Book Review - Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Waiter
So as part of the Amazon Vine review program, I got an Advanced Reader Copy of the book Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by the anonymously named "Waiter". He's the voice behind the WaiterRant.com blog, and this is a mix of his story, his background, the people he worked (and works) with, as well as a few tips on how to get better service. It's an entertaining read, but it does seem to be a bit unfocused at times. I wasn't sure if I was getting a look at the industry, a look at him, or a look at myself.
Amici's; The Sacred and Profane; Fascists and Freshwater Ostrich; Waiter Jedi; Paupery; The Box of Chocolate Saint; Big Brother; The Back Alley of Affluence; The Tip's the Thing; Why Be A Waiter?; A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing; Filth; I Hate Mother's Day; Vengeance Is Mine; Snapshots; Heaven and Hell; Substance Abuse; The Fourth of July; Russell Crowe and Me; If It Can Go Wrong, It Will; Demons; Throwing in the Apron; Epilogue; 40 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer; 50 Ways to Tell You're Working in a Bad Restaurant; Items a Waiter Should Carry at All Times
Waiter starts out by sharing his story of how he ended up waiting tables. His initial plans involved becoming a priest, and he was enrolled in seminary. That slowly came to an end as he saw too much hypocrisy, as well as discovering that he really didn't want to live a celibate lifestyle. Using his psychology major, he found work at a psychiatric and drug-rehab clinic. That one didn't last too long, as the corporate parent was convicted of fraud and much of the staff lost their jobs. A few jobs later, he was the office manager for a small outpatient psychiatric clinic. This only lasted until the owners started playing rather loose with the laws, and fired him for not playing the game. At the end of his rope, his brother offered to get him a waiter job at the restaurant he worked at, just until he could get things back together.
Guess who never left the industry?
Through the book, you follow Waiter as he starts at the bottom of the ladder, struggling to figure things out. He paints vivid pictures of the dysfunctional people who tend to gravitate to the restaurant business, and how he had to learn to adjust to and work with them. He ends up as manager of a upper-class NY eatery, but being the "boss" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Surly coworkers, outrageous customers, and a nutcase owner all combine to push him to the edge of sanity. He leaves the restaurant after he signs his book deal, while also being set up to be fired by the owner's cousin. He's still a waiter, but at a new place with fewer management responsibilities and more time to write and experience life.
It'd be hard not to have an abundance of material to write about. He does a great job in telling stories, while also giving us a glimpse of what we (the customer) look like to them. I guess I was expecting a bit more along the lines of "here's what you should be doing as a customer", as that's sort of the way the promotional blurb sets up the book. While there is some of that to be sure, there's also plenty of philosophizing about his particular status in life, the coworkers he runs across, and of course, we the customer. That mix tends to bounce around a lot, with some parts being very light and funny, while others are rather dark and depressing. Of course, he'd probably say "that's right... welcome to my world!".
I would have done better if I mentally framed the book as a waiter's story about himself with tips thrown in, rather than a book of how to get better service in a restaurant told through the life story of an anonymous waiter. It's a subtle thing, but it affected my expectations. Still, from just the pure pleasure of entertaining reading, this book delivers very well. It'd get about an 18% tip on the receipt.