Just for a minute, think about all the people who serve you food and drinks: the barista that remembers just how you like your incredibly complicated coffee drink, the waiter at the sandwich spot who helps sort out all your large group’s orders, the bartender who serves your gin and tonic with a side of English distillery history. Now put yourself in their hopefully very comfortable shoes. Yep, that’s what we thought — on May 21, National Waitstaff Day, let’s turn the tables, and serve these special people a super-sized helping of our appreciation.
National Waitstaff Day timeline
A new millennium for dining out
From the late 1900s onward, the trend towards families with two working parents contributed greatly to the popularity of dining in restaurants (or at least carry-out options). This demand is leading to an ever-increasing number and variety of restaurant offerings, and consequently, more and more jobs for waitstaff and other hospitality workers.
- The 1900s
Beginning with White Castle and White Tower, two popular hamburger restaurants in the early 1900s, the restaurant industry would become transformed before the end of the 20th century, largely credited to one man: Ray Kroc. Contrary to popular belief, Kroc did not actually start the McDonald's chain; rather, he bought the business from the two McDonald brothers, and it was Kroc who devised the successful franchise model still in use today, not just by McDonald's, but also by countless restaurant chains across the country. And fast-food restaurants employ a significant percentage of servers in the U.S.
- The 1800s
The restaurant industry grows in Europe and in North America
Towards the end of the 19th century, new transportation options like trains and automobiles fueled a rise in European luxury travel and tourism, which in turn created a greater demand for restaurants. These changes were also reflected in the United States, where dining in restaurants soon became much more than just a necessity while traveling. This naturally led to the creation of many new job opportunities for waitstaff.
The French Revolution changes the restaurant scene
Prior to the French Revolution, guilds controlled how food was sold. For example, if you were a charcutier (producing cooked meats), but didn't belong to the charcutier's guild, it would have been illegal for you to sell your goods. But after the Revolution, guilds were banned, which resulted in many chefs losing their jobs in aristocratic homes. The more enterprising of these chefs started their own restaurants, introducing a style of fine dining based on their experiences in private chateaux and manor houses, with linens, china, and crystal gracing their tables. Serving the sumptuous menus were men who, in many cases, were previously employed as footmen or butlers in fine mansions.
- 100 AD
Restaurants in ancient Rome
In the days when the Roman Empire was expanding, it was common for peasants to travel several days at a time to bring their goods into the city markets. They would stay at inns along the way, eating at a common table with other travelers, with the innkeeper and his family doing the cooking and serving of the meals. There were no menus — every meal was the chef's choice.
National Waitstaff Day Activities
Go out to eat
Some people go out to eat everyday and some dine out only on special occasions. Whichever camp you fall in, National Waitstaff Day is a fabulous day to hang up your apron and head to a restaurant. Hit up your neighborhood hang or try a new bistro, but kick back, relax, and appreciate being waited on by professionals.
Most waiters and waitresses are salaried at or even below, minimum wage. They rely on tips to augment their salaries to a livable wage. A tip for good service is approximately 20% of the pre-tax bill. If you’ve had exceptional service, feel free to tip 25%. A tip lets the server know how much you valued their service.
Compliment your server
Although the tip ultimately lets your waiter or waitress know if you valued their work, a kind word is always appreciated! If they’ve gone out of their way to keep your drinks full, accommodate special requests, make recommendations for the meal, and did it all with cheery good will, be sure to say thank you and let them know you appreciated their care and attention to detail. After all, good manners don’t cost anything and it’s always nice to feel as though doing your best work is valued.
5 Things Waitstaff Wish You Would Stop Doing
Refusing to listen to the specials
Servers are generally required to tell you about the specials, and also often receive bonuses for tempting diners into ordering them, so please listen graciously — you might just love that Chef's Surprise.
Asking a different waiter to put your order in
Getting a second waiter involved can not only adds to that new person's workload, it can also sometimes mean a loss of a tip to one server or the other.
Not reading the menu descriptions
If you have a food allergy or similar dietary restriction, it's your responsibility to read the menu descriptions carefully, not just skim the dish titles.
Expecting all the food to be on the table at the same time
This may be realistic if your party is four people or less, but if you bring a crowd of 15, it's unreasonable to expect the kitchen staff to be able to serve all those people at exactly the same time.
Not saying anything when something is wrong
If there's an issue with your meal or with the service, your server wants to know so he or she has the opportunity to correct the situation, rather than have you leave unhappy, and very likely leaving a low tip.
Why We Love National Waitstaff Day
They help us relax
The whole point of going out to eat is to enjoy good food, a nice atmosphere, and the ability to relax without dishes you’ll have to set, clear, or wash. Your contact person in the restaurant is your waiter or waitress, and they are happy to do all the work for you! They let us relax and have a pleasurable experience.
They know what’s best
Waiters and waitresses have tried all the food, heard previous customers’ reviews, and are experts on the restaurant. They know the best dishes, wine pairings, and are full of helpful recommendations to make your meal one to remember.
Because we all want to go where everybody knows your name
If you’ve found the perfect combination of tasty food, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and professional service, becoming a regular and making that restaurant your neighborhood hangout is one of the best feelings in the world. Develop a relationship with the waitstaff, and they they will guide you to the best foods on the menu — and steer you away from the dishes the chef has yet to perfect. We all love the feeling of being greeted by name with a cheery smile, and waiters and waitresses deliver.