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Servers are people too

i was reminded of this fact filling in this week

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Recently circumstances forced me to step in and cover one of my server’s shifts. I like to serve. The money can be really good. However, my skills are a little rusty, and while the job of a restaurant server is not the most challenging job out there, it does take a great deal of talent and patience. You see, to be an accomplished server you have to be a good actor, a proficient multi-tasker, and most importantly, you should like people, or just pretend you do — hence the acting skills.

Servers are always on stage. They have to act happy when they are not. They have to pretend not to be annoyed when a customer who is deathly allergic to peanuts doesn’t read the menu thoroughly enough to discover there are peanuts in the Phad Thai. Not the server’s fault, but for some reason the customer is ticked at the server for the error. Logical? Not in the least, but hungry people tend not to think logically. The server, however, is still expected to be bubbly and accommodating.

This is not just the customer expectation. As a restaurant owner, good service is also my expectation. Restaurant workers have to put their best selves forward. That is how we make our money. I guess it is the price we pay in this business. If you can’t control your attitudes and emotions for at least a few hours, you really should rethink your career. This not only goes for servers, but for cooks and chefs, too. If the public can see and hear you, it should be happy faces all around.

But then there are those servers who are having more than just a crappy day. Sometimes I see bad servers. Walking around like regular servers. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re bad servers, and there’s no creepy little 10-year-old boy to clue them in. Here’s a clue from me: How many restaurants have you worked for in the last two years? More than four or five? Have you been fired from more than two of those? If you answer yes to either of these questions, then you’re probably a bad server. Get out and spare us all. Like I said before, it does take a great deal of talent and patience to be a good server, and I believe there is a real shortage of good service around here.

The last time I had to fill in for one of my servers, I was really off my game. I forgot the Diet Coke, and I forgot the cup of soup, but I used it to my advantage. My bad service gave me an opportunity to remind my customers how great my regular servers are! They are the best and I don’t know what I would do without them. A good general business philosophy to follow is hire people who are better than you and your business will be successful. Don’t get me wrong, I keep my restaurant running, but it is my employees who keep it running strong.

My point in a very roundabout way is that servers are people too. They have good days and bad days. Their dogs run away, they overdraw their bank accounts and they run out of toilet paper at the most critical moment. When they go to work, there are no cubicles or offices where they can avoid people. They are thrown into the action, and their only defense is a smile.

So when you are at your regular eating or drinking hole and you notice your server is a little off, try not to be too harsh. Smile and give him a pat on the back. Remind him that tomorrow is a new day. So, call in sick and make the owner work your shift.

Eat out Tacoma. We need your love.

Sandee Glib has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry for more than 12 years as a server, bartender, cook and owner. Her opinions are expressly her own and she is always right.

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