Life Lessons I Have Learned from My Children – Part 2 How to Treat a Restaurant Server.

Being a parent, I have always tried to be mindful about how my behavior influences my children.  Ironically, there are some life lessons they have taught me. 

Case in point — how to treat a server at a restaurant.

Two of my daughters served as waitresses at various times during their high school and college days.  Equipped with such a life experience, they made it their mission to educate their father on how to be a great customer.  And while they seemed to overly relish the opportunity to tutor their father, I will admit that their insights accomplished their intended purpose.  Here’s what I learned. 

First, they told me how hard most servers work.  It is a challenge to deal simultaneously with multiple tables, orders, and customer personalities.  Their first fatherly admonition – Be nice Dad!   No argument there.  When my daughters started dating, I advised them to watch closely how their dates treated their mothers, small children, the less fortunate, and waiters/waitresses.  Such behavior reveals much about a man’s character.

Second, while I thought I had always been a “nice” customer, I could, on occasion, go too far.  Once, I asked our waitress, “Could I get a refill of my tea, hon?  Glancing back to my family, I saw looks of indignation from my daughters.  Dad, never call your server “hon!  Apparently, the friendly use of an abbreviated salutation (“hon”) was viewed as an early sign of condescending masculinity.  Later, when the waitress asked if we were ready for the check, I responded with a polite “Yes, Ma’am.”  Immediately sensing I had made yet another gender-biased faux pas, I sneaked a peek back towards my daughters.  Seeing no rebuke, I breathed a grateful sigh of relief.  Fortunately, there are a few Southern venues where a Yes ma’am, No ma’am response is still acceptable.  Of course, that was twenty years ago.

Third.  Dad, nix the waitress, waiter references, we are all SERVERS.”

Fourth, and most importantly, tip well.  My daughters reminded me, frequently, that servers make their money on tips.  Whenever they joined us for a dinner out, it was not unusual for them to ask how much of a tip I was leaving.  Having inherited my math genes, they could quickly calculate the degree of my generosity (or lack thereof) and respond with a smiling nod of the head or an icy stare. Talk about accountability!  

This last lesson came to mind when I read a news report last year about an Outback waitress, excuse me, server, who was fired for complaining about the lack of a tip from a church group.  A local megachurch placed a $735 order to go.  When they came by to pick it up, they failed to leave a tip.  Ranting about this experience in a Facebook post got the server fired for violating Outback’s social media policy.  However, when the church heard about her complaint, several church families got together and gave her a generous tip in what the ex-server described as a “heartwarming situation.”  (1)

This story was yet another reminder that, as a Christian, being thrifty is not an excuse to be a miserly scrooge.  Generosity should be our hallmark.  

Come to think of it, my mom and dad had a kind and generous spirit, always respectful and polite. In their later years, they frequented a local Waffle House two to three times a week.  They must have been good customers as the local Waffle House servers would have their coffee poured and order cooking by the time they walked from their car to the front door.  Yes, parents can be powerful role models, but, as I have discovered, so can one’s children.  Thanks to my parent’s example and my daughters coaching, I purpose to be a generous tipper, wherever I may travel.   

Last year, when my wife and I toured Ireland, our first meal in Dublin was at a small cafe in the riverside neighborhood called Temple Bar.  After a light lunch, I asked our server, “Would you do me a favor?  We are Americans, and this is our first meal in Ireland.  In America, we tip our servers, but I have heard that in Ireland, it is not expected.  We would be grateful if you could educate us as to what is appropriate?  Initially surprised at our request, she smiled and said that tipping is optional, and usually not expected, but it is always appreciated.  Her graciousness and attentive service reminded me of my daughters.  She received a good tip!

I had never considered that my witness as a Christian could be impaired by how I might tip a server.  Hearing my children share their work experiences at various restaurants proved to be eye-opening lessons for me.  Yes, I still have an occasional bad experience with a server, but those are rare.  Thanks to the tutorial provided so many years ago by my daughters, I have a respectful regard for the challenges that servers face daily.  They deserve respect and a good tip.  The lesson being, Christians ought to be the most generous, patient, and kindest customers.  The kind of customer that servers are glad to see come walking through their doors.

And that’s a tip worth remembering.


(1) https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/church-compensates-outback-waitress-who-got-fired-for-complaining-about-lack-of-tip

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  1. Margaret McAnoy

    My sister had 6 children who all worked their way through college by waiting on diners. I went out to dinner with her one night and I gave the server a 10% tip which was pretty normal at the time. Jane looked at the tip & said, Didn’t you like the food& I said it was delicious. She then said, “the service?” Again I replied it was good. “Is that the size of a tip you’d leave your nieces or John, her only son. I finally got her message in spades and have changed my tipping appropriately! One of my nieces served a couple at UofM one day and only served them champagne all afternoon & was given an $80 tip! From then she only wanted diners who drank champagne all afternoon! Peace always, SR. M


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