Parties: Come prepared or don't come at all
Welcome to In the Weeds. Kyle will be right with you -- most likely to complain about something. Usually he is pleasant, but this is his place to blow off some steam. Don't take it personally; he just needs to vent because he's been doing this for about thirteen years. Enjoy your meal.
Serving large groups is both my favorite and least favorite part of waiting tables. If your party had the foresight to call well in advance and decide on a set menu, then shows up on time, orders plenty of drinks and slaps down the company card, I love you (and if you pay with the American Express company card, I'm texting my friends to tell them drinks are on me before the payment goes through).
If your party calls the day of and wants to order off the normal menu and then a bunch of disorganized mouth-breathers show up twenty minutes late, I hate you. Here are some additional dos and don'ts; follow this list if you want to keep a server from stirring your drink with an unwashed finger.
Do: Arrange for a set menu. This is for your own good. Service will be smoother, kitchen mistakes will be minimized and it will be a better deal. Any reputable restaurant can work with your budget and provide options for everyone in your party. If you're ordering thirty different entrees with sauce on the side here, extra rice there, no onions on that and light salt on this, you're just asking the kitchen to mess something up.
Don't: Order 25 waters -- six with light ice, ten with no ice, four with lemon and five with lime. Or ask for continuous refills of free bread. Your group is likely taking a server's entire section and, depending on the day and how long you stay, it may be the server's only table that shift. So don't waste his or her time by loading up on the free shit and being a pain in the ass about it. If you are throwing a cheap party, let the restaurant know beforehand so it doesn't assign too many servers to your hydration festival.
Do: Get the hell out when it's time. If your party comes in on a busy weekend night or another party is scheduled after you, make way. Have you been the only table in the restaurant for an hour? Pay and let the staff go home. No restaurant I've worked at wants to push a party out the door, but a lack of advance warning and/or a busy night may necessitate it. If you agreed to leave by a certain time and the restaurant makes that possible with timely service, leave. Like, right now.
Don't: Ask for twenty split checks for thirty people. Ever. Ever. Ever. If you are so lacking in decency that you must ask for this, do it early. There is no more time-consuming task than splitting a group's bill after everything has been ordered. What's that? You're ready to leave or you need a coffee refill? Well, too bad -- your server is busy cursing, trying to remember who ordered the martini two hours ago and hoping a drunk woman wonders over to your table and spills a glass of wine in your lap.
Do: Have a plan. Groups without a set menu need a leader, so someone should grow some balls and order appetizers and wine for the table. Staring blankly at each other and shrugging your shoulders when the server asks what you would like to eat and drink is a great plan -- if you want your meal to suck. If you're all clueless zeros, then wipe the spittle off your chin and ask for some recommendations.
Don't: Get emboldened and start acting like a jerk-off. I want you to have a good time, but I've seen more than enough people start off courteous only to get a few drinks in them and start thinking they're the most important guests in the history of dining. Your party might be great for the restaurant, but the same rules of decency still apply. Don't snap your fingers, shake an empty glass and shout "Cocktail!" or start demanding dishes that aren't on the menu. No matter how important you think you are, you're just not going to get a hamburger at a sushi restaurant.