Things Your Server Might Be Lying About

Ever felt like your server wasn't quite being honest with you about something? 

In my many years in the service industry, I've worked alongside some of the nicest, most hard-working people I've ever met. And while many usually strive to be above-board, most of us would have to admit that even we, occasionally, might tell a small white lie or two if it helps us get through a particularly tough shift. 

Think your server may be lying to you? If they are, these are some of the most common server lies you're likely to encounter.

Is this organic?

A word to the wise, unless a restaurant's menu explicitly describes an item as being organic or grass-fed, it is fair to assume that it isn't. Descriptive words like that are a way to drive up prices on a menu, so you can be sure a restaurant isn't going to neglect to highlight that when they're calculating what kind of price tag to assign that dish.

I've known servers who would have no problem telling a customer that the fish of the day was wild-caught, or that those pork chops were from pastured, local pigs — whatever it took to get you to order the higher ticket item. In general, if the price of the item doesn't indicate it would be an upscale choice, you can bet that it isn't.

Is it fresh?

Nobody wants to hear that they're getting three-day-old fish, or that their filet mignon was sitting in the freezer since last month. Unfortunately, this lie is one that gets passed down to many servers from managers in the kitchen. At some places I've worked, the chef has wanted to move an item so badly, they would lie to the staff about how fresh something was, just to get it sold. And of course, it could just be that your server knows you won't order that pricey steak or fish unless you believe it to be fresh.

Unfortunately, you're just going to have to go with your gut on this one. Is this an establishment you trust? Is the food usually good? If not ... order the pasta.

Which wine do you recommend?

The chances of us having tried every single wine or beer we serve is highly unlikely. The chance that we're going to recommend the cheap house wine, when we could sell you a more expensive glass instead, is also highly unlikely. And, unless this is four or five star dining, we probably don't have an expert take on what will pair well with your meal. But many servers will pretend they do, and sell you a pricier wine to go with whatever that dish is that you are eating. Their level of confidence while they do it is likely to convince you they made a great choice.

Is it vegetarian?

This one makes me crazy, and I hate to tell you how common it really is. The truth is, many soups, stocks, sauces, gravies, rices, and mashed potatoes are made with chicken stock. And the truth is, many waiters and waitresses will tell you that they're not. Why would they do this? Because they're lazy, or don't know, or just don't care. Or even worse ... they're required to.

The absolute worst case of this was at a Mexican chain restaurant I worked at in Atlanta. The yellow rice that came as a side with practically every entree was made with chicken stock. Yet we were instructed by management to not tell our customers this, because it also came on the side of all of the items on the vegetarian-friendly section of the menu.

Makes me feel not so bad about them going out of business...

Who made the mistake?

I fully admit to pulling this one more than once in my illustrious career.

If I forget to ring in part of your order, or flat-out make a mistake and order you the wrong item, I'm gonna blame the kitchen. Nine times out of ten you're going to be the kind of person who can't really blame me for the kitchen's error. And if I'm apologetic enough, you're going to let me correct the kitchen's mistake without a manager needing to get involved. Heck, you might even tip me more than you usually would, because of how remorseful I was about that dang kitchen screwing up your meal.

Can we sit in that room?

When the last diners depart a restaurant at the end of a dinner shift, it's our job as servers to get that room ready for the workers coming in the next morning. That means cleaning the floors, wiping everything clean, and maybe even setting the tables. So when you decide to waltz in at 10:55 p.m. and request a table we've already cleaned, there's a really high chance we don't want you there. So a few things are going to happen. We're either going to brazenly lie, and tell you we're closed. Or, we're going to lie, and tell you the room or section you'd prefer to sit in is closed.

This will also happen at the end of a lunch shift, since we've gotten that dining room all nice and clean for the dinner crew. You'll sit where we want you to sit.

What's your favorite dish?

If you ask me what I think is better, the cheeseburger, or the shrimp dish, which do you think I am going to say? Even if I have a deathly shellfish allergy, I'm going to tell you the shrimp is the better choice. Why? Because it costs more, and the more money I can get guests to spend on their meals, the more money I have in my pocket when I leave later that night. I may even be incentivized with the possibility of rewards from management to push my overall sales, or sales of certain items.

Ever had a server who was just a tad bit too enthusiastic about one of the specials? Nobody gets that excited about red snapper.

Are you sure this is decaf?

When it's the middle of a busy shift, none of use feel like making a pot of fresh coffee. So here's where a couple of common server lies fall into place.

If a pot of regular is made, but not decaf, I'm probably going to tell you that we ran out of decaf earlier today, because I'm not cruel enough to serve you regular and try to pass it off as decaf. If decaf is made, I'll serve that to you, and tell you it's whatever you ordered. Hope you didn't really need that caffeine fix!

Do you have any more ... ?

A busy shift means we're likely to run out of things. It also means that both the floor and kitchen staff don't have the free time to run downstairs to storage to fetch items that just need to be restocked. Juices, salad dressings, butter, kegs of beer... are we really all out? Or are we just too busy (or too lazy) to be bothered? You be the judge.

Are the desserts made here?

Of the many, many restaurants I've worked at, only one of them actually made the desserts in-house. All of the others would order the desserts, pre-made, from whatever restaurant food supplier they used. Unless you're dining at the type of a place that employs a pastry chef, there's a good chance that restaurant does the same thing. If the restaurant offers generic sounding desserts like Toll House pie, Oreo cheesecake, and molten lava cake, I've got news for you — nobody was slaving over that in the kitchen. But lots of servers are going to tell you someone was, because desserts are a great way to add a nice little chunk of change to your bill, and you're more likely to order them if they were made in-house.

Can I get a double, half-caf cappucino?

The things that annoy us the most are the things we're going to have to make you ourselves. And you ordering those things when we're really busy is going to annoy us even more. Frozen drinks, cappuccinos, and espressos all fall into that category. If we're slammed, you better believe those appliances are suddenly going to be in dire need of a repairman, and he doesn't show up until tomorrow.

Where have you worked before?

The Catch-22 of waiting tables in many major cities is that to score a job at a restaurant, you have to have restaurant experience. In Manhattan, most places will require that you've worked elsewhere in Manhattan. So what's a person to do who's never balanced a tray of martinis before? Why, lie, of course. Some people have the knack for it, and pick it up pretty quickly. Others, well ... they might not last long, but they'll last long enough to spill a hot pot of coffee or two. Just hope it's not on you.