Ask the Waiter – Where’s the Server?

Dear Waiter:

Your latest “Ask the Waiter” item about the lingering diners makes sense. However, on more than a few occasions I’ve found it almost impossible to get a check from my server. I’d think he/she’d be anxious for me and my wife to leave so a new party can be seated. What’s the best way, short of being rude, to get a server to bring you the check so you can pay and leave?

Thank you,

Dear John:

The best way to let a server know you want the check is to verbally ask for it. A good waiter will not bring the check until he or she is asked. (But if you’re one of those lingering diners we talked about yesterday and I need the table, I’ll just drop the check.)

Another way to signal that you’re ready for the check is to put your wallet or credit card on the table. A female diner, however, should not put her purse on the table. A server will just think she’s scrounging through it for mints, a cell phone, or a tissue. But if all the ladies present place their purses on the table, then even the most brain dead server will take that as a signal the table wants their check.

You could also just wave the waiter over or do the squiggly sign the check pantomime thing. (Even though it’s acceptable that little move irks the hell out of me.) If that fails ask another server or a manager for the bill. If all else fails just try walking out the door. It’s amazing how fast the waiter will pay attention to you then. Setting small fires on the table works wonders too.

Waiters can be slow bringing the check to the table for several reasons.

1. They’re so busy juggling things in their head (appetizers, specials, cocktail orders, wine selections, food prep times, looking for the last ice bucket) that they forgot all about you. This is the usual reason.

2. Waiter is tired and doesn’t want any more tables. By making you stay longer he or she is forcing the hostess to seat late arriving tables in another server’s section. I do this all the time.

3. Waiter is so busy chattering away on their cell phone that they forgot they were working in a restaurant.

4. Waiter is involved in sexual congress in the linen closet.

5. Waiter is smoking a cigarette in the alley. (Usually after the sexual congress thing.)

6. The waiter is eating dinner. (Usually standing up or sitting on a milk crate)

7. The waiter has had their consciousness altered through alcohol or drugs and has forgotten all about the space time continuum thing.

8. Waiter fell asleep.

9. The waiter is in the manager’s office getting yelled at. (Usually because of #4, #7, and #8)
Please send your restaurant questions to

9 thoughts on “Ask the Waiter – Where’s the Server?”

  1. Dave says:

    I do #2 late at night all the time.

  2. Entelle says:

    Truly funny. Congress in the linen closet, indeed. I am sure I would be surprised at how often that actually happens. Glad to see you are posting again, as your blog is always a treat to read. Now I just have to catch up on all I have missed!

  3. Morgan says:

    Wow, #2 is a great way to take it out on your customers because you don’t want another table! I am really shocked by this one. It is very unpleasant when you’ve had an otherwise lovely evening and plan to leave a great tip to sit and sit and sit and try unsuccessfully to catch the waiter’s eye. Next time I will just ask the owner if he could please find the waiter as we have been waiting a long time for the bill.

  4. SFBartender says:

    John seems like a nice customer, but I have to note: I always hated the lingering customers who, after finishing everything and refusing to order anything else for 45min, suddenly expect you to appear with their check the moment they decide they’re ready for it.

    Service follows the request for or the expectation of literal service. If you haven’t ordered anything, and insist you be left alone to “chat,” don’t expect the check at the immediate second it pops into your head.

  5. dave says:

    My pet peeve wasn’t the scribbling pantomime. It was the people who made a check sign with their thumb and forefinger and then acted like they were writing a big check sign in front of them.

    The customer-side of me has never understood ignoring a table in order to prevent someone else from being sat there even though I did it myself – not realizing how it may have affected my tip until years later. If I’ve had a nice meal and I’m all set to leave a big tip and then the waiter disappears for 15-20 minutes, I start mentally taking away from the tip depending on how irritatated I get. I once waited so long (almost an hour) that I was about to walk out. I got up from my table because there wasn’t a single waiter in the dining room. After steaming for a couple of more minutes, I walked into the kitchen to find out where everyone was and said that I was going leave without paying if someone didn’t get out to my table. The manager finally came out and said the waiter had left for the day but he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t closed us out. He didn’t sound very happy. I’m guessing it was #7.

  6. Dave says:

    Hahaha. #2!!! Oh, wow that’s hilarious. I guess many other servers think the same way I do. I thought I was the only lazy one.

  7. pelon says:

    The waiter also might be doing their side-work.

  8. Anonymous says:

    the most funny things in my liofe..the most worth it book i ever bought in the world…

  9. Chops says:

    Also when you place a credit card or cash in a billfold make sure it’s visible, I always feel like it looks like I’m trying to rush people when I check the billfold after a while and there’s nothing in it or the opposite happens I don’t think it’s been touched and then the customer gets irritated at the fact I haven’t processed payment. I’ll try to put the billfold perpendicular to the table’s edge so I know if it’s been moved but it isn’t a perfect strategy, comments or suggestions?

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