It’s Time for Diners to Ask the Servers: How Are You Doing?

Oct 02, 2020 · 103 comments
While I agree with most everything in the article, the closing sentiment stating that folks should tip them as if they deserve hazard pay. They dont. This is not what hazard pay is for. Its not an essential job and eating out is a luxury. I do think that in general, servers and other restaurant worker deserve more money and the sources of that should be the employer. Sure, tip if you like but they shouldn't be reliant on the patrons. I know this is a real world scenario and for some reason Americans are obsessed with tipping for some reason. Maybe because of the potential of making much more than the minimum wage or the thought that if we treat servers like humans and pay them appropriately then food costs will go up.. But back to my original comment. I do not agree with the hazard pay statement. Hazard pay should be reserved for things like, firemen/paramedics/police, line workers, miners, workers in certain construction projects, people in warzones, pretty much people whose jobs are necessary and put them in immediate bodily harm. Im not trying to downplay the stress of working in a restaurant, which I did for years. Im just want to voice my opinion on the fact that dining in restaurants is not a necessity, so if people tip larger than normal, it should be bc they're gracious about the fact that they are able to eat out. Not because servers are in some dangerous situation and the community wont survive without the service.
Paulette T (White Plains)
I do ask and I do thank. I thank check out people. Some really do not want you to slow them down, of course..."don't chat".
Phil (J)
The ‘Ol Redhead (Great state of NJ)
Waiters ‘everything is not fine’. As succinct a reason (however sad) not to dine indoors.
T (Maine)
Good Lord. Those servers and diners are the same people I’ve been waiting on at a grocery store deli since day one of this pandemic. I’ve been imploring people (who aren’t actually eating) to wear masks—now law in CT—and still have to explain that every shift. All for minimum wage and no tips. And no health insurance.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
I find it interesting that many comments deal with a mutual or bilateral relationship, either explicitly or between the lines, of customer-server. The goal of a restaurateur is to maximize his take, which means paying as little as possible to his staff and keeping the ratio per customer of cost/intake also low. No restaurateur is OBLIGATED to serve any one, and no one is obligated to support a restaurant. There will always be eateries as long as people want to have their food served to them.
If you go into a restaurant, wear a mask when it is appropriate to do so and follow the restaurants guidelines. When you see restaurant staff correcting someone, say thank you on behalf of all of us.
B. (Brooklyn)
I find that people look better wearing masks. I don't have to notice their expressions, which are so often distasteful. Eric Trump, for example. He looks better in a mask. All I have to see are his squinty eyes and greased-back hair, and not his perpetual sneer. So too in restaurants. Stick the food in your mouth and then put on the mask! Then I don't have to see you chew.
Witz (Port Chester, ny)
When I ate out with my family for the first time in 4 months, inside a local restaurant, I immediately noticed that other diners dropped their masks as soon as they ordered. This felt really uncomfortable to me, yet my family didn't share my feelings. This article, and more like it, should be shared more broadly and deeply so waiters are made less vulnerable to COVID19; others who think it an imposition can go find an automat.
High Desert Rat (Southwest US)
I won't eat indoors at a restaurant during the pandemic. Since the lockdown was eased in mid-June, I have eaten outdoors at a restaurant 4 times. I never felt fully comfortable any of those times. I always put my mask on when the server or bus person was by the table out of respect for their health. While I love dining out, during the pandemic I prefer to carry out or cook at home. Frozen food from Trader Joe's will do in a pinch. Also, since portions at most restaurants are so large, I immediately ask the server for a take-home box and put half in the box to enjoy it the next day (an old Weight Watcher's trick, btw.)
tire36 (San Francisco)
Another attempt by NYT to teach people common sense. As to the lecture on asking about the server's well being is no different than urging customers to tip more or some such baloney.
Eric Murphy (Brooklyn)
Maybe a lot of people need to be taught common sense. Or at least common decency and empathy toward fellow human beings.
S (Chicago)
@Eric Murphy The people that need it aren't reading these kind of articles.
rose (pepper)
You absolutely should tip more if you are going out to eat during a pandemic and putting people who make the lowest hourly (and are mostly uninsured) in the country at risk!
Brian (Oakland, CA)
I'm a product developer. There's a necessary solution here. People spread virus when they speak. It's dangerous for servers because customers lower or remove their masks when they sit, and especially when they order. That's a first order risk - direct droplet transmission. Place settings should include a "mask on a stick." We've all seen pictures of "masked balls" where attendees hold face masks up to cover their eyes. Why not the same thing for mouths? A mask on a stick could be made out of stiff paper, which impedes virus passage. Cheap, it could be printed with the restaurant, or even server's name. Next to your knife, perhaps. Servers request you use it when speaking to them. Reasonable people can use it when not actively eating or drinking. We go to restaurants to socialize. Talk and laugh. Put down your fork, pick up your mask. The helps second order risk - aerosol transmission. Diners would either leave "mask on a stick" at the table, where gloved and masked bus-persons collect it in a bag, or the customer deposits it in a receptacle on the way out. I've got 7 patents on various high tech stuff. This isn't that. Maybe somebody can do it, and say they got the idea from from NYT Comments!
Barbara T (Swing State)
Shouldn't you be keeping conversation down to a minimum, though? Especially since diners are unmasked and the waiter has to get pretty close to them? Maybe just get carry out.
JC (Pennsylvania)
@Barbara T Take out is a good way to go. And I agree conversation should be kept to a minimum. If people insist on dining-in the least they can do is wear a mask at all times when not eating as well as having looking up the menu before hand and ready to order all at once, I am sure the wait staff would appreciate taking orders for appetizer, main, and dessert all at once (requiring less trips to each table), I read another article written by a restaurant employee in which they ask customers to make all requests at once for things like ketchup and extra napkins. And customers really should be pouring their own drinks, do you want someone else touching a bottle right before you touch it, customers really need to think.
mary bardmess (camas wa)
I am sorry for the whole restaurant business, and the farms that supply them. I have a good friend who raises a dozen prime beeves for a handful of expensive San Francisco restaurants. Famous chefs come to his ranch and bid for each carcass. I got to try some, once:) You can't buy this kind of food in a grocery store. Now these huge steers are living happily ever after in a lovely pasture. It will be a long time before I ever go inside a restaurant again. I do not understand anyone who feels safe to do so. Curb-side pickup works very well for me. Delivery, even better. While restaurants struggle to do what they do in a pandemic, grocery stores can't keep up with new demands on their supply chains. Catering could thrive in this new world with a few tweaks.
Urban.Warrior (Washington, D.C.)
It's still time for people not to even be in restaurants. Sadly.
Paul (New York City)
@JC, is just as presumptuous for you to suppose another scenario, when none of us will ever know why his mask slid down. I think that Lily was just offering to share a scenario that she’s experienced, to demonstrate the fact that we do actually find ourselves in these positions lately. Not all guests are belligerent, you’re right and I’m sure she’d agree with you. We in the industry have indeed noticed some attitude creeping back from guests. Where a couple of months ago there was much more empathy and slack being given to restaurant workers, it hasn’t taken long for the entitlement to start to rear its head again. But hey, this is NYC, where dining out is a way of life, and restaurants that can’t cut it are quickly sorted and parsed. Those with the skills to deal with it (and skillful managers to back them up) are doing fine. And for those giving themselves over to a little too much whining and self-pity I say come on! You’re pirates and fighters. You always have been. We work longer and harder hours under worse conditions, and it’s always been our lot to work with grace under pressure, to kill them with kindness and to laugh with each other while we’re doing it. And as for the Yelpers, isn’t it nice to throw your unsolicited and unqualified opinions out there into an echo chamber because you were made to feel sad for some reason? We hope it makes you feel better, but no one reads your “reviews” more than you do yourself, you know that, right?
Nick (Manhattan)
I'm a manager and I relate to the "numb." I try to do the "police" work so my staff can just try to do their jobs, but at the end of the day it's impossible. My staff is at risk because people don't think or care about them, and even if it's unintentional it's very ugly. They are risking their lives, many of them with no other real choice, so that people can eat out. It's garbage. They are not essential workers, they're sacrificial workers that society has decided are expendable.
S (Chicago)
@Nick At the end of the day you cannot have indoor dining without large amounts of risk even if everyone follows every rule. People will be eating and talking while they are eating (because that's what humans do when they eat) for a significant part of their time in the restaurant. The person putting the staff at the most risk is not the customers, it's the management who opens the doors to indoor dining. There is no "safe" way to do it.
Sam (new york)
I should provide hazard pay through tips? How utterly insane! If tips are in fact defacto hazard pay, then it's time to change the ridiculous system of how servers get paid, once and for all. Until that happens, I'll be staying far away from restaurants - the hazard is mine, too.
Bob (USA)
@Sam Please stay away from restaurants if you're grouchy about tipping a little more during a pandemic! Generosity always come back to you-- try and remember that when you are out and about.
For comparison, consider teachers supervising school lunch in the cafeteria
Patricia (Tempe AZ via Philadelphia PA)
You know, it is not "too much" to acknowledge ALL of the workers at your favorite "restaurant/takeouts/drive ups" for their perseverance and "open to the public" personas they project for their hard work and persistence in these times. It's ten seconds as you're leaving/accepting your packets- just say "thanks for being here today! Stay safe!" No - it's not enough (sheesh - did you not tip? Yes - you need to tip for takeout that you pick up. Duh.) But we need to be better at acknowledging the hard work others do so our lives seem easier.
Linda Doria (Santa Fe, NM)
I think the public needs to be educated on their role in keeping waitstaff safe during this time and I applaud your comments in that regard. If they would take just a moment to imagine what it feels like for the waiter who is leaning in to clear your table while you, as a group, are talking and laughing with your masks on your chins, perhaps all would become clear. However, in lieu of that fantasy, I vote for table top cards reminding guests to mask up when a waiter approaches a table in support of hard working staff.
S (Chicago)
@Linda Doria The problem is it's all safety theatre when it comes to indoor dining. Even if they put on masks while the staff is near them, there will still be a significant amount of time when they are eating, talking, and heaven forbid laughing by themselves. And the virus does not instantly disappear when no one is around, it can linger in the air for hours. "Safe" indoor dining is a complete joke regardless of what precautions are made.
Debbie (Santa Cruz)
Yes ask your server How Are You Doing? AND say THANK YOU, that they are still out there serving the public during a pandemic. Your attempt of injecting a bit of normalcy back into your life, is at their peril. Where a mask. Be respectful. And say Thank You!
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
Rereading all the impassioned comments about eating in restaurants and bilateral ettiquette of guest-server interactions, I ask myself, does going to a restaurant merit such an outpouring of emotions? At these times of morsl, spiritual, intellectual, and corporal trials of the pandemic, one is better of to orderi take-out, buy ready-to-go foods or cook at home to the best of one's abilities, from a crude cook to imitating the great chefs of the 14th to 21st century.
Miamirower (Miami)
The real problem: None of this sounds at all like an enjoyable meal. Bring a sweater? Keep the windows open in cold weather? Tip as if workers deserve hazard pay? Wear a mask throughout the meal? Most servers are gifted and hard-working. And in the before times I loved being the beneficiary of their talents. But paying extra to eat while bundled up in a cold room while wearing a mask? Does that sound like a sustainable economic model?
Loofah (NYC)
@Miamirower "paying extra to eat while bundled up in a cold room while wearing a mask? Does that sound like a sustainable economic model?" I think it will have to be for a while.... if we want to keep restaurant workers employed.
JC (Pennsylvania)
@Loofah It's not the customer's responsibility to "keep" the restaurant workers employed. It's like in all businesses, if there is a demand for the product, service or experience the customers will come and the owner will make money therefore the employees will have jobs; no demand = no jobs.
JC (Pennsylvania)
@Miamirower I agree, when the environment in which one dines is more burdensome than pleasant dining out seems unworthy of the cost or risks.
Michael (Concord, ma)
"As for the customers who don’t lean back when he has to reach in to clear a plate" Is it asking too much for patrons to clear their own table by placing dishes etc on a rolled up cart? Similarly, why not deliver the order that way? Sort of inside curbside service. Even if multiple $$hundreds per meal, are we not all in this together?
S (Chicago)
@Michael Then you might as well get fast casual or takeout from a cheaper place. Which is indeed what most are doing and why a lot of mid to upper level restaurants are about to be eviscerated.
JayZee (New York, NY)
I have to thank the Times for helping me to know that’s it’s ‘masks up’ as soon as anyone comes to the table when dining indoor or outdoors. For my very first restaurant pandemic meal, I was outdoors with a friend. We were such novices and also so thrilled to not have to cook again that we lost ourselves in conversation and good food. We barely noticed the waiter coming and going. I was mortified after I read the article about how much we had put the staff at risk. It just didn’t cross our minds. Today’s indoor brunch went a lot better. We left our masks under our chins so it was easy to put them back on in a flash. The staff really seemed to appreciate it and we them tipped well. It was wonderful to eat at a table inside again. And the restaurant manager took the time to get my friend’s name and phone number for contact tracing since they already had mine from making the reservation. Maybe that’s the new standard here? It was also so nice to see so many people out and about with masks on, enjoying the day. It gave me hope that, one more time, this great city will come through.
AJ (Midwest.)
@JayZee May I recommend a “ mask chain” ( akin to a pretty necklace...preferred by many women ) or “mask lanyard” ( plain thin fabric strap, preferred by many men ) which allows your mask to be there in front of you without leaving it on your chin which really seems to me to be rather unsightly.
Marge Keller (Midwest)
"Tip as if your servers deserved hazard pay, because they do" A server's job was tough and grueling long before this pandemic. They do so much and get paid so little. The best way to show one's appreciation for all they do is with a healthy tip. If I can afford to eat out and spend that kind of money, then I can surely kick in a handsome tip. Exceptional article Mr. Wells. Thank you for bringing these issues to many a reader's attention.
Mon Ray (KS)
Of course is it important to ask how servers and other restaurant personnel are doing. It is also important to know, or find out, how and to what extent restaurant personnel are exposed to Covid-19 when they are off the job. Do they wear masks and social-distance while off the job? Do their families, loved ones and other frequent non-work contacts wear masks and social-distance at home and when not at home? The train of exposure to and transmission of the disease has many layers of human contacts, not just from server to patron or vice-versa. My wife and I are in our 70’s and therefore at much greater risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying if we contract the virus compared to those under 65. For this reason we are restricting our restaurant dining to take-out until such time as a cure/vaccine is available for people in our age group. Yes, take-out meals have some risk compared to cooking and dining in one’s home, but we do take-out rarely and only from a select few restaurants that we know well and which enforce virus protocols with staff and patrons.
JoanP (Chicago)
In a couple of places that I've dined, I've noticed differences in behavior by staff as they approached the table. In one, the servers always give a verbal warning when they are bringing food or clearing plates. In another, the server approached from an angle that prevented me from seeing him until he was reaching to put down the plate. Because people who are eating, and talking with table mates, don't always notice what's going on around me, staff should always make their presence known.
Exeuropean (Sf; California)
I used to work as a waiter a long time ago in a very famous San FRancisco restaurant. In those days there still was a smoking section. Once every 5 weeks I got that section for a week. Many tmes I got the onset of a cold and throat irrigation , not only because of the smoke but also because a lot of customers were out-of -towners who brought with them all kinds of germs. I think a waiter is a very under appreciated profession. These days its all about the cooks and all these TV-and cable programs seem t hold a dim view of my former profession
Carla Way (Austin, TX)
If you are coming to this now, you have been remiss in your role as an active participant in restaurant culture. They've been people all along.
Kano (Lawrence, KS)
Thanks for the article. I've always preferred dining out during off-peak hours, so I'd feel comfortable eating indoors in a non-crowded/well-ventilated establishment. I've always leaned back (and/or moved my empty dishes away from me). People do need to be aware of servers as fellow humans who can catch (and transfer) germs. I'm not sure that attitudinal change is possible, though. I've never worked as a server, but I have worked in janitorial services, and have found one way to become completely invisible is to carry a broom. I imagine the same dynamic is at play here. Let's hope a new category is added to the restaurant health inspections - COVID safety rules.
AJ (Midwest.)
We eat outside but not inside. We pull up our masks as soon as we see a server approach. BUT the key here is that we see them. Servers need to help us help them. We have several times experienced servers who quickly appear at the table while we are looking down, trying to cut our meat or put butter on a roll. We have also had many good servers who make an announcement from several feet away. “Hi!ready for me to remove the salad plates now? Or ready to order your dessert?” We then have time to put our masks on. Bad servers who don’t give a moments notice for us to mask up like those who used to ask if everything is ok while everyone has just taken a bite, make it difficult for their guests (and in these circumstances unsafe for themselves.)
JDStebley (Portola CA/Nyiregyhaza)
I have been inquiring about the mental well-being of those serving my dinner since they first started returning to their jobs, even those at drive-up windows. And my tips are now half my bill, even though I can't really afford it. But I can afford to do everything I can to protect those who earn their living by simply providing a service. Having spent years in the service industry, I know the hidden dangers and they are only worse in our present climate. Do your best to be thoughtful. Remember the Golden Rule we followed before the Trump Times.
Diane (Westchester Co)
I’m a server here to confirm, diners are indeed getting more careless by the week. We understand your desire to “take a break” from the stresses of life during a global pandemic, and want to provide you with a great experience. But pulling off your masks before you sit, not using the hand sanitizer we provide, and not leaning back when we have to reach for your plates are selfish acts of willful delusion, putting us at risk for $8.65/hr plus tips. We are literally dependent on diners to provide us with a living wage. Be kind, be generous and be mindful that we are human beings, just like you, living with all the same stresses and uncertainty.
Simon de Swaan (Eagle, Colorado)
Waiting tables is difficult enough without having to police customers’ behavior. Add alcohol to the mix and you get a situation of controlling belligerent guests who don’t care about anyone else other than themselves. This is sad beyond belief.
Phil (N Va)
I am not going to an indoor restaurant until the vaccine is out and enough people take it. One has to be insane to go before that happens. The staff are the mercy of the customers who, by my definition, are insane.
Red (Brooklyn)
I could write a dissertation on this subject. In 2006 Mr. Frank Bruni went undercover and waited tables in Cambridge, Massachusetts he discovered a great deal. Mr. Wells you could go do a stint in Los Angeles or Charleston and find out what it is truly like. In service is in service no matter how many people try to tell you otherwise. It is an unspoken class scenario. Thank You for your compassion in trying to understand it in any event. After 34 years of being at the top of the game many Four Star and Michelin I will not reenter the Thunderdome. Laid off in March the restaurant closed permanently in June. I never envisioned myself unemployed in this lifetime. "I work therefore I am." We were packed when the pandemic hit. If one day all workers are seen as equal to a customer intellectually and spiritually let me know. When you step out of the restaurant your degree and artistic pursuit exists, step back in and you are in service. It is not a good thing or a bad thing it is just a reality. In the meantime all donations should go to World Central Kitchen to feed out of work Restaurant staff to feed their families. This is the horror, people in Queens in Food Bank Lines who six months ago were working in the most in demand restaurants in New York City. "Attention must be paid" to fix a community that needs structure, health care, proper culture. I worry for my former colleagues , a deadly disease with no health insurance is not the way.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
@ Red Brooklyn Applause to your long memory of Mr. Frank Bruni. I urged him unsuccessfuly a couple of times to write an analysis of the connections between the politicians' platforms and their dietary habits. Looking at the photos of Trump devouring cheeseburgers held in the hand, I believe such connections exist. And Ishould not be surprised, if Trump used his extra long tie to wipe the lips post-cheeseburger. He can undoubtedly afford frequent dry cleaning or replacement of three-figure-dollar silken ties.
AutumnLeaf (Manhattan)
Some of us are long time visitors to our watering holes. My pizza place at the corner, I have knows staff and owners since 1997. When I went back to Wolfgang's at 41st street the weekend they opened, they greeted me as a friend. My now defunct pub, I dated the waitress that became the manager, the owner's daughter who eventually ran the joint, my sister took me home some nights when I was grateful to be swimming in safe waters as I still cannot remember half the night. That's how deep our roots went, our places and us. If I come in and see your windows and door are open, I will not for a moment question why. You are putting it all on the line for me to have a good meal, I will be there for you. Thank you for making the effort. I shall repay you with visits and cooperation. Restaurants should have a notice - 'NOTE, NEW RULES FOR 2020. IF YOU CANNOT FOLLOW, GO SOMEPLACE ELSE'. If people cannot understand why, I suggest they go back to the hole they have been hiding in for the past year.
Douglas B. Levene (Portland, Oregon)
I won't eat in a restaurant until a vaccine is widely available. I might consider eating at an outdoor table, but only if it's not on the sidewalk or the street, and the tables are far apart. Other people might have a different risk/reward profile than me, but that's my rule.
Alan (Columbus OH)
Sometimes the kindest thing to do is demonstrate the decency that too many political figure lack and just stay away. Desperate businesses cut corners, and virtually all dine-in restaurants are desperate. There is nothing good that can come of this.
Gini D
My heart goes out to these folks. As a career food service employee (now retired) I can attest that in the best of times it was difficult. Unimaginable now.
Thomas S (Prospect, CT)
Well said. In ordinary times, patrons who put others in danger would be barred from the establishment. In these dire economic circumstances, restaurant owners and staff walk a risky tightrope. Still, it might set a good example if egregious offenders were summarily-and publicly- ejected. Owners and staff are desperate for revenue but would-be diners are equally desperate for the socialization that goes with eating out. Enforcement of some discipline would help to ensure everyone’s survival. I’ve heard getting through the pandemic described as shifting from a sprint to a marathon. It’s time that we all learn to live with a new, equally applied, set of rules.
Skiplusse (Montreal)
Heard of the mythic second wave? It’s upon us in Montreal. All restaurants are closed except for takeout for the whole month of October. So...take advantage of your restaurants while it lasts.
Steven Kolpan (Woodstock,NY)
Having to advise or admonish people to inquire "How are you doing?" indicates that our humanity, our empathy, our sense of equality, are some quaint notions that need to be "brought back." If the diner does not express genuine concern for the plight of the server - and other front-line workers; teachers, nurses, clerks, janitors, and on and on - then we know that we not only have a health pandemic, but we also have a class pandemic. Let's face it: restaurants, schools, and other super-spreader environments should not be open until safe for all concerned. Putting your mask on when a server approaches the table does not kill the virus you spread from talking, laughing, yawning without a mask. It's a nice gesture, but gesture is all that it is. Likewise, we require our teachers and school staff to work in schools that are poorly ventilated, and where an older worker with co-morbidity issues is a sitting duck to become the next COVID patient. Our government seems to care little about the health, safety, and basic needs of all but the wealthiest among us. Even now the Administration is in the courts trying to destroy health care for all. Yes, close the restaurants until they are truly safe for all concerned, but our government must help to relieve the financial burden cast upon the blameless workers, the victims, of this pandemic. We are all taxpayers; the Trump administration has made us feel as though he and his rich minions would be giving us their money. Not true.
David F (NYC)
My wife and I both worked in the industry (I as chef, she as pastry chef, we both also waited as needed) for 2 decades. In the unlikely event we go out to eat, it will be to a fine restaurant, generally one that pays its staff a living wage. We always ask after the waiters, thank them and the rest of the staff, and overtip if tipping is necessary. We're the outliers, "gentlemen" such as the 5pm diner here and the loud laughers are the norm. I can't imagine being a restaurant worker during this time; it must be truly horrific. This article makes me think perhaps we should make an effort to go out and help make somebody a little less numb. By the way, "waiter" is a perfectly fine word, it means "one who waits," we've used it since the early 70s. The other variations are tortured formations. Why did "comedienne" become "comedian," "authoress" "author," "actress" "actor" (much of the time and growing), but "waitress" not "waiter"? And please, never try to give me a servant.
Bruce (Spokane WA)
@David F - for most of us, "server" (not servant) works pretty well.
Keith Baker (Utah)
It's time to follow the EU and increase server pay and end tipping.
S (Chicago)
@Keith Baker For how much waiters complain about tips, every attempt to move away from that model has resulted in them making less money. Numerous restaurants have tried it in the US, all eventually return to a tipping.
Edith Fusillo (The South)
I have always believed that we can know a lot about a person's character by watching how he treats those who serve him-as wait staff, cleaning staff, cashiers, or in any position of service. To treat a server as chaff is unacceptable.
Lucy (NJ)
Yes we need to care about the restaurant workers. And the secretaries and the transportation workers and delivery people. This goes for teachers too, but nobody is asking. My colleagues are completely physically and mentally exhausted, simultaneously teaching in-person and online every day, full school days, while sitting in rooms filled with potential virus for upwards of an hour per class, six different classes a day. But nobody cares. As long as all the parents who complain about everything constantly can keep having their large group backyard bbq's, beach trips, coffee runs and dinners out on their weekends and send the kids back into the classroom on Monday, everything is running great right?
SLB (vt)
How are educators doing? For some odd reason, they seem to continue to be last on the list of groups people and the media are concerned about. Yes, let's do our best to make all public-facing workers safe.
JJJC (Jersey City)
You ask a fine and valuable question about educators, but individual newspaper articles obviously cannot cover every topic. This article, from the food section, is about restaurant workers, and that is fine and valuable as well...
Mike (New York)
Excellent article. The average tip is 15 to 20 percent based on diner’s practice to double the tip in the metropolitan NY area. Dining out has become a privilege. If you can afford to dine out, tip at least 20 percent if not more. Restaurant employees worked hard before the pandemic and are now working even harder.
cat (here)
We might back up these fine sentiments by supporting restaurant, delivery, driver, and big store workers by supporting their efforts to unionize and gain crucial worker, health and safety protections. NYT, could you cover these kinds of organizing efforts? Thanks!
RSM (Philadelphia)
Restaurant workers should be commended for serving us under difficult circumstances. Wearing a mask for hours and maintaining one’s composure and hoping they are not exposed to Covid is extra stressful. We should never say “it’s their job” or “if they don’t like to wait on us let them choose another line of work”. I try to say “Thank you” and “How are things going with you” if only to show my appreciation.
Teresa (Seattle)
This has been true from the start. Many of us are fortunate to sit home on our laptops and receive our same salaries. Meanwhile store clerks, restaurant workers making takeout or dine in meals, bus drivers, salespersons, baristas, and such risk their health for services we enjoy when we venture out of our safe cocoons. Put your mask on for them and ask how they are.
Matt Polsky (White, New Jersey)
This is wonderful in helping us see what we had been oblivious to and putting us in others' shoes. Our sensitivities, awareness, behavior, expectations are going to have to shift, and not just in our roles as customers in restaurants, but in so many other areas, and not just for this one pandemic. Speaking as one who thought they had already done this, but been admonished when visiting another area where they are more strict, I realized I had gotten a little sloppy. We have to take this to another level. It isn't just those in denying-parts of the country. Denial, rationalizations, wishful thinking, ignorance of science or not getting that it, too, evolves are now relics. So it's more than what happens in a restaurant, although it's a nice model. It's a lot bigger than that. It doesn't hurt that the article is so well written.
ServerNYC (NYC)
I left my restaurant job— that I’ve been in for over 6 years because of the exact same reasons Mr. Wells discusses. The guests are absolutely disrespectful of the staff, they do not care, most guests think it’s back to normal, and in an industry where the mentality of the guest is always right still exists— a lot of restaurant owners and managers still take the side of the guests over the safety of their staff. I’m heartbroken to leave the industry, but it’s not worth it anymore, everything that made it special and exciting has disappeared, now it’s just terrifying and degrading. Our job has become to police the guests and pray they don’t resent us and still tip 20% (which a lot don’t, even now). I know of a lot of other people who have also left the industry for good after this experience, NYC is losing a lot of talented servers because of the way we have been treated by guests and owners.
2020 (New York)
@ServerNYC What nobody seems to get is that Restaurants, Retail, Transportation, Housing, Medical care, Hospitals, Hotels, Airlines, Travel, Education, Training and Employment is going to have to change with the times. Industries will contract and that is not a bad thing. What needs expanding at this time will have an opportunity to grow which has needed a reckoning for a long long time. We have been going in the wrong direction for far too long. Leaving too many behind as the Museums, Broadway, Cultural Institutions, cater to Tourists who are no longer touring and spending from around the world. New York cannot continue to keep all the Hotels it has since nobody is flying or staying in them. The era of 50 million dollar apartments in NYC is over. We can tend to affordable housing, training for real jobs, building new schools which are desperately needed across the Country, New Hospitals and Medical Schools to train Dentists, Doctors, Nurses and other jobs up and down the Medical care delivery line. All of this is needed, not giving another 50 Billion dollars of taxpayer money to the Airline Industry which has not spent one penny of their own profits to keep workers. We need an adjustment in our goals and thinking. No better time than right now. If we are to survive.
NYC Taxpayer (East Shore, S.I.)
@ServerNYC '...Our job has become to police the guests...' Just wait till you are forced to ask patrons for personal information for 'contact tracing.' No offense to you but I'm not going to give some restaurant employee my real name/phone#/email, etc.
Lindsey K (NYC, NY)
Thank you for sharing. The tone has absolutely changed from late June and this a fairly accurate reflection of the extra risk. Lacking is a mention of the extra physical toll of moving furniture each day, extra side work with less support staff and chefs and the looming uncertainty of November 1.
Alec (USA)
Thank you Mr Wells for a wonderful article full of sensible and common sense advice . I have made it a point while dining out to always wear my mask when interacting in any way with the staff. It just makes sense if they have to wear a mask to protect me why would I not want to do that for them. It is a sad situation really that an article like this is deemed to be necessary .Americans and not just New Yorker's are so self absorbed that they truly think of no one but themselves . Of course it does not help in that where we used to look for example we see this attitude on full throttle. One would have hoped that the pandemic might have made people kinder this does not seem to be the case at all.
John Virgone (Pennsylvania)
The virus is a patient and opportune entity. It is waiting for foolish behavior on the part of it's week-willed hosts. Why NYC is providing the fodder for reemergence (opening schools, restaurants, etc) is beyond comprehension. Letting our guard down or outright denying the danger is folly, a lesson that should be made clear by the newest patient at Walter Reed.
Urban.Warrior (Washington, D.C.)
John, I agree with you completely but the reality is that the republican government , Mr. trump and mcconnell can't, won't created a safety net for the millions of people who need to work. Smaller countries, socialist governments are managing but even for them it's difficult.
JBC (Indianapolis)
Health professionals are saying in-restaurant dining is either a risk or outright unsafe. Restaurants can't hope their way to surviving under that advice without making significant changes. While it would not be feasible or desirable for all, I wonder if more restaurants could turn their servers into delivery people, preserving their chance to make tips, decreasing risky in-person dining, and eliminating the high fees they pay to third-part delivery services.
Mar (NYC)
Being a server requires a very different amount of skills than being a delivery person, comes with a completely different amount of risks as well. This is not a solution— our skills rest in curating a dining experience for the guests, having to transfer that into delivery work doesn’t even make sense and most servers would probably not even feel safe doing it cause we don’t have the skills to fulfill that job.
NYC Taxpayer (East Shore, S.I.)
@JBC ' dining is either a risk or outright unsafe...' Yet the subways are operational and large crowds of protestors tie up the city at will. That Covid-19 virus is pretty smart not infect people blocking the Brooklyn Bridge but 'killing' people having a burger and fries.
JBC (Indianapolis)
@Mar One prominent Seattle restaurant has already done this to great success: But as I clearly stated, doing something similar may be neither feasible nor desirable for some. But not every server performs the same type of hospitality role that you describe. It varies widely by establishment and doing delivery might be preferable for some than being laid off or working in less safe conditions for tips from a small number of customers.
Genevieve La Riva (Brooklyn)
Thank you for this. Consideration for the health of these workers is the highest form of kindness. Be kind!
Thank you thank you thank you for continuing to discuss the safety of those who work in hospitality. This virus is airborne. There is no “safe” way to eat indoors so long as removing a mask is part of the equation; there are only ways to mitigate the risk that only continues to become more obvious with time. I wonder what policy changes are to come about when the CDC finally acknowledges airborne transmission officially (again). Now is not the time to pretend things are normal. Restaurants were allowed to open indoors because of a lawsuit, not because it was ever safe to do so. We need to acknowledge the situation we’re in and focus on safety. Eat outdoors, get takeout. It’s not the workers you should be afraid of, it’s the workers that are afraid of you.
JC (Pennsylvania)
@PJ I am also interested to see what changes with the CDC. Trump administration has corrupted the CDC and it will be interesting to see what changes.
NYC Taxpayer (East Shore, S.I.)
@PJ Restaurants in the rest of New York state are open with 50% capacity with no covid-19 spikes. A restaurant in Queens can only is limited to 25%, yet right down the block in Nassau County 50% is working out. The NYC restaurant business is near collapse, even restaurateurs that own their buildings are failing. We know deBlasio has had it in for NYC restaurants since his first day in office. He loves the 25% limit because it will destroy an industry he never liked anyway because it's something middle-class people enjoy. But Cuomo is maybe just a little smarter and needs to overrule deBlasio immediately.
S (Chicago)
@NYC Taxpayer The only thing 50 vs 25% let's the restaurant do is fail a little less quickly. Even 75% is unsustainable for any sit-down geared restaurant. And all of it is highly risky regardless -- there is no such thing as safe indoor eating. Just wait a couple weeks, do you really think people will be will to do so once the seasonal colds and coughs kick up? The simple fact of the matter is a majority of eateries are doomed. We are still about a year from unrestricted indoor dining.
JC (Pennsylvania)
Waiter in top photo mask barely covers his nose and no gloves. Doesn't paint the picture of safety. Smart people won't dine in. As for how waiters are doing I am sure most rather be home on unemployment.
Lily MG (Westchester, NY)
Mask of waiter in top photo may have slid down slightly as he raced across the dining room floor to appease a belligerent guest who was behaving as though the pandemic is over. Chef may have told waiter that gloves were reserved for kitchen staff and food runners, and that he should just wash his hands. As a bartender who is currently working after spending time on unemployment, I can say that you are wrong: We restaurant workers do not wish we were “home on unemployment.” Rather, we wish that we could receive a modicum of respect from the people we strive to serve, as well as a fair wage that did not always depend on the fluctuating mood of the customer. The US should institute a compulsory year of service industry work for all adults (two years for those who have achieved Elite status on Yelp).
JC (Pennsylvania)
@Lily MG It is presumptuous to say his mask slid down because he was racing to serve a customer, perhaps it slid down because he touches his face more than he should. Not all customers are belligerent and certainly most customers value their health more than being waited on right now by a jaded waiter or jaded bartender. Comments like these don't help restaurant industry. Hopefully some hospitality staff will learn more skills and find other work if hospitality isn't where they want to be. As for Yelp, customers have every right to share their opinions of restaurants and the staff.
@Lily MG Surely as a restaurant employee you know that per ServSafe guidelines, attempting to wear gloves for an entire FOH service right now would burn through 100 gloves per server; forgetting to change them even once after contamination poses a risk to you, your coworkers, and your guests. Hand washing is significantly less expensive, safer, and much better for the environment.
We need to accept that restaurant dining is, at least for the next few years, something that belongs to history. Instead, we should work with the talented and less-talented servers to help them transition to other careers. Maybe later this decade, restaurants will be able to make a limited comeback - like the restaurant scene in Paris, primarily for the tourists. However, the US economy can not continue to be a consumer-driven economy if we want to reduce economic inequality.
NYC Taxpayer (East Shore, S.I.)
@CDN '...However, the US economy can not continue to be a consumer-driven economy if we want to reduce economic inequality...' How can it not be consumer-driven?
@CDN Uh, no. Restaurant dining will be back in full swing by next summer, given the availability of vaccines in the first quarter of 2021.
H Silk (Tennessee)
@QED You do realize that the earliest we night see a vaccine is March and then there's the little matter of getting people to get vaccinated? Also, the only virus ever to eradicated by a vaccine is smallpox and that took years.
Kimberly Prokoshyn (Harwich, MA)
This is the tough truth of restaurants and the people who are working to serve us. As a restaurant worker for 14 years in NYC, left unemployed from Covid and now outside the city, I still feel part of this beautiful restaurant community and love seeing someone with your platform standing up for those serving the public even in the thick of it. Thank you, Pete.
bauskern (new england)
Pete, Thank you for that last paragraph! We should be grateful to our servers, and kitchen staff, that restaurants are reopening in what is still the midst of a pandemic. And we absolutely should be following the guidelines. Of course, when many folks take their cue from the president, that becomes an issue . . . .
K. OBrien (Kingston, Canada)
@bauskern Even take out or delivery.
Mon Ray (KS)
@bauskern Of course is it important to ask how servers and other restaurant personnel are doing. It is also important to know, or find out, how and to what extent restaurant personnel are exposed to Covid-19 when they are off the job. Do they wear masks and social-distance while off the job? Do their families, loved ones and other frequent non-work contacts wear masks and social-distance at home and when not at home? The train of exposure to and transmission of the disease has many layers of human contacts, not just from server to patron or vice-versa. My wife and I are in our 70’s and therefore at much greater risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying if we contract the virus compared to those under 65. For this reason we are restricting our restaurant dining to take-out until such time as a cure/vaccine is available for people in our age group. Yes, take-out meals have some risk compared to cooking and dining in one’s home, but we do take-out rarely and only from a select few restaurants that we know well and which enforce virus protocols with staff and patrons.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
Perhaps indoor dining returns not only in New York, but in other cities as well. My wife and I shall stay away from it, as long as the restaurant patrons have to wear intermittently masks and the service personnel is masked and gloved, contrary to the server's bare hands in the top photo. Good luck to all who want to live dangerously! In my non-quantified view, the ratio risk/enjoyment of a restaurant meal is not yet low enough.
JB (San Francisco)
@Tuvw Xyz If you enlarge the picture, it looks like the server is wearing food-grade gloves (the thin, translucent kind). This is sufficient protection for brief contacts that are not made directly with food or patrons.
Maria (Brooklyn)
@Tuvw Xyz After teaching a lab-based biotechnology course to college students for several years, and certainly after seeing how people behave in this pandemic, I can say for a fact - vast majority of people don't understand how gloves work. Gloves are not going to protect you from COVID. If a waiter touched some COVID-contaminated surface and then stuck a hand in your glass of water, you would get a glass of COVID water regardless of whether that hand was gloved or not. Gloves are just a surface like any other. Gloves would provide protection for the waiter, assuming the waiter doesn't lick the gloves. Waiters wearing gloves have nothing to do with you and your safety. If anything, I would prefer if my waiter used bare hands and washed them often, rather than be served by some 6-hour old pair of gloves that touched everything during that shift. Stop with the gloves already, it apparently gives some people a false sense of safety.
James Febbo (Merritt Island, FL)
@Maria And also I can't think of anywhere I read or heard that someone actually got Covid from a contaminated surface or hand. Not even from water. Or food. It's about breath isn't it? When it comes down to cases the meds will only say well maybe.
See also