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A Guide to Making Food Service Lives Easier

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

As humans, we are both a social and hungry species. Therefore, a treasured activity for people to do is frequent cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, and so on. In a city such as New York, where there is no shortage of new foods to try and cafes popping up like wildfire around Manhattan, much of the population, including myself, spends quite a bit of time visiting food establishments, perpetually searching for the best products. Having worked in the food service industry for five years now, it is fascinating to observe the employee and customer interactions in a different city. After a year’s worth of observation and comparing customers’ behaviors, it became clear that regardless of the region of the country, many still do not know how to properly behave and treat food service employees when dining out. 

Throughout my restaurant experience, I have worked as a server, hostess, kitchen expeditor, barista and bartender, and I have found that each part of a restaurant’s front and back of the house is impacted by a poorly behaved or unaware customer. Moreover, there are small things that can greatly alleviate your server’s stress during a rush and make your own dining experience all the more pleasant. For the sake of time, the following guide will be from a server’s perspective.  

First, as simple and straightforward this might seem to many, responding or acknowledging your server’s presence when they approach your table is not only helpful and respectful to the server, but aids in the efficiency of the establishment as a whole. Many times, people will not pause their conversation or turn their phone off while a server is trying to do their job and please the customer, causing disruption in a server’s flow. Nevertheless, the server must remain pleasant and enthusiastic in order to be tipped an appropriate amount, regardless of the customer being at fault in this situation.

Tipping, though a controversial topic in America, is a reality of our food service industry’s economy and therefore must still be properly obeyed. Unfortunately, tips can make or break many food service employees’ ability to live comfortably each week, so make sure you are able to afford your meal and understand that a tip should be included in this expense. The thought of a server receiving no tip despite their great service will forever keep me up at night.

Furthermore, no matter how awful your day might have been before entering an establishment, in no way is it the server’s fault. Thus, do not take your anger out on your server. If your order is wrong, it can be fixed, and is often not the server’s fault. If the restaurant changed a menu item or increased their prices, this is not the server’s fault. If there is a long wait for food or to sit down, this is also not the server’s fault. And, even if your server is at fault in any situation, servers are human too; they are not machines, as much as many of their bosses think they are, so please be kind and gracious when dining out. 

Since the pandemic ravaged the restaurant scene, essentially turning the entire concept of dining out upside down, it is even more important that you are as understanding and patient as possible. Working in the food industry is high stress to begin with, but with the constant passing of new guidelines and America’s social culture rapidly changing, the stress is even higher. Please remember that your server is trying their best, as is the establishment in which they work. So, ensure that you and your party are prepared to be empathetic consumers when going out, or stay at home.

Maggie Ripp

Columbia Barnard '25

I am a sophomore at Barnard studying English. I love hiking and swimming, seeing live music, and trying new restaurants.