Ask The Salty Waitress: How do I address my employee’s low-cut shirts? 

Ask The Salty Waitress: How do I address my employee’s low-cut shirts? 


Photo: MaximFesenko (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Hi Salty Waitress, I’m an assistant manager at a casual restaurant in Texas. I get along well with the people on my team, but I’m in an uncomfortable position with one server, a woman, and I’m not sure how to proceed (I’m a man, just to clarify.) This server follows the dress code we have—button-down shirts, black pants, apron—but she wears very tight shirts, unbuttoned quite low, that show her cleavage. It makes me uncomfortable, and I’m sure customers might also find it too revealing.

The thing is, our manager is also a man, and I think he and I would both feel awkward bringing it up to her. She’s not technically violating our dress code—it just doesn’t look very professional. How can I address this? Or should I ask another female server to do it?

Thanks,
Assistant Manager In Texas

Dear Assistant Manager,

That is a helluva hornets’ nest you’re in. Before I get into a few courses of action that you could take, I’m going to ask you one straightforward question:

Are you absolutely, 100-percent, completely, hand-to-god positive that she’s showing too much of her chest? Before you go wading into this swamp, I want you to double-check with yourself that you’re not just overly sensitive to this. Run it by your manager privately before you proceed.

At the same time, make sure you know the exact facts and wording of your restaurant’s dress code. If the restaurant doesn’t have one written down, it’s going to make it harder for you to address this in a way that doesn’t seem creepy/personal/judgmental. Before you talk to her, suggest to your higher-ups that they create a written dress code that includes guidelines about tight-fitting or unbuttoned clothing. It might be worth including in your dress code exactly how many buttons can be unbuttoned, to avoid confusion. Just writing down that dress code and talking about it might already solve the problem.

Okay, so if you’re totally sure that her tops violate policy, you have a few options. (Be warned that none of them is easy, because the situation requires you acknowledge the existence of your employee’s boobs.)

One thing you shouldn’t do is wrangle some other poor female employee into the conversation. It potentially makes that other server—who has nothing to do with this—uncomfortable, and it makes it seem like the topic is shameful. It’s possible that due to her body type, the same blouse that looks completely fine on another gal looks a bit more suggestive on her. That’s not her fault, so don’t turn it into schoolyard gossip by dragging someone else into the situation.

Address it like an issue with the dress code, nothing more. I’m assuming this server is a good employee and you don’t have other issues with her, so don’t make this a moral or performance thing.

Instead, give the whole staff a refresher on the uniform policy. Make sure that the dress standards are the same for everyone—you can’t ignore a server who unbuttons her blouse in the same way just because she isn’t as um, well-endowed. So, at a regular staff meeting, run through the expectations without dwelling on the buttons part: “Just a reminder that your shirts should be clean, ironed, stain-free, not too tight-fighting, with a maximum of three buttons undone, and they should be worn with dark-black pants.” Maybe she’ll get the memo?

If all that fails, you’ll have to have a one-on-one chat. If I were you, I’d let my manager handle it, but you should definitely discuss it with him either way. It’s an H.R. thing, after all.

Whoever talks to this employee needs to proceed with a whole bucket of tact and professionalism. Stick to the facts—this is about a dress-code violation. I’d feel like straight-up dying if a boss ever talked to me about this, so keep the chit-chat to a minimum: “Hi Salty, I just want to address an issue with you. You’re doing a great job with your tables and we are so happy to have you on the team, but I’m worried that your shirts may not be in line with our dress code, which states, blah blah blah. I know this conversation is uncomfortable, but please ask me if you’re unclear about our policies.”

Don’t use words like “inappropriate,” which are judgmental. Just state the ways in which her tops don’t conform to the dress code. End of story. This is already a sticky situation, and unclear rules will really turn this into a hot mess. Before you so much as think about talking to this server, get that dress code on the books stat.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.



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Ask The Salty Waitress: Help! My server speaks like a millennial nitwit

Ask The Salty Waitress: Help! My server speaks like a millennial nitwit


Photo: g-stockstudio (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Dear Salty: In the past few years, I’ve noticed a scourge of servers (mostly at trendy restaurants) who speak to customers with, how do I say it, internety jackass millennial language? There’s no more decorum, like: “How is the food?” Instead we get: “Are we stoked on the grilled octopus? Killer, right?” or “Man, you crushed that Negroni.” Last week, a server referred to my wife as “dude.”

I am 40. That is not old. I don’t feel like a grandpa when I say it’s ridiculous to be addressed this way at places where entrees cost $35. Is there something I can do to signal that I’d rather be talked to like a customer and not someone’s Twitter follower?

Thanks,
Not Your Bro, Brah

Dear Not-Bro,

I can’t delete the internet, and I can’t pinch all of these whippersnappers by their gauged ears, and I can’t decipher half the texts my teenage niece sends me. So, you know, just don’t expect me to move mountains on this one.

But what I can do is open my big, Maybelline-pink Salty mouth and issue a PSA to all the hip restaurant servers out there: Customers are not your “BFFs.” There is a way to be friendly without being friends, cordial but not too casual. Sure, you kids can tell me I sound like a big ol’ b. But it’s your tip, not mine, ya little stinkers, and this email isn’t the first time I’ve heard a complaint like this.

One of the worst things a customer can feel in your restaurant is disrespected or uncomfortable. And, like it or not, the language we use talking to customers signals respect—or lack thereof. Look, I know you work hard at your restaurant job. You want to be taken seriously, right? Sometimes that means practicing the words you choose so that customers feel comfortable. It’s part of hospitality. Managers, you can discuss this at staff meetings if you feel the “dude” virus spreading among your staff.

A good rule of thumb for servers: Listen to how your customers speak, and mirror that back. (This is a little trick I’m learned during my brief stint in retail.) If they’re quiet, don’t push them. If they’re inquisitive, give them the full spiel. If they’re casual with you, go ahead and be casual back. But if they’re not, try to keep pace with the tone they set.

Now, back to you, letter-writer. Policing other people’s language is hard, because language is all bound up in culture and where we come from and who we are. I know this millennial-internet-garbage bugs you, but we don’t want to crap all over the way someone talks because it’s different from us. So, while it raises your hackles, you might just have to let this one go. I mean, what’s the alternative? Complain to the manager? I put out the Salty PSA, so hopefully restaurants take note and tone down the verbal emojis.

Oh, and if you want to soften the shock of hearing your wife be addressed as “dude,” perhaps take it as a compliment to her youthfulness.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? (In light of this week’s question, room-service horror stories are especially welcome.) Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.



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Ask The Salty Waitress: What should I do if I suspect a restaurant gave me food poisoning?

Ask The Salty Waitress: What should I do if I suspect a restaurant gave me food poisoning?


Photo: metamorworks, Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Dear Salty, I’ll spare you the details, but I got a bad case of food poisoning last week that basically kept me in the bathroom for 48 hours. I’m pretty sure it’s because of a meal I had at an Italian restaurant; specifically, I suspect the clams.

My question is whether I should call the restaurant or even the county health department? It’s been five days since I got sick, so I’m not sure whether there’s any point in reporting it now. If it ever happened again though, what should I do?

Thanks,
Damn Those Clams

Dear Clams,

My condolences on your recently strengthened relationship with the bathroom floor. I myself had what felt at the time like a near-death experience following some questionable crab years ago, so I sympathize.

I’m not doubting your story, but this is a little PSA for the rest of the audience: Most people mistake the cause of their food poisoning—it’s called “last meal bias.” We tend to think that the last meal we ate is what did us in, but it can take up to three days for certain food-borne viruses to rear its ugly head. So before you go pointing fingers at Trattoria La Barf, just make sure you’ve got the right perp.

If you really suspect a certain restaurant gave you food poisoning, absolutely call them up. Even if five days have passed, it’s good for them to have that complaint on their radar. Who knows, you might not be the only victim, and the restaurant might learn from the situation. Or they might try to make amends with you by offering a gift certificate or something—not that you’d necessarily be chomping at the bit to return to the scene.

And you can definitely call the county health department. A quick Googling should show you which office handles food-borne outbreaks in your area. They’re not going to shut down a restaurant just because you called, but your case could be linked to other cases and lead to an investigation and find the culprit and prevent further contamination and basically save the world. (Maybe.)

According to the fine folks at the Virginia Department Of Health, you’ll want to have a few details handy when you report an illness: the who, what, when, where, how of it all:

  • How many people are sick?
  • What are the symptoms of illness?
  • When did the illness begin and how long did it last?
  • Are people still becoming sick?
  • What did the ill people eat?
  • How many people were potentially exposed?

Once a health department gets your complaint, they’ll review it and gather any other info they need. Then, they’ll decide whether they need to visit the restaurant that you suspect made you sick, and will check to see whether your complaint is part of a pattern of illnesses.

Bottom line: Don’t go accusing restaurants of food poisoning willy-nilly, but if you have a legitimate case, let the restaurant and your health department know.



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Ask The Salty Waitress: I need an exemption from this restaurant’s cell-phone ban

Ask The Salty Waitress: I need an exemption from this restaurant’s cell-phone ban


Photo: bowie15 (iStock), Illustration: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Dear Salty, I’ve heard of more restaurants banning cell phones at their tables and in fact, a restaurant my wife and I like just started doing this. There’s now a sign near the front door and a small note on the menu that says, “We respectfully ask guests not to use phones for texting or calls during meals. Please enjoy the experience.”

This is fine with me—I don’t like people bipping and beeping around on phones either. But I’m a doctor who sometimes receives emergency calls from patients or other doctors, and I really need to have my phone available. In the past, I’d set it to vibrate and keep it on the table next to my plate, but now I’m worried I’ll get a dirty look or be asked to turn it off.

We like going to this restaurant, and nine times out of 10, I don’t get any calls, but I do need to have my phone handy if it happens. Is there a middle ground here, or do I have to stop going to this restaurant?

Thanks,
M.D. with an iPhone

Hey doc,

Seems to me you actually have a bit of wiggle room in this situation. My bet is the cell-phone policy is there to keep folks from yapping all through the dinner and disturbing other people, or from fiddling away at Candy Crush with the sound on. (Makes me long for the days of beepers, honest to god.) So if you’re not doing either of those, maybe there’s a gray area.

Now I’m going to take you at your word, buster, and don’t make me regret it. If in fact your phone really doesn’t ring often while you’re at dinner, then I say it’s fine to keep it in your pocket on vibrate. Maybe ask to sit near the door so that if it does ring, you can quickly get up—please don’t spill or bump into anything—and step outside to take the call. Unless you make a big to-do about it, that shouldn’t be disruptive to other tables and I doubt a server would say anything to you about it.

I thought of another plan B for you: If you typically get calls from the same place (your office, for example), maybe you could give the dispatcher a heads up that you’ll be at a certain restaurant. Then they could call the restaurant and ask for you if it’s an absolute emergency (it might discourage them from bugging you unnecessarily, too). Maybe you get calls from different patients, though, in which case this probably isn’t possible.

Regardless, I don’t think a server is going to track you down and scold you for quietly taking a call outside. Kids get sick, emergencies happen, and as long as you’re not running in and out of the restaurant like a delivery driver, then I don’t see why taking the call outside would be a problem. Just don’t make a habit of it.



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Ask The Salty Waitress: Does the klutz who spilled red wine on my clothes owe me?

Ask The Salty Waitress: Does the klutz who spilled red wine on my clothes owe me?


Photo: Fertnig (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Hi Salty, please tell me what I should have done in this situation. I’ve been thinking about it since the incident happened last weekend and am still pissed about it.

I was out to dinner with three friends at a nice restaurant, the kind you have to dress up. During dinner, a customer at the table next to us knocked his wine glass over and spilled red wine on half of my outfit, staining my sweater and my pants. (If it matters, the pants are dry-clean-only.)

All he said was “Oh, really sorry.” Then he half-assed mopped up a little bit of the wine on the floor and went back to his dinner. Our server came over with more towels so I could clean off my clothes, but obviously both the sweater and pants are ruined. The guy who knocked the glass, of course, didn’t get any on him.

My question is: Does this guy owe me for the damage to my clothes? Should I have confronted him about it? His apology was barely an apology, and the restaurant didn’t do anything about the situation either other than bring me napkins.

Thanks,
Covered In Cabernet

Hey Covered In Cab,

Honey, I hear you. As a longtime server, I can’t begin to tell you about all the gross substances that have been dumped on me—or that I have accidentally dumped on others. Reminds me of the Great Gravy Incident of 1993, in which I actually spilled a gravy boat onto a woman’s white linen dress. I still feel badly about that—the dress was nicer than anything in my polyester roster.

In that case, since it was my dummkopf error, management covered that customer’s dinner and dry-cleaning bills (and gave me a stern talking-to). In your case, though? Hard to say. Let me take off my apron and put on my Judge Judy robe for a sec: Since a fellow patron was at fault here, I don’t think you can blame the restaurant. In a perfect world, the guy would have been more apologetic and offered to replace your damaged clothing. But in a perfect world Mr. Salty (played by Chris Hemsworth) would be rubbing my aching feet right now, so we know life isn’t always perfect.

If you’re still hot as a kettle, there’s some small comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Heck, I was once barfed on by a child at work. But at the end of the day, no one’s on the legal hook. According to a New York Times column about such restaurant spills, going to court is expensive, and restaurants know that a customer probably isn’t going to drag out a legal battle over dry cleaning.

Hindsight being 20/20, you could have insisted at the time that the guy pay to replace your outfit (with some pizzazz, too, like standing up in the middle of the restaurant and shouting, “I demand satisfaction!”). At that point, management probably would have gotten involved and urged that guy to make amends, since it was his fault. The restaurant might have also comped your drinks to help make up for such an unfortunate incident, maybe. But making such ruckus would have colored your whole nice evening out with your friends (instead of just the wine coloring your pants), which is likely why you didn’t kick up a giant fuss at the time.

I’d say in the future you could switch to black (as my beloved Sylvia comic strip put it, nothing lasts forever except for red wine on a white couch), but it was his wine glass, not yours. So you may want to just chalk this up to a crappy mistake. I know, easy for me to say—but into each life, a little red wine must spill. Sorry about your outfit, but honestly, if that’s the worst thing that happened to you this week, I’d say you’re doing okay.



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Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I tip differently in states where servers make minimum wage?

Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I tip differently in states where servers make minimum wage?


Photo: Photobuff (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Hey Salty, I live in Oregon, where restaurant servers, by law, are paid minimum wage. In Oregon, minimum wage is $10.25 per hour. Do customers in Oregon need to tip? I totally get it in states where it’s legal to pay servers less than minimum wage (which I think is freaking outrageous, by the way). But what’s up with tipping in places where it’s not needed to make a server’s pay meet the minimum wage? I mean, a clerk at 7-Eleven is also on her feet all day, but she doesn’t get tips. Is her job easier than a server’s job?

Please don’t get me wrong. I will always tip servers. But this is also something I’ll always wonder about.

Thank you!
A Good But Curious Tipper

Dear Good But Curious,

Your question is thornier than my leg hair in February. But I’ve been asked this question before, from folks in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and other places where servers earn a minimum wage instead of the reduced tipped wage, so I guess it’s time to answer it.

Before I do—I hear you loud and clear about about the 7-Eleven worker. That is a physically tough, thankless job. As is working at the laundromat or the clothing store at the mall or other minimum-wage gigs. I don’t want to poo-poo their hard work. But I’m a waitress, and have been for 15 years. So I’m coming at this from my perspective of someone in the hospitality industry, and my angle is: Yeah, you should still tip if you want to feel good about yourself at the end of the night. Here’s why.

Even in places where servers earn minimum wage, 11 percent live in poverty, compared to 6 percent of non-tipped people. In D.C., where servers made the same minimum wage as other workers, their average pay was just 36 cents above minimum wage in 2017. It’s not like we’re rolling in it, is what I’m saying.

Tips, even with a minimum wage, take some people from just-scraping-by to making-an-okay-living. That means better service for you. How? Because if you want the best service, in my opinion, you want to be waited on by a gal like me who’s been doing this for a while. You want serving to be a job that people stick with for a while, not a low-wage revolving door of dingbats and losers. Tipping helps us afford health care and other basics that are close to impossible on just a minimum wage.

Think about who your server might be: a single mom, a part-time college kid, an artist working multiple jobs trying to catch a break. They’re not heading home to eat caviar and champagne. Shit, they’re heading home to soak their sore feet, pop generic Advil for their aching back, and maybe have a beer to forget about the asshole table that gave them trouble all night.

Our jobs aren’t easy. Lots of people’s jobs aren’t easy, I know. But servers have to act like our jobs are just a walk in the park, no matter how much crap we take. I have to smile at your kid even as he’s smearing snot on the table that I have to clean up. I have to laugh at your husband’s terrible joke. I have to look chipper-but-not-annoying at 8 in the goddamn morning. I think all of that is worth a few extra bucks out of your wallet.

So yeah, please continue to tip. Help us catch a break. I swear it’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.



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Ask the Salty Waitress: Do I really need to tip the full amount on an overpriced bottle of wine?

Ask the Salty Waitress: Do I really need to tip the full amount on an overpriced bottle of wine?


Photo: UpperCut Images (Getty Images), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Dear Salty: Quick question. I’m generally a good tipper—almost always 18-20 percent automatic and can go up if good service, etc., rarely down.

But I have a problem tipping on an already overpriced item that requires almost no effort. If I go to a place and order a bottle of wine—let’s say it’s $40-50. Tipping etiquette would say I owe $8-10, but in reality the server did very little than bring it to me and open it. Many times I pour it myself.

I know this is to counterbalance those that order water, but is it really expected to tip the normal 18-20 percent on a bottle of wine (or the alcohol in general) when it’s so inflated to begin with. Always feel like a cheapskate, but $3-4 for bringing me a bottle seems reasonable…

Not trying to be a cheapskate, honest

Dear Honest,

Oh honey, honey, honey. I’m not so sure I believe you. You sound like a person who goes out to dinner a lot, so you realize that you’re not just paying just for the food or drink, right? You’re paying for the ambience, the music, the rent, the electric and water bill, the tablecloths, the labor of laundering and ironing said tablecloths, the luxury of eating dinner and not have to wash the dishes afterwards. If you’re going to start nickle-and-diming everything on the menu, where will it end?

Yes, 20 percent on a $50 bottle of wine is a lot of nickels and dimes. But are you really just paying for that bottle? Or the special curation and storage of said bottle, that’s now discussed with you if you like, brought to you from that climate-controlled wine cellar, opened for you with a bit of a flourish, and poured into likely exquisite stemware? Think of your dinner bill total as including not only your meal—which your server didn’t prepare, after all, but still gets tipped on—and accompanying beverages, but also a kind of an hourly table rate for renting and enjoying that particular real estate.

Lemme tell you about that 20-percent tip. (Yes, the tipping industry is a travesty and all servers should be paid better wages to begin with. Believe me, you don’t need to tell me—Or my sad savings account.) Many restaurants have a “tip-pooling” practice, so that all tips get shared with not only waitstaff, but bussers, dishwashers, and runners, who are all working their asses off so that you can have a nice dinner. That server may be—probably—making less than minimum wage. So round your “automatic” 18 percent up to 20 percent on your whole bill every time, unless you actually see the server spit in your food. If you can’t afford that, you can’t afford to dine out, and we’d all rather you not-trying-to-be-but-are cheap-asses just stay home, leaving that table in my section open for someone who’s a bit more generous. After all, you hardly ever need reservations in your own dining room.

But here’s a possible solution for you. Find yourself a BYOB restaurant in your area. Liquor licenses are a pain in the ass, and those restaurants need your patronage, too. That way, you can enjoy your restaurant meal with a decidedly non-marked-up bottle of wine. And you know, that server will probably open it for you regardless, so please: tip them well.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.



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