The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 10.19.05


Waiter for a day

Life can be full of challenges and this week I experienced one first hand. A couple of weeks back I was approached by CBC-TV to participate in a series that portrays regular folk attempting to rise to a variety of work challenges.

Readers will know that I sometimes offer the occasional gripe regarding restaurants and their food and service. Despite my protests that I am not a food critic, I somehow have been tagged with the moniker it seems.

Prior to taping, I was asked to provide a list of complaints and a few snippets from friends and family. Here is what I provided:

Top five complaints re: restaurants/service

1-Cold food
2-Food not fresh-example - stale bread and rolls - uninspiring salad ingredients
3-Poor food preparation- example- dry burgers and tough steak
4-Long waits for service and table delivery and waiting for final tab
5-Rude and/ or unknowledgeable service staff

My friends and spouse say I complain about:

1-Slow or rude service
2-" If someone else gets served their order earlier than him and they ordered after he did he complains annoyingly"
3-"He complains about overcooked and out of season veggies often."
4-"Unripe and tasteless tomatoes in a salad or shredded carrots seem to bother Greg as does a bad salad dressing."
5-"When ordering a burger and fries or fish and chips, he always complains that they should have given less fries and more fish or a bigger burger. He declares, "Over-sized French fry portions have created an explosion in the world seagull population".

CBC came back with an offer for me to "Take the Challenge" as a waiter for a day and I foolishly accepted. I spent a good part of last Thursday attempting to wait tables at the Old Dublin Pub downtown while cameras followed every move.

Let's just say that without the collegial and friendly assistance of Johnny, Arlene. Jenna, and Kathleen that I would have screwed up even more than I did. I now have a new respect for waiters and learned that the métier is probably one of the most difficult jobs out there.

I forgot beer orders, made a mess of each bill, and nervously attempted to get orders to tables on time. I was a multi-tasking mess throughout and was saved only by my colleagues, who covered for me.

Despite the mess-ups, I managed to garner some decent tips and readers will be able to view the episode this coming Thursday Oct 20 between 6 and 6:30 pm on CBC Montreal.

This week I simply offer a recipe for proper tipping procedures. Waiters do indeed deserve more respect than they are given, as I have learned.

An appropriate tip should be at least 15 percent of the bill. before taxes. In fact, the total of the two taxes that are broken out on a bill will provide you with an easy method of calculation as they total this figure.

If service is very good and attentive one might tip higher that 15 percent and you should remember that tips are taxed by the government and are usually withheld at the source by law. As well, waiters must often share tips with bus boys and other staff such as a bartender and that results in lesser take home pay. Combined with a common formula of wages that are below minimum and you have a scenario that justifies an appropriate tip just so an individual can make ends meet. Try to remember that waiters work in an extremely challenging environment that demands physical and mental stamina and a perpetual smile.

I'll be keeping my day job.