Good management equals good service

September 25, 2012
Tricia makes it her business to take care of business. BY BOB YESBEK

Welcome to Lupo di Mare (or Dogfish Head or the Buttery…). My name is Julie (or Alex, or Darryl or Sherri), and I’ll be your server tonight. I might also be your neighbor’s son or daughter, or a single parent working my way through UD. I might even be from Bulgaria or Russia where I’m in school for architecture, accounting or medicine. But tonight, here in Rehoboth Beach, USA, I’m your server.

Note that I said server. Not servant. In a resort town, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard things like, “How hard can it be to take an order?” Or, “You’d better have the wine I want. Your tip depends on it.” Well, it’s not hard to take your order. But that’s not all I do. See your silverware neatly wrapped in that napkin? I rolled up about 150 of those last night, probably after you went to bed. Depending on the restaurant, I might have even cleaned and set your table.

In some restaurants, I make your dessert (or at least get it onto the plate), and sometimes your salad.  Often it’s my job to brew the coffee. (If you’re not nice to me around 10 p.m. or so, you may - or may not - get the decaf you ordered.) If I like where I work, I’ll be just as disappointed as you are that we’re out of your favorite wine. But I don’t order the wine, and I don’t order the food. But because I’m your only real contact with this business, chances are pretty good you’ll blame me.

I don’t even make close to the minimum wage you hear about in political speeches. Though you might feel you’re doing me a favor by tipping 20 percent, in larger restaurants I’m taxed on 20 percent of the total of my checks - whether or not you tip that amount. Again, if I like where I work, it’s to my benefit to treat you well. You’re more likely to tip 20 percent, and maybe you’ll come back and ask for me.

This is the second time I’ve said, “If I like where I work….” Some restaurants are not run well. Poor management and a careless kitchen can make me look bad, and frankly, give me an attitude. If the customer before you snapped his fingers to get my attention, that won’t help either. Certain types of people - especially in a resort - enjoy the sense of power they get by being rude to somebody whose job it is to be nice to them. Sadly, it might be the only power they have in their lives. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

So is that an excuse for me to be rude to you? Certainly not. But it is a reason. And if I like where I work (there it is again), I’ll rise above it because I know that this business will suffer if you don’t come back. If I don’t understand that my employer and my job rely on my giving you a pleasant experience, then I should be in another line of work.

In some large restaurants, I’ll deliver food to your table whether or not I’m your server. You get your order faster, you’re happier, you’ll finish sooner, and maybe we can seat another party. Some places employ runners who fulfill that duty. I might end up waiting on more people, but in most cases I share my tips with the runners. If there’s a service bar making drinks for the diners, often I’ll share with the bartender, too. This is called tipping-out. It benefits everybody, but it’s not any less work for me.

If I like where I work, I’m aware that I stand squarely between you and the restaurant’s concept and reputation. Smart ownership will employ dedicated managers to ensure that I feel appreciated for that. On a slow night, I might not earn much, but as the only link between you and the business, I know I can make a difference in its success. If I like where I work, that is.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.