Dear Salty: There’s a relatively new brewpub in our neighborhood, and my wife and I have gone several times. It’s a great place to hang out, they have interesting and good beer, and the view is fantastic. The problem we’ve run into is that there’s a server that we always end up with who’s very unpleasant.
I think we’re good people. We’ve both worked food service, and we’re strong 25-percent-no-matter-what tippers. We’re friendly and nice and not in any way unreasonable, but this woman is awful. We’re talking: making fun of our choices, being weirdly pushy and then vanishing, chewing-with-her-mouth-open-while-leaning-waaaay-into-your-ear-for-what-feels-like-forever, making everybody at the table uncomfortable—but I can’t point to something and say “please don’t do that.”
Every time we’ve been to the brewery and gotten stuck with her, our entire table has left at the end of the night and gone “Wow, that’s a horrible person.”
We’ve started sitting in a different area, but the last time she noticed and followed us (and that means we don’t get to sit in our favorite spot, which is the top patio with the great skyline view). Is there anything we can do? It sucks that she’s ruining (and I don’t think I’m being crazypants here, she’s that bad) a great time at a cool place. What are our options?
—Seriously She’s The Worst
Can I get this lady’s number? She needs a stern Salty talking-to. How dare she give all of us hard-working, ass-busting servers a bad name? Why is she chewing while she’s working? And what is she chewing?! Better be gum, gal, but it’s still not okay. I’d give her a piece of my mind, I sure would.
Now look at me, getting my feathers in a fuss.
But as for what you can do, this is a sticky one. I’ll offer four options, in the order I would go about trying them:
- Order from the bar. I’m not sure whether this is an option at the particularly brewpub you’re talking about (although what brewpub doesn’t have a bar?) but some let you order food and drinks from the bartenders. This means you’ll have to get up, of course, but it could save you the hell of interacting with Chewy McChomperson.
- Say something to her. You mention that you can’t point to many specific behaviors she does that are annoying… and then you list four of them. Mocking your order is especially out of line, so let’s use that as an example. If you get stuck with her again and she scoffs at your burger-and-a-brown-ale, pipe up. “That’s my order, and I could really do without all the added commentary, if you don’t mind.” Ditto for the pushiness. “I think we’re all pretty familiar with the menu, so no need to explain. Thanks.”
- Take it to a manager. In addition to having a personality like a rock in your shoe, this gem of an employee also seems like she’s bad at her job. She’s making you uncomfortable and going AWOL to the point that it is—your words not mine, sugar—ruining your meal. Are you less likely to visit the brewpub because of this server? Then a manager needs to know. Be specific in describing her behavior, and hopefully the manager will either work with her to correct it or give her the ol’ heave-ho. The manager’s job is to make sure guests are having an enjoyable experience, and I bet you’re hardly the only table to notice this bad behavior.
- Find a different restaurant. Let’s flip the situation: You’ve got the best server in the world. She’s charming and funny, and makes everyone feel welcomed. But the food sucks. Like, shoe-leather bad. Would you go back to the restaurant?
I get that you might be nervous to speak up with your complaint. But this server’s behavior is beyond the pale and shows that she’s not doing her job effectively. Her job is to make guests comfortable, give them a fun experience, and ensure they like their orders. She’s doing zero of this, and you don’t need to feel bad for saying so.
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.