As any sap who has ever worked in a restaurant can tell you, there are an infinite number of stereotypes (people and situations) that present themselves each and every day, to amuse, abuse and confuse us; but most of all, to reinforce the eternal trueness of these stereotypes, which I will detail below for my readership. Characters, antics, one-liners, bad tippers, they are all part of the wonderful world in which we serve. The following list includes just a few of my favorite stereotypes, that for better (but usually worse), seem to stand the test of time:
1. The “Doing too much-er” – This is a character who is actually more amusing to me than irritating, so don’t feel overly ashamed if you a perpetrator of the “doing too much” shtick. It looks like this:
The over-doer walks slowly into the restaurant scanning the area like a sniper. He/ she eventually zero’s in on the target, which is you, the nearest server in uniform, and makes a beeline over, interrupting whatever task you are urgently performing to pose any one of the following general, and absurdly basic queries: “Soooo how does this work?”Is it seat yourselves? What are your specials? Do you serve drinks? If we sit down, will someone come take our order? Where’s your bathroom?”
Whoaaa turbo, caaaaalm down- You’re doin too much. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you hadn’t bull rushed the service staff within 6 seconds of walking in, practically knocking over the “please seat yourself sign” in doing so, you may have found the answers written on the wall-literally.
Here’s the approach that many normal (if I can use the term here) diners find successful: Take a seat, open a menu. Look for clues in said menu, such as a section titled “cocktails” or “happy hour specials” to address such burning questions as “do you serve cocktails” and “are there any specials.” Chances are, if you have a question, the answer will present itself in this document, and it will do so in 14 point font, Standard English, at a third grade reading level. Trust me, these things have been covered. Remember, dear customer: When all else fails, and it all just seems like too much, you may defer to the rule of thumb: Read the menu.
2. The “Stand-Here-While- I-Decide-ers”
Much like the Doing- too- mucher’s, these Type A zealots come rip roarin into the restaurant, guns smoking, searching anxiously for anyone and everyone to come to their table to get things started. After aimlessly soliciting anyone in apparent uniform ( the host, chef, busser, dishwasher, the girl who works next door) they finally see you (the actual server) and zero in. Never mind that you’re cleaning a table, putting an order into the computer, or walking past with a tray of drinks; they stop you dead in your tracks to come wait on them. So, you dutifully race over to their table, graciously apologize for their 10 second wait, and jump right into action to service their (apparently) burning needs:
“What can I get for you guys?” you ask, pen and paper positioned and ready for expedient jotting.
**Er, What? Oh. Yes, yes, of course. Ummm. Hmm. I’m not sure, Dan do you know what you want sweetheart?
And with that, the bitter truth sets in: These “give-me-now’ers” haven’t the slightest idea of what they actually want- they just know damn well they want “it” now.
To avoid seeming unprepared or stupefied by menu ignorance, the more confident of the two folds their hands over the menu and asks the sweeping question, “what do you have?” The other, feeling temporarily relieved to be out of the spotlight, flips through the menu mindlessly, landing randomly in the dessert section, or skimming the menu upside down in distracted efforts to look busy. WhiIe the seemingly endless questions and blundering continues on, I , the server, stand and I wait.
Meanwhile, fires are burning in all corners of the restaurant where guests are awaiting drink refills, their checks, delivery of their food, and what was once their ice cream, that is now a melted puddle on the kitchen counter; the clean-up of which will now become part of my sidework.
3. “What do you guys have?” Alluded to above, this question, perhaps the most irritating of all I encounter in the business, is as common as it is obvious. What do we have? A menu. You should check it out sometime.
4. The “Let’s sit at a dirty table-ers”: Allow me to clear up this common misconception: when you, dear customer, walk through the door looking for a table and I say that you can sit anywhere, I am not referring to the ONE dirty table in the entire restaurant covered in plates, glassware, napkins and cheerios the baby threw up all over the floor. I am referring to any one of the other 13 tables that are pristinely cleaned, set up, size appropriate, and ready to go. What is it about a dirty table that is so enticing to people? I believe it could be the 8th wonder of the world…
5. Autistic table syndrome- We’ve all had these tables. The enigma of the raucous, loud, sociable group that becomes deaf, blind and mute the moment you address them for their order.
Me: Hi guys!! How are you doin today?
Me: Ok cool! Can I get you guys some drinks started?
** more crickets, they all bury their face in the menus.
Me: Alrighty then! Do you guys need a few mintutes?
** everyone looks shyly around at each other, uttering an assortment of uneasy grunts and murmurs of indecision. One person finally speaks- “ill have a pizza.”
Me: Ok, great. So we’re ready for food then?
Me: Not quite? Looks like not everyone’s quite ready. How about some drinks first?
** more crickets.
Me: How about this? I’m gonna go get some waters for everyone and be right back!
6. The” 0-60’ers”. Ooooh the 0-60’ers. The people to whom you provide attentive, timely service all throughout the evening, anticipating their wants and needs and repeatedly checking if they “would like another glass?” or are “interested in dessert”, or “ready for the check”, to which they pleasantly respond “I think we’re fine for now.”
And then inexplicably, it all changes. Like a colicky baby at 7 o’clock, like werewolves at the dawning of a full moon, or Cinderella as the clock strikes midnight, the metamorphous suddenly occurs. In the blink of an eye, this table is ready for their check. They’ve finished their last drop of beer, and now, by God, they are ready to leave. Never mind the fact that now you are in the middle of singing happy birthday to another table, or just got sat a table of 12 who are frantically waving you down- the 0-60’s are ready to leave NOW- and they’re not trying to sit in traffic.
7. The Hyper-Modifiers: Here’s a riddle- if you have a burger, and you sub the buns for lettuce, meat for veggies, avocado on the side, no grease please, and you hate pickles- what do you have? Hint: it’s no longer a burger. Please, next time do us and yourself a favor: just order the house salad…
4. Id check antics- You will never see a smile on my face so wooden as when I am indulging any smart aleck version of the following when asking to check an id: “How old do you think I am?” “You make me feel young again!” “I’m 15!” “That’s a fake!” “You’re not going to check mine? I’m offended!”. My God people, JUST SHOW THE ID. Any “witty” or charming thing you could possibly feel inclined to blurt out in this situation, I would bet my life that I’ve already heard not once, but 50 times before. And guess what? It wasn’t funny then, and it is much less funny now. I think a true id check should test who is mature enough to show their id without making an asinine little wisecrack. Those who don’t pass don’t need to have their idiocy exacerbated by alcohol consumption.