Guestpost #28: Ted Hallett – Ten things I’ve learned from working in restaurants for 15 years of my life

Ted Hallett is a very gifted actor, improviser, teacher, and all around terrific person. I credit his 101 class for reinvigorating my love of improv, and his emphatic teaching style for causing me to take it seriously. Here is his ITC bio:


For most actors, the restaurant industry is a common job to pay the rent and bills. From server to line cook, bartender to dishwasher, I’ve worked it all. Depending on what restaurant you work in, It’s a job where you can hustle your ass off for tax-free cash, then drop it at a moment’s notice for that Canadian Tire commercial you booked. The job has a very high employee turnover rate for a reason….it eats your soul.

  1. Name tags are not cool. As a server, you should have the choice to remain anonymous.
  2. Never. Never. Never. Have the soup.
  3. If a customer requests to pack up his left-over calamari, be fucking sure that the waiter has popped a few in his mouth.
  4. At some point, EVERYONE is an asshole.
  5. It’s true, black people LOVE chicken wings.
  6. Waiters have to tip out 4 to 5 percent of what they sell. If you stiff the guy at the end, you literally cost them money to serve you. If you can’t afford to tip, you have no business dining out in a restaurant. Stay the fuck home.
  7. Only douchebags smell the cork!
  8. If you’re mean to the waiter, they WILL fuck with your food.
  9. Smiles are NOT free.
  10. If you are relatively good-looking and a customer thinks they can have sex with you , you will make more money. If you’re ugly, you had better be funny and charming. Even with those qualities, ya got your work cut out for ya.


Filed under tenthingsivelearned, Uncategorized

13 responses to “Guestpost #28: Ted Hallett – Ten things I’ve learned from working in restaurants for 15 years of my life

  1. 5. I guess I’m black? Nope, black Irish. Nevertheless, I find the statement slightly offensive.
    6. I’ve worked in many jobs where tips were part or all of my wage and I disagree with your assertion entirely: the amount to tip should be determined by what the customer thinks of their experience, if the tips don’t pay your rent then find a job that will.
    8. Is only true of assholes, sadly too many people are assholes. No amount of rudeness would cause me (and probably others) to lower myself to such an action.
    10. Is sadly, for the most part, true.

  2. Alex

    5. Perhaps, but who doesn’t?
    10. Maybe this is just me, but: I usually do my best to tip generously, unless the server has been actively offensive in some way. I promise you, I know I’m not having sex with anybody. (On the extreme end of the spectrum, I’ve had waiters who’ve actually tried to pull the really obvious phony-flirty act on me, which never works; it makes me feel pretty uncomfortable about tipping them more than the usual 15%.)

    • I also love chicken wings and try to tip generously. I think this post is more a statement of what Ted has learned in his experience, with a wide variety of customers…

  3. Alex

    Oh, I know, and I didn’t mean what I wrote in an argumentative way, or to dismiss his experiences. I just thought it was an interesting list, figured I might as well chime in. I used to never go to restaurants, because I found the social interaction kind of terrifying; I couldn’t stop worrying that I was somehow being impolite to the server, or not observing proper restaurant etiquette. I only really started eating out a few years ago, and I still feel awkward ordering food. So, I find it an interesting subject.

  4. Liz

    Re: Newman’s #6, You disagree with Ted’s assertion? Are you asserting that customers shouldnt’ have to pay full tip?You can’t just disagree because you had a serving job that happened to work out for you. Ted is speaking from his experience, which I have found to speak for the majority of servers I’ve met. By essentially saying “Oh I worked for only tip and could still pay my rent,” you are implying that the onus is on the server t0 grin and bear it and hope (just HOPE) that the customer is satisfied enough with the groveling and/or flirting to receive a tip. You are also falling right into the hands of the exploitative practices of restaurant owners. Not something to be proud of.

    • Yes, I totally disagree with the assertion that if someone can’t afford the tip they shouldn’t dine out. The onus shouldn’t be on the customer to determine the wage of service staff. Unfortunately, restaurant/bar/club owners have capitalized on the idea of outsourcing manpower costs to their customers in such a way that now every customer is also a manager who determines an employee’s wage. If there is a required tip-out of 4-5% of each individual bill by the employee, it’s not the customer’s fault, but the employer’s. It is absurd to blame the customer who is unlikely to know this. It is also absurd to expect the customer to research this topic and find out that some employers do this. The customer shouldn’t be expected to participate in this at all. All that should be expected of them is to enjoy their meal and be a decent person to the staff as they do so. Being a decent person means being polite and respectful (unless in the event the staff are not so to them) but it does not mean that they are expected to pay above and beyond the price of the bill. If they do decide to pay above the bill, it should be treated as Alex below thought as a “thank-you”. This tip-out is generally meant for the house to gather a portion of the tips and distribute them to staff other than the server (kitchen, bussers, host) and for the server to complain about it suggests that they don’t feel that these other staff members contribute to the customer’s experience to sufficiently share in the “thank-you”. I would also add that there is generally a fiscal karma within this industry, where that one customer pays no tip another customer will pay a 30% tip. This is how I was able to shrug off the customer who didn’t or barely tipped. That’s how I remained unconcerned.

      But my main point is that tipping should be abolished and that restaurant/bar/club owners would then be required to pay a competitive wage for their staff, and if they felt that they couldn’t afford this, they’d have to raise their prices. That, to me, is the only acceptable way for a customer to be expected to participate in the wage of service staff, through the cost of goods. Because this does not require the customer to understand a complex system of supply and demand that is inconsistent from one place to the next. All they need to know is that the thing costs X and a % of X goes to the workers This is how things are done in the real world.

  5. Liz

    P.s. “finding a job that will (pay your rent)” is made harder when other people in the workforce are willing to work for less than minimum wage. Jus’ sayin…

  6. Alex

    I’d actually never heard of “tipping out” until I read this post yesterday, and didn’t understand It until looking it up just now, so I finally get why this is such a hot-button topic (sorry, I shouldn’t talk unless I know what people are talking about). That’s really absurd. Minimum wage should be minimum wage, period. I always assumed the tip was just a thank-you gesture that always went directly to the server. Maybe there are others like me who just don’t understand how it works? I’m sure if more people knew, tips would be bigger.

  7. Can we all agree that servers deserve to be paid a fair wage? That’s reasonable…right?

    • That goes without saying. Something needs to be done about the service industry. It’s not the real world in comparison to the rest of Canada. It’s generally a place where staff are treated as chattel with high turnover, no one cares about your experience, skills or worth as an individual and where if one is in a bad mood due to something else in their life it’s accepted practice to take it out on someone who is not involved (this is true of customers and employees). In addition it is a place where women are not treated equal and have come to expect to be treated like meat and sexually harassed. If an establishment is not a chain, this is generally found to be the case. It’s funny that in this case the corporation is a boon, because they have HR departments and are very concerned with following proper employment practices and especially worried about being fined by the Human Rights Tribunal. But when it comes to private small businesses, it’s like they’ve never heard of the rights that Canadians take for granted. Part of the problem is that too few employees understand that they can lodge a complaint to the Labour Board and (more importantly) the Human Rights Tribunal and in general, remain anonymous. Both of these organizations conduct forensic investigations by contacting former employees who are no longer afraid to speak about what actually happens in a given place and the person who raised the complaint is rarely expected to testify to anything. Many of these businesses need a kick in the pants by the way of hefty fines they can’t really appeal against to smarten them up.

    • Alex

      Agreed. I’m really glad I read this post and the comments, I feel like I have a much better understanding of the topics covered.

  8. dawn marie galgay

    Love this!! Hilarious!

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