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Servers are human, we make mistakes

Servers are human, we make mistakesI’m sure you have heard of the saying “Nobody’s perfect”, it’s true and it definitely exists in our world today. Without getting all philosophical on you, there will be times when working in a restaurant where you will make mistakes, you will see other work colleagues make mistakes, your managers will make mistakes, and even your guests will make mistakes.

It’s how these mistakes are handled which is most important.

It seems that over the years as the increase of restaurant shows have flowed in, mistakes have become less forgivable for those of us who work in restaurants. Guests who watch these shows either have a better understanding of how a restaurant operates and can be more understanding, then there’s those who have a higher expectation when they go out to eat and if a mistake happens they say things like:

“I was watching a show last night where something like this was 100% unacceptable”.

“I saw on TV that this isn’t the way grilled chicken should look”.

Some mistakes that happen include:

  • Forgetting to ring in someone’s order into the POS (point of sale/computer).
  • Not calling “mains away” after appetizers (mains away is a term used if a table had appetizers and you want the kitchen to start working on their main course).
  • Ringing in the wrong food or drink order.
  • Not letting the kitchen know that the guest didn’t want olives in their Greek salad.
  • Giving a table the wrong bill.
  • Giving the wrong change.
  • Food is cooked/prepared wrong.
  • Food takes too long.
  • Drinks take too long.
  • A table for guests who have a reservation isn’t ready when they arrive.
  • Forgetting a soup spoon/steak knife/oyster fork/condiments for a dish.
  • Not greeting a table within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Taking too long to bring a bill to a table.
  • Not having clam chowder on the menu (I’ve had a few people who got upset because we didn’t have something they wanted on the menu)
  • Breaking a cork when opening wine.
  • Not showing up for a shift because you thought you had the day off.
  • Dropping glassware or plates.
  • Spilling drinks or food on guests/other servers and maybe the odd manager 🙂
  • Misquoting the specials or features.
  • and there’s a bunch more.

Now not all these are related directly to the guest, but it doesn’t matter who it’s related to. If you make a mistake the first thing to do is to admit responsibility. It’s easy for a server say “Oh sorry, the kitchen screwed up your order” because they think that there’s no way the guest can find out that it was actually the server at fault.

I remember one time working at a restaurant in Toronto where I overheard a server telling their table that the kitchen forgot to make one of their steaks. It wasn’t only me who heard it, a manager walking by was also within ear-shot and went to the kitchen to check the chit and to find out what happened. Turns out the server forgot to order the steak with the rest of the tables mains and didn’t want to take the blame.

The short of the story was that the manager forced the server to return to the table and admit responsibility (I agree, it was unfair to blame the kitchen staff who did nothing wrong), the guests seemed a little perplexed at first but after hearing them discuss among themselves (with my big ears listening in nearby at the server station) they figured out what had happened.

A guest will appreciate your honesty if you simply go up to them and tell them “Sorry but I forgot to order your steak, I will do everything I can to fix this”, if they are upset or want to complain and you don’t know what to do, check out this blog post I wrote a while back titled “Handling a complaint”.

At the end of the day if you deal with a mistake with honesty and do what you can to right the wrong, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about (also if a lesson is to be learned by a mistake, take note). These things happen and although at times some people get more upset than others, you can’t let it weigh you down, we are only human.



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Featured image by Samantha Carlson

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5 Comments to “Servers are human, we make mistakes”

  1. How about when the server screws-up, in one of the ways you already mentioned or countless other ways, and then expects the manager to be the one to go to the table and explain-away the problem.

    You are correct, we need to be an adult and take responsibility for our actions, and mistakes. The guest will, and should, understand.

    • Nathan says:

      True Steve, I know there are servers out there who don’t do well with confrontations or problem solving. It’s a lot easier for them to go tell a manager and let them deal with it.

      It’s important to know how to deal with mistakes properly and to take the initiative to get them fixed yourself.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. stine says:

    We are REQUIRED to notify a manager if a guest is unhappy. Most of the time, guests aren’t comfortable complaining about service or something wrong to their server’s face. That’s why we get managers involved. Guests are more apt to convey their concerns to a third party. I personally apologize and fix the problem, but ALWAYS get a manager for a follow-up.

    HOW is “not having clam chowder on the menu” a mistake?
    that is completely irrelevant.

  3. Danielle says:

    Tonight, I had water spill on me and my guest. I tried to recover, and did my best to smile, but it seemed like little things kept happening. I rang in the wrong salad and then the vegetables came out later. Luckily, the manager took off their drinks. I asked if anything else could be done and he gave them $25.00 off (they had a $25.00 coupon, but he said they could keep it and still took money off) So all in all the guest came out on top AND they left a $20 tip! Couldn’t believe it. Some people just have good hearts and I learn something from serving everyday!.

    • Nathan says:

      Some people just get it Danielle, while others may not be so forgiving. As long as you do what you can to make them happy and fix their issues, people can be pretty understanding.

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