Have you ever been to a restaurant and the waiter or waitress was someone you knew, but not well. Like a neighbor or maybe someone you hadn’t seen in awhile? Basically someone you knew but you didn’t know where they worked.
Did it make the situation awkward in any way? Did you feel compelled to tip better?
I’ve never been in the position before, but I just thought about it this morning when I saw my new neighbor across the hall and she was going to work. I could tell by the outfit that she worked in the serving industry, so it just got me to thinking about it.
I spent two years working at McDonald’s part-time during high school. I had a manager who was kind of a miserable person and did not make much effort to hide that she didn’t like me. She managed to ensure that I never saw a raise (literally, not a dime) the entire time I worked there despite very positive customer feedback. Eventually, I became bitter and started giving away food for free on occasion to a security guard I liked. I never saw her happier than the day she caught me—she was positively gleeful.
Fast-forward to about 17 years later. I’ve had a fairly successful career in law, and I’m dining with my then-wife at an IHOP near our house when who should turn out to be our waitress but the very same former manager! Awkward? Yes. I have no idea if she recognized me, and I didn’t (overtly, at least) do anything to show that I recognized her. And although my feelings toward her were fairly bitter, I didn’t tip any differently than I would have normally. But I also wasn’t interested in having her ever be my server again.
Yeah, once in college or maybe shortly afterward, I was hanging out at a buddy’s house, and somewhere in between the football-watching and video-game playing, we ordered some pizza. Then, we got to chatting about how people we’d gone to middle school and high school were doing, and what they were doing. It turned out that a great number of them had ended up being more or less losers, and were doing shady stuff like dealing drugs, and working no-future jobs for lack of anything better to do. One guy in particular was mentioned, and was reckoned to be the King of the Knuckleheads for his particular brand of sloth, stupidity and
Then the pizza showed up, and was delivered by His Royal Highness himself. Really weird and uncomfortable for sure. I think we tipped him appropriately, but not extra.
My daughter works in the service industry (a cook). It’s not uncommon to go out for dinner and the waiter/waitress is either a former co-worker or someone from her high school days. When we know the server, we do tend to over tip. It’s kind of funny - they will reciprocate, despite her being back of house. She’s the only cook that receives tips at her restaurant. I joke that they are literally passing the same money back and forth between themselves.
I had one that stayed with me: This was a good 15-20 years ago. I was working at a consulting firm and recruiting at Stanford Business School. We took about 20 candidates out to dinner to a local restaurant.
I grew up in the area. About halfway through, a bigger waitstaff came out to serve entrees. I recognized one woman as one of two twins - the two cutest, most socially powerful girls in my junior high. So I hadn’t really seen her since we were 13, since she went to different high school.
She recognized me and kinda squeaked and gave me a big hug - pretty funny when you are trying to have a power dinner with egocentric Stanford GSB students and Partners at a big-dog consulting firm. But, hey, she was really cute and for the most part, folks were amused
We stepped away and spent a few minutes catching up. I heard about her sister, other friends. She ended up sharing that she had been divorced, had kids and was struggling to make ends meet in the booming Bay Area.
Then she said to me: “wow - those were the best times, weren’t they?” I smiled and we hugged and I got back to dinner.
I couldn’t wait to get into my car alone and scream a couple of times, just due to having my mind blown a bit. She peaked in 8th grade.
I’ve had it happen a few times, but it doesn’t really affect my tipping behavior.
If they recognize me and I get better service for it, I tip better because I got better service. If they recognize me and think they can do the bare minimum because they know me, they get a bare minimum tip. If they recognize me and the service is no different than usual, I give me usual tip.
What does bug me is if I’m clearly having a lunch/dinner meeting with other people and they decide to take time catching up. You might be my acquaintance but I did not come to this restaurant to see you, I came to see the people I’m sitting with. That doesn’t mean, “oh hi, we should catch up if you’re in town” is a problem, but “Alright what would everyone like to drink… oh hi! What’s up? Did you hear about Susie’s baby?” is inappropriate.
Not quite the same thing, but a neighbor who had recently divorced and was experiencing some financial difficulties was working a second job waiting tables. When some of us mentioned that we should go there for dinner while she was working, she seemed genuinely happy at the prospect.
So a group of us went to dinner there, having stipulated when making the res that we wanted to be at one of her tables. We had a great time, she enjoyed waiting on us, and yes, we tipped her very generously.
Yes. A school chum who got straight A’s in grade school appeared as waitress at our table when I was dining with my husband.
That was very weird. I had mentally pictured her as going on to a good college and out-earning me and others like me, but here she was waiting tables. I was but a mediocre student in grade school, but went on to community college and got a very decent job out of it.
Maybe the day after your encounter, she caught a break and realized how wrong she was about the “best” times being in the 8th grade. As my psychotherapist is fond of saying, the final chapter hasn’t been written.
I was on the other side of this. I had a part-time college job waiting tables in an off-campus restaurant. Who should show up, at one of my tables, but my old high school rival and her date. Being young and stupid, I didn’t want her to know that I was working as a mere waiter, so I panicked. I asked someone else to serve that table, but she refused. I then hid in the kitchen area until the couple gave up and left. I have felt bad about this for the 50+ years since.
I was at a relatively nice restaurant and the waitress was a lady who used to teach with me at the local high school. It was a little awkward. She had quit teaching to work as an artist and I assume needed a flexible part time job. But I still didn’t like asking a former colleague for more coffee, and there’s no say i xpipd have complained of something in the order went wrong.
People in my family will sometimes go to a restaurant where a relative is working during their shift (and get a seat in their section if on the waitstaff). It’s considered a friendly gesture and extra tipping magically happens. I’ve gone with sometimes on these. Everybody’s always seems glad to seem each other.
In high school, it was practically impossible to go to a fast food place and not know people there. Oftentimes making an effort to let the manager know what a great job your friend was doing.