Photo by Andrew Stawarz (Flickr)

Photo by Andrew Stawarz (Flickr)

We have a nifty little task management tool that we use to manage all the content that goes out here. When topics are decided on, a task is created with the topic as the title; when I complete the task, I share the document of what I’ve written and then check it off as done. Pretty simple. When I logged in the other day and saw a topic called “Do Restaurant Servers Have An Easy Job?” i thought life couldn’t get any easier. I opened up a new doc, and typed “Ha! No.” Once I saved and shared it, I marked the task off as complete, and went along my merry way. Unfortunately, the people who pay me to write things thought I should put in just a bit more effort on this one, maybe elaborate on what makes it such a difficult job. I’ll admit, they have a point. Servers are often the unsung heroes of the hospitality industry, and if I’m going to do my job to honor theirs, the least I can do is put my all into it.

Servers are to restaurants what nurses are to hospitals; the doctors may get all the credit, but the nurses are the ones that make it happen. Think of the role a nurse plays to more fully understand the plight of the server. They take care of everything up front—patient intake, collecting vitals, setting expectations, and responding whenever the patient needs something. They do this simultaneously with multiple patients, and they do that repeatedly throughout a long day spent mostly on their feet. Then they relay all the information over to the doctor, who swoops in and makes a diagnosis she’s made a thousand times before, and prescribes medication she’s dispensed a few thousand times more than that. If something goes wrong, the nurse usually bears the brunt of it. If it goes right, the doctor gets the credit. This is how it is with servers: they greet the customers, they take the order, they take the information to the kitchen and the finished meals back to the customers. They get yelled at when something goes wrong, and the kitchen gets the praise if the meal was excellent. This begs two questions.

  1. Why don’t we have more appreciation for what restaurant servers do?
  2. Why aren’t we tipping nurses, too?
Photo courtesy of Audio Luci Store (Flickr)

Photo courtesy of Audio Luci Store (Flickr)

I’ll leave society to figure out the answer to that second question, but I can tackle the first one. It’s a simple reason, really. People can only form perceptions of things based on their own experiences. If a person has never waited tables, his only idea of what it’s like to do that job are from his experiences as a customer (he might hear stories from friends who’ve done the job, but stories don’t have as much impact as direct experience). From a customer’s perspective, the server takes the order, relays the order, brings the order, and checks in from time to time. What people fail to take into account is that the server is doing the same thing for as many as 8 or 9 other tables. That’s a customer count in the high 20’s, low 30’s—in other words, a LOT of people to manage, all at once and repeatedly throughout the day. That on it’s own is enough to classify the job as “difficult.”

Photo by John Bastoen (Flickr)

Photo by John Bastoen (Flickr)

A good server will know the entire menu backwards and forwards and be able to answer any questions about the dishes. More importantly, that knowledge of the menu should be used to upsell customers. If there are specials, he will possibly have to remember and recite those. He has to act as the middle man between the kitchen staff and the customers, and manage personalities on either side of that equation.Your server will have to carry many dishes out to you at once, sometimes navigating through a sea of customers and tables. He’ll have to remember who ordered what, make sure water glasses are full, ask if anyone wants another drink. He’ll need to come back a few minutes after serving the food to make sure everyone has what they need. And he must do this with a smile on his face and a genuinely positive attitude, even when the customers treat them poorly. And all of the above becomes even more difficult if your server is a woman, because she’s dealing with extra annoyances that have nothing to with food service, I assure you.

So, no, it’s not easy work. Not in the least. Many of the staff at Kounta are food service refugees and so intimately familiar with all of this. This was part of the impetus behind Kounta’s creation—the insider’s knowledge of how hard it is to work in hospitality helped to inform many of the features. Now, if the developers could only figure out a way to make people nicer and more forgiving, we could truly alleviate the server’s burden.