers touch the rim of a glass? To me it comes down to lack of basic etiquette, to be blunt. In addition, lack of courtesy. Your hands are all over the place while serving. Whether you’re waiting tables, behind the bar, or in the kitchen, I’ve done it all! Don’t touch things that your customer is going to eat or drink off. If you grab a plate, grab the edge. I you grab a drink, grab the neck of the glass. Simple! Okay real talk. Silverware. I’ll have to admit I have been in the position where a customer has had silverware that has food debris on it. Yes it’s gross from our perspective too! And embarrassing! When washing dishes, which yes I’ve done this too, take an extra step and make sure all food is cleaned off! The dishwasher – machine or human – can’t be responsible for everything. In general it’s a sanitation tool. Nothing else. Human error does happen. Check your silverware before using if you aren’t in charge of cleaning them! It’s an extra step yes, but don’t you generally do this at home when you’re cooking dinner for your family and friends?

I love dining out. I love the thrill of experiencing the unknown. Every restaurant has it’s own scenery, decor, environment, feel. Each building, restaurant name and employee has a story to share. Take dining out for the full experience that it is. Someone is waiting on your every beckon call to make your experience excellent. If you doubt whether this is their intention, your intuition is probably right. They don’t care. But for every server who doesn’t care, just like those customers who don’t understand, there’s five servers that do. Appreciate them. Value them. Enjoy their presence. To all my fellow servers, do the same! Life isn’t all about money, it’s about moments. Cheers! Happy dining!

Written By,  Emily L. Stueven

Director of Social Media, Dining Grades INC.




Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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