More Secrets Your Waiter Will Never Tell You

Two dozen servers reveal the truth about what goes on behind the kitchen doors.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest | December 2009

What would two dozen servers from across the country tell you if they could get away with it? Well, for starters, when to go out, what not to order, what really happens behind the kitchen’s swinging doors, and what they think of you and your tips. Here, from a group that clears a median $8.01 an hour in wages and tips, a few revelations that aren’t on any menu.

Plus: 20 More Secrets Your Waiter Won’t Tell You

What We Lie About

1. We’re not allowed to tell our customers we don’t like a dish. So if you ask your server how something is and she says, “It’s one of our most popular dishes,” chances are she doesn’t like it. —Waitress at a well-known pizza chain

2. On Christmas Day, when people ask why I’m there, I might say, “My sister’s been in the hospital,” or, “My brother’s off to war, so we’re celebrating when he gets back.” Then I rake in the tips. —Chris, a New York City waiter and the founder of bitterwaitress.com

3. If you’re looking for your waiter and another waiter tells you he’s getting something out of the stockroom, you can bet he’s out back having a quick smoke. —Charlie Kondek, former waiter at a Denny’s in Central Michigan

4. If someone orders a frozen drink that’s annoying to make, I’ll say, “Oh, we’re out. Sorry!” when really I just don’t want to make it. But if you order water instead of another drink, suddenly we do have what you originally wanted because I don’t want to lose your drink on the bill. —Waitress at a casual Mexican restaurant in Manhattan

More Secrets Your Waiter Will Never Tell You©2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
What You Don’t Want to Know

5. When I was at one bakery restaurant, they used to make this really yummy peach cobbler in a big tray. A lot of times, servers don’t have time to eat. So we all kept a fork in our aprons, and as we cruised through the kitchen, we’d stick our fork in the cobbler and take a bite. We’d use the same fork each time. —Kathy Kniss

PLUS: 13 Things Your Grocer Won’t Tell You

6. If you make a big fuss about sending your soup back because it’s not hot enough, we like to take your spoon and run it under really hot water, so when you put the hot spoon in your mouth, you’re going to get the impression—often the very painful impression—that your soup is indeed hot. —Chris

7. I’ve seen some horrible things done to people’s food: steaks dropped on the floor, butter dipped in the dishwater. —Waiter at a casual restaurant in the Chicago area

What You’re Really Swallowing

8. If your dessert says “homemade,” it probably is. But it might be homemade at a bakery three miles away. —Charity Ohlund

9. I knew one guy—he was a real jerk—he’d go to Costco and buy this gigantic carrot cake for $10 and tell us to say it’s homemade. Then he sold it for $10 a slice. Steve Dublanica, veteran New York waiter and author of Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip—Confessions of a Cynical Waiter

What Drives Us Crazy

10. Oh, you needed more water so badly, you had to snap or tap or whistle? I’ll be right back … in ten minutes. —Charity Ohlund

11. We want you to enjoy yourself while you’re there eating, but when it’s over, you should go. Do you stay in the movie theater after the credits? No. —Waiter at a casual restaurant in the Chicago area

12. My biggest pet peeve? When I walk up to a table of six or seven people and one person decides everyone needs water. I’m making a trip to deliver seven waters, and four or five of them never get touched. —Judi Santana, a server for ten years

What We Want You to Know

13. Sometimes, if you’ve been especially nice to me, I’ll tell the bartender, “Give me a frozen margarita, and don’t put it in.” That totally gyps the company, but it helps me because you’ll give it back to me in tips, and the management won’t know the difference. —Waitress at a casual Mexican restaurant in Manhattan

14. If you’re having a disagreement over dinner and all of a sudden other servers come by to refill your water or clear your plates, or you notice a server slowly refilling the salt and pepper shakers at the table next to yours, assume that we’re listening. —Charity Ohlund

PLUS: 13 Things Your Plumber Won’t Tell You

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