Restaurant guests have a big impact on how a server’s day goes. Like with other service jobs, there are bad customers and there are great customers. We like to focus on the positive, so we spoke to 7 restaurant servers to hear their stories about the best table they ever waited on.
Pay it forward
I had a really great regular, but one awesome night she started a pay-it-forward chain that went on for at least 5 tables.
She would come in and drink and visit, and she would usually tip me between $100-$200. On top of her generosity, she was the sweetest, most patient and understanding person. Just a great lady. Occasionally, if she saw a family in the restaurant just enjoying each other and having a good time, she would pay their tab in secret and move on. Well, one night she did this for a 10-top I had. They were blown away and decided to pay the tab for a 12-top at the back of the dining room. The 12-top in turn paid for two smaller tables, one of which paid for another table near them. At that point, it was time for me to go home so I didn’t get to see if it continued, but just seeing that much generosity in one night was awesome.
B., 7 years as a restaurant server
The Christmas spirit
This one regular comes into our diner almost every weekday, sometimes twice a day. He is a professor at a nearby university. He was always everyone’s favorite customer, very polite, understanding, and a great conversationalist. He had no spouse or kids and had extra money, so he was generous with his tips. One year around Christmas, he came in with 2 boxes of wine for the management and the chefs. On Christmas Eve, he came in with a big bag full of presents for the servers. They were all small gifts, but useful ones, like wine keys, money clips, etc. I’m in college so I only work there over breaks but I’m always happy when he comes in.
Matt, 2 years
Night on the town
One day I was waiting on a married couple who told me it was their first night out alone together in over a year, and that normally their 3-year-old son is always with them. This was a really casual restaurant, not like a fancy event they got all dolled up for, but they were so excited about their date. It was adorable. They told me how stressed out they’ve been, and they were so glad to have this one night off together.
When I took their order, the man asked for “bean-beans and rice.” As soon as he said it, his wife looked at him, totally horrified. I said, “Um…bean-beans?” And then he looked horrified, and then after a few seconds, they started cracking up. The wife was laughing so hard she could barely explain that their son calls black beans “bean beans.” She said to him, “I cannot believe you just said ‘bean-beans’ out in public.”
It was a funny moment, and it was nice to see them let off some much-needed steam. I didn’t know them, but they were so sweet and funny, I still randomly think about them whenever I see bean-beans.
Sarah, 6 years as a restaurant server
Hugs make everything better
Just so y’all understand what kind of day this was, I’m going to go over some of the things that happened during my shift before I was blessed with the best table ever.
- I spilled Italian dressing on a man’s business suit. He was very angry.
- A customer was sitting by a wall, and when he stood up, he hit his head on a piece of decor, knocking it off the wall and breaking it. He was also very angry.
- I got really in the weeds because we were short 2 servers. Many of my tables had to wait a long time for their food or drink refills.
- I dropped a tray full of food on the floor, and the chef was furious because they had to remake everything.
After all my struggles that day, dropping the tray of food just about broke me. I must have been visibly upset even though I was trying hard to keep it together, because when I went to check on one of my tables, the woman looked at me and said, “Honey, is it ok if I hug you? You look like you really need a hug. I can see you’re working so hard and today just isn’t your day.”
She gave me a real hug, not one of those one-arm shoulder pats you give to people you don’t know well. She hugged me tight and told me that in the grand scheme of things, this day didn’t matter at all. I nearly started sobbing. I felt so relieved and grateful to this woman for her kindness. She could have complained about the wait time like everyone else or just not said anything, but instead, she went out of her way to comfort a stranger. To this day, it’s still one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me.
Bianca, 3 years
Regulars with gifts
I have a table of regulars that I’ve waited on for years. They typically come in once a week and always request my section. They are always super nice and tip me well, but last year when I was pregnant with my first child, they really went above and beyond. They were so excited that I was having my first baby. A few weeks before my due date, they brought me gifts (stuffed animals, pacifiers, onesies, etc.), and they gave me a $100 gift card. This was on top of my regular tip! I still wait for them nearly every week, and they always ask me how my son is. They are just really kind, generous people, and I love it when they come in.
Nicole, 5 years as a restaurant server
Happiness is contagious
During lunch one day, these two older ladies came in. They were really chatty, and since it was slow, I spent a lot of time talking with them. They told me they’d been best friends for over 30 years, and they had recently decided to move onto a cruise ship — permanently. I didn’t even know that was a thing people could do!
They were both giggling and so excited as they told me about their plans, and it was obvious they were loving life. As we talked, they shared all kinds of wisdom with me that they’d learned over the years. I got tips on everything from my love life to how to best cut a mango. They were hilarious and probably two of the happiest people I’ve ever met. They were so fun to wait on, and their positive perspective on life helped me realize how lucky I am. Plus, I can cut a mango like a pro now.
Ross, 1 year
May I please have…
Waiting on tables with kids has never been my favorite thing. I don’t like them in regular life and find them particularly troublesome at work. At the restaurant where I work, they have a “kids eat free” day, so of course, it is always busy that day.
Throughout my shift, I’d had a rotating door of messy, loud, misbehaving kids, until this woman came in with 4 kids all under 10. I was nervous. She was the only adult, and that’s a lot of kids to wrangle, but she was like a miracle worker. Her kids colored on their menus and talked and laughed amongst each other, but they were never too loud, they didn’t throw their food everywhere, they never got up and ran around the restaurant. They were perfect. What threw me, even more, was when they were actually ordering. Every single one of them made eye contact with me and politely said, “May I please have…”
My jaw actually dropped. It’s sad that I was this stunned by children with basic manners, but it was truly shocking. I looked at the mom and said in total awe, “These are the best kids I’ve ever waited on. They are so polite and perfect, I can’t even believe it.” The mom looked super proud of them and the kids were beaming. The whole experience was great, and I’m so thankful to parents like those who understand that their kids should behave at restaurants (and everywhere else!).
Billy, 3 years as a restaurant server