I was browsing the internet yesterday, reading various articles on CNN, when I noticed a group of links to the side showing what articles have recently received comments. One happened to catch my interest, showing a headline relating to waiting tables, which was a big part of my life a few years ago and I job I sometimes miss. When I clicked the link, it brought me to the comment rather than the beginning of the article, so I was greeted with “a monkey could wait tables” with a reply of “they’re doing that in China and it works great!” I was so irritated by the monkey comment that I immediately clicked reply and readied myself to begin a full on verbal assault of the person who posted it.
I restrained myself though, not because I wanted to spare anyone’s feelings but because I didn’t see the point in trying to reason with ignorant people. I feel confident in saying that the people who think a monkey could do a server’s job are the same people who go into a restaurant and are rude to their server for the entire service before leaving a 5% tip and a bad review on Yelp. People who think a monkey could do a better job are people who don’t place any value on anyone performing a service job, choosing instead to treat them as beneath them. These people are beyond reason because they are too caught up in their own little worlds to care about anyone else.
Waiting tables is one of those jobs I wish I could force everyone in the world to do at least once. It took me doing the job for years to fully appreciate and understand what my server does for their tables on a daily basis, just as it took me working in retail dressing rooms to appreciate what that poor attendant has to deal with from dirty and lazy customers. Waiting tables is a thankless job but also a rewarding one. It’s more than get drinks, get food order, deliver food, deliver check. It goes beyond simply keeping an eye on a guest’s glass to make sure their cup never runs dry. It’s not like working an assembly line where the same exact scenarios are dealt with in the same exact ways. It’s more complex than most people give it credit for being.
Sure, you could train a monkey to press keys and deliver food, but a monkey can’t master timing the way a server can. After a table is sat, they must receive enough time to settle in and decide on drinks, but the server cannot allow too much time to pass and the table to get restless. Drinks need to be prepared or fetched from the bar quickly, as many guests act as if they are dying of thirst when they arrive. The order must be taken when the table looks ready, which can sometimes require a bit of analysis, as not everyone closes their menu and looks up when they have decided. The appetizer is rung in first (in some establishments) and the server must then ensure they wait long enough before ringing the entrée to allow the table ample time to munch on their salads or cheese sticks before they are presented with an entrée. If there are kids present, they may need their food first, or at least some crackers. The server must check back on the table soon after the meals are received and tasted, but not too soon and not with too big of a delay in case something is wrong or condiments are required. The list goes on and on.
A monkey is a cute little novelty and would probably be adorable carrying a tray to a table, but it can’t replace what your server can give you. A big part of waiting tables is being able to read people. A couple on a first date receives different treatment than a family out for their weekly dinner. A group of single guys will get a different kind of smile than the table full of elderly ladies on a shopping break. Some people will invite a bit of conversation, while others will desire the bare minimum from you. Properly judging a customer’s needs can be the difference between a great dinner and a lousy evening.
A monkey, if properly trained, could possibly handle a single table with little to no disastrous outcomes. Your server juggles multiple tables all at once, one right after the other, until the end of their shift. They are there to answer your questions about dishes, make recommendations, and give you great service while also tending to three or more tables (depending on the size of their area and the time of their shift). They also get pulled away to run food for other servers, sing birthday songs, refill pitchers and ice, make fresh tea and coffee, put side salads together, and that’s not even getting into the times they are called away by tables that don’t even belong to them. And good luck getting your monkey waiter to split a check for the party of 12 who didn’t think to mention it until the end of their meal.
I get that the monkey comment wasn’t made to be taken literally, but that doesn’t make it any less rude and insulting. Serving may seem like a simple and basic job, but it’s extremely complex and layered, moreso than anyone tends to realize. Even at its simplest state, it is incredibly high paced and stressful. Servers work hard not only because their money depends on it, but because they are (mostly) very passionate about their work. Even on various blogs dedicated to server rants, you’ll notice that the majority of them do love their job. I miss the chaos sometimes, the running around like a mad woman with fifty different things running through my head. I hate to think that one bad server is giving people the idea that the profession is a joke across the board, because it’s anything but.
To all my servers out there, I am applauding you between mouthfuls. I have been incredibly lucky lately to have received wonderful service at places we’ve dined at, be it a fancy spot like Peterson’s or somewhere cheap and family friendly like Applebee’s. But regardless of how experienced my server is, or how quick on their feet, I hope that I’m successful in treating every single one of them like an equal rather than like my personal servant. I hope that I’m able to make their job a little easier and that they take that one extra step that make me want to tip them above 20%. I hope I brighten their shift a bit by being an easy customer, and I really hope they are spared the annoyance and headache that comes with waiting on one of those people who refers to servers as animals.