Titans of Industry

A Weekly Tip from Your Friendly Server

After declining a New Year's Eve party invitation due to conflicts with my work schedule, I was asked if I was in the medical field, to which I replied, "I administer a lot of wine to the public, so yes, in a way, it's like anesthesiology." I work in a high-volume restaurant and wine bar, and although my social life suffers because of the hours, I have my reasons for sacrificing time spent with friends and family.

For most of us, it's a temporary means to an end. The majority of the servers I know are in transition between major life changes and might be in school or working on creative projects on the side. Then we have the servers who are truly passionate about the industry and would like to advance to careers in restaurant management or even ownership.

In my case, most times when I've served, I've been in the midst of saving up for a big move or long overseas trip. Although I'm enthralled learning about wine and food, the underlying reason I sling food and drinks is because waiting tables has proven the quickest way* to fund my travels. *Note, I said quickest, not easiest.

Because we interact with multiple personality types on a daily basis in the restaurant world, each with differing habits and preferences, we often encounter some awkward situations. These uncomfortable circumstances happen regularly and are usually preventable; sometimes just patience or a witty one-liner on my part will do just the trick. However, it's not always the case, so I'd like to offer you, the valued diner, some tips on how to avoid those uneasy situations and make your dining experiences that much more enjoyable.

Today's weekly tip from your friendly server:

Please don't pull us into your arguments. Whether it's a lighthearted discussion between friends about whether Diet Dr Pepper tastes like regular Dr Pepper, or if it's a battle between Mr. and Mrs. Jones over why the missus has been spending much more time with her personal trainer, I really don't want to be involved.

It's not that I don't have an opinion -- I always do -- but either way, I lose. Even if I find the competition rib-splittingly hilarious, somebody's pride, ego, or feelings depends on my response, and that changes the server-guest dynamic. Not to mention, if I'm in agreement with the wrong person, my tip could go out the window. It's a tricky call, so I prefer to play it like Switzerland. So, my once and future guests, when I smile brightly and say "Let me get back to you on that one," as I quickly walk away, it's my way of keeping the peace.

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Nancy Kerschen