So, howsabout we turn the tables?

Restaurant servers are, in general, sadly under-appreciated for the difficult tasks they perform every day.

Although most waiters and waitresses treat their customers better than those customers would be treated in their own homes, servers are frequently stiffed on tips, chastised over chefs’ blunders, hassled over menu misprints and groped by pickled patrons.

It’s a sorry state of affairs, but not hopeless.

I think there’s a way we can take a positive step toward turning the tables on ungrateful restaurant patrons while, at the same time, making this nation a more polite and considerate place in which to consume lobster tails and Buffalo wings.

Here’s how it works:

Once a year, America will celebrate Servers’ Surprise Day, a 24-hour period during which diners will be judged on their attitudes and served accordingly.

Customers who are polite and respectful will promptly and cheerfully be presented with their orders, no matter how complex, on Servers’ Surprise Day. Even people who request rare liver with a side of pickled okra will be entitled to receive their orders in a expeditious and friendly manner if they remember to treat their servers at least as well as they would expect to be treated themselves.

This is a simple concept, yes?

On this special day, however, those diners who are demanding, rude, pig-headed, drunker-than-a-Cossack-at-a-Palm-Beach-wedding or generally unpleasant, will be treated accordingly by their normally attentive waitpersons – hence the “Servers’ Surprise.”

For example, let’s just say you show up at your favorite restaurant after eight martinis, demand in a loud, imperious voice to see an menu, tell your waitress you want the broiled sea bass “chop-chop” and then treat her to a resounding slap on her left buttock.

Because this is “Servers’ Surprise Day,” you receive – three to four hours later – a blackened goldfish served on a crispy bed of shredded cocktail napkins and garnished with chunks of reduced-for-quick-sale cactus.

Depending on your level of obnoxiousness, your waitress (on this special day only) will have the option of serving your seafood surprise on the table or on your shirtfront.

Particularly egregious behavior might even lead to the old yank-the-tablecloth-out-from-under-meal-and-leave-it-in-the-customers’-lap trick.


Of course, Servers’ Surprise Day would have to be backed by state – and possibly federal – law and be well-publicized so discourteous diners have adequate warning to plan their mealtimes and behavior accordingly.

This may, at first, result in some disgruntled diners, but chances are they were disgruntled to start with or they wouldn’t have shown up for dinner in a crummy mood.

Eventually, I’m sure Servers’ Surprise Day will result in both happier servers and happier diners.

And that’s a win-win situation for everyone, amigos…

Originally published on July 17, 2005