Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sitters Drive Servers Nuts - and Here's Why

Have you ever gone out to eat with an old friend (or two or three) and found yourselves talking like not a day had passed?  Before you know it, your dinner is long gone and dessert a memory, but you still have so much you want to say to one another.  What to do?

Let's take a little survey, shall we?

If you are seated in the dining room and have completed your meal, but have no interest in ordering any further food or drink, should you and your guests:

A:  Stay put.  Ask your server for more water and keep putting off paying for the check.
B:  Pay the check and move to the bar to continue your conversation.
C:  Pay the check and stay at the table, understanding that the server won't likely be returning to attend to your needs.
D:  Ask the server for their input.

I've made no secret of the fact that I've been a server for roughly twelve years and I have seen all of the above in my experience.  I can say for a fact that there is little worse than having three of the four tables in your section being taken up by "sitters," people who have stopped ordering and are just talking, many times having already paid the check.  In fact, I had a table last night who had paid their check more than an hour and a half ago, but continued to sit despite the fact that the dining room was full and we had several people waiting to be seated in the lobby.  At the two hour mark, they stopped me and asked for more water and then stuck around for nearly another hour.  When all was said and done, they left their 13% tip and went on their way.....three hours after they first sat down.

Now, I've got nothing against marathon diners and I have had several meals in restaurants with friends where we have talked and talked and talked like crazy, but I have to give the server's perspective on this issue....mostly because it's my blog.  And I can.  :)

**And for the record, this little discussion only applies to folks who are DONE ordering food and drink and are literally just SITTING for a LONG TIME and not spending.  They do not require any more of my attention as a server, none, nada, zilch.  Got it?  Good.  If you want to sit in my section and order a seven course meal followed by desserts, coffee, and after dinner cocktails and then tip me the likely 20 or 30 percent I've earned by attending to every one of your table's needs for the last three my guest.  I'm all about it.  But that's not what this post is about.  I take no issue whatsoever with the folk who want to hang out for a while when their dinner is done and chat a bit.  Doesn't bug me.  This post is about the guests who linger for an extraordinary length of time after their meal is complete - somewhere in the range of 45 minutes, an hour, or more

Option A - Stay put and put off paying for the check.
This is probably the worst choice of all of the above.  I understand the motivation behind it, really I do.  If you haven't paid the check, you guarantee that the server will be stopping back periodically to check so you know they will be available to refill your waters or maybe bring you another cocktail if you suddenly feel the urge.  But here's the problem.  By hanging on to that check and that table, you are taking up real estate in the dining room that could be used by "fresh blood," so to speak.  If a server can't turn a table, they can't make any money and if they can't make any money, they can't pay their mortgage or buy groceries.  It would be like someone placing an order with your company, receiving their purchase, and then just sitting on top of your desk without paying for their goods, leaving you stuck in your office with a desk-sitting, money-kidnapping, hostage-holding client.  Sounds fun, right?  Exactly.

Your server will likely be stalking your table until you pay that check which gets uncomfortable for you and for them.  There's a good chance you are what is keeping them from running their reports, closing out for the night, and going home to their family.  Yes, your server has a family too.  (We also have feelings, in case you were wondering.)  By holding that check hostage, you are keeping us from doing our job, earning our living, and getting our butts home at a reasonable hour.  Please, I beg of you....don't do Option A.

Option B - Pay the check and move to the bar to continue your conversation.
I understand this is likely going to sound like I'm pawning you off on our bartender, but hear me out.  This really is a decent option, but preferably if you're open to ordering just one more drink.  Obviously, our bartender wouldn't be super-thrilled to have water drinking sitters either, but allow me to explain why the moving to the bar option really is pretty great.

First, you're out of the dining room which means the server won't be stalking you anymore.  You won't see me hovering over your table to check if you would like another drink are you interested in dessert how about a cup of coffee have you tried our espresso mousse did you see all the great after dinner drinks we offer? Basically, you'll get me off your back and I can move on to annoying another table.  Win-Win.

Second, the bar is better equipped to meet the needs of folks wanting to engage in lengthy conversation because they aren't looking to "turn the tables" like we need to in the dining room.

Third, you'll feel like you've entered an episode of Cheers and who doesn't dig that?

Finally, the bartenders make FOUR TIMES the hourly wage that I do.  Yup, you got it.  The folks who sit and order nothing earn me no more than my hourly wage which hovers just about $2.00 per hour.  I think we can agree that this fact alone helps my case.

C:  Pay the check and stay at the table, understanding that the server won't likely be returning to attend to your needs.
Option C is only slightly better than Option A only because at least the server can then cut their losses and go home if the table is still sticking around long after the rest of their tables have vacated the premises.  If it's still the middle of the dinner hour and your server isn't going to be going home any time soon, both Option A and C are just plain mean.  Sorry, but it's true.
D:  Ask the server for their input.
Ding ding ding!!!  Winner winner chicken dinner, folks!!  I know it sounds strange to ask your server about this, but I promise you this is the way to go.  Your question could go something like this.

You: We are having such a good time chatting and your service has been great, but we'd really like to stick around and continue our conversation a while.  What would you suggest?

Odds are, your server will suggest the "move to the bar" option and if you're cool with that, go for it.  If not, honestly ask your server if they are currently on a wait.  If there are people waiting for a table, please take that into consideration.  Have an honest dialogue with your server and it's likely you'll find a solution that works well for both of you.  By asking your server, you can ascertain more accurately what's happening around you.  It could be that your server can say with 100% honestly that it's totally fine if you and your guest sit and chat for another half an hour since they were just cut and still have another table waiting for their dinner and has all their side work left to do.  By all means, sit away!  Chat to your heart's content!

Seriously....ask your server.

Bottom Line - Before you become "a sitter," please just take a moment to be aware of your surroundings and be considerate to your server and the other guests around you who may be waiting to sit down and enjoy a meal as well.  Believe me, your experience will improve because of it!

For the record, every word of this post is my opinion and mine alone.  Nothing I have written reflects the in any way on the opinion of my employer or my co-workers.  

Blog Widget by LinkWithin