Working in a restaurant is never easy. Waiters witness horrible first dates, write down complicated orders, make sure the food comes out correctly, and handle the worst customers. To help them deal with the hustle and bustle of working in the hospitality industry, though, most waiters have a few little-known secrets and tricks up their sleeves. They make their jobs easier and sometimes gain a few extra bucks, too.
Moreover, many American waiters barely make minimum wage. They live off tips and often work long hours just to make ends meet. So, of course, some of them think of ways to make the most out of their positions. They may not necessarily try to nickel and dime you to make more money. But some waiter tricks involve non-financial ways to make their lives and jobs a little easier.
Keep in mind that these tricks are not always up to the waiter. Some restaurants across the country follow these “rules” to make their business run more efficiently. But that doesn’t mean you should walk into a restaurant with one eye closed.
If you want to know which waiter food scams to look out for, keep on scrolling.
1. They serve you decaf coffee (even if you request the caffeinated kind) after a certain time.
One cup of joe, please.
Sorry to bust your caffeine bubble. But servers often stop making regular ole coffee after a certain time. However, they don’t do it to be mean. It’s just more cost-effective. After a certain hour, fewer people order coffee. So instead of brewing (and most likely wasting) a pot of regular coffee for one customer, the waiters might serve the leftover decaf to keep things moving.
Pro tip: If you want caffeine later in the day, ask if the waiter can make you an expresso instead.
2. The specials are not that… well, special.
You might not want to order these dishes.
A server’s job, in part, involves telling you about the specials of the day. However, the thing they might not mention is that these “specials” are oftentimes dishes that the restaurant is trying to get rid of. Think almost-expired fish and vegetables. Just stick to the general menu if you don’t want to feel adventurous for the evening.
3. Servers might drop the check early if they want to finish their shifts sooner.
It’s you, not them.
This subtle move usually occurs when a server had a long day, got cut from their shift, or just wants to get the heck out. They could also drop the check early when the restaurant closes for the evening and guests still refuse to leave without prompting. The waiters probably wish they could tell you, “Time to go!” But this trick helps move things along.
4. They may only be partially honest about their food recommendations.
In fact, they probably haven’t eaten everything on the menu.
When people train to work as servers, their job requirements often involve trying everything on the menu. While the restaurant will provide a few free meals here and there for them to taste test, not every meal will necessarily be comped. Instead, it could actually be up to the waiter to purchase these items on their own time and dime. Consequently, a waiter might not be completely honest with their recommendations just to get you to order something fast.
5. They sometimes blame the kitchen for their mistakes.
This doesn’t happen all the time though.
Unfortunately, when you eat out at a restaurant, it can take forever for your food to arrive. While the kitchen staff or a busy night are normally to blame, sometimes the waiters could be at fault. They do, occasionally, forget to put in orders. So to keep customers from getting upset, the server might place blame on the kitchen. That way, they don’t lose out on a big tip.
6. They might tell you things are made in-house when, in reality, they’re not.
This could be the restaurant’s fault, though.
Don’t blame your server for this one. Many restaurants tell their servers that some foods are made in-house when the items are actually store-bought. This could happen for a lot of reasons like for branding or efficiency. But it’s the server’s job to continue selling that image. So just be mindful the next time something says “homemade.” If you’re extra curious, ask how it’s made.
7. They might not sell you “real” eggs.
Yeah, we’re not huge fans of this.
If you’re going out for breakfast, opt to order something other than scrambled eggs. While there’s nothing wrong with eating powdered eggs, they’re probably not what you’re expecting during a nice brunch. Most restaurants use this faux egg mix to prevent waste and save on cost. So if you’re in the mood for a fresh meal, ask for over easy or fried eggs instead of scrambled.
8. They will probably cover for each other.
Your server might not be doing what you think they’re doing.
Let’s be honest; many servers don’t get breaks. They’re usually on their feet for eight hours straight. And, sometimes, they have to eat their meals in between waiting tables. So to make things flow more smoothly, waiters may cover their co-workers’ tables. That way, everyone can quickly get something to eat, finish their side work, or get a quick smoke break. The cover story could involve telling the customers a little white lie. They might claim the person involved is running food or getting something from the stock room.
9. They might trick you into believing that something is out of stock when they don’t want to make it.
Hey, we all have our off days.
Sometimes waiters have to prepare their customers’ various desserts, drinks, or coffees. And when the night is especially busy, those servers may tell their tables that they’re out of a certain ingredient. That way they don’t get too overwhelmed.
10. They may “fix” your meal by re-heating it in the microwave.
This is a quick and easy trick to get meals in and out of the kitchen.
If you ever ordered food that came out unbearably cold, you can bet that the majority of the time, your waiter placed your dish in a microwave to be re-heated. While most restaurants have some of the best technology to keep your food out hot and fresh, they still resort to using microwaves to speed up the heating process.
11. They introduce themselves by name.
The greeting brings up their tip amount by a lot.
According to Psychology Today, when servers introduce themselves by using their name, most customers will leave an extra $2 on top of their tip on average. By saying their names, servers come off as friendlier and more personable. That drives a deeper connection between them and the diners.
12. They might give you candy to increase their tip.
Chocolate will bring in the bacon.
If you’ve ever gone to a restaurant and received a piece of candy with your bill, don’t assume that your server is the nicest person on the planet (even if it might be true). This little trick of the trade encourages customers to tip more, according to a 2002 study published by Cornell University.
13. They write, “Thank you” on the check.
They are grateful for your visit, however, there’s more to this message than you realize.
When servers show gratitude to their customers, the customers are more inclined to leave a bigger tip. According to Psychology Today, when customers receive a friendly gesture – like a thank you note or a small gift – they leave more money. Typically, they see the server as friendly and want to reciprocate the feeling.
14. They might personalize their uniform.
The flair isn’t just for them.
According to Quora, when servers incorporate fun pins and personalized fashion designs onto their uniform, customers often provide higher tips and praise. This happens because they might subconsciously think that the server is more attractive. Think adding a bow in the hair, putting stickers on a server book, or adding patches to a uniform.
15. They say your name multiple times throughout the evening.
The gesture could lead to more money in their pockets.
A server might convince customers to leave bigger tips by saying the guests’ various names over and over again. This method not only creates a more personable experience, but it also gives the guests the impression that they’re being helped by a true professional. Plus, the guest will feel respected, according to The Washington Post.