“107 Facts I Have Learned About Restaurants By Working In Them”

Originally posted December 18, 2015, on my Restaurant Junkie Tumblr page. (All but the POTUSA video which I suggest listening to while reading):


(These are just the ones off the top of my head. There are more, but this seemed like enough for now. If you agree with this list, or just find it interesting, explore my project all about this stuff.)

  1. Restaurants are more likely to fail than they are to succeed.
  2. Half of all adults in America have worked in a restaurant at some point in their lives.
  3. About 80% of the people who own restaurants started off working at some “entry-level” position.
  4. A substantial majority of restaurants in the United States only have a single location.
  5. In 2015 for the first time, Americans started spending more on restaurants than on groceries.
  6. Facts and figures about restaurants are notoriously unreliable and continually changing.
  7. Just like in making movies, restaurants are excellent ways to launder money.
  8. Anyone who has worked in more than one restaurant has worked in a restaurant with some connection (however tiny) to a criminal organization.
  9. You can have the most fantastic food in the world, and your restaurant can still fail miserably.
  10. Selling food is not a good way for a restaurant to make money.
  11. Selling alcohol is a good way for a restaurant to make money.
  12. Selling merchandise is an excellent way for a restaurant to make money.
  13. Selling beer on tap is better than selling beer in a vessel.
  14. Between ice, lemons, straws, plumbing, service ware, labor costs, and the water department there is no such thing as a “free” glass of water.
  15. Your restaurant will be judged by the bathroom, even if the bathroom is outside the restaurant and operated by the building.
  16. At some point, a customer will do something horrific in the bathroom (e.g., a brown crime, vomit, blood, piss, drug use) and the restaurant will be judged for it.
  17. 99% of restaurants have horrible toilet paper.
  18. How the faucet works (sensor, two knobs, that one knob that must be held by at least one hand to work) and how you dry your hands (paper towel, type of blow dryer) will make or break a restroom experience.
  19. No matter what style of cuisine the restaurant specializes in, the customer will be expecting and/or hope for a bread basket.
  20. The restaurant will be heavily judged on the said bread basket.
  21. Multigrain bread or fruit and nut bread will always be the last eaten/left behind.
  22. The temperature of the butter in the bread basket will affect how the customer tips and the Yelp review.
  23. No one eats melba toast outside of a complimentary cracker basket, but at that point, it is both highly prized and aggressively demanded.
  24. A server will be judged by whether or not they bring a straw to a table. If they bring it, the customer will not want it/won’t use it. If they don’t bring it, the customer will ask for one in a rude tone. Either way, the manager will judge the server for bringing/not bringing the straw.
  25. Straws are not free.
  26. Linen napkins will always fall on the floor.
  27. If a restaurant offers linen napkins, there will be a customer who wants paper napkins.
  28. Any restaurant that tries to ride the line between casual and upscale will be criticized for the type of napkin they carry.
  29. Napkins are not free.
  30. In an upscale restaurant, one out of every three people will leave behind the food they had wrapped up to go.
  31. In a casual restaurant, every item taken to-go will be treated like gold, and 99% of customers will call/return if they left it behind.
  32. To-go containers are not free.
  33. Everyone (customers, staff) will offer an opinion on anything if you ask for it.
  34. Everyone (customers, staff) will offer an opinion on anything if you don’t ask for it.
  35. To most people “Hangry” is a cute label applied to children and loved ones. To restaurant workers, this label can be applied to nearly everyone who comes in, effects livelihoods, careers, and has been known to spark drug and alcohol binges.
  36. Just because you discover or create a dish that is amazing, incredible, and unparalleled doesn’t mean you can serve it in a restaurant.
  37. What the server loves to eat, and what that same server recommends to the customer is rarely the same thing.
  38. Whether they say it or not the dishwasher feels pretty sure that they are being taken advantage of. In some way or another about 50% of the time, they are right.
  39. Given enough time there will come the point for every server where a tip is left that seems either wildly low or wildly high.
  40. Tipping is both the best and worst part about being a server.
  41. The tip is rarely accurately reflective of the service given.
  42. If they can, a server will always blame the kitchen for a mistake.
  43. Good service is best achieved by being able to judge people quickly, and knowing in advance what people will order, how they will order, and how they will eat.
  44. Knowing how people eat is a skill gained by having spent many hours watching people chew and swallow.
  45. Not every restaurant worker will eat off a customer’s plate as it goes to the dishwasher, but everyone will at least consider it at one time or another.
  46. Dead food can make a night worthwhile.
  47. As a host, your ability to think, reason and do your job will continuously be questioned by both customers and servers.
  48. How a restaurant gets sat/handled by the host can make or break that restaurant. It affects the quality of the food leaving the kitchen, the tips, the number of comps, etc.
  49. Every non-industry customer is 99% sure that they could do your job (insert any restaurant job here).
  50. Given enough time and effort, almost any aspect of restaurants can be taught to anyone, regardless of age, education, etc.
  51. The only thing that can never be taught to a restaurant worker is to give a shit, and that is what separates passable hires from great hires.
  52. If you work opening, you’re amazed at all the work the closers missed.
  53. If you’re closing, you’re amazed at all the work the openers missed.
  54. Any customer who asks if something is “fresh” probably has no idea what a loaded and/or potentially irrelevant question that is.
  55. Any customer who asks if something is “healthy” probably has no idea what a loaded and/or potentially irrelevant question that is.
  56. There is a sizable percentage of every dollar spent in a restaurant that goes towards the illegal drug trade.
  57. Bad weather will help business
  58. Bad weather will hurt business.
  59. Good weather will help business
  60. Good weather will hurt business.
  61. The light level in the dining room will always be too high for management and two low for the customers.
  62. No matter how well a server knows a menu, there is a customer who will either find a question about the food that the server could not know the answer to, or the customer will contest the validity of a fact that the server knows to be true.
  63. What the customer thinks is a reasonable request and the restaurant chef/manager/server thinks is a reasonable request will often come in conflict.
  64. What the server thinks is a reasonable request and the chef/manager thinks is a reasonable request will often come into conflict.
  65. What the chef thinks is a reasonable request and the server/manager thinks is a reasonable request will often come into conflict.
  66. What the manager thinks is a reasonable request and the server/chef thinks is a reasonable request will often come into conflict.
  67. No matter what the traditional rules of service are, at least one customer will be offended if you clear a plate/don’t clear a plate while others are eating.
  68. Yelp reviews will almost always come down to at least one factor that the restaurant had no control over.
  69. People will judge the restaurant based on the coffee.
  70. There will always be customers who order something. Eat it. Not like it. Finish it. Say something when the meal is over. Request it be taken off the bill… and regardless of if the manager does or doesn’t, that same person will be angry and complain about it to others.
  71. No customer that asks for a bartender’s name in a busy bar does it with positive intentions.
  72. If you are an overweight server, you are 80% more likely to be asked what your favorite item on the menu is.
  73. Most customers will judge what menu items you recommend based on your ethnicity and physical appearance.
  74. Most service personnel will judge a customer based on ethnicity and physical appearance, even if they are identical to the service personnel.
  75. Anyone who believes that racism doesn’t play a part in daily life and business has either never worked in a restaurant, or is white.
  76. Anyone who believes that sexism doesn’t play a part in daily life and business has either never worked in a restaurant, or is male.
  77. If you work in restaurants in any city long enough, you can have nearly the same access to comps and special treatment as a celebrity.
  78. Cooks see the worst aspects of any server. If a manager wants an honest read on the working habits of a server, ask a cook — not a customer.
  79. No one gets into the restaurant business to be a manager. It is psychologically the loneliest job in any restaurant. It’s a manager’s job to uncover the worst aspects of the restaurant and to make the customer happy. This means almost everyone looks at them as either an enemy or as an obstacle.
  80. The second psychologically loneliest job in a restaurant is food expediter (expo). The tables are putting pressure on the server, who then puts that pressure on the expo. The kitchen is putting pressure on the expo to get shit out and get upset at them if the food comes back/gets taken to the wrong table. What the kitchen wants to get out, and what the server/customer wants are almost always at least one dish out of sync and that’s where the Expo lives.
  81. An excellent manager is impossible to find, and costs more than any owner wants to or can reasonably spend.
  82. Managing is the easiest restaurant position to get away with not having to do something.
  83. Cooks are jealous of servers because of the money to work ratio, but almost all of them loathe the idea of working with customers.
  84. Most cooks think that bakers/pastry chefs have it easier and vice versa.
  85. Cooking and pastry/baking are two very different kinds of jobs.
  86. Servers are jealous of cooks because they can freely say what is on their mind, and (these days) people outside of work get much more excited when you say, “I’m a cook,” as opposed to “I’m a waiter.“
  87. Everyone is jealous of bartenders.
  88. The easiest way to make a customer happy when they send back a “weak drink” is to use crappy alcohol in place of the high-end product.
  89. Inevitably, someone will get very, very angry about a bartender following responsible alcohol service, and/or following an alcohol service law. Even if breaking said law could result in jail time or the financial ruin of the restaurant.
  90. Like it or not salt and fat are what make most restaurant dishes taste better than the food you make at home.
  91. Staying open just to serve one more table is not economically viable for the restaurant.
  92. The person a customer most punishes when they stay late in a closed restaurant are the bussers and dishwashers. They are most likely the people dependent on public transit to get home, they get paid the least, and yet often they have to stay and clean up, or wait for all checks to be settled so they can collect their tip-out in order to pay to get home.
  93. It is the server/bartender’s job to make the customer feel comfortable. This often results in a fair amount of discomfort for the server/bartender, which they are not allowed to show. Instead, they bottle it up and they drink.
  94. No matter how well a cook makes a dish, there will be a customer who believes with all of their heart and soul that they could make it better/”right”.
  95. Most people would be shocked at how often someone will eat a dish that is put in front of them by mistake, even if it isn’t even close to what they ordered.
  96. Restaurants are almost never as clean as customers believe or as chefs want.
  97. To get restaurants as clean as customers believe or as chefs want would require spending more on labor, driving up prices — or hiring more personnel that “gave the maximum amount of shits.” While that second part sounds better, it is very hard to do without also spending more on labor, which again, drives up prices.
  98. In restaurants, you have three options: Time, Quality, Cost. You can pick any two. Customers rarely want to believe that this applies to them.
  99. Good restaurant management is all about picking and choosing which battles to fight.
  100. If something goes wrong, customers are almost always certain that they are somehow being taken advantage of, even though it’s never worth anyone’s time to do that. It is always, easier to just do things “right” and avoid potential conflict.
  101. Desserts are a great weapon. When things go bad, a complimentary desert doesn’t cost the restaurant as much as produce or protein, but it offers a calming dose of sugar and fat and puts grumpy people in a happy place.
  102. It is really never worth it for a server to, “spit in someone’s food.”
  103. There is “specialist” or “consultant” that can be hired for every aspect of a restaurant, from the food, to the menu, to the design, to how your servers conduct themselves.
  104. Everyone outside the business wants to open a, “small, family style restaurant where I can cook what I want.”
  105. None of the people who want to open a, “small, family style restaurant where I can cook what I want.” want to order off the menu as is.
  106. Everyone outside the business thinks that they want to open a restaurant because they, “Love to entertain!”
  107. No one seems to consider the fact that when they entertain, they invite “friends” who all eat more or less the same thing at a pre-designated time. A restaurant, on the other hand, is really about catering to a single customer’s needs a hundred times over. It’s a little like throwing a tiny party for an individual. That individual party then needs to coincide perfectly with other individual parties (a table of customers). Then this party of parties is in the middle of other parties of parties that started before, after, and at the same time (the whole restaurant). What’s more, if something isn’t exactly the way the tiniest party wants it, they are not your friend and they are completely at ease with telling you what a horrible person you are, throwing a fit, and damaging your income.

    The Tanka Facts

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