Everyone goes out to eat at a restaurant from time to time. And we’ve all heard warnings like “don’t make the waiter angry or he’ll spit in your food.” When you go out to eat at a restaurant, you want to know that you’re going to have a good experience. Since one of the biggest factors in whether or not you have a good experience is your waiter, it pays to pay some attention to getting along with the person who is serving you. Just like in the rest of the world, though, you can’t treat all waiters the same and expect them all to have the same reaction. There are some different types of waiters and if you can understand these basic types and what is important to them, you will have a better chance of getting along with them to have a comfortable and happy meal.

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One of the most common types of waiters are the waiters that act like you’re good friends who just happened to drop in for the afternoon. There are two subtypes to this kind of waiter: the ones who genuinely feel this way and the ones who have to act like they feel this way as a part of their job. You can tell to some extent whether they are real or fake based on the kind of restaurant you choose. Some restaurants have a strong reputation for this kind of service, so you can be pretty sure that being a friend-like server is one of the job requirements. In this case, your best bet is to be friendly back, but not to take their questions about your weekend plans too seriously. Give them enough time at the table to satisfy their manager, but don’t force them to keep up the act for too long. But you have to be careful because not all servers who work in this kind of restaurant are faking it. If you’re too inviting to a sincere chummy waiter, he’ll hang around and talk with your table all afternoon.

The difference between the friend type of waiter and the teacher type of waiter is the tone they take. The friend might hustle you right up to the table and start pointing out which items you’ll probably like best, but the teacher will start talking to you as if you just scored the front seat in a classroom for a subject you never heard of. He seems deeply concerned that you make the most informed decision possible by making sure you know the tomatoes are locally grown and the wines are straight from California. If you can catch him early enough, you may be able to keep the teacher from launching into his speech, but if you don’t recognize him before he starts talking, you’ll have to listen to the whole lecture. The problem with this kind of waiter is that once he’s finished delivering his talk, he’s usually checked out for the rest of the night and never recognized you were an actual person.

The third major type of waiter is the pitiful case. This waiter has been working hard all day, finishing up a double shift. They have three kids at home who all need new shoes and the spouse can’t work because of some special disability. Did you know that the government employment tax is exactly the same amount of money they get paid? The boss is a jerk and they have to split their tips with the busboy and help with the dishes at the end of the night. The other tactic taken by the pitiful server is to flirt with you, touching you on the shoulder softly, making eye contact, and telling you how wise you are for choosing one dish or another. It is still a sad, blatant attempt to get you to give a larger than normal tip at the end of the meal. In this case, you don’t really need to worry about getting good service, but be careful not to get suckered in to giving a big tip just because they said you had a nice smile.

A good dining out experience depends on a lot of things that you may not feel like you have much control over such as the type of waiter you get, but being able to identify what kind of waiter you have quickly can help you improve your time out. Understanding whether your waiter is naturally friendly, required to play friendly as a part of his job, likes the control of being the teacher or milking you for tips can go a long way toward knowing how to work with your waiter to get the best service possible.