Conversation & Aunt Bertha
I’ve been looking for a second job that would allow some flexibility of schedule. I applied for a server position with a local restaurant, and was hired. I start next Monday. The only thing is, I’m a little nervous because I’ve never really worked in a restaurant before. I’m not really sure how to talk to customers. Any advice?
I don’t know why folks overcomplicate this part of the job. These guests are simply people that walk in from off the street hungry. They’re not royalty. Some of them might act like they think they are. But there is no need to feel inadequate here. I assume you were able to cobble together coherent thoughts and statements well enough during the interview to snag the job, so I would think that you have what it takes to keep doing that over and over again until you realize that your life is going nowhere and you marry one of the businessmen who comes in at lunch and always sits in your section who you think is nice enough but aren’t really attracted to, but still feel like maybe you could learn to like well enough in time as long as the financial perks are sufficient - and you don’t have to do oral.
But you’re never gonna meet that dumpy little comb-over prince you’ll settle for if you don’t learn the art of conversation. So let me give you a few pointers:
First off, always lead with a compliment. Make sure to be genuine. People can see through you when you’re straining for sincerity. They’ll appreciate the compliment more if it effortlessly comes from the heart. Try something simple but truthful, like, “When I first saw you come in, I thought that you looked like someone who’d probably smell bad, but now that I’m here at your table, I hardly even want to throw up at all but maybe still just a little”, or, “I absolutely adore your scarf; chemo just looks better on some than others, I guess” and maybe even, “You’re so brave; I wish I had the courage to unabashedly ask for a third round of complimentary breadsticks”.
Secondly, inject just enough small-talk to fill the pause between the compliment and the waitress-spiel you’re about to launch into to fool the guest into believing you’re pleasantly enjoying this exchange, not dying to get it over with so you can finish this round of greets and get back to your smoke out back. Just choose a thing and mention it to every table. Weather. Sports. The theory of evolution explained at a molecular level. Doesn’t matter. Zip through it and segue smoothly into the recital piece.
Once you’ve finished that potential mystery-shop intro at a solid 65 (because that 100 ain’t showing up on your paycheck, amiright?) do not make the mistake of asking questions. Don’t give the guest choices. Decide everything for them. Customers are like children. They’ll take what you give them unless you let them know they have options, then they’ll never decide and you’ll be stuck at a table forever waiting for Aunt Bertha to announce her salad dressing selection like it was the goddamn OJ verdict. Give her Ranch with an extra side of Ranch. You and she both know damn well that’s all she’s ever wanted in life.
After you’ve taken their order, let them do the talking. If this be to each other, great! You’re off the hook. If they engage you further, then listen and nod, smile and occasionally say, “Mmhm” or “How about that! My stars!” Try to look interested. You won’t be, but try anyway. If they fall silent and appear to be waiting for you to respond, but you tuned them out sometime back and don’t know what to say, place your hands in the front your apron pocket and stab yourself with your pen. Show them your bloody stigmata and tell them you have to go call the Pope or something, and then excuse yourself to the back for that smoke that’s still waiting on you. They’ll understand.
Once the food comes you’re mostly in the clear on conversation. They’ll be too busy gorging to manage much more than demands for extra this-and-thats, which they will certainly have you retrieve for them one at a time without any regard for your presence needed at other tables in the restaurant. Don’t bother to ask if anyone else at the table needs anything before you come back. You’ll only have wasted precious time asking a question that will surely go ignored. When you return, another guest will invariably need something else; something that you could’ve gotten for them the last time. Quietly acknowledge to yourself that this is Hell, and you probably deserve this for something terrible you did in a past life. Perhaps a life in which you WERE one of these types of guests. Now smile and go get Aunt Bertha a gravy boat of Ranch, because we always knew those ramekins weren’t gonna suffice now, didn’t we?
As the meal comes to a end, you really have to amp up the personality and shine. This is the moment where they decide to toss a few measly extra bits your way if you bark like a seal and clap while balancing on a ball. You’ve got to wrap the whole experience up nicely for them. This part can’t be taught. It’s got to be something special you naturally possess that really nails down that 20+%. You better either be witty, pretty, or gay. If you’re talented enough to simultaneously be all three, their heads will explode and you can just go through their wallets while you spot sweep the brain matter, of which Aunt Bertha’s will mostly be Ranch.
I’m sure you’ll do fine, Casey. Just remember to be you. That way if it doesn’t work out, you’ll know what the problem was.
Sir Jables' vast wealth of knowledge can be tapped at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be contacted by Morse code eye-blinking, intentionality in astral projection, or through his Ouija username: hailsatan.