For waitstaff, never a moment to sit

For waitstaff, never a moment to sit

April 28th, 2013 by Karen Nazor Hill in Dish2013

Samantha Goonan, a server at Champy's, takes an order.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Good food without good service can ruin a dining experience.

That's why Eve Tiedge-Burd, general manager of Champy's restaurant on M.L. King Boulevard, insists her staff make customers comfortable.

"I have been serving people since I was very young when I used to help at church dinners," says Tiedge-Burd, who began her career in the restaurant business as a server in 1996. "I have always loved serving people."

Since her first waitress job at 19, Tiedge-Burd has worked at nine restaurants. Shifts have run from four to 12 hours, most of which were spent "on my feet," she says.

"That is the life of a server -- you never get to sit down."

While customers expect servers to be friendly, servers hope their customers are friendly as well.

"Most people are nice," Tiedge-Burd says. "But some people are just generally unhappy people, so they are never nice, and when someone is extremely hungry, they are sometimes extra rude."

Typically, good service means good tips, but that's not always the case, she says.

"Unfortunately, only half the population tips well," she says, noting that some of those who tip well are people who have worked or are working in the restaurant industry.

"Most servers can take one look at a table and tell if they are tippers and/or high maintenance," she says.

According to emilypost.com, the appropriate amount to tip for sit-down wait service is 15 to 20 percent, pre-tax.

"The tip should be, at the very least, 15 percent of the bill," Tiedge-Burd says. "Servers make $2.13 an hour, so they depend on their tips to pay the bills."

Arturo Gomez, a server at Alleia restaurant on Main Street, says servers need even more than a 15 percent tip because it's hard to live off $2.13 an hour.

"My check is usually zero after taxes," he says. "I solely rely on the tip I get from the guest. We servers pride ourselves on our customer service where I work and most of our clientele understands."

Gomez has worked in the restaurant industry since 2005. It's a job he says he enjoys.

"My job allows me the freedom to work with magnificent people and meet new faces every day," he says. "There is an amount of respect I have for people who love to dine out. They are looking for a specific experience or they just want to go out and enjoy themselves. If I am able to help them understand the food as a chef would, I have done a job well done."

Like most people-service businesses, the waitstaff must occasionally deal with rude customers. Tiedge-Burd says those are the customers she "kills with kindness."

"When I was younger, I would get angry and take it to heart," she says. "As I have aged, I realize that you win some and you lose some. And some people are just ignorant and it has nothing to do with your performance."

Intoxicated individuals are the worst, Tiedge-Burd says.

"They drink so much and act rude, then get mad when they see the bill.

"As a server, you also get used to being yelled at because some customers' food isn't what they want. And, guess what? Servers don't cook the food," she says.

Regardless, Tiedge-Burd enjoys her career.

"There might be days I despise it, but it's not the job I despise, it's the people who have been condescending to me that day," she says.

Arturo offers advice to customers.

"Please understand that we do expect you to tip," he says. "That is the only way we make money. If I am rude and I have no idea what I'm doing, then consider that when leaving my tip. However, if I come in and I treat you like a guest in my own home, then tip me accordingly."

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6396.