What people in hospitality really mean when they’re serving you

Illustration by TwylaMae
Words by Carlos Mangubat

Translations for those lucky enough to have never waited tables.

After a long 14 years in retail and an aversion to full-time work in a new city, I decided I would give hospitality another go.

Hospitality has always been something I happen to fall back on. One of my first jobs was at the ripe age of 14 (probably illegal) – setting tables and folding napkins into crowns at the local Chinese restaurant my mother sometimes worked in. My interactions with customers at this point were almost non-existent.

When I was 15, I started working as a dish-pig and cleaner in a café where I was paid a flat rate of $20 to clean the café after closing, no matter how long it took. From the ages of 19 to 21, I started bartending in clubs, bars and festivals, which at the time was a fun. It was particularly social – I could drink on the job and partying slowly became my life. However, in time, the buzz eventually wore off and the irregular hours no longer suited my lifestyle at uni, so I decided to go back to retail.

Now, having gone back to hospitality in my 30s, my perspective has changed. It can still be fun but my patience and tolerance for customers has grown thin and I no longer put up with shit like was told to in my 20s. 

So, I’ve decided to write another article, to give insight into my recent experiences and to vent about what people in hospitality (me) are really thinking when we serve you.

Customer: Hey Carlos
Hospo worker: Oh hey! How’s it going? Please have a seat! *Walks off*
Translation: I know you’re a regular customer but I don’t remember your name, which is why I didn’t really engage further with you

Customer: It’s really busy in here
Hospo worker: Yes! Very busy
Translation: Do you want to sit or not? I don’t have time to explain the obvious

Customer: What would you recommend off the menu?
Hospo worker: All of our dishes are equally as popular
Translation: I’ve only had one of the dishes on the menu because it’s too overpriced/wasn’t given to me for free

Customer: Do you still have that thing you served three years ago?
Hospo worker: No sorry, it’s its not on the menu
Translation: Menus change often, especially considering this is a different business since the last time you were here…

Hospo worker: Today’s specials are just on the board over there
Translation: I haven’t bothered to remember them

Customer: Do you have anything that’s vegan?
Hospo worker: It’s all right here
Translation: a.k.a where it says VEGAN. Read the menu and don’t give me more work to do!

Customer: Could I please have the cauliflower toast but sub in regular toast, and instead of the butter can I have avocado? And instead of the bacon, can I have a mushroom? You must hate me for doing this…
Hospo worker: I’ll just check with the chef
*Goes to sip a drink and starts to eat lunch*
Sorry my manager said it’s a set menu
Translation: I don’t care and yes, I do hate you

Hospo worker: ‘Can I just repeat your order?’
Translation: I was half listening and I now can’t read what I’ve written because I’m still drunk/high from last night

Hospo worker: Can I just repeat your order?
Translation: I was half listening because I was imagining what our future babies would look like

Hospo worker: Is everything ok here?
Customer: Yes, everything is great!
Hospo worker: OK, that’s great!
Translation: We haven’t poisoned you, so I don’t have to do any more work for at least an hour (yay!)

Customer: We’re expecting another drink
Hospo worker: I’ll just be one second
Translation: It’s only been five minutes and we have a full house. I only have two f*%&ing hands, so you can wait for your skinny oat milk hot chocolate

Customer: Can I get a Bloody Mary?
Hospo worker: Sorry only we serve alcohol in the afternoon
Translation: It’s 9am on a Tuesday and you’re with your three children

Customer: This doesn’t taste like a gin and tonic
Hospo worker: I’m so sorry, what’s the problem?
Translation: This is what you ordered and it mustn’t be that bad considering you’ve drunk most of it. Stop trying to get free stuff or a refund, I know what you’re doing

Customer: It’s my friend’s birthday, does she get a free drink?
Hospo worker: Sorry, we don’t give out free drinks
Translation: We do, but you didn’t tip me/I don’t think you’re cute enough to risk my manager catching me stealing from work

Customer: Are you guys allowed to drink on the job?
Hospo worker: Of course not!
Translation: I’m already drunk

Customer: What cocktail would recommend?
Hospo worker: Everyone loves a mojito!
Translation: It’s the only cocktail I know how to make and the bartender is on his lunch break

Customer: I’m unsatisfied with the [insert menu item here]
Hospo worker: I’m so sorry to hear that, what would you like us to do?
Customer: Give us a discount or something
Hospo worker: Of course! No worries, sorry about that
Translation: I don’t care, I work here casually and my shift ends in 10 minutes

Customer: I don’t think this is tonic water, I want a new one
Hospo worker: *Shows bottle of tonic water*
*Pours another drink with the same bottle*
Customer: This way better
Hospo worker: No worries
Translation: Die. It was the exact same thing

Hospo worker: Last call for drinks guys!
Translation: Get out so I can meet my friends at the club around the corner

Sure, not all customers are drainers and sometimes problems that occur are actually our fault. But it doesn’t mean we want to put up with people’s crap. So, next time you go into a bar, cafe or restaurant, give us a break and we might actually give you the service you want with a genuine smile.

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