Ten Reasons to Treat Your Server with Respect

George Harrison once sang, “It’s all up to what you value in your motor car.” We can argue the same for how we behave in restaurants. Following are ten reasons to treat your server with respect.

  1. Your server plays a valuable role in your life. In his book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg describes three places that define our personal and cultural identities: the home is the first place; work is the second place; third places are anchors of community life. Needless to say, restaurants are a vital third place. They reflect our passions for leisure and culture. As such, we should treat the restaurant environment with as much respect as we do our home and work environments.
  2. When you treat your server differently from your immediate acquaintances, you reveal an unflattering character. Being rude to your server demonstrates a form of hypocrisy that won’t go unnoticed by those around you. That is, unless you’re rude to everyone, which would be a topic of conversation for another column, e.g., trying to gain power over others due to ingrained insecurities. Generally good manners in public and private serve everyone better.
  3. Why wouldn’t you treat your server with respect? To many, human dignity and respect are rights, not privileges. Accordingly, abusing the restaurant staff shouldn’t be an option.
  4. Terrible things can happen to you when you disrespect your server. You might get pancakes spilled on your lap, or your food served too hot or too cold (with saliva in it) after you’ve waited for it for a half an hour. You won’t get any of the special requests you made, and if you’re paying cash, don’t be surprised if you receive your change in quarters.
  5. Conversely, recognizing that your server is a person does wonders. When you treat your server with respect, you get special treatment. You’ll engage in friendly banter and be treated to wonderful little extras that didn’t even occur to you. Maybe you’ll even get free food, and if there’s a mutual attraction, you and your server might wind up going out on a date.
  6. Servers have a tough job and don’t need any added grief. Waiting on your table is only about a tenth of their job, and keep in mind that they have families and lives, too, so they often face intense pressures. The high turnover rate in the restaurant industry is evidence enough, and most servers don’t have the type of benefits seen in the white-collar world. In short, being a difficult guest means you’re being cruel whether you realize it or not.
  7. Being nice to your server is good for business. When you’re friendly to your server, you create a pleasant environment for everyone around you. Happy surroundings draw guests back for subsequent visits, thus stimulating the local economy. Over eighty percent of the American economy is built on service-related industries, so everyone should want to benefit from this form of social capital.
  8. Maybe Instant Karma really will get you. The idea that what goes around comes around could just be a causal awareness of how behavior often defines consequences. Still, who knows? Maybe you or someone close to you will be serving food and drinks to rude guests in a local restaurant very soon if you’re not careful, so be nice.
  9. People judge your community based on your public behavior. Have you ever found yourself in an out-of-town restaurant evaluating that entire community based on how the guests treat their wait staff? Do you then make a comparison with your own community and draw conclusions accordingly? Much can be learned from this casual experiment.
  10. God loves servers and will smite you for being mean to them.