Sunday, September 21

7 Things All Servers Should Know

We eat out way too much. We're trying to cut back on it, but the fact of the matter is that after a week of everybody working, the last thing we want to do on the weekend is hang out in the kitchen pushing buttons on the microwave. We've always had a tendency to eat out on the weekends while running errands, and the habit has resulted in Alexis being really pretty good at sitting sort of nicely when we go out.

Despite the fact that she's pretty good, I am forever living in fear every moment that we spend in a restaurant. I recognize that toddlers in restaurants are like tiny terrorists looking for a victim or ten, but apparently not all servers realize that. I can't tell you how many times things have turned ugly in no small part because some goober server has done something incredibly stupid. So, I bring you 7 Things All Servers Should Know:

1. Toddlers are ticking time bombs. Your job as a server is to do whatever you can to diffuse that bomb, or at least get it the hell out of your restaurant as soon as possible. Your first step to get food to the table ASAP. Find some crackers, chips, salad, or steal a glop of mashed potatoes off some guy's plate. Just get food to that table before the kid is even sitting down.

2. Right after you throw some food in front of the kid, go grab a wad of napkins. I don't care if the table already has napkins, go get more. You want the parents to be able to clean up any shrapnel if the bomb goes off. If you don't give them the proper tools, you risk spending your evening trying to figure out how to remove dried spaghetti sauce from the ceiling fan. (Hint: Formula409 and lots of paper towels. Or a hose.)

3. I personally keep a ton of crayons in my handbag. (Purse? Handbag? Whatever.) They come in handy whenever I need to take notes in a meeting, and very handy when your cheap-butt restaurant can't manage to scrounge up 3 cents for a little package of colored wax. Since I'm kind enough to pick up your slack, I expect you to bring me paper. Don't give me that stupid blank look that makes me think you have no idea what paper looks like. I'm guessing that children's menus must cost a small fortune, so I'm willing to settle for blank paper. Paper napkins. Scraps. Boxes. Whatever, just something for the kid to color on.

3. Drinks. In cups with secure lids and straws. Any time a tiny terrorist spills liquids, the bomb automatically detonates. This includes any adult beverages. Assume the kid has a six foot reach and you MIGHT be safe from disaster.

4. I know you all like to let cooked food sit under heating lamps for twenty minutes before taking it out to the table, but for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT STICK A HOT PLATE WITHIN REACH OF A KID. I wish I could say such a thing has never happened to us, but it has. It was ugly. And loud. I'm pretty sure a lot of people lost their hearing that night.

5. Make sure the tiny terrorist has some silverware, and preferably some silverware that will actually fit in his or her mouth. I'm pretty sure you see kids eat with their hands all day every day, but there are some kids who like that choice in life. Sure, they will always choose to eat with their hands, but if that spoon isn't sitting there? Duck. And run.

6. Stop by every once in a while and pick up empty plates, trash, etc. You may be shocked to learn this, but even a straw wrapper can be used to cause mass destruction. It's best if all things not in use and taken away from time-to-time.

7. This last one is a biggie. In fact, it's The Biggie. The Make It or Break It. Your life depends on this last step. Ready? Listen carefully . . . Drop the check off early and be REALLY quick about coming back with change or the card. Far too many times we have had a delightful dinner full of Toddler giggles then were caught off guard by a sudden explosion. Once the kid is done eating, the kid wants to leave. Immediately. When you disappear into the bowels of the kitchen for 20 minutes and the kid is done eating? It ALWAYS turns ugly. If you want us to pay, you need to give us the check and run as fast as you can to settle the bill.

If you carefully follow each and every one of these steps, I can guarantee you that nobody in the entire restaurant will even know a tiny terrorist was in their midst.

We're donating all September ad revenue to the Flight 93 Memorial Fund, and could use a little help in reaching our goal. Every little click gets us closer, so why not take a second and read all about some other restaurant adventures?


  1. Big Water! Thinks some waiters avoid tables with toddlers to not have to deal - big mistake. And, wishes mine would do that well in a restaurant. Shares:

  2. Also -
    Do not ask "Would you like dessert?" A much better way to pose the same question. "Is there anything else I can get you?"

  3. excellent point made by cathy.

    and she eats her veggies in a cute way. gotta love a kid who eats her veggies.

  4. I think you should stop training construction peeps and start training restaurant waitstaff.

  5. Seriously...why do servers not know this? Like I am the first person to bring toddlers into a Steak n Shake?

  6. We went out to dinner on Friday night to a place with a Benihana-style grill. The put a ginormous glass of water in front of Laura (age 8), and while food for eight people was on the grill, BAM, the entire glass of water spilled out and all over the food. Oops. Start over. I find most servers do pretty well with your list, but when they don't? Fried rice, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, grilled veggies and WATER!

  7. That is hilarious. I had the exact same thoughts when I took my 20 month old out for Mexican food on Friday. Can I also add that every bundle of silverware should have a spoon in it? I appreciate that you gave my toddler a fork and steak knife wrapped in a napkin but I think a spoon might be a tad more appropriate. I bring my own cup with water, gerber puffs, applesauce, plastic spoons etc because I know its not their responsibility to cater to my child but it would be nice if I didn't have to pry sharp objects out of his fingers every time I go out to eat while he screams at the top of his lungs.

  8. LOVE IT! I'm gonna print this out and give it to my nephew who is a professional waiter at a very upscale place where tiny terrorists rarely appear. However, some of the stories he's told about their occasional bomb runs could have been avoided had this list been available! LOL!

  9. Great list!

    My grandmother used to call her purse a pocketbook. No one ever calls it that anymore.

    I'm very impressed that there is rice, carrots, and broccoli on Alexis' plate AND she's eating it. Kudos mom.

  10. such a cute photo and SOOOO true!

  11. Heck, they need to adhere to #7 if they have me at their table. When I'm done? I'm done. Time to go on to the next thing, particularly if that thing is a movie. Unless I'm sipping a leisurely cappucino with the hubs? I'm ready to bolt!

    Peace - D

  12. And really? They should realize that most parents of those adorable little ticking time bombs are much more inclined to be generous when it comes time to calculate the tip if these rules have been followed. And? If there has been no rolling of eyes, gnashing of teeth or fake smiles over the crumbled crackers.

  13. Sounds like dining with my husband.

    But he prefers to use his fingers.

  14. Back in the dark ages when I was a restaurant manager, I used to teach these things to my servers.

    :-) Perfectly put BurghBaby :-) Perfectly.

  15. ImpostorMom6:34 AM

    I think I'm gonna start handing this out at restaurants. I swear we have the worst luck and always end up with the slowest service. It's the kiss of death for Boog.

  16. My gosh. Maybe you should hold training sessions at your favorite restaurants. Like a paid hand out manuals. Big D has this thing about leaving as soon as he's done. NO sitting around chit chatting lie my parents always love to do - no. you wipe your mouth & stand up. So we started pulling out our credit card before we finish the last bite that way when the server comes by to ask how it was and if we need anything else they can take our card right back without even putting the check on the table for ten minutes. They always take care of at least 5 people while you sit there with that dumb check folder.
    Good luck. Ever watch John & Kate Plus 8? They frazzle me nerves every time they go out. All their kids inevitably melt down by the end of all their outings *shuddder*

  17. those are perfect rules! We do the check thing all the time- we order and ask them to bring the check as soon as possible. It really does help!

  18. Oh lordy, could I have my own list:
    1. when you see a child who's barely old enough to walk, do not expect them to sit in a normal seat at the table. Immidiately ask: booster or high chair?. Do not spend 20 minutes getting it either. If you have time to seat people, you have time to get a freakin' high chair.
    2. Do not place dangerous objects in front of toddlers: steak knives, real glasses, mood-lighting-candles...
    3. Do not comment on my strange food combinations when I order for my child. Broccoli, fried eggs, and macaroni and cheese make perfect sense when you are one.
    4. Do not comment that your establishment frowns on people bringing in their own food. You do not offer whole milk or half & half as a drink. This is what my child believes belongs in his cup and will not drink juice or low fat milk. You also do not offer appetizers of freeze-dried mango and peach with cheerios. Just be glad I'm doing this...the kid is happy and quiet and dry food doesn't make a mess. Trust me, no one will look over and decide they'd rather have that than whats on your menu.
    5. Do not ask if we'd rather sit at the bar. It's just stupid.

    As for silverware, the diaper bag has Sasha's "plate" a rubbery placemat with suction cups and a spill-trough and toddler-sized utensils. Mostly he uses his hands, but lately he's been wanting to try the fork and spoon...he's just not very good at it.

  19. Amen to all that!!

    We rarely eat out anymore, but my kids were always mostly behaved when we did.

    Servers could go a long way to help if they knew "the rules"

  20. Oooo. Good list. I never, ever understood wait staff who didn't bring napkins to a table with kids. I'm not talking lots of napkins - ANY NAPKINS. What the heck? You've outdone yourself.

  21. I so <3 you it isn't even funny. Seriously, having been a server/manager of a restaurant, I couldn't stress enough how one would have to attend to a table with children, especially small ones. But goodness your details made me laugh out loud. Again. So hard. I adore you :)

  22. I have frequently thought a lot of these things myself. I think they should provide this list of instructionals for servers who have no experience around young children. I'm always asking for the check as soon as the food gets to the table.

    I had a server recently place a bowl of gazpacho within reach of Sumo. Yeah - it wasn't pretty.

  23. I was out to eat with a good friend and her 1 1/2 year old. The dumb ass waiter actually served our food first and waited to bring the kids meal. WTF?

  24. Oh, man. I was a waitress all through college and I cringed whenever I saw a family with little kids walk through the door. Although as a mom I agree with most of your list, most servers are kids without children themselves, and you just can't expect them to know all this stuff. You have to be the one who is prepared, Mom. Crayons are great to carry but paper in a restaurant? If there's no kid's menu you're out of luck on that one. Carry your own. Not to be a troll here, but button for me!

  25. I need to print that list off and mail it to every restaurant we go to!

  26. I have to admit to being spoiled - my 2 year old is a champ at eating out! BUT I get frustrated when waiters put things within her arms reach. Especially after the first thing (usually a large glass of liquid) goes down and I immediately move it out of her reach then they put the next item in the same spot. And don't put a plate down in front of a toddler and say "the plate is hot" - then don't put it where she can touch it! And I've found a fussy child is the best way to get a check and charge quite quickly in a restaurant!

  27. This is perfect. Amen to number 7! I can't tell you how many times this has happened to us.

  28. This was hilarious, and right on target! The H-bomb is (despite his name) actually quite good in restaurants, but he's still *two*. My husband actually warns the servers right up front that we've got a ticking time bomb. I don't know why more servers don't understand this stuff - we tend to leave ridiculously large tips when they've followed all, or even most, of the rules. And crappy ones when they don't.

  29. This list is great! It should seriously go to every server out there. I have to especially agree with nothing hot or sharp in my child's reach, and she has a long reach. She is grabby and will go for anything nearby.

    But I have to add my biggest problem:

    DO NOT PASS HOT FOOD OR DRINKS OVER MY CHILD!!! This is true for babies in stroller as it is for kids in highchairs. I don't care that they are sitting in a bad place for your reach or that there is a lot of room over their heads. It is a VERY bad idea. I know of one child who got very badly burned (need surgery) by a server who didn't think about the baby below them when they brought a hot coffee pot to the table.

    Take a second, think about it, and go around the child. But not close enough for them to grab it!

  30. Add to the list give a child a menu even if they don't read, or at least something that looks like a menu. I can't tell you how many meltdowns we had because the little monster didn't have something to "read". And I have had wait staff that didn't even bring silverware to my child, I guess she didn't need anything but her fingers to eat her mac and cheese.

  31. BTW, I'm not looking for paper per se so much as just a silly little kids menu. There are far too many "family" restaurants that don't bother to put together a kids menu, and it makes me nuts. I'm talking about Cheesecake Factory, for one. I can't think of a good reason for a major chain not to have one.

  32. Genius. We should all print this out, laminate it, and start giving it to servers when we go out places. Start a revolution!!

  33. I AM LAUGHING MY BUTT OFF! AMEN! With 4 boys... all with Burgh blood (50%), my husband's from Pleasant Hills... I'm loving this list!
    - Audrey

  34. I am going to print this out and take it with us on our next restaurant outing. Everyone loves free advice, right? ; )

  35. OMG ... you are SO spot on! These are the exact wishes I have for all servers! We ask for extra napkins, we ask for the check EARLY, we ask for cups with lids and my girls aren't Toddlers anymore - they are 7 and 6.

    We eat out entirely too often, for exactly the same reasons you do, I hate coming home to cook after a day out with the kiddies.

    I just yelled at Mr.T yesterday, I stayed home (in need of much rest lately) while he took the girlys to a picnic. He came home early and the girls were hungry!?!???

    Dearest Mr.T do not come home with hungry kids unless you KNOW FOR A UNDISPUTABLE FACT THAT I AM COOKING DINNER! Assume I do not COOK on weekends.

    There, thanks for letting me vent.

  36. That is a great list!!

    We eat out WAY too much too. The Kid even orders his own food, knows what's on the menu of a few of our favorite places. And as soon as he sits down he hands me the knife. We started bringing him everyone as an infant too, but there are still 'those' days when he becomes the little terrorist too! LOL!

    ...still pregnant, btw. ugh.

  37. I'm totally printing this and handing it out whenever we arrive at restaurants.

    I'll let you know if I find any spit in my food.

    Thanks for stopping by Sweet Life!

  38. i love this post. my girls are good in restaurants but if we have a bad server it wrecks everything. work with me here, people!
    glad i found you :)

  39. Your list should be mandatory in all restaurants. My 2 year old is getting better at eating out but when she's done, she's done! The check is always my biggest gripe!

  40. Being that I am all round with baby now, I am sure I will try to find this post again in a few years to hand out to each and every server I have. EVER.

    However, can I list some stuff from the other side of the coin? Ya know, from the server side? I waited tables 5 years. I don't now. Thank you sweet baby Jesus.

    1. If you insist on taking your toddler into a restaurant that serves wine by the bottle, and you buy wine by the bottle, do NOT allow your child to crawl across the table thereby necessitating me to pour the remains of the bottle amongst the glasses on the table since the precious cherub might tip over the bottle. Oh and don't tell me I have "over poured." Keep the damn kid off the table.

    2. When a waiter/waitress/food runner is coming out of a restaurant with plates, get your damn kid out of the aisle. I don't care if you have to bungee cord them to the damn chair. Because guess what? When they duck in front of a food runner and a 500 degree plate meant for another table lands on their arm or head, frankly I don't wanna hear it. Bungee cords. Learn it, love it, live it.

    3. Allow your child to run around with no shoes on is not only disgusting but guess what else? That carpet? Uh huh, that carpet hides a shit ton of broken glass shards that no amount of vacuuming is going to entirely pick up. Restaurants drop a crap ton of wine glasses on any given day and your kid will get a sliver of glass in their foot. Oh and again? I don't wanna hear it. Put the damn shoes ON.

    4. If you are in a more family type restaurant (Chili's and the like) and your kid has a fascination with the sugar caddy, salt and pepper, etc, any server will welcome your request to take them away. Especially if in NOT doing so, they will be cleaning up the mess your kid made while "playing with the sugars." Oh and if the kid does make a mess, at least attempt to get some of the crap off the floor, ok? I'm not talking table top mess - I'm talking shredded up sugar packets under the table that people allow their kids to play with so they can eat dinner in peace. Guess what? If you want to eat dinner in peace and not be the one to entertain the kid, it's called a babysitter. Find one.

    Knowing what I know now, I DREAD what will happen when our bundle of joy gets to an age where they can wreck havoc on restaurants. I pray nightly that they will be good but of course I know the meltdowns are going to happen. Ugh. I'm so not looking forward to all that.

  41. @southern fried girl: That is a GREAT list! I totally agree with every single one and will happily follow each and every point. I can't even tell you how insane it makes me when people let their kids run marathons all through a restaurant.

  42. I had been thinking of writing a similar post, but I believe you have covered all the bases and much better than I could have. I can't tell you the number of times I have walked out with the kids while hubby settles the bill. That usually works, but not always. Some waiters are just plain clueless. Then they don't understand why we didn't tip better.

  43. Anonymous3:47 PM

    Wow, the ignorance in these posts surprises me. I work in a restaurant, and should tell you that if you can't control your child in public places, then don't bring them to a restaurant. Don't blame the server for the incompetent handling of your child. I apologize to those of you who think that servers have enough time to read this stupid list ("I'm gonna laminate this and bring it in to every restaurant we go to!"), or if you think we'll appreciate it, but you're sorely mistaken. In fact, for most servers, it would just really piss them off. And since we already are "leaving your food under a heating lamp for twenty minutes," then trust me, the last thing you want to do is upset a server. It will just make us want to wait thirty minutes! If you want to enjoy a meal at a restaurant, don't expect daycare service to be provided. Our job is hard enough as it is without fine parents like yourselves spewing out orders like a drill sergeant, insisting that we adhere to your every whim.

  44. I thought this was a great list.

    I find it interesting that people who protest loudly (like anonymous) are the ones who don't have kids. These are also the people who speed up and down your street and disregard the limit BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE KIDS.

    Like I said, great list, love it.

  45. We have been to a family restaurant a grand total of once since Sophie arrived. It was not a success and we have not ventured out again. I believe the c word was used. Between William and our 2 year old we can't go anywhere.

  46. First of all, I'm a server, bartender, expo, college student, single mom, and caretaker of my elderly parents.

    I would be really really really irritated if somebody handed me this list in my restaurant.

    It's rude and assumptive.

    If people have toddlers that are getting out of hand I talk to them, color with them, try to help, etc, IF I have time. Sometimes I'll send a few pieces of fruit over from the bar (after I get approval from the parents).

    The thing that drives me the craziest that people do is assume we are going to give their child snacks until their meal comes. I have kids....I pack a diaper bag, in my diaper bag (and purse for the rare instances I don't bring my diaper bag) I have snacks. They serve a purpose. My restaurant does not have crackers of any kind. We have croutons but they are garlic croutons and a lot of kids don't like them. Save yourself the headache and pack your own snack, it's really not that hard!

  47. Wow. I think "Anonymous" is just a really sucky server. I used to be a server (so was my hubby) and I agree with everything on your list. It is just good common sense. Plus, being a server it is YOUR JOB to make the dining experience pleasant for all involed. ALL involved. Not just adults. If you don't like serving ALL people find another job. Coward (anonymous- give me a break).
    These ARE family restaurants we are talking about here. Who do you think will visit these establishments? FAMILIES! Some even with children! Dur.
    We are not asking you to play with the children, or color with them, just use your head. That is all. Sheesh.

    And I'd like to add "stop pouring hot coffee by reaching over my children!" to the list. I can't tell you how many times I've seen servers do that.
    Great list, BBM!

  48. HA! Anonymous is hilarious!!! I think he/she may need to start looking for a new job that provides more job satisfaction. No one should be that unhappy!