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A Server Is Not a Servant

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Some people might not fully grasp this concept, but there is a difference between a server and a servant. Merriam-Webster defines a server as “one that serves food and drink” while the word servant is defined as “one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employer.” Let’s make sure the difference in these two words is abundantly clear because a lot of restaurant customers don’t seem to understand.

The key words in the definition of servant are “home of a master or personal employer.” When you go to a restaurant, you are no longer at home. Even though the restaurant might proclaim that when you’re there, you’re family, it’s still not your house. Taking your shoes off while you eat dinner or having an argument with your spouse does not mean you’re at home, it means you’re rude.

Breaking down the definition even further, you are also not the master or the personal employer of the person who works at the restaurant. “Master” implies some serious I Dream of Jeannie vibes. Unless someone appeared to you in a puff of smoke after releasing them from a bottle they’d been imprisoned in for centuries to grant you three wishes, you are decidedly not their master. Neither are you their employer. You don’t pay their salary, give them health benefits, or offer them sick days. While they do perform duties for you, they do not call you boss, administrator, supervisor, leader, or chief. If you’re lucky they’ll you sir, madam, or miss.

Server is defined as “one that serves food and drink.” Your waiter or waitress does exactly that and it is their sole purpose. They are employed by someone else who is 100%, definitely, absolutely, categorically not you. (Okay, unless you own the restaurant, obviously, but chances are you don’t own.) A servant might be a server, but a server is not a servant. Boom. End of paragraph.

Ay, there’s the rub. Far too many people treat their server like a servant. It might be okay to tell your servant what to do in a gruff manner. “Bring me water!” After all, you’re the boss. But when it comes to interacting with a server, there’s a better way. “May I have some water, please?” A restaurant customer and a restaurant server work in tandem to create the perfect dining experience. The customer is nice because a service is being performed for them. The server is nice because they are doing their best in order to earn a tip. It’s classic case of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”In an employer/servant scenario the only back that gets scratched is the boss’s.

The next time you go out to eat, keep these distinctions in mind. It’s possible you are someone who has inadvertently treated a server like a servant in the past. If that’s the case, it’s also possible that there is a server somewhere who still thinks about you and not in a good way. A waiter or waitress is not a servant. They are also not a slave, so if you have ever thought that was appropriate, you can just hop, skip, and jump back in time to 1865 and go fuck yourself, 

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Bitchy Waiter

Bitchy Waiter

Darron Cardosa is a writer, actor, singer, and waiter. He lives and and works in New York City and enjoys "The Brady Bunch," "The Facts of Life" and cocktails almost as much as he hates your baby.


  1. Cadence
    June 2, 2022 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    Servers shouldn’t be treated at servants, yes. We can vote with our dollar and support businesses that we like.
    However some servers in SF are pretty stuck up, especially barristas… I’m not sure if their egos just self inflated, or they’ve just had too many interactions.

  2. Mia moore
    June 3, 2022 at 6:24 am — Reply

    37 years of sporting a server’s apron, and I have never seen as much self-entitlement impatience and entitlement as I have seen within the past 3-5 years. We don’t want that “$15/he living wage ” we want the same respect we give to YOU! “The customer is always right?” Okay… But we don’t HAVE “customers.” We have GUESTS. Thank you for yet another well-worded (and overdue) bit of insight!

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