“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Today’s post is going to be different than any of the posts that precede it or will follow it. Not only because it is the only post to be introduced with a Bible verse, but also because it is written with a very heavy heart. I have failed my fellow servers. In my younger days, I was a devout Christian. I recall this verse from a sermon I heard many years ago on the importance of fathers instilling religious beliefs in their families like a sheppard tending to their flock.
As a server, I have failed to keep an eye on my flock. I realized that I failed based on this comment my little sister posted on this blog a few days ago:
Ok, help me out. Why shouldn’t you order hot tea? I never have, but why is it bad?
I have always advocated that each server should take responsibility for teaching their immediate family and close friends about restaurant etiquette. If each of us did this, then we would all benefit from far more educated diners in our sections. My father knows to tell the host that his lunch meeting might go long. My mother knows not to put the lemon in her water. My friend’s know that I will send them back to the restaurant if they tip less than 20%.
That is why it was so surprising to me that my sister did not know to avoid ordering hot tea at a restaurant. This is something that is almost universally despised by servers. I suppose I have been in the business so long that I have been somewhat insulated from the knowledge of the average diner. I know people still order hot tea, but I assume that there is no one in their circle of contact that has informed them differently. Either that or they are just jerks. I try to assume people are not jerks, so I lean towards the prior thought most nights.
Let me see if I can outline this in a way that is easily explained.
Here are the steps to make a soda at most restaurants:
1) Go to any of the many side stations in the restaurant that have glasses, ice, and a soda machine all together within arms reach.
2) Take to table.
Here are the steps to make a hot tea at most restaurants:
1) Walk across the restaurant to the main side station.
2) Look for a tea pitcher which hasn’t been stocked.
3) Go to the dishroom and find that the only three hot tea pitchers in the restaurant are dirty.
4) Ask the dishwasher to wash the pitchers for you.
5) Return to the main side station to find a coffee cup that is not stained.
6) Pre-heat the cup.
7) Look for a creamer pitcher.
8) Go to the bar to get the guest milk for their tea.
9) Return to the dishroom to get the pitcher.
10) Dry the pitcher and fill with hot water.
11) Find a saucer for the coffee cup that has been pre-heating.
12) Fill pitcher with hot water.
13) Find a spoon and lemon wedge for set up.
14) Search the entire restaurant for the box containing the hot teas.
15) Realize that no one has stocked the box as part of their sidework for weeks.
16) Go back to dry storage to stock the tea box.
17) Realize you were mistaken about #15. The reason it wasn’t stocked was because it had not been ordered.
18) Dump water pitcher because it has cooled and refill with hot water.
19) Take your assembled tray of accoutrements to the guest with a box containing only orange flavored decaf tea and chamomile.
20) Have guest indignantly send you away because it is obviously your fault for not having the tea they want.
21) Have everyone else in your section glare at you because you just spent five minutes trying to make a single drink for one guest.
23) Return to trying to convince the guest that you are not incompetent because they assume you are responsible for ordering the hot tea.
24) Complain to manager (who is responsible for ordering tea) at the end of the shift that your guest is upset because you did not have the type of tea they wanted.
25) Listen to five minute diatribe about how they refuse to order more tea because you have 10 boxes of orange flavored decaf and chamomile tea and if you were a better salesperson you would be able to convince them to buy the tea you had.
26) Make one box a day of orange flavored decaf and chamomile tea mysteriously disappear.
Of course there is an alternative response. A coworker was recently asked for hot tea by a guest. She replied, “It is out of season” and walked away. At least with the soda you made a bit of pocket change and did not leave the guest dissatisfied. Hot tea requires at a minimum several more steps than any other drink you can order. I am happy to provide my guests whatever they would like. Hot tea is a great deal of work with very little upside. The extra work necessary to provide this drink trades off with the service provided to the guest ordering it and all the others in the section. A courteous guest avoids this for the sake of the other guests and the server.