13+ Things Your Waiter Won’t Tell You

Uncover waiters’ secrets about when to go out, what not to order, and what they think of you and your tips.

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1. I'm Instructed to Lie

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.' -Waiter at a well-known pizza chain

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2. Vegetarians Beware

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.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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3. We Want Your Children's Loyalty

We'll 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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4. Don't be Fooled by Daily Specials

At a lot of restaurants, the special is whatever they need to sell before it goes bad. Watch out especially 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

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5. Don't Associate Lemons with Freshness

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

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6. Come Evening, 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, former waitress

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7. I Have the Power to Embarrass You

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

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8. Milk is Milk is Milk, Right?

Skim milk is almost never skim milk. Very few restaurants outside coffee shops carry whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim milk, and half-and-half; it's just not practical.-Christopher Fehlinger, maître d'

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9. I Don't Like 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

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10. Think Twice Before Undertipping

In many restaurants, the tips are pooled, so if you have a bad experience with the server, you're stiffing the bartender who made your drinks, the water boy who poured your water, sometimes the hostess, the food runners, and maybe the other waiters.-Christopher Fehlinger

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11. If You Can't Tell the Difference, We Won't Bother

Even at the best breakfast buffet in the world, 99 times out of 100, the big pan of scrambled eggs is made from a powder. -Jake Blanton

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12. Knowledge is Power


When you're with the woman who's not your wife, you're a lot nicer to us, probably because you know that we know it's not your wife.
-Caroline Radaj, waitress at a members-only club

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13. Pick Your Day Carefully

It's much easier to be recognized as a regular on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays. Once you're recognized as a regular, good things start to happen. You'll find your wineglass gets filled without being put on your bill, or the chef might bring you a sample. -Christopher Fehlinger

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14. I Really Can't Afford to be Patient

If the restaurant is busy and your child is shy, please order for him. Kids can sit there forever trying to decide, or they whisper and you can't hear them. Meanwhile, the people at the next table are yelling at you to come over.-Derek Dudley, a waiter at a casual pizza restaurant

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15. Rich Does Not Equal Generous

The best tippers tend to be middle-class or people who have worked for everything they have, not the really wealthy or the kid who inherited the trust fund. Which is not to say that we mind if you use coupons. But when you do, tip on the amount the bill would have been without them. -Judi Santana

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16. By All Means, Use me to Impress Her

First dates, especially blind Internet dates, are great for tips. You know he'll probably order a bottle of wine and leave a 20 to 25 percent tip because he's showing off. -Jeremy Burton, waiter at a grill

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17. Listen Carefully

We're not allowed to tell our customers we don't like a dish. So if you ask your server how something is and she says, "It's one of our most popular dishes," chances are she doesn't like it. -Waitress at a well-known pizza chain

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18. Don't Always Accept No for an Answer

If someone orders a frozen drink that's annoying to make, I'll say, "Oh, we're out. Sorry!" when really I just don't want to make it. But if you order water instead of another drink, suddenly we do have what you originally wanted because I don't want to lose your drink on the bill.

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19. I'm Not Above Petty Revenge


If you make a big fuss about sending your soup back because it's not hot enough, we like to take your spoon and run it under really hot water, so when you put the hot spoon in your mouth, you're going to get the impression-often the very painful impression-that your soup is indeed hot. -Chris

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20. Thanks for Nothing

If you walk out with the slip you wrote the tip on and leave behind the blank one, the server gets nothing. It happens all the time, especially with people who've had a few too many drinks. -Judi Santana

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