Beyond the Apron

in super-secret-anonymous fashion, Volume One reveals on-the-job stories from local servers

photos by Andrea Paulseth

John Q. Public, a V1 tipster

Catastrophes are plentiful as crumbs at restaurants, and local restaurants are no exception. We sat down in highly guarded areas (taking every precaution to conceal their identities) and questioned every server between Lake Wissota’s northernmost pier and Rock Falls’s southernmost anthill. It seems our methodology paid off: we gained access to the strangest, juiciest, and most comical on-the-job happenings: the stories that, until now, they’ve tucked away with their aprons at night. We cover it all: the “whoopses” that wrecked hopes of a brimming tip jar, the customers who were not always right, the disasters-turned-performances that earned them applause, and more. If you’ve never recited the daily specials, you’ll be enlightened. If you have, well, then you can relate … maybe.

I worked at a “drive-in” restaurant during my high school days and had the biggest crush on one of the customers. He always ordered the same burrito meal with very specific substitutions for take-out. I saw this meal waiting for pick-up one day, and decided to put a note in there with my phone number on it, along with some stupid message about thinking he was cute. A little while later, I saw someone paying for that order and it was an elderly woman. Whoops.

My grandparents used to come and visit me while I waitressed. One day they were sitting right next to a few of my other customers. The people finished, and got up to pay their bill, leaving only a dime as a tip. My grandpa saw that and said, “Hey! Don’t be so cheap! That’s my granddaughter who was waiting on you!” I wanted to die.

I once had a customer who refused to call me by my name. Instead, he insisted on calling me “Little Korean Girl.” I corrected him more than a few times, but to no avail. I finally told him if he refused to address me by my name, I refused to serve him. (It was my boss’s idea.) He finally obliged and I got a 30 percent tip.

One of the worst things, as a server, is to have late diners. The ones who slip in two minutes before the kitchen closes. One unlucky night, I had two buses full of girls coming home from a gymnastics conference pull up and we had to serve them. It was 26 girls under 10 and three coaches. They wanted separate checks and I only got tips from the coaches.

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