51 Universal Restaurant Truths

1)    We don’t have enough folded napkins to set the dining room.
2)    We didn’t fold napkins because there aren’t any napkins in house.
3)    Management thinks the staff is stealing silverware.
4)    Most of the missing silverware ends up in the garbage.
5)    The staff drinks more bottled water than tap water.
6)    The staff drinks more espresso than guests do.
7)    The restaurant is low on wine glasses because someone broke an entire rack of them.
8)    Management said more wine glasses are supposed to be coming in tomorrow… three weeks ago.
9)    None of the wine glasses in the dining room match.
10)   Somebody left a dirty decanter sitting out overnight.
11)   The decanters are all chipped.
12)   The one pepper mill in the restaurant does not properly dispense pepper.
13)   The one pepper mill in the restaurant, aside from not properly dispensing pepper, has no peppercorns in it.
14)   The restaurant’s wine list is not updated.
15)   The restaurant’s website is not updated.
16)   The meat served for staff meal cannot be identified.
17)   One of the servers used the last tip log sheet and didn’t make extra copies.
18)   Someone forgot to stock backup printer paper for the POS system.
19)   The POS system will freeze during the busiest part of the night.
20)   The Health Department will arrive for an inspection during the busiest part of the night.
21)   The line cooks, who never wear hats, will put them on for twenty minutes when the Health Inspector arrives.
22)   The line cooks, who never wear latex gloves, will put them on for twenty minutes when the Health Inspector arrives.Restaurant-truths23)   The Health Inspector is an asshole.
24)   One of the busboys is hungover.
25)   All of the busboys are hungover.
26)   The dishwasher is still drunk from the night before and sweating tequila.
27)   The dishwasher has colossally ripe B.O.
28)   The dishwasher has gold teeth.
29)   The dishwasher didn’t show up today.
30)   Two people traded shifts and neither of them showed up because they forgot they made the switch.
31)   More than half the staff forgot to clock in/out and the manager has to adjust their hours.
32)   The manager, in addition to managing, is in the office doing blow.
33)   The manager, in addition to managing, is also selling drugs to the staff.
34)   The manager, in addition to managing, is also actively interviewing for other management jobs.
35)   Everyone hates their schedule.
36)   Everyone complains about their schedule to the manager who, in addition to managing, doesn’t care.
37)   Managers stress hospitality then spend the entire pre-shift meeting talking about the importance of turning tables.
38)   Managers stress going above and beyond for guests, then spend the evening’s service harassing the waitstaff about dropping the check on tables that aren’t ready for it.
39)   The sommelier is always complaining about the wine cellar being disorganized.
40)   The bartender is always complaining about having to do inventory.
41)   Bar inventory is a nightmare because the staff has been pouring themselves drinks.
42)   The kitchen thinks front of house are a bunch of spoiled rotten twits.
43)   The front of house thinks the kitchen staff should shut the fuck up and switch sides if they think it’s so easy.
44)   There is always Latin music blasting in the prep kitchen.
45)   The employee locker room is a shithole.
46)   The bathroom in the employee locker room is a shithole within a shithole and never has any hand soap or toilet paper.
47)   The toilet seat in the employee locker room is broken.
48)   A member of the waitstaff will put on unbearably bad music at the end of the night to encourage latecomers to leave.
49)   A member of the waitstaff will inconspicuously turn up the lighting in the dining room to encourage latecomers to leave.
50)   Restaurant people around the world have amassed a significant collection of umbrellas from the ones you’ve left behind.
51)   You didn’t tip enough. (Sorry, we don’t count umbrellas).

9 Ways You’re Pissing Off Bartenders

Bartenders have a lot of power. They control the fun. Everyone wants to be their friend. Any given night they can get people drunk, laid or arrested. Also, they monitor the flow of alcohol, which means if you want to keep your whistle wet it pays to stay on their good side. So mind your P’s and Q’s and try not to piss them off! Here is a list of things you should avoid doing if you want to stay in your bartender’s good graces:

1. Waving your money around to get their attention – There is a fallacy that bartenders are more responsive when they see you flashing cash across the bar. This isn’t a strip club, Broseph. In most cases, obnoxiously waving money around will make the bartender perceive you as pushy and he or she will probably continue to ignore you. If they can’t get to you right away, it usually means they’re busy. Keep your money in your wallet—try flashing a smile instead.

2. Ruining top shelf spirits with unworthy mixers – Macallan 18 and Diet Coke? Really?? Really. You might be spending more money on drinks but your money can’t buy the bartender’s respect. Okay, okay—we know your banker friends will be impressed when you order your dirty martini with Stoli Crystal but the bartender serving you still thinks you’re a douchebag. We understand that calling for higher quality spirits helps circumvent the hangover-inducing effects of drinking from the well but sometimes respect comes with a price.

3. Insisting on complicated cocktail garnishes – You ordered a martini not a Greek salad so chill with the extra olives and cucumber slices, Hendricks Boy. We know you like to drink your vodka on the rocks with three ice cubes and five lime wedges so you can squeeze them in one at a time then ask for simple syrup and custom-make your own special little gimlet but it’s annoying. Just because we’ll do it for you, doesn’t make it right. Don’t even get us started on asking for blue cheese-stuffed olives. No, we don’t have them. No, we’re not going to make them for you.

4. Criticizing pour levels – In every watering hole, some drunken barfly will always blurt out, “You call that a drink?” when his Dewars-on-the-rocks arrives looking a little skimpy. Bartenders don’t set the measurements, management does. If you want more booze, order another drink (or ask for a double). If you don’t like the pour, go to another bar. But wasting energy giving your bartender the business won’t help the situation. It will only injure the relationship you have with them going forward. Ordering hard liquor in a wine glass isn’t going to make your drink bigger either. Nice try.


5. Having unrealistic expectations for virgin drinks – It’s not a coincidence that the word mocktails contains the word “mock.” The bartender will try to hide his or her disdain. It won’t be easy. Asking a bartender for a virgin cocktail is like asking a sportscar salesman to recommend a nice ten-speed bicycle. Maybe they’ll cut some slack for pregnant women, but otherwise if you’re looking for something fancy without alcohol most of the time you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

6. Ordering Cosmos – We don’t care if it’s your mom’s favorite drink. The Cosmopolitan is an outdated cocktail that tastes like powdered Crystal Light pink lemonade mixed with vodka. Sure, one day in the future it might be considered retro and cool, but right now it’s tacky and 90’s. Servers and bartenders—unless their restaurant is adjacent to a mall—will look down on you for ordering one. We need to move on. We did it with Hootie and the Blowfish, and we can do it with the Cosmopolitan.

7. Talking about “ABV” or “IBU” when you order a beer – You’re the only one who cares. It’s just beer. Unless you’re drinking in an establishment that specializes in craft brews, the bartender doesn’t give two shits about the alcohol content or bitterness quotient. Most bartenders can’t tell the difference between pilsner and lager. If you ask for something “sessionable”—you should be cut off immediately. Order a Heineken and shut your pie hole, dude.

8. Staggering drink orders – When you’re with a large group of people, try your best to order drinks as a round instead of in a million fragments. Bartenders can get annoyed when your group is constantly running them around, one mojito at a time. If you show sensitivity to their needs by consolidating your drink orders, they will return the favor by being more attentive. Maybe they’ll even buy you some shots.

9. Lingering with empty glasses – Real estate at a bar is a valuable commodity. Camping out after you’ve finished drinking inhibits your bartender’s ability to monetize those seats. So don’t sit there taking up space with your watered-down, whiskey-soaked glass of melted ice. Order another drink! If not—for the love of God—stop hitting on drunk Cougars.

Decoding Waiter Speak

One of the most difficult aspects of waiting tables is learning to handle people’s questions at the table without always saying what you really feel. If you want to keep your job, you have to learn how to censor yourself. It’s not easy to keep your composure when you’re being assaulted by stupid questions or to hide how annoyed you are when someone says something upsetting. Offering candid opinions about the menu or being too blunt with guests can be also be dangerous as it can be construed as your being confrontational. So, maybe out of necessity, waiters learn to develop a secret language to artfully conceal what we really mean.

Here is an interaction you will never hear in a restaurant:

Guest: “How is the special Sea Bass?”
Waiter: “It’s probably not very fresh–we’ve been running it as a special for the last week and it hasn’t been selling well. I would not order any fish here.”

More likely it will sound more like this:

Guest: “How is the special Sea Bass?”
Waiter: “People love it but I think if I had to choose I’m a little partial to the meat dishes on our menu.”

Learning how to decode this “waiter-speak” will help you understand the hidden meaning behind what your waiter is saying so you understand what he’s really trying to tell you. Here are some of the most common phrases you’ll hear waiters say followed by a translation of each:

WAITER SAYS: “That’s definitely one of our most popular items.”

TRANSLATION: It’s not one of my favorites.

Waiters will always try to avoid saying anything negative about the food. When you ask about something on the menu and the waiter tells you it’s “popular” it shows an unwillingness to personally endorse the dish. If he likes it, why wouldn’t he just say so? Consider ordering something else. Better yet, probe the questioning further and hopefully you will learn his favorites. Another warning sign is if he makes some other commentary on the dish to avoid taking a position. Eg. If you ask if something is good and he replies “It’s very rich.” (read: I think it’s too heavy) If he answers your question with another question, it can also be a warning sign that he is trying to guide you elsewhere. Eg. “It depends…Do you like spicy food?” (read: I get complaints that it’s too spicy and I don’t want you to send it back.)

WAITER SAYS: “Would you like anything to start?”

TRANSLATION: Your order sucks.

It’s bad form for waiters to come out and say it—“You haven’t ordered enough.” We understand that every time you go out you and your grandmother split an entree but we have bills to pay. Most servers are trained to address a deficient order by indirectly prompting you to augment the with appetizers, side dishes, etc. You will probably continue to insist that you’re not very hungry and your waiter will continue to think that you are just trying to save money. Since most waiters work for tips and the tips are directly related to a percentage of sales, we must find tactful ways to guilt you into ordering more food. If you don’t comply, we will retaliate by trying to turn your table as fast as possible so someone who orders acceptably can sit down in your place.

WAITER SAYS: “Can I get you anything else?”


We can’t just ask you to leave. But you see those fifty people waiting at the bar? Yeah, they are waiting for you to pay your check. It’s heartwarming that you and your friends haven’t seen each other since your days in boarding school but try explaining that to the hungry people waiting over 45 minutes past their reservation time. You probably won’t get the hint but waiters will offer you something else to make you feel like you are welcome to stay. They are really offering you the door.

WAITER SAYS: “Sorry for the delay, there was some miscommunication in the kitchen about your order.

TRANSLATION: I totally fucked it up.

Waiters don’t like to take ownership of their mistakes so they will usually pin blame on someone else. Since the kitchen is typically hidden behind closed doors, it’s usually safe to say it’s their fault without getting caught. Shamelessly throwing the chef under the bus to save our hide is a desperate strategy but sometimes we have no alternatives. And some of us will do anything to avoid taking responsibility so we can salvage a decent tip. Don’t judge.


WAITER SAYS: “It’s a pretty dry, full-bodied wine.”

TRANSLATION: I’ve never tasted it.

Describing wines in vague terms is a technique waiters use when they don’t know anything about the wine you’re asking about. Beware of waiters that use vague words to describe wines like smooth, elegant, round, fruity or velvety. They will do their best to fake their way through it to sound knowledgeable. Go ahead, let them wax poetic about the wine’s “tannic grip”—then just order the Chianti.

WAITER SAYS: “Can I start you with still, tap, or sparkling water?”

TRANSLATION: I hope that if I hide tap between the two bottled options I can trick you into paying for water.

This is a classic waiter ploy. Does it really confuse people into ordering more bottled water? Probably not, but we do it anyway. Or we’re forced to do so by management. You will be annoyed and ask for regular water but, like bums spare-changing on the street, we will not be discouraged. A new sucker is born every day.

WAITER SAYS: “I’m sorry that table is reserved for another party.”

TRANSLATION: I don’t want you to move because then I will have to reset your table again.

It’s a colossal pain in the ass after we’ve already started a table and then they decide halfway through their appetizers that they HAVE TO have that corner booth so we have to reset everything. Every time you ask to move in restaurants, your waiter’s first thought is the inconvenience of having to change the entire place setting so he will do everything in his power to prevent you from moving.

WAITER SAYS: “I can ask the chef if he’ll make it for you.”

TRANSLATION: I am going to walk in and out of the kitchen pretending to ask the chef and then tell you no.

There is a good chance that the chef will be willing to accommodate whatever special request you have. Unfortunately, there is a better chance that the chef is buried with tickets and doesn’t want to be bothered by another waiter with another special request. Sometimes he says no just because he’s sick of special requests. You’re welcome to go ask him yourself if it’s so important to you but we’re not gonna take a bullet just so that your four-year old child can have plain pasta with butter.

WAITER SAYS: “Sorry for your food is taking so long. It’s on the way.”

TRANSACTION: I forgot to order it.

We thought we put in the order. Honestly. But then that cute hostess who just started last week came over and we got distracted. Once we finally realize how long you’ve been waiting, we check the POS. Oh shit! We panic, run to get a manager and makeup a story about how we put in the order but someone else must have canceled it when we forgot to hit “send” on the terminal. We take a deep breath, calmly walk over to your table and… lie to your face.

WAITER SAYS: “It’s hard to compare them, those are two of my favorite dishes.”

TRANSLATION: You are probably going to blame me if you don’t like which one I recommend so I’m not taking the bait.

We’re not gonna fall into that trap, buddy. Nice try. You will order what we recommend and then when we check back on your food you’ll act all brooding and make some passive-aggressive comment how you’re underwhelmed and maybe you’ll try the other dish next time. You will always end the conversation with “It’s ok, it’s not your fault.” Of course it isn’t.

WAITER SAYS: “We stay open until the last guest leaves.”

TRANSLATION: It’s time to go when we drop the check and turn the lights on.

Of course, we have to SAY you can stay as long as you like. You’ll smile and remark at how refreshing it is that the staff doesn’t rush you when it’s near closing time like so many other restaurants do. But we have to be back for brunch at 10 AM, bro. We’re not going straight home either. One of the guys in the kitchen is celebrating his last night and we’re going out for karaoke till at least 4 AM. So… “Can I get you anything else?” (Now you know what that means!) No? Didn’t think so.


WAITER SAYS: “I’m sorry I could not get an authorization on your credit card.”

TRANSLATION: “You’re broke, dude. Don’t even dare try to skimp on my tip.”

Do you have another card we can use? Hell no we don’t take Discover! Listen, it’s very touching that you’re treating your girlfriend to a fancy dinner for your anniversary and we hope you had a great time but it’s customary that when you finish your meal that YOU HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY FOR IT. Hopefully, after your new card is approved, you will overcompensate with a big tip to reassure present company about the state of your financial health. It’ll be our little secret.