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57 Secrets Your Restaurant Server Isn’t Telling You

What would 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.


After a certain time, it's all decaf

"In most restaurants, after 8 p.m. or so, all the coffee is decaf because no one wants to clean two different coffeepots. I'll bring out a tray with 12 coffees on it and give some to the customers who ordered regular, others to the ones who ordered decaf. But they're all decaf."—Charity Ohlund. Check out the things restaurant owners wish they could tell you.


We give kids lots of sugar

"We put sugar in our kids' meals so kids will like them more. Seriously. We even put extra sugar in the dough for the kids' pizzas."—Waitress at a well-known pizza chain. 

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We lie to vegetarians

If you're a vegetarian and you ask if we use vegetable stock, I'm going to say yes, even if we don't. You'll never know the difference.


Watch out for the specials

"At a lot of restaurants, the special is whatever they need to sell before it goes bad. Especially watch out for the soup of the day. If it contains fish or if it's some kind of 'gumbo,' it's probably the stuff they're trying to get rid of."—Kathy Kniss, who waited tables for ten years in Los Angeles. Your friends will love these holiday food gifts. 

Avoid the lemons

"Now that I've worked in a restaurant, I never ask for lemon in a drink. Everybody touches them. Nobody washes them. We just peel the stickers off, cut them up, and throw them in your iced tea."—Charity Ohlund, Kansas City waitress.


I can't talk about calories

"If you ask me how many calories are in a particular dish, I'm not allowed to tell you even if I know. I'm supposed to say, 'All that information is available online.'"—Waitress at a well-known pizza chain


We'll mess with your credit card

"I've never seen anybody do anything to your food, but I have seen servers mess with your credit card. If a server doesn't like you, he might try to embarrass you in front of your business associate or date by bringing your credit card back and saying, 'Do you have another card? This one didn't go through.'"—Charity Ohlund


We don't carry all those types of milk

"Skim milk is almost never skim milk. Very few restaurants outside Starbucks carry whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim milk, and half-and-half; it's just not practical."—Chris. And Starbucks has some secrets too; find out the secrets Starbucks employees won't tell you.


Homemade doesn't always mean homemade

"Some places buy salad dressings in one-gallon jars, then add a few ingredients, like a blue cheese crumble or fresh herbs, and call it homemade on the menu."—Former waiter Jake Blanton


Please don't ask for hot tea

"The single greatest way to get your waiter to hate you? Ask for hot tea. For some reason, an industry that's managed to streamline everything else hasn't been able to streamline that. You've got to get a pot, boil the water, get the lemons, get the honey, bring a cup and spoon. It's a lot of work for little reward."—Christopher Fehlinger, maître d' at a popular New York City restaurant

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest