Whenever you go to a restaurant or a bar, do you give a second thought to the person serving you? I know that since I first started working as a waitress, I have come to respect whoever is serving my food and drink on a night out. Sometimes people don't realise just how hard waiting staff work and there are others who have worked in the position before but have forgotten what it was like.
When you come in 2 minutes before closing time and decide to have a 3 course meal, we'll be cursing you in the kitchen but we will still do our best to make sure you have an enjoyable experience because, let's face it, we're all human and heck, you're hungry. You can't be blamed for that. But just bare in mind that once you've had your meal and you're ready to go home, the waiting staff will be there another hour or so cleaning up once you've left. And if you work in a small restaurant like I do, there isn't a magical cleaning fairy to scrub the toilets' unmentionables. I do it.
We're always going to be happy to help when you have a complaint about something. I'm not going to be happy if my food is cold or something is undercooked or there's a false nail in your pasta. But there's no need to be rude to us. Shouting, swearing or calling us names is not going to get your problem solved. At the end of the day, we have to face the chefs if you're steak is well done when you asked for medium. Chefs are sweaty, beastly creatures that need to be handled with care and when we come down with your plate of food to make a complaint about it for you, the chef takes out their anger on the surrounding staff. It can get particularly nasty during busy service when customers like you come in all at the same time. This is around 7pm when you've got back from a busy day at the office. But while you get to enjoy the rest of your evening at your leisure, the waiting staff have probably come to serve you after having worked their day job hours. They don't get the evening off.
There is no such thing as a weekend to waiting staff. If they're stuck with the night shift, they have to settle for drinks at Wetherspoon's if they're lucky to get out before midnight. God forbid they wake up with a hangover in the morning because it takes a couple of coffees before the waiting staff are ready to start setting up the restaurant for customers the next morning. When you walk in the door at noon with a hungry belly, the waiters/waitresses plaster the biggest smile on their face and take you to your table. They really love spending ten minutes talking through multiple specials with you even though they would also love to crawl behind the bar and sleep off an exruciating hangover. If we're really lucky, you'll leave a £2 tip because, hey, it's lunch time - no need to go crazy.
Where I work, tips are put into a pot and at the end of each shift, it's split between the staff - 30% goes to the kitchen staff (they work hard too) and the rest is split between the waiters/waitresses depending on the hours worked and when the first customer walked in. Recently, my bosses decided to split tips on a point systems. Runners (they are the ones doing the majority of the work collecting and serving food and drinks as well as cleaning up) get 1.1 points and 'actual' waiters/waitresses (those people who have had over 20 years experience in the job) get 1.5 points. You know those waiters/waitresses that take your order but don't actually serve your food or drinks? The ones that smile alot and maybe even sprinkle some pepper on your food? Yeah, they are the ones that take a larger proportion of tip home...because they have more experience regardless of how much work they did on the shift.
I know this isn't the same for people working waiting jobs in other places. Sometimes the tips are put into a jar and aren't split until the end of the year. Sometimes tips are given directly to the people who have served the customers. It depends on where you go. But I bet you didn't know that if a bill says 'discretionary service charge', even if you're a table of 8 or more, you can still ask for the service charge to be removed. Do you actually know if the service charge goes to the waiting staff? Because where I work, the waiting staff only get half of the service charge. The rest goes into the pocket of the house. Surprised? So was I.
And those glasses that you sometimes knock off the table by accident? Where I work, the cost to replace it comes out of my tips. My bosses take home almost £50 a month from 'breakages'. If you work in a bar, breakages are inevitable but maybe your boss is a little kinder and they put money aside to pay for such occurences. Not for staff like me. Surprised by that too? So was I.
Not to mention the constant sexism within the waiting staff world. There's 'having a joke' and then there's harrassment. I was 17 when I started working as a waitress and I heard things in the kitchen that a teenage girl shouldn't have to hear. You know when the pizza chef has touched you because you're left with a tell-tale flour handprint on your body. Yeah, that really does happen. For women working in bars, forget wearing a skirt on a Friday or Saturday night - even if it is black!
At the end of the day, waiters and waitresses really do want to give you the best possible service they can. Of course we appreciate it when you leave us a tip but we want to know that if we were to go out at a restaurant or a bar, we would get the best service too. We will work hard for what little we get and put a smile on our face at the same time. Trust me when I say, we have the best poker faces. As a student training to be a professional journalist, I know that I won't be a waitress forever but just bare in mind that while I'm studying hard for a degree, I'm also working to pay my way and giving up my weekends to come to work to serve you.