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Fat Guy

Most bizarre ways to ask "How is everything?"

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Good servers in high check or high sales restaurants surely can earn a decent living. Professional servers do just that.

There are more professional servers than you may think. There are also many servers who, although treading water until graduation or their first big performing break, are self-actualizing and take pride in being professional servers.

To liken either group to "prostitutes" or "call girls" is indeed both demeaning and uninformed.

This point is further illuminated in that restaurant staff have some of the highest drug use and alcoholism rates of any line of work.

Are there statistics that support this statement?

There are some servers who go into the job knowing they are so above waiting that they try to let every table know that they are actors or college students --- that while circumstances force them to take such a lowly position, it is only temporary. Their tide will soon turn and no longer will they need to debase themselves by waiting on others. Fortunately they don't last long in a service-oriented restaurant.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Most of the recent studies are behind paywalls, but this one from 1997 does support the contention of higher drug and alcohol use among waitstaff and bartenders.

Correlation is not causation, though. The workforce in these occupations skews young -- another group known for high drug and alcohol use. Another compounding factor is noted in this 1988 study: bartenders, when separated out from other waitstaff, have rates as high as 50%, which surely skews a survey that lumps them in with their coworkers.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Your statement is very demeaning to those servers who enjoy waiting tables and do so professionally.

There, indeed, is the point.

Here in the United States we have very few 'professional' waiters and waitresses. The pay structure simply can not support that as a life's work. This point is further illuminated in that restaurant staff have some of the highest drug use and alcoholism rates of any line of work.

I am sure that I am not demeaning any wait-staff, by suggesting that is it rather distasteful to discuss how solicitous the help should be, w/o crossing the line into disinterest on the one hand or obsequiousness on the other, while at the same time not mentioning that the work is grueling and the pay miserable.

Like every consultant I know, I refer to myself as a prostitute on a regular basis. In fact, as a highly (well, sort of) paid professional I often feel more unclean than I did as a waiter. And don't ask me about my years in politics.

Regarding the pay structure -- I'd suggest that, in major cities, at least -- the relative minority of servers who hit the floor the first time with an idea of becoming a restaurant professional have many opportunities to live a middle class life. It's not only the opportunity to move to high-end establishments as a server, but also the chance to move into management, to become a maitre d' or wine professional, or even to turn your experience into an ownership stake or a wine importing business. I know waiters and bartenders who have done all of these things.

The idea that you are not demeaning to wait staff is ludicrous. I can only imagine how you treat the whores now that you've become the john.


Edited by Busboy (log)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I try to do a sort of non-verbal check-in once per course to avoid saying something ridiculous along these lines, because believe me, I have said some insane things at tables. Once, after nearly spilling a tray full of drinks, the people I was waiting on said, wow, that was amazing, I thought the whole thing would go down! I set the drinks down, laughed nervously and said, 'Oh, I have the reflexes of a panther!' and made a paw swipe hand motion. WHY?! I get embarrassed just thinking about it. A panther?! WTF? Sometimes when you're busy and thinking about a million things at once, things come out wrong! If, for example, seat 4 is merely picking at her cod while everyone around her is chowing down, I might ask her, individually, if she's enjoying her meal.

One problem I encounter a lot in waiting tables, though, is that so many people don't follow established etiquette/customs, which doesn't offend me, but it makes it harder to do my job. For example, I normally don't approach a table to take an order until everyone's menus are closed. This seems like a pretty reliable rule of thumb, no? But I actually have had people *complain to my boss* that I am slow even though I had been standing a few feet from them waiting for them to close their damn menus but not wanting to hover or bother them. I even went several times to pour water for these people, hoping that someone would say something to me to get the ball rolling, but they'd just ignore me! Many people also don't put their silverware in the usual 'I'm done' configuration which makes it hard to know when to ask to clear, or they'll put their credit card inside the check presenter without the top sticking out and then put their arm over the whole thing and then complain I took too long to take the check.

A lot of things that seem on the surface like silly Emily Post rules are actually extremely helpful non-verbal cues for service staff! I love waiting on people. Almost nothing, except maybe bacon, makes me happier than helping someone have a really special, relaxing evening in a restaurant. I am not, however, a mind reader! Help me help you!!


"An appetite for destruction, but I scrape the plate."

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For some people who are excessive complainer the question should be:

Is anything OK!! :biggrin:

Stolen from an old joke!


GoodEater

Vivo per mangiare!

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Why ask "how is everything?"  The real question, in my opinion, should be "is there anything else I can do for you right now?"

Along that line, I find "Is there anything I can bring you" or "is there anything you need right now" far better questions than most of those that have been part of this thread. I also feel however, that there shouldn't need to be a question if the server is on the ball. Eye contact is a good way to determine whether there is an issue or not.

My peeve is servers who tell me what the special "is going to be". It drives me nuts to hear "the fish tonight is going to be halibut. It's going to be sauteed and then the chef is going to serve it with blah, blah, blah.

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I love reading this thread.

My all time "favorite" experience was when my server came by and said "looks like you're going to be needing a 'doggie bag' for that". When I assured her that I wasn't (because our plates had only arrived 15 minutes prior), she came back 5 minutes later and plunked one down anyway!

It wasn't a high end place on par with The French Laundry or anything, but come on! Must we cast common courtesy aside?

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I guess my current peeve, because I hear it so frequently is "are you still working on that?"

I feel like Maynard G. Krebs. Work?

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My friend and I have been going to a new restaurant in our area, a chain called Ingredient. Every time they bring you your food, they ask, "Is everything looking perfect?" It irks me to no end. I've talked her out of going the last couple times because, even though the food is good, the waitresses bug me.


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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Why must the server ask anything at that point in the meal?

Further, why do servers consistently wait until one's mouth is full to ask "the question?"

This is a great reason to do away with the whole business, as far as I'm concerned. It's a restaurant. My mouth is likely to be full a good percentage of the time, and it really isn't pleasant for anyone to feel compelled to make some sort of garbled response or gesture. I'd much rather be the one to ask for something if necessary. If I'm not eating, between courses or whatever, I certainly don't mind being asked if everything is OK.


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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  For example, I normally don't approach a table to take an order until everyone's menus are closed.  This seems like a pretty reliable rule of thumb, no? 

Not with me.

One, if I close the menu I'm only going to have to reopen it when you arrive so that I remember the cutesy name your restaurant has for, say, a club sandwich.

Two, unless I go to your restaurant with a particular dish already in mind, I usually narrow my options down to 2-3 items, making up my mind at the last minute.

What can I say, I like operating under pressure.

Just do what the majority of servers do:

Wait a few minutes, ask if we would like to start off with beverages, and at that time ask if we are ready.

I really don't have time to play charades with my menu and flatware as props.

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Why ask "how is everything?"  The real question, in my opinion, should be "is there anything else I can do for you right now?"

That is the best question to ask, certainly. I think what happens is that waiters feel that they shouldn't be predictable or boring, so they try to be creative, when "creative" isn't really desirable. I was at a very casual bar and grill kind of place recently, where the server said: "Everything is delicious. . ." as if it were a statement of fact, and then caught himself and tacked on ". . .y'all?" to turn it into a question. It was really odd.

On the other hand, I'm sympathetic. I've never waited tables, but I have worked in retail, and there are similarities. You want the customers to know that you're around to answer questions or help, but there are only so many ways you can say that. I personally always stuck with the tried and true -- "Can I help you find anything?" "Do you have any questions?" -- but I've worked with people who wanted to be more personal and always managed to come up with something awful.

So having been there, I guess I just take it in stride and assume that the desire is to be helpful. A verbally clueless server who checks in on the table might be annoying, but he or she is still better than one who disappears for the whole meal.

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Client lunch at an upscale restaurant this week. 2 women, 1 man, business attire, well groomed, average weight, between 35 - 45 yrs:

To the gentleman (who was not the host) 2 minutes in to the entrée: Wow, clearly the girls enjoy food, should i bring the dessert menu now?

WTF? :unsure:


Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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Client lunch at an upscale restaurant this week.  2 women, 1 man, business attire, well groomed, average weight, between 35 - 45 yrs:

To the gentleman (who was not the host) 2 minutes in to the entrée:  Wow, clearly the girls enjoy food, should i bring the dessert menu now?

WTF? :unsure:

I would be hard pressed not to trip the server, as he/she walked away.

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Not so much the question they ask, it's just that usually when they ask such a question I've got my pie hole stuffed with food - so really all I can do is give hand signals or grunts in reply.

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Read your tables people! This is one of many moments through an experience

where we servers have an opportunity to show our value and earn our reward units(read: gratuity).

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"Are you still working on that" is my most despised question. Also, I really hate being offered pepper. Really? Look, just leave the f-ing mill. If they absolutely *must* ask, then "Is there anything you need" or the like is my preferred question, as I am then more comfortable asking for water, a drink, etc.

But, above all, I find most mid and lower level restaurants just plain interrupt you to much, especially when you are clearly having a conversation. For the same effort to ask me, they could have brought the water jug and refilled my water. Instead I get repeated intrusions and, quite likely, still no water in spite of asking. And when they do bring the water after asking, it would be nice not to be interrupted again.

As to servant class -- well, I'll admit to being much better compensated then wait staff, but I have to abide by a protocol in my consultant work. It doesn't make me a servant, it makes me a professional. Treating your wait staff (or consultant) poorly and without respect is bad. Expecting certain behaviors and protocol is earning your wage.


Edited by Paul Kierstead (log)

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While having a converation with your friends,

"I am sorry to interupt you, but how's everything?"

I automatically take off 2% from the tip.

dcarch

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"Me, my wife, and the waiter? Sorry, but that ain't happening."

Aw...you're no fun.

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After Pizza Hut buffet lunch with friends (not my choice), the associate manager/cashier asked the perfectly reasonable question, "How was everything?".

My response was, "Up to your usual standards."


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I'm a fan of eye contact. Check out my table every now and then and glance at me.

I appreciate a simple, "How is everything?" as long as it doesn't feel like you want me to say FINE.


Grace Piper, host of Fearless Cooking

www.fearlesscooking.tv

My eGullet Blog: What I ate for one week Nov. 2010

Subscribe to my 5 minute video podcast through iTunes, just search for Fearless Cooking

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I'm sort of... fuzzy, looking, I guess? Anyway, I've not infrequently had waitstaff ask something along the lines of 'Is it all good, honey?'. From a middle-aged or elderly woman, this seems, well, not so unusual; coming from a brawny guy with facial piercings/neck tattoos, it's sort of startling. This has happened a couple of times, and I've had no answer, apart from dumbstruck staring (it doesn't help that 99 times out of a hundred, this question tends to be asked when I've just taken on a mouthful of food).


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Funniest question I've been asked yet was recently when an obviously flustered host come over to our table and blurted out, "What's going on here... I mean... how is everything here?"

Still makes me chuckle when I think of it.


There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who are good at math and those who aren't.

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I always enjoy hearing "are you still enjoying your meal/food/dish" always puts a smile on my face and is usually followed by a good combacker off my tongue. Something along the lines of, "I was until you interrupted me midbite with your question?" or "towards the beginning the steak was great, but it got increasingly rare as time went by".

Customers will generally volunteer suggestions/criticism, no need to ask.


Founder + CEO of www.devourhour.com (Devour Hour)

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I always enjoy hearing "are you still enjoying your meal/food/dish" always puts a smile on my face and is usually followed by a good combacker off my tongue.

The best comeback I've heard to that query is "No, but I'm still eating it."


 

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