Diners are returning to eating out after a major slowdown during the pandemic – but customers’ increased demands in 2021 are pushing some servers to the edge.
Be it expecting tables (even if there are other customers sitting in them), an assumption that eateries offer something for every diet, and a quick habit of resorting to shouting at workers until they get what they want, it may be no wonder that there is such high turnover in the restaurant industry.
One server who works in a popular restaurant in Valletta spoke to Lovin Malta on condition of anonymity to share what she – and her colleagues across Malta and Gozo – are facing now
“The service industry in Malta has never held much prestige and few people have respect for the profession,” Julie* told Lovin Malta. Having worked in the industry for over a decade, Julie said many entered the hospitality industry because they love the environment, and not because they are desperate for a job.
“It’s fast-paced, it’s buzzing, it’s so much fun sharing in people’s celebrations and occasions and it provides instant access to some very talented chefs and delicious food,” she explained. “People in hospitality are passionate about their job and they serve you from the heart… but at the moment it feels like less and less people appreciate this service and equate servers with servants who are obliged to do their bidding no matter how outrageous their demands.”
Having worked in the industry for years, Julie has seen the degradation in customers’ behaviour when it comes to staff, which can be demoralising to workers.
Julie recounted a series of situations where customers left workers feeling terrible; customers getting mad at the waiter that the eatery doesn’t serve gluten-free/lactose-free/vegetarian/vegan food; customers demanding the air conditioning be set as they please; customers complaining about the volume coming from other tables; customers asking to know the brand of bread served during a busy service.
“You’ll have someone order a pasta vongole, then get mad at you because there’s clams in it,” she said exasperatedly. While it may seem funny to some, dealing with customer’s hungry anger on the regular can take its toll – and then going to sleep just to wake up and find that the customers posted an entire negative review online means that the stress continues for days.
Some may seem like small requests – but said with force and a bad look, it’s enough to wear down any waiter.
“It is demoralising to an already struggling industry,” Julie said. “We want to take care of our clients but like all good relationships respect and gratitude works both ways.”
“Restaurants need clients to be able to work but clients need a workforce to be able to go out and enjoy themselves. A bit of consideration for each other creates a win/win.”
For Julie, who works in the hospitality industry because she genuinely loves food and the hustle and bustle of a good restaurant, feeling demoralised about going to work is something she never expected to see.
“It’s more a stress thing, less than a money thing – people have these expectations that are so unrealistic, like they are the only person in the restaurant, and I get it – when you go out you want to feel like its an occasion, but the industry is already struggling, there’s not enough working, and there’s all that with less people doing more work…”
“It feels like people want private dining experiences in public restaurants… maybe we’ve all been at home too long,” she ended. “There are some really nice customers and many are aware of how hard we work, that the waiter is trying their best and trying to juggle anything… just please be kind, and don’t forget to tip.”
Do you think workers in the restaurant industry face unfair harassment on the job?