Thank you everyone for your questions. And a special thanks to /u/The_Conan_Obrien for dropping by, I wish you the best of luck in the world of Mac & Malt.

I'm going to have to pull the plug on this AMA and get back to normal life. It's been a ton of fun! I might drop in later for any unanswered questions.


My short bio: I've been in the restaurant industry for about a decade with five years in fine dining. Graduated from college in a STEM field, but starting salaries couldn't match what I was doing in the restaurant, so I decided to stay a while.

A few years went by and I kept climbing diagonally within the industry and ended up in a high end restaurant with a huge staff and high-end clientele.

I have worked most positions within the front of the house in a restaurant, ranging from food runner, bartender, to manager, hosting, and waiting tables.

It's a unique industry, with really unique people. You end up working with some very driven people and some very lazy people.

Nonetheless, I'm open to any questions about the industry or the fine-dining in general.

My Proof: Provided to the Mods.

Comments: 254 • Responses: 81  • Date: 

The_Conan_Obrien482 karma

hey waiter buddy, i'm doing an ama too i just got asked what goes well with mac n cheese can you help me out?

WaiterBuddy244 karma

Haha! Truffles go great with Mac and Cheese. Pair with either a sweeter, acidic white OR a very tannic red to balance against the fat.

The_Conan_Obrien260 karma

Thank you. I like the truffles idea but drinking liquor with mac n cheese is hardly an innovation.

WaiterBuddy204 karma

Agreed.

However, different liquors go well with different styles of Mac and Cheese.

Easy Mac could go better with Steel Reserve.

The_Conan_Obrien280 karma

Steel Reserve pairs much better with SpaghettiOs.

WaiterBuddy221 karma

Per our sommelier, we are going to have to get you an application.

dolphinesque35 karma

Do people bring young children to a restaurant of that caliber?

If so, how do you deal with them if they make a mess or misbehave?

WaiterBuddy44 karma

Yes they do. And more often than I would have ever thought. It's a shame because it does cause difficulty if they start screaming in the middle of service.

Most guests are pretty good about it and will leave the table on their own. They are usually pretty embarrassed and realized they made a grave mistake bringing their child.

We have the floor Maître D' that handles this situations. If we have a private room available, they may get an upgrade to that private room so they can still dine comfortably. Otherwise, the floor Maître D' will speak to them and let them know that we will need them to quiet down their child. Most guests will either leave on their own at this point if it's required.

Never had a time where we had to actually ask a guest to leave the restaurant, yet.

divineshowerhead32 karma

Besides money, how are the customers at a high-end restaurant different from the customers at a "normal" restaurant?

WaiterBuddy54 karma

The clientele dress differently, perhaps discuss different things at the table, have a different net worth, but for the most part, are largely the same.

The expectations are a bit greater when two people can pay anywhere from $500-8000 for dinner depending on wine and food ordered versus $40 for two at "normal" restaurants. Our guests demand precision service, perfect food every visit, and to be there at a moments notice. We overstaff the restaurant intentionally to be able to do this, but mistakes still happen.

Despite that, when we have guests that are ready to complain, I've seen similar arguments and passion at normal restaurants and high end restaurants and they are about the same. Except I'll get the occasional, "We paid $xxxx.xx for this!"

tonope29 karma

Whats the biggest tip you have recieved?

WaiterBuddy68 karma

There's a bit of a difference between the tip I get to take home and the tip the customer leaves as we end up tipping out all the staff below us.

But the largest tip received from a customers standpoint was about $4000, to which I left the day with about half.

Artichokeslam28 karma

Is it common for people to stop at the McDonald's drive-thru after a fine dining experience, or is it just me? I usually leave a restaurant like that emotionally fulfilled but physically hungrier.

WaiterBuddy25 karma

Haha! This can definitely be true at times at a lot of restaurants.

It depends on what food they specialize in. American cuisine is generally very rich and hearty if it has to do with steaks and wild game. French can come off as a bit more reserved with a huge emphasis on delicate flavor.

Ben_Dover2322 karma

What is the worst tip you ever received?

WaiterBuddy41 karma

At this particular restaurant, somewhere around 8%. I haven't gotten a zero tip yet, but some in the restaurant have. Someone would have to really blow it to get a zero tip in most circumstances.

Guests from other countries that don't have a tipping etiquette, certainly do tip less. I don't ever hold it against them.

headlineisBULLSHIT10 karma

Has your restaurant ever considered a no tipping policy like they have at the Modern in NYC?

WaiterBuddy14 karma

I'm sure they have, but this is a relatively new phenomenon in the industry. Overall, restaurants will find out what is most profitable between growing the business and sales and head in that direction.

The tip averages in this restaurant waver in the higher end. 25-30+% is not uncommon at all.

BFG_90009 karma

two people can pay anywhere from $500-8000

.

25-30+% is not uncommon at all

.

Yet you're only making $110k?

WaiterBuddy6 karma

Yup. But, there's a few factors here.

We tip out a very large staff with many different departments. So depending on what is sold specifically, we can end up tipping out about half to more than half of all tips. Vacations are unpaid and we all seem to take quite a few of them, alongside days off midweek if it is especially slow. And we don't really over-extend ourselves in terms of how many tables we attend to. There are certainly slow seasons and busy seasons throughout the year, so we average it out a bit more.

Lausiv_Edisn4 karma

Isn't tipping a thing in the US because a waitress makes like 3$ an hour, in some states.

You on the other hand earn 110k, so tipping an avg. of 15% might defeat the purpose ?

WaiterBuddy5 karma

That is true. But I'm not sure if tipping is a thing because of the $3 an hour OR if $3 an hour is because of tipping. I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

Tipping has it's own history behind it. People are free to tip however they feel which includes any biases towards tipping based on culture or experience. Although I am accustomed to 20+%, I rarely look at it until the end of the night. There is nothing that I can change about that aspect of the job and there's no point in getting upset about it as some do.

FelixFelicis2322 karma

Craziest customer experience?

WaiterBuddy44 karma

I've had a lot of great moments with guests. Some people really do want personal relationships with their waitstaff and get to know us quite well once they become regulars.

But the craziest people are the professional sports teams when they are all together. They can swear up a storm, throw food and break things if they feel like it, and some treat their girlfriends/wives like trash.

MisterMarcus11 karma

They can swear up a storm, throw food and break things if they feel like it, and some treat their girlfriends/wives like trash.

I don't care how much they're paying or how famous they are, if I was running an expensive "high class" restaurant, I wouldn't let that kind of stuff go on.

WaiterBuddy18 karma

They generally book out private rooms for these types of guests. These activities don't go on in the main dining rooms. We actually have a cleaning clause in our contracts for these types of events.

Once it extends beyond their room, we have to step in and calm it down. I largely agree with you however that it shouldn't be the case.

It is very rare though.

vault200819 karma

What general advice for success do you have?

WaiterBuddy42 karma

This is a two parter.

If you end up in a restaurant and work during the evenings. Don't waste your days. I spend most my days studying things that interest me or may change my career path in the future, whether it be food, wine, the arts sciences, computer programming, etc. A lot of my co-workers fall into the same bad habits of going to the bar every night and spending $80+ a piece and partying it up. Unfortunately, it continues throughout the industry at all levels. You'd be surprised, but most my co-workers have no savings and debt.

The second part is in regards to success within the restaurant. If you get hired at a new restaurant, the best thing you can do for yourself is take off running. Prove your knowledge continually and your determination to lead, right from the go. Do not be timid.

The problem with being timid in the beginning or not accelerating fast enough is that you create that persona around you. And if the next person they hire accelerates past you, you've now shown that you are slower than that person, and are no longer someone to be compared to.

Some people end up in lower positions, that still pay well, but never advance.

One last thing. This industry is unique because one day doesn't correlate to the other as much so as other jobs. If you have a great day or a bad day, it is isolated to this single day. The guests come and go and we generally don't see them again. So when you have a really tough night for whatever reason, it ends, you go home, and start a new tomorrow.

malcontented17 karma

Do you get free meals?

WaiterBuddy34 karma

Most restaurants have something they call a Family Meal, either at the beginning or end of the shifts. We serve the guests only the freshest ingredients, so once a day or so passes, they end up creating a different type of family meal for the staff. It isn't the menu items, but it's always very tasty.

Our restaurant does meals twice a day for all the staff.

dickables17 karma

Is your hourly rate still below minimum wage and that $110k comes mostly from tips? Or do they pay you a decent wage right off the bat and the tips are just the icing on top?

WaiterBuddy22 karma

Our hourly rate is minimum wage for all front of the house staff. Everything else is tips. Which seems scary initially, but when restaurants are slow, the reduce the number of staff onboard and increase it when it's busy so it stays pretty consistent.

futurefires3 karma

How many hours do you work per week?

WaiterBuddy11 karma

It varies. But usually 30-35. The holidays can become much longer.

futurefires3 karma

Wow that is great earnings then, is that typical for Lead Waiters at such restaurants? And are you in NYC or another city?

WaiterBuddy6 karma

I'm in a larger city for sure. Most waiters can get close. Average at this level in this industry would be about $75-90k.

cranecaneane13 karma

Should we dress up to get treated better at fine dining establishments? Do you look down on non-foodies or ppl that don't know wines? How can we get the best service possible while leaving a good impression?

WaiterBuddy19 karma

Call ahead and get an idea of the dress code. It varies drastically by the location. We live in an interesting era where dressing up isn't as formal as it used to be. And our wealthier clients seen to wear just whatever they want, so it's tough to judge anyone.

We actually love people who aren't familiar with food and wine because it gives us an opportunity to share food and wine philosophy with you. The people who ask questions end up forming a bond with the waitstaff and if you trust our suggestions, we will definitely do our best to ensure everything is perfect.

cranecaneane12 karma

The people who ask questions end up forming a bond with the waitstaff and if you trust our suggestions, we will definitely do our best to ensure everything is perfect.

Never thought of it this way! I always thought the waitstaff found us uneducated or just threw our random things to answer our questions. But I will for sure go with whatever the wait staff recommends next time around with extra enthusiasm :) THANK YOU for the tip.

WaiterBuddy10 karma

It is a pleasure and you are very welcome.

Waiters are trained to carry an air of confidence with them, which may come off as intimidating at times to some people. However, we are trained to adjust our level of speech and knowledge to match that of the guests.

We try to focus on the discussion, rather than just a question and answer session. It is very important to us that our guests from all walks of life leave our restaurant feeling that their money was well spent.

Medieval-Maggot13 karma

What is the most stressfull thing you have experienced as Lead Waiter?

WaiterBuddy47 karma

Frankly, it's not a very stressful job overall during service. We have staff at every position, so we have people dedicated to bringing out food and food only. People who only clear tables. People who only do coffee service. People who only serve bread.

The most stressful part is the responsibilities of knowing all the major wine regions of the world, the style of wine that create there, the grapes and major producers of the region, and how to direct guests to the perfect bottle without being able to give them a taste. It's nerve-wrecking describing a $6000 bottle of wine because if they order it, it better be what you had described perfectly.

Beyond that, we learn about every component on every dish, and certain histories of many of the more unique items.

We have staff meetings daily, where we have guest presenters, lectures on food and beverages, and the dreaded quizzes.

rational_industrious7 karma

In a situation like thst, why not just grab the somm?

WaiterBuddy16 karma

You most certainly can and most of the time we will. But we are trained to deal with selling our products so we share the knowledge we have prior to getting the somm. And if the guest orders it prior to the point where we need them, that's what's coming out.

For higher end wines, the somm always delivers it to the table and strikes up a short conversation before service if it permits.

visualtrance11 karma

Who are the most famous people you've ever served? And how have you reacted to them? Nervous, chill, or other?

WaiterBuddy14 karma

Actors like Vince Vaughn and Jonathan Stewart. It's always an interesting mental block to get by at the beginning of the shift.

Do they want to be treated like everyone else? Do they want to be treated special? How special?

They've always been pretty pleasant people, so it's never been a problem. To tell the truth, after all these years, I still get a slight bit of nervousness approaching every table, because you don't know who you are talking to and what their expectations are right away. It fades within seconds to minutes usually.

halothreefan6 karma

Do they want to be treated like everyone else? Do they want to be treated special? How special?

good point. you don't want to come off like a giddy fan boy but at the same time don't want to act like you don't know and or appreciate their work.

WaiterBuddy12 karma

Yup! What we try to do is let the guests lead the conversation and match whatever level of engagement they are looking for. Michelle Pfeiffer comes to mind as she generally is dressed very well and very casual. It's funny that people don't usually recognize who may be sitting right next to them.

Prompt and proper service is the baseline. A sense of humor goes a long way, but you have to read the guests. I throw a series of softball comments/jokes to see what type of dining experience the guest is here for.

Erunamo9911 karma

Who was the most odd or interesting customer that you served?

WaiterBuddy16 karma

Interesting: CEO's are very interesting people who range widely in terms of personalities. A lot of them are surprisingly nice and warm and friendly. Some are more reserved and only say what is necessary to get their point across. And some can be a bit of jerks.

Can't think of a specific on the top of my head. But in the past decade, I've seen more nice people than crazies by far.

KerafyrmPython2 karma

Do you know ahead of time before waiting a table for a CEO? I'm assuming they have a reservation and a waiter may be assigned beforehand?

Thanks for this great AMA!

WaiterBuddy5 karma

CEOs usually have their assistants make the reservations who make us well aware of who they are. They usually end up in private rooms and on occasion will have private security at a table nearby and the room searched prior to their arrival.

fishysbunny10 karma

I'm a 22 year old aspiring chef. Though I've been working in the BOH since I was 17 I still don't feel like I've earned that title, I still reference myself as a cook. What happened that made you feel official? Was it a larger pay? Or do people change their title once they transfer from prep cook to station chef or once they become a Sous? Also if I may be so greedy and ask another question what would you go back and say to yourself in your moments of doubt? As I become older and things become more expensive I have crippling anxiety about "fuck do I want to be cutting carrots for $13-$14/hr for the next couple years?" Like I always think if I should leave this profession just so I can live comfortably, every time I brainstorm other options, my head and my heart go to war. Any advice is appreciated, thanks in advance Chef! Edit: I apologize I totally misunderstood your post lol I didn't see "lead waiter" right in front of my face in bold. But any-who I still appreciate any advice!

WaiterBuddy8 karma

Unfortunately, I don't have too much advice to offer. But I do want you to know that you feel respected in your craft. The BOH doesn't nearly get as much credit as they deserve in restaurants. I personally try to form bonds with all the members in the kitchen and most restaurants would operate better if that is the case. There has always been a tension between FOH and BOH due to the large variance in incomes under the same roof.

But to your question, cooks are generally cooks until to either become the lead in their station or a sous. It is a highly competitive field that requires a tremendous amount of dedication. And even then, it's still difficult. It's long hours which get longer as you progress.

Truth is, only you know what's your passion. Culinary School have helped some in my field if that is an option for you.

cranecaneane10 karma

Does the waitstaff treat people differently if we ask for their names and say hi to them again if we come back? Does that make for better service at all or does it just look like we are trying to kiss up?

WaiterBuddy11 karma

We absolutely LOVE forming relationships with our guest. And if you intend to be somewhat of a regular at an establishment and mesh well with your waiter, I do suggest getting his name and requesting him in the future.

Most restaurants keep detailed notes on their guests, regarding their preferences, and what we can do to improve their next experience. Having a server that gets to know you and your preferences makes the job easier for us and the experience better for you.

I've never thought of a guest trying to kiss up to me. Oddly, waiters generally are concerned that we are trying too hard to kiss up to you!

The staff are allotted gifts that we can provide for our returning guests and the restaurant provides us many tools to make our guests happy.

ddottay9 karma

Have you ever had a moment where you told someone you were a waiter for a living, and they may have made a judgment until they found where?

WaiterBuddy19 karma

Yes. In fact, my parents struggled with it, until they visited the restaurant themselves.

It's a weird thing. Because I don't have a salary despite a consistent pay. There are benefits to the gig. The great food, being able to take multiple unpaid vacations a year, visiting vineyards and getting comped for being in the industry, etc. But it's a different world. For one, I'm at work when everyone else is at home and I have my AMA during the day when most people should be at work.

ToLongDR9 karma

Do you have a fit bit? How many steps a day do you walk in your normal day?

WaiterBuddy11 karma

Just pulled it up on my phone since I stopped wearing my fitbit at work. Looks like it ranged from 12,000 to 15,000 steps a day.

WaiterBuddy13 karma

Interesting, there are also some days that get up to 25,000 steps. Depends on where you are located in the restaurant and the seasons as well.

ToLongDR6 karma

Why do the seasons matter? Do you have outdoor seating as well?

WaiterBuddy14 karma

I should have clarified, specifically Holiday Season when we are packed to the brim, every day.

SCD5928 karma

How much do the cooks make?

WaiterBuddy13 karma

Not nearly as much as they should. I've never asked them personally.

DrZoidberg263 karma

There is a fairly recent Freakonomics podcast where they interview the owner of The Modern in NYC which is a Michelin star restaurant. I believe the cooks made about $28,000 while the front end staff averaged over $70,000 annually. It was a very interesting listen.

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Sounds about right. I don't have it at our restaurant, but in many restaurants a rift is formed between FOH and BOH staff due to the differences in income. I'm grateful that we don't have that tension where I work, but I can completely understand the frustration.

ichdru218 karma

What is your favorite part of the job?

WaiterBuddy12 karma

Sounds a bit cliché for someone in the hospitality, but it really is the guests. Which encompasses a lot of things.

We spend a portion of time before service polishing silverware and aligning every place setting so that it measured and matches every other setting at the table. Aligning long stemmed glassware in the most appealing positions. The walking drills around the restaurant that show us where to stand and which direction to travel. There is more precision than I had ever expected in something that seems so trivial such as dining. There's a unique feeling when you can breathe in confidence that the restaurant is in perfect condition.

But my favorite part? Being a part of a dining experience that most people will never forget. Seeing a smile on the face of a guest who is enjoying the food, service and the wine. Within my years in food service, I have served food and wine in a manner in which the guest had valued what was provided over the money they used to pay for it. And I have done so with over ~50,000 people.

Artichokeslam8 karma

How long have you been at your restaurant, and have you noticed any changes in quality over time? Has it improved, gone downhill, or had a shift in style?

WaiterBuddy7 karma

Quality and standards remain the same. Dishes change with the season, but the Chef is always working towards the absolute best. In truth, some dishes are absolute hits with everyone. And some dishes resonate with some and not others. So we change our menu frequently based on the feedback we receive and then again throughout the season.

Rex_Laso8 karma

Whats the backup plan if the economy tanks?

WaiterBuddy16 karma

Good question. I have saved a large portion of my income over the years and have made investments betting on that happening. Personally, I'll be fine as I have picked up knowledge in other fields in my spare time.

For some of my co-workers... I'm not sure. But I can say that during the last recession, our restaurant didn't get hit at all in sales. People who still had money to spend, wanted to spend it. And people continued to celebrate special occasions.

Blondfucius_Say8 karma

How strict is the staff dress code? Obviously I imagine one would have to be impeccably well groomed in your position, but are there any crazy/over the top requirements at your establishment, or others that you've experience with?

WaiterBuddy9 karma

We all wear full suits which are expected to be fully pressed with all the necessary tools of the trade.

iNvAdapt7 karma

What be some advice for someone applying as to be a waiter with no prior experience?

WaiterBuddy5 karma

Sure, there's a couple of ways to go about it. You can start as a busser or food runner and move diagonally through the industry to nicer and nicer restaurants. Or work your way up from the bottom.

You need to have an outgoing skill set that maintains a large focus on the guest. Restaurants are very keen on telling you that "everything else, we can teach you," and you just need to bring your personality. From there, learn the ways of the business you're in and dedicate yourself.

Ending up in fine dining will be a completely different atmosphere from chain restaurants. We definitely have a lot of young food runners that have a ways to go in their journey but their pay isn't bad and it's a great place to start.

The food runners at our restaurant make about $40-45k a year and are usually waiters from other restaurants.

KamehameBoom7 karma

when interacting with the head chef and other staff in the kitchen, do you have to ask for some kind of "permission" to speak? there was a restaurant that a good friend of mine worked at, and if they needed to speak, they would literally have to stand there and say "Permission" and then wait for the chef to respond. I can understand the level of focus must be insane by everyone.

WaiterBuddy9 karma

We don't have rules that strict, but we generally do not interrupt a member of the kitchen during service. We always have to start with the expeditor which is a huge role in a kitchen balancing the needs of both houses. As he has been asked so many questions over the years, he usually already knows the answers.

If he doesn't, he will direct the question to the appropriate lead in whatever section of the kitchen you are inquiring about. From there, he will either leave you to get the answer or he will forward that answer back to you.

KamehameBoom5 karma

Maybe the chef I was referencing was just a dick head. who knows

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Working under many different Chefs, they vary very wide in the manners in which they run their kitchen. It is usually passed down from who they learned from and who they respect. But if the Chef feels it benefits his staff and his team, I'm in support of it.

ToffeeMax7 karma

What criteria makes a restaurant worthy of a Michelin Star?

WaiterBuddy12 karma

Consistency and amazing food. When you experience food from a Michelin Chef, there's something about it that just zones your mind away from everything else. My wife makes some mighty good chow, but it's nothing in comparison.

Consistency is important as Michelin Inspectors visit on multiple occasions. And even though we try to figure out who they are, they always seem to slip in and out unnoticed, until we either get a Tweet or redeem a star.

Michelin rates solely on the food, not of service, or anything else. However, it is well stated in the industry that service and ambiance can play a role in how something tastes.

Spats_McGee6 karma

Graduated from college in a STEM field, but starting salaries couldn't match what I was doing in the restaurant, so I decided to stay a while.

Did you leave STEM because you wanted to, or because you had to?

As a PhD chemist with 4 years experience in industry (and incidentally) currently unemployed, your salary is about my target range for what I hope to achieve if I'm ever able to land a job again with "Scientist" in the title. So it seems as though you made the "right" decision, speaking from a purely pragmatic perspective.

WaiterBuddy7 karma

A bit of both. The starting salary for me was a big factor as it was less than what I had currently been making. But not by much at the time. I thought I would continue to look around, but the sciences are hard to get in to make a decent living with to start. I was married pretty early, so it was important to me to support my family.

I enjoy what I do now because I do spend my days studying other fields in case I want to hop into something else at a higher level and head off to work in the evening.

Pragmatically, yes, it was the right decision. I've always praised hospitality for the division of one day to the next, such that whatever terribly may have happened today has no influence on tomorrow. Whereas what most other careers offer is value that passes on day to day, week to week, year to year. Both have its merits.

Financially, I've benefited, which is nice.

johhnytexas3 karma

Do you get health,dental, paid time off, 401k or stock options working at the restaurant?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Health, dental, and 401k yes. No paid time off, but we can take as many vacations as we can afford for the most part if there's coverage. No stock options.

frr1236 karma

What is the biggest tip you have received?

WaiterBuddy8 karma

$4000 before tipout.

gixxer863 karma

What's the biggest tip percentage you have received?

WaiterBuddy3 karma

Actually, it would be my first restaurant job outside of fine dining. I had just started in the restaurant industry. I was very young and going to school and they gave me $200 on a $30 check.

At this restaurant, I recall around 50% on a ~$5000 check for 5 guests. There have been times when I've been tipped over the amount of the bill too, so it's hard to remember all the tips and percentages, sorry.

Porkbut6 karma

Do you like sandwiches? If so, which one is your favorite?

WaiterBuddy7 karma

I like the Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sandwich at Subway, but I think I learned yesterday that it's only 50% chicken. Forgot to look into that until now.

Other than that, my wife has been doing a fantastic job at turkey, cheese, and spinach sandwiches recently.

cranecaneane6 karma

Would giving a tip directly to the person you want to tip be more beneficial than tipping with the tab or either way he/she has to share the tip amount?

WaiterBuddy10 karma

We share a percentage of our total sales to various departments. This separates the tip associated to the service to the waiter.

We tip out about 8% of our sales. So if a guest tips the waiter 20%, we keep 12%. If the guest tips the waiter 10%, we keep 2%. The rest of the team is essentially doing the same job, so they shouldn't be punished if we mess up. And if we do an outstanding job, we aren't required to share the above and beyond, although we usually do.

coryrenton6 karma

what's the grossest/cheapest food you've seen chefs or line cooks eat rather than eat food available in the restaurant?

WaiterBuddy11 karma

Chefs eat like normal people outside of work. Fast food and pizza are standard fare since we end up leaving work so late.

ucantsimee6 karma

Any plans to open your own restaurant?

WaiterBuddy9 karma

Never. To some it's a passion to run and own a restaurant, but I have my true passions elsewhere.

I truly do love service though and could see myself in that sort of role in the future outside the industry.

mjg13X5 karma

What's the most complex specialty order you've ever received?

WaiterBuddy9 karma

The only time that happens is with extreme allergies, otherwise, the menu is mostly as is. We sometimes are forced to say no, because the Chef won't serve something he either doesn't have all the ingredients for or something he doesn't approve of visually or tasting.

But I've had guests that were allergic to nightshades/nuts/seafood/dairy/gluten, pretty much everything. We had a list of notes that was about a quarter of a page long.

The Chef and I had a meeting before the shift started to determine what we can provide to her and it worked out well.

When it happens in a middle of the shift though... that's when it gets a bit more hectic.

mjg13X3 karma

A quarter page! I must ask, was it typed or written? And if typed, what font and what size?

WaiterBuddy6 karma

We have sheets printed on receipt paper about our guests. I mentally estimated the length of the sheet to be equivalent to a standard 8.5" x 11" at 10 font, Times New Roman.

Machallan125 karma

Hey! I'm currently a server in fine dining and i love it. However, it is my first time serving in such an upscale environment. Any advice for someone who is planning on making a career in this?

WaiterBuddy8 karma

Accelerate as quickly as you can in the beginning. Imagine your growth and development on a curve. If you accelerate quickly in the beginning, your management team will be awed and have a hard time figuring out where your plateau is and you will do well.

If you are too timid in the beginning, it will work against you, because your curve will won't be accelerating at the pace of others.

We are in a highly competitive industry where the only comparisons that management can make is against your peers. If you end up at the top, all the new people will be gunning for you.

But for the most part, work hard, appreciate the job that you have, and let others know you appreciate them in every department. Form strong relationships with the people around you because we all come to rely on one another in the middle of the shift.

KamehameBoom5 karma

Can you divulge the most high profile patron you have served?

WaiterBuddy9 karma

Sorry, for the sake of privacy, I won't. But definitely some high profile CEOs, actors, and sports teams. Most are just like regular people. A lot of them have a lot of appreciation for food and wine. Some can get rowdy. Yes, I'm talking about the sports teams...

_alco_5 karma

I always wanted to be a waiter at a fine dining restaurant, just because I love the environment and the concept so much, and would love talking about the food and serving the diners. Unfortunately I don't have server experience due to being at university and working 2 other jobs, and most restaurants that actually care about their food would only hire waiters who have years of experience. My question to you is do you think it's possible for people without server experience to get hired at high end restaurants like the one you work for, and if so what's the key to landing the job?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Yes, if you have related experience via customer service and are willing to work up. We have full time polishers who do nothing but polish silverware and glassware. If you want to move up from the lower ranks, it is certainly possible to start there.

However, it's better to find a chain restaurant that can get you to waiter quicker and then do some diagonal hops through the industry.

Fidesphilio4 karma

What's your favorite thing on the menu? Do you actually get to try the things?

WaiterBuddy3 karma

We try most dishes during training at some point and we try all new dishes as they become part of the menu. The desserts are probably my favorite dishes as they are very elegantly designed and well balanced. I love soufflés to no end!

darexinfinity4 karma

What makes an amazing chef? Knowledge, physical skill, social ability, or something I'm missing?

WaiterBuddy5 karma

Relentless passion. Everything falls in line after that. They want to see every plate that leaves the kitchen and refuse to send out anything that doesn't meet their extraordinary high standards regardless of how much longer the guest will have to wait. That issue is now my business to explain, but the greatest chefs won't allow any dish that isn't worthy to leave their line.

xythrowawayy4 karma

Two questions:

1) On tipping, let's say I like tipping 20%. I do that on the total usually, including tax, so if my wife and I are eating at a fine restaurant and our total is, say, $400 including tax, then $80 tip. What about on wine though? If my bill were $400 plus a $100 bottle of wine, so $500 total, I'd tip $100. But what if my bill were $400 plus a $600 bottle of wine, so $1000 total? Should I tip $200 or the same roughly $100 (so 20% on the food/tax plus a bit for the wine) since the only thing that increased the bill was the amount of the wine and not the service itself? Seriously -- what do the waiters/sommeliers think about this?

2) Another one on tipping: I really like to pick my wines out myself and don't typically need/want help from a sommelier. But, at fine restaurants, it is customary for the sommelier to come by and help. I don't want to be rude. And, sure, I might even take their recommendation, although I'll probably just peruse the list and figure out what I want. Now, in either situation, what is the rule on tipping the sommelier independently of the tip at the end of the meal? If the sommelier recommends a $200 bottle of wine and I choose it, do I slip him/her a $20? Do I do nothing? If the sommelier really tries to be helpful but I don't really want their help...and then they come over and decant/pour the wine...do I tip them?

WaiterBuddy5 karma

1) We are accustomed to tips on the full amount including wine and food. Whether or not you feel that is right or not is completely up to you. We do have to tip out on our total sales including wine, so it does effect us to an extent, but as a personal matter, I am not offended by it even though most servers are. At the end of the day, it also applies to the food. Whether you order a $20 item versus a $500 plate doesn't really change any of the work for anyone, but you end up tipping on that $500 because of whatever standard was set forth as tipping etiquette. I have my own personal feelings about tipping in itself that doesn't really mesh with the rest of the industry, so I'll leave that out for now.

2) The somm will be tipped by the server at the end of the night, so you don't need to double tip unless you feel it's appropriate. Most somms should be respecting if you choose to venture on your own. They are attempting to make sure you end up with what you're looking for as bottled wines can't be tasted ahead of time.

TLDR; Tip on the full bill, pre-tax, if you feel it is appropriate to do so. We do tip everyone else out on that sale. You don't need to tip the somm separately.

_alco_3 karma

What are your personal feelings about tipping that don't mesh well?

WaiterBuddy7 karma

Gah, well... this is a personal one. It's harder to define in a high-end fine dining space as the requirements are higher. But, for the most part, I believe waiters are a bit overpaid for their craft. I only say this because there are so many other careers that are far more daunting and pay a whole lot less. Tipping as an etiquette is an odd one to me. I'm taking advantage of that culture and getting paid a percentage of what guests ordered when the work is about the same no matter what dishes they select or wine they select.

Most waiters would argue it's similar to commission, which it is, but in the upper echelon of restaurants, it does seem a bit excessive at times.

ACMunster4 karma

Do you find as a fine dining waiter staff and customers treat you better?

WaiterBuddy7 karma

The waiters I work are certainly of a higher caliber than waiters in other non-fine dining restaurants. We can recognize a dropped napkin from across the room and offer the replacement prior to the guest even noticing that it fell off their laps.

I find that guests do treat us better, although sometimes they are intimidated by us, as we come up with a bunch of fancy words that they don't understand. However, it is our job to adjust our level of speech and knowledge to match that of the guest.

Upset guests are kind of a loose cannon. They can be upset for a multitude of reasons and the more experienced waiters have dealt with so many situations that they have already figured out how to diffuse each one.

shinigamisid4 karma

What's the best vegetarian (no meat, no fish) dish you've known?

WaiterBuddy6 karma

Vegetarian dishes are complicated because unless the restaurant specializes in it, we don't see it often enough. That being said, in the restaurants I've worked in, roasted seasonal heirloom vegetables or a truffle risotto are fantastic dishes.

Gr8WallofChinatown4 karma

Former waiter here, do you memorize their orders or do you still write them down?

WaiterBuddy10 karma

Depends on the number of guests and the complexity of the order. Up to 4-6 guests, memorize, unless modifiers are starting to happen, to which point I will pull my pen and pad out.

We live in a day where gluten, nightshades, fungus, and very specific types of seafood can be a problem. And when it comes to safety, we must take very step necessary.

Gr8WallofChinatown5 karma

I don't know how some waiters/waitresses can memorize a 10 person tables order with extra stuff included.

As soon as people want extra or exclude certain items I pull my pen and pad out right away

WaiterBuddy18 karma

I use the same memorization techniques that I use for dishes to start. I associate dishes with either images or rhymes.

From "This Old Man"

One, Thumb (Seat one has <insert dish> stuck to his thumb)

Two, Shoe (Seat two has <insert dish> under their shoe)

Three, Tree (Seat three is eating <insert dish> in a tree)

And so forth. I use the same for memorizing components of dishes as well.

TypeNeight4 karma

Do the people or person that own this establishment filthy rich?

WaiterBuddy5 karma

They do very well.

samwise09123 karma

On a personal level, what are a few of your favorite films?

WaiterBuddy5 karma

I will take on the occasional action film. I loved John Wick.

But I'm married, so I end up watching what my wife enjoys. We keep it pretty mild, so Disney movies and the like.

iwantapupp3 karma

How does your restaurant handle food wastage different from a normal restaurant, if there is any difference? Would you say customers waste less food at your place?

WaiterBuddy2 karma

Food wastage is handled about the same. We do end up throwing away a ton of food because we do have a lot of travelers and business people who can't take any food home. The amount of food thrown away has a lot of factors to take into account, so I can't answer precisely one way or another.

HansWermhat233 karma

Have you cleared your mind from everything but fine dining, and breathing?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Absolutely not! Fine dining is special to me. It's rooted in many centuries of tradition and unique protocols. But it isn't all I do. I'm quite active in my community and run a side IT business during the day. Working at nights has allowed me a lot of freedom to obtain certifications and other pursuits.

FullyWoodenUsername3 karma

Hello,
Thank you for the AMA.
I hope it's not to late to ask questions.

  1. Where I'm from tiping is just extra we give to the waiter to thank them for the service but it's supposed to be included in the bill.
    If I understand correctly, in the US you have to add 20% of the bill as a tip for the waiters, but that different between restaurant. Would it be considered as rude to ask about the tiping in this kind of restaurant?

  2. What do you think about Corsican wines?

Thanks a lot :)

WaiterBuddy5 karma

Not too late at all, I plan to be leaving it open to questions through the weekend.

For parties of a certain size, we actually do add a 20% service charge to the bill. If it is less than six guests, we do not. The US has always had a 15%-20% tip etiquette for waiters, but somewhere in the past decade, it has seemed to creep up to 20% standard and beyond. It isn't a rude question to ask, but we generally will be taken aback by the question as we generally aren't asked it, and we don't often discuss the tips with our guests.

The answer from your waiter is that the standard tip is between 15-20% based on the service you feel you received. But most of us are well aware of the customs around the world. Some waiters take it harder than others, but I personally understand from a cultural aspect that individuals from other countries might not tip what we would be accustomed to from Americans.

Here's a funny thing I saw at Disney the last time I was there regarding tips. http://imgur.com/a/0Vy5d

Although I am familiar with Corsica, I haven't had the pleasure of sampling Corsican wines although we do feature a few on our list. I can assume Nielluccio would pair very well with cheeses and rich beef and game due to the tannins, but without a frame of reference at the moment, I couldn't make the recommendation. Thanks for peaking my interest!

visualtrance3 karma

What's the strangest yet most delicious food combination you've discovered?

WaiterBuddy7 karma

We spend a lot of time with traditional cuisine, so I don't get to experience some of the crazy stuff that other restaurants get to do.

But Chocolate Pizza is an interesting one, if that counts.

coryrenton2 karma

What is the most debauched behavior you've seen from the back of the house, while the clientele was completely unaware?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

We don't really have an issue like that in fine dining. We have crazy standards and with so many staff, everything is visible. I've head horror stories at lower end restaurants. But you can trust most fine dining establishments.

samoanlawyer2 karma

Whenever I eat at high end restaurants I always ask the waiter to essentially choose my starter and main for me as I pretty much love everything, but am terrible at making decisions!

Is this annoying for you and will you select what you genuinely believe is the best food (or at least your favourite dishes), or will it be whatever the kitchen is pushing ("we've over ordered mussels, push the mussels") or whatever has the highest margin for the restaurant?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Not annoying at all. We love guiding our guests through the menu and it's always a meaningful experience for us. A good waiter will probably have a few very basic questions for you regarding preferences if you have any and can walk you the rest of the way through.

A waiter's favorite thing to do should be to close your menu and craft a progressive meal for you within whatever budget you have available. We have it so ingrained in us to do our very best never to let our guests down.

And we will select the best dishes for you. If you're putting your trust in us, a waiter at a fine dining restaurant is going to give you what they believe is the best, over what the kitchen wants to sell. I would suggest asking them not to "break to bank" if the prices range widely on the menu and not leave that door wide open if you're not prepared for it, but beyond that, we will always offer what is best over whatever the kitchen is pushing.

I will have to mention, at this level in the industry, we generally don't push items just to get rid of them. Chefs have pretty strong relationships with the purveyors and we avoid those situations via strict pars and inventory management.

Jeff-FaFa2 karma

How was your most hectic day at the restaurant?

WaiterBuddy3 karma

The ones we have nightmares about. In general, there is a lot of camaraderie in restaurants and we assist each other greatly through the night, so we don't leave anyone behind.

The most difficult times are when we need to be multiple places at once. You may be mid discussion with one table while another table requires immediate assistance and another table is being seated in your area. However, working an overstaffed restaurant allows many other people to hop in and assist.

It was much more difficult in chain restaurants where you are severely understaffed. Many servers break down and cry at times.

Jeff-FaFa2 karma

Interesting. How did things go tonight? :)

WaiterBuddy3 karma

It went great! Just finished waiting on my guests for the evening. Every easy going guests who enjoyed their experience. Thanks for asking!

Burow2 karma

Does the staff get mad if a customer, who comes from a country where tipping is not common, doesn't do it? To you, which is more important - waiters not taking it seriously or customers knowing they should do it?

WaiterBuddy6 karma

Different waiters react differently to it. I've already factored it happening at least a few times a year in my mind mentally, so it doesn't bother me. I don't gawk at tips and generally just accept the situation regardless what it is because there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.

Some servers go completely ballistic over it, which shows poor form and showmanship and overall reflects poorly on them to management. This is a well known financial risk within this industry.

The guest's enjoyment needs to be the number one priority. Regardless of the tip. Always.

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

WaiterBuddy5 karma

There's only a handful. So maybe a time a guest had too much to drink and threw up on the wall in the room? I suppose that isn't necessarily rude.

There was one guest who ordered one thing, thinking it is something else, and they completely flipped out despite me attempting to fix the entire meal. He ended up peeling out of parking lot and almost hit a guest.

frthplnt1 karma

If you're still answering questions...

Do you often visit other starred restaurants? Do you have a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing fine dining restaurants, other than insider industry knowledge?

Bonus: would you personally star anything in LA? (if you've had any experience with it)

WaiterBuddy3 karma

I am fortunate enough to be able to occasionally visit Michelin Starred restaurants, but it isn't a common event at all. Our restaurant encourages visits to other fine dining establishments, Michelin Starred or not, to see the different aspects of fine dining in cuisine and culture.

Today with Yelp playing such a central role in restaurants (hate it or not), most don't really need insider knowledge. The top restaurants in most areas have the most reviews.

We definitely discuss a lot of restaurants in this space and share our experiences during our daily meetings. We will talk about the ambience, specific items unique to other restaurants, what we liked and didn't like, and what we can incorporate into our service if applicable.

Our staff travels frequently and we always try to make it to a new restaurant on our outings. Our discussion of Alinea, Chicago was an especially fascinating one.

Being in the industry, we do enjoy full comps from time to time, based on who we know and who knew we were on our way ahead of time.

As for LA. Spago would receive a 1-2 star rating from the Michelin Guide. And a ton of other restaurants would be well worthy, but I'm not as familiar with them.

Seriousdolla1 karma

Do you see waiting as a long term career considering the money or do you have ambitions to move into something else?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

I spend my extra time training for new opportunities. Although financially fantastic, we have time during the day to study new areas of the labor market. I definitely work with many lifers, I just don't happen to be one of them.

Sennacle-1 karma

What was your first signature dish?

WaiterBuddy3 karma

I'm a waiter so I only serve someone else's signature dishes unfortunately.

Mantisbog-3 karma

Which restaurant do you work for?

WaiterBuddy4 karma

Unfortunately, I will need to keep that private in the event I reference a identifying event.

Rex_Laso1 karma

How about what City is the restaurant in?

WaiterBuddy3 karma

Sorry, I made a decision not to get into that early on. I am verified though if you're worried about any of my answers.