Sunday, January 07, 2007 by Ospite.

It was a pathetic shift. I walked in the door and from the get-go I was annoyed. I was scheduled as a food-runner. This is the guy who's not your waiter who brings you your food. I hate this job.

The hourly is minimum wage plus tips. But here's where the servers' personal feelings get involved. How they tip out is based solely on how much food they happen to see you run to their tables. If your timing never crosses their path, they don't know which of the three runners took the food and therefore which ones to tip. The tips are bound to be lower in this case.

So I was running and, being a waiter also, people ask me for beverage refills, sides of sauce, remakes for their food, etc. I end up being yet another waiter to them. I had 5 dishes remade for 3 waiters, sold more alcohol than if I had been on the floor myself. The GM pulls me aside and says, "Why aren't you on the deck running food? Better get hustling, I'm keeping my eye on you tonight." I get reprimanded for bettering the customers...fabulous.

On top of this, we run into the issue of our dishes. For our entire restaurant we had only 30 pasta bowls. A ridiculous number. Half what we should have. We were continually running out of spoons. It was apparently my job to remedy this as well as run food. This of course cut down on my face time with the waitstaff, again, hacking my tips.

Candice was one of the other two runners. She tops out at about 5ft and has a permanent look of annoyance and angst. She's a real joy to be around for sure. Oh, and she's a slacker. She hates her job as a waitress, makes no money because customers can tell she's forever pissed, and makes no move to fix things.

Candice was walking in front of me as I was bringing bowls and plates from Dish with my arms more than full. Meandering empty-handed, she decided to turn around without warning and ran her head directly into the plates. A soft thunk was heard from the collision and she put her hand to her head. I was shot the most evil look I've seen in months and I stifled a chuckle. We were all moving at top speed. A restaurant can be like a freeway. If you're not moving along with traffic, you'll get run over. I'm going to guess she fought with her boyfriend and decided to smoke a joint on the way here to forget it. ...per usual.

So trying to keep the tears from welling up, she skulked into the kitchen hoping for a pity party. Sadly, she got one. Immediately I "ran dishes into her head." My popularity waned drastically.

Now, normally, I'm well-liked in the restaurant, but I've slowed down my socializing with the rest of the waitstaff due to other responsibilities. This isn't an issue when I wait tables, but when my tips depend on the rest of the staff, they tip the people they hang out with. It's restaurant politics. It was a 5 hour shift that felt like 30. The only thing that brought me any joy, was the short person vs. the dinnerware. It was a pathetic shift.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow--shitty night. thats bs. that your restaurant doesn't at least allocate your tips based on the servers' sales. sounds like you are at a high-volume place--do the servers tip the bar according to how they feel? or the bussers? at my place, our checkout totals our food sales and we tip 2.4% to the runners, who pool nightly tips by necessity. Last night I pulled in 105 in a terribly slow Monday, but the runner made 140 or so. Good arrangement for all.

Sucks about your night--fuck those runner shifts! and great job hitting the dumbass in the head, but why you gotta dis the weed?

have a good one,


5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to get rid of the whole tipping system in this country. Just pay food servers a reasonable wage, like any other job, and be done with it. Nobody should have to work while hoping somebody else decides if the service is worth paying for and customers shouldn't have to tip people for doing what's expected.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry anon, have to disagree with you--although a "reasonable wage" would be nice, that would necessitate raising restaurant prices further and, I would imagine, only would be found at high-end restaurants. What about a starting server, working at a Denny's or the equivalent? Those restaurants don't have the money to pay servers a "reasonable wage," which for that type of work would be, what, about $15 per hour or so? At high-end restaurants, what is "reasonable?" $40 per hour? That's what I make under the current system, during service, on good nights. Can you imagine trying to start a business where you had to pay the anchors of your staff $40 per hour? Times 8 servers per night, times 6 hours, times 7 days per week...$13,440 per week. $700,000 per year. That's more than two months of business for a lot of high-end restaurants. They would have to accomodate that extra expense by raising prices, typically set at 3 times the food cost, to 4 or 5 times that cost.

Also, as a diner, I like the tipping system. I go out to enjoy myself and eat good food. I don't go out to look for problems with my service, or to pay any attention at all to my server. When they perform the job but not necessarily extremely well, they get a 20% tip. When I am in a server's section who, I can tell, is efficient and professional, they will make more. If the server guides me through the menu, helps me select a wine, pours said wine into my glass when appropriate, keeps my table clear when I'm not eating, and paces my meal appropriately, they get a 30 or 40% tip. I enjoy the experience that much more when I can enjoy being part of a good server's machine.

So, the system works. Business owners can start restaurants and serve delicious food while paying their staff a minimal amount. The patrons of those establishments tip the servers according to their ability, or according to something a bit less objective, and the harder-working servers make more money. If I want to leave early and write off my night, usually I can. If I want to hustle my balls off and take every 10:00 table in the joint, I can, and have a great night.

The worst part of my job is when someone who SHOULD tip me well, because I took great care of their table, does not. And the best part is walking home at the end of the night and forgetting that I have to scrape plates of food into the trash for a living and laugh at stupid jokes. This job can suck the life out of you. Under the current system, the more experienced and better you get, the more money you make, and the less you mind your soul being sucked out of you.

Just my thoughts


8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i hate being the food runner too.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but I don't see why it matters if I tack on extra cost to the meal (in the form of a gratuity) or if the restaurants raise menu prices to provide a living wage. Either way, it costs more to eat out than just the listed price unless I decide to stiff the staff. Why shouldn't servers enjoy the benefits that most other jobs provide?

I wonder how much you all pay into Social Security at $2/hr.? And who pays the uncollected hospital bills when you get sick with no employer provided insurance? Let waiting be a real profession and let people pay for it without thinking it's "to insure prompt service".

9:51 AM  

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At your service, Ospite

I am not in the restaurant business, I am in the people business. I use every opportunity to people watch, because to me, even the most mundane is fascinating.

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