Food For Thought: Counter Talk

The Era Of Entitlement Is Over

Dan Pennington
5 min read
Counter Talk
Look! It’s so easy to just be a good person to one another! (Dan Pennington)
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An article from a local paper drifted into my newsfeed about a month ago. I’m not going to name names. I’m above the pettiness of calling someone out, though I do hope this article graces their eyes in order to force them open to their own callous, rude nature in regard to waitstaff. The article addressed concerns about bad service in upscale restaurants, which I initially thought would be a fair assessment of poor service. What I found instead was an entitled, self-aggrandizing, snobbish and immature rant against the core tenets of good service and humanization within the restaurant industry. I was shocked. I know these people exist out there and I had the displeasure of serving them from time to time while working as a waiter. But my oh my, this was beyond all expectations. I have some counterpoints to their argument, and thoughts of my own to add, so please bear with me.

The very first point they made was that servers shouldn’t introduce themselves. They should only refer to themselves as waiter or sir/madam. Imagine being the sort of person who would scoff at someone for telling you their name because you live so high and mightily above them that it’s not worth five of your seconds to try to remember the name of someone who is taking care of your needs for the next hour. I remind you, dear writer, that these are actual human beings, and while their job is to assist you, there is literally nothing that separates them from you in terms of their worthiness of respect.

Another point made was that a waiter should never reply “not a problem” to “thank you.” What a pretentious thing to be upset about it. I know nothing about the author of this article, but I can almost 100 percent guarantee based on this point alone that they’re over 50 and have never worked in a restaurant. How about instead of throwing a fit about word choice, you acknowledge someone who is genuine enough to worry about your needs and assure you that said needs aren’t an issue? I’d tell you to grow up, but it’s clear if you got much more brittle, you might turn to dust.

At the risk of explicitly giving away the origin of this article, I’ll just say that this continues on for an inordinate amount of time with more half-cocked criticisms cobbled together into some semblance of an article that entirely misses the point, offering only a half-apology for blaming restaurant owners for these problems with their staff. I’m not shocked by the article itself, which may have been the author’s original intention. Maybe it’s a poorly written satirical piece that simply didn’t translate. Realistically, it’s an essay of entitlement that ignores the plight of the worker. Maybe they just don’t know any better and need an education on the treatment of staff in a restaurant.

The current minimum wage for tipped employees in Albuquerque is $5.50, meaning that servers rely on their tips to make a livable income. Is this the healthiest system? No, because it can leave servers stiffed by rude tables, along with passing these costs on to customers. What it does do is encourage servers to ensure that all your needs are taken care of, to give them the best shot at earning a good tip. That means no matter how small an issue or need a table has, they will go above and beyond to make sure it’s handled because of the fear that one dropped ball will leave them high and dry come checkout time. A server introduces themselves to each table because even though you’re the twelfth table they’ve served in the past hour, your needs aren’t given any less consideration due to their workload, and they want you to feel welcome like a guest in their home. The style of service they offer is usually in line with the atmosphere that the restaurant wants to support, so if having empty plates cleared from the table before the entire group is finished is a problem, maybe the issue isn’t with the staff at all.

Maybe your outdated views simply find you lost in the world of modern dining, and leave you wanting for the olden days, when a confident attitude got you whatever you wanted. Maybe you smile when you leave servers a 5 percent tip because they didn’t perform to your standards. Perhaps the era of entitlement has come to an end, and you’re stuck at the back of the pack. The times have changed, and respect is the new currency. Along with paying the bill, be sure to tip generously. Hopefully that’s “not a problem” for you.
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