Alex Newby, Marketing Intern
“Can I have some more ranch dressing?” “Bring me hot tea with lemon.” “We have 2 adults and 8 children.” To most students, these phrases seem random and probably don’t mean anything. To a select group of students however, ones that work as servers at a restaurant, these phrases take on a whole new meaning. These phrases, though short and simple, can have the power to make or break a shift, a mood, or even a whole day.
When I first applied to be a server, I was terrified. As a server, you’re required to know the menu of your restaurant, take orders, juggle tables, and above all, keep a smile on your face. Admittedly, I’m very forgetful. I’m also known for being a bad multi-tasker. On top of that, I’m told my normal, deep-in-thought face looks a little on the grumpy side. Despite my lack of required skills, however, I decided to give it a go. The stories I've gained and the lessons I've learned since then have been well worth it.
To all those who have served:
Even if some people don't understand -- I do. I understand how awful it is to get sat with a party of 11 people 15 minutes before you're supposed to get off. I understand that when that same party orders only 4 entrees to split, it gets frustrating. I once had a family of 6 people eat for 20 dollars because they decided that sharing the unlimited salad was the best option. Try and remember that one day you’ll have a family of your own and finding the best bargain will be important.
When you find yourself picking up the pieces to a broken plate that the toddler at your table threw on the ground, take heart. His family is almost finished and they will take him when they go. In fact, everyone will eventually go. The man who has already chugged 6 sweet teas before his appetizer, the woman that keeps snapping at you, and the Grandpa that insists on asking you the price of every menu item. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel when you’re a server because eventually, whether in 5 minutes or at closing time, every table will have to leave.
That said, remember that for every bad table, there is an equally fantastic table. This past Christmas my apartment near campus was robbed and a week’s worth of tips stolen. I had planned to go on a road-trip with my sister and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it happen anymore. The subject came up at one of my tables one night and before leaving, the family gave me a tip AND gas money for the trip. A friend of mine received a $100 tip when her table found out she was missing out on ballroom dancing lessons she had been invited to take. For every strange, horrible, or awkward table that won’t talk to you, there are always people who will brighten your day and appreciate the fact that you are running around like crazy to give them the best service possible.
You are also learning lessons that will last you a lifetime. I started serving with the idea that it wouldn’t be something to put on a resume or brag about in future interviews. Now that I’ve served for almost a year, however, I feel like I’ve learned enough to benefit me in any future endeavors I choose to take. The patience it takes to deal with someone who has sent back their food twice or who thanks you for the great service and leaves no tip is something that no one but a server can understand.
(NOTE: Tip! Tip! Tip! Most servers are only making $2.13 an hour and rely on your tips to make minimum wage!)
When you get into a time-crunch or overwhelming situation in your future career, you will remember the infamous lunch rush of 2012 and know that you are capable of keeping things together. I’ve learned to hold my tongue in tough situations, to work as part of a team when things get busy, and most importantly, to smile and nod when I’d rather not. So, if you find yourself in an apron and non-slide shoes at some point during your college years, don’t be worried. Serving tables may not be the internship you hoped to have, or the glamorous nanny position you dreamed of, but you will forever have the lessons you learn while trying to remember someone’s order. Not to mention a whole lot of great stories.