What do you expect your waiters/waitresses to know?

Waiters and waitresses are more than the people who bring you the water and to take your order.

Servers can also be knowledgeable references. I was just reminded of that when I stopped by a Chinese restaurant last evening. I looked over my menu and saw two dishes which got my attention: “pea shoots with supreme broth” and “stir fried noodle with crab meat”.

When the waiter stopped by, I said “I am thinking about getting the pea shoots with supreme broth…[pause]” and then I instinctively added “…how are the pea shoots today?” He indirectly answered “How about water spinach instead?”. I replied “Water spinach? Today’s pea shoots not good?” He nodded. I then asked, “What about the stir fried noodle with crab meat? Is it made of real crab meat or imitation crab meat?” He answered “Real, but there is only very small quantity of it”

Depending on the restaurants, but usually I expect the severs to be able to roughly describe the dishes, and to know the quality of vegetables and seafood, and of course to able to make some recommendations. In short, servers should know a little bit about what is happening in the kitchen without always have to “Let me check with the kitchen”. Now, some of them may not able to tell me, but I do not usually consider these questions “out of bound” or “being difficult”.

What about you? What type of questions do you expect or semi-expect your servers to able to answer for you?


I expect a waiter to be fully knowledgeable about the menu and all things pertaining to your table, if you sit down. It is up to management to make sure everyone is on the same page. Also, I find no harm in a waiter at least trying to find the right answer to a question by going to the source…


No harm, but sometime one question leads to another, and it would be nicer if the servers know the answers to the questions as oppose to going to the multiple multiple times to get the answers.

I expect the server to know the prices of any off-the-menu specials.


I expect them to tell me the prices without my having to ask. (Yeah, I know it’s the restaurant that tells them not to, but my chances of ordering it without a price are slim to none.)

I expect them to know what the ingredients are, particularly those that people are commonly allergic to or are avoiding.


That’s one of my biggest restaurant pet peeves. I’m never embarrassed to ask the price, and sometimes I’ll ask the price of every off-menu item, just to make my point (and be a little obnoxious), but I’ll never understand why off-menu specials need to be recited by servers instead of being printed, even on an add-in page that’s handed to the customer along with the menu.


I am highly sensitive to certain foods so this is sort of a trick question for me. I would much rather a server be honest with me and say “I’m not entirely sure, let me make sure with the kitchen so I don’t tell you the wrong thing” than to impress me with their knowledge but then end up being wrong. They are my one and only line of communication with the folks in the kitchen. I need them to double check if they’re not sure.


If I owned a restaurant, I would train my staff to answer stupid questions with stupid answers, like:
“How are the pea shoots today?”
“As fine as yesterday, a little bit taller maybe?”

and my marketing phrase would be:
“If you ever feel your waiter sounds a tiny bit cocky today, better come back tomorrow and dare to outwit her/him this time, because starting now, your customer right is at stake.”

You think that is a stupid question? – to ask how the vegetables condition/freshness is?

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Ha ha.

If I owned a restaurant, I would train my staff to answer questions like:
“How the vegetables condition/freshness is?”
“If we knew our vegetables condition/freshness wasn’t top shelf, do you think we would dare serving them to you?”

Its a standard question that many asks especially at Chinese, particularly Cantonese restaurants. Leafy vegetables vary in quality throughout the season because of growing conditions. Just because its freshly picked doesn’t mean its good. If Chemicalkinetics is shelling out $18 for a dishes of pea shoots with broth, and its priced that way because its unusually labor intensive, he’d be stupid not to ask the question and make sure he’s got the good stuff.


If you own a restaurant, would you propose a dish with low quality ingredients, and specify it?

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I think in many restaurants they have a set of dishes which they make every day, and not every vegetables are in top conditions in every single day. Otherwise, many dishes would have to be cancelled most of the time. This is not to say the vegetables are in poor shape like rotten, but there is a difference between vegetables in prime condition vs “just ok”.

This really isn’t any different than when you go to a market. Not every single vegetables is at its prime on that day, only maybe a few are. Most of them are just average.


You are good. :slight_smile: I had to look up to double check if I have specified the price. Yes, mine approximately on that price range, maybe just a tad more expensive. High five.

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I would NOT expect the average server (or even the above-average) to know the condition of the vegetables in the kitchen. Generally, wait staff aren’t allowed anywhere near raw ingredients/knives/cranky line cooks.

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If I own a restaurant, I do not serve anything not worth serving, I do not make any concession on quality. Anyone who does, who admits it, is doomed. “just ok” doesn’t cut it in the restaurant world, period.
When was the last time a restaurant owner or stake holder told you: “this just ok, pick something else”?

In honesty, many times. In more than a few times, I have ordered something, and the owners/managers have recommended me to change my orders. If anything, my above story just told you that the server told me to order something else. I think your idea of everything is always at its top quality condition speaks volume of your idealism.

When is the last time you see every vegetables in the market is in top condition? Most of the time, they are on average. They are fine, but not great-great.


What owners/managers think or do, idk.

If I am an owner/manager and recommend you to change your order, it could be for many reasons but none of them being about low quality ingredients.
The idealist is you, thinking the owner/mgr/chef would admit being capable of delivering a sub-par quality service or product just by you asking them.

It doesn’t matter how you see what condition you think every vegetables in the market is.
It matters how I see what condition I think every vegetables in the market could be to be sold to you.

One time I was in a neighborhood Chinese restaurant – an old-style Cantonese type place – and I ordered a roast pork dish. The server was quick to tell me it was very fatty and not very good.