I had Darron Cardosa—more popularly known as The Bitchy Waiter—on my Podcast recently and I thought it would be fun to share what we discussed.
I've been following Darron for quite a while. No one, I think, has tapped into the humor of the restaurant/bar industry more than him. Darron's going to try to help and maybe even give some of the secrets—a little secret sauce that he uses, no pun intended—in the restaurant/bar business.
My first question, and probably what you all are wondering as well about a guy as successful as Darron, is how did he get started? He’s been in the restaurant industry for quite some time and is definitely one of the most experienced guys out there. Darron has been waiting tables or somehow working in the restaurant industry pretty much consistently since around 1989. He’s also an actor, which makes waiting tables pretty much a natural thing to do, so either part-time or full-time, Darron has always had his hand in the restaurant industry.
About 11 years ago, he started his blog. He got home from work in Manhattan just so freaking irritated with a customer that he decided to start a blog. With no idea how to do it, he just went to blogspot.com and started writing his stories. Darron’s intention with the blog at that point was just to entertain his coworkers and friends. About six months after that, one of his stories got picked up and shared. Then, it just started snowballing into one of the leading restaurant blogs. It’s crazy how it happened. It all started just because he wanted to bitch about his day at work, which hasn’t changed much.
Darron’s evolution was: He was working, he got pissed off, he started a blog, he stayed anonymous for 7 years, he started a Facebook page. The Facebook page blows up. He’s like, "Screw it, I'm going over to Instagram." The Instagram page blows up. He goes over to Twitter. Twitter's “eh” for him—it is what it is. Then he writes a book in the midst of all that. The book sells. He’s rolling...but he’s still waiting tables.
Currently, he’s kind of in between service jobs. The restaurant he worked at for 8 years closed maybe two weeks ago, and now he’s pondering getting another restaurant job. But that's just it—he only wants to work part-time in a restaurant these days. When he started the blog, he was working full-time in a restaurant and catering. That's all he did.
But over the years he’s narrowed it down to how many days a week he wants to work at the restaurant. He doesn’t want to work at the restaurant 40 to 60 hours a week anymore. It’s a lot harder trying to find a restaurant job that’s cool with you only working one or two days a week.
The happy medium is to find a restaurant that’s cool with him coming in once or twice a week, but also being cool with him taking notes on what’s happening and snapping pictures as well. They need to understand that the person running the blog is different than the person working at the restaurant. His last boss got it. He was like, "Oh, he's not really drunk at work all the time. He's just this character online."
Darron just needs a restaurant that understands that he's two different people. The first idea that comes to mind for working with The Bitchy Waiter if I were a restaurant owner and I knew who he was, I would treat it almost like a baseball contract. If I knew that The Bitchy Waiter was available as a free agent, I would hire him to come in, and I would literally say, "Make sure you come in on Mondays to meet The Bitchy Waiter. This, that, and everything else". I would try to create profitability around that, and I know that it would work, in acceptance of that influence.
Or, as an agent, as his manager, create almost a travel plan. One day we pick out restaurants, and they can submit on his website for him to come to wait tables for them one day a month. One day, right? Fans can come meet him and things of that nature, and all this other kind of stuff. I think that that would be one of the most badass things, anyway. It would be like The Bitchy Tour. I mean obviously, Darron’s never going to be out of a job. Someone's always going to come to him and say, "Hey man, we need you." But I think a smart restaurant owner, if they're savvy and are able look forward, can use The Bitchy Waiter as a very good way to put themselves on the map if they're not already on it.
Check this out: What's Your Restaurant Guest Experience Score? Find Out Now!
Being that he’s been in the restaurant industry probably longer or just as long as some of the most successful people in the industry who I know have been, I asked Darron about his take on online reviews, how to deal with reviews properly, and other operational questions. His answer was very similar to my views on the issue: “Well I feel like whenever I read a bad review, I need to take it with a grain of salt, as most people do. Because, first of all, I go, ‘When somebody has a really great experience, they're probably not going to bother to leave a review about that.’ Most people don't. They only want to go to the trouble to leave a review when they're unhappy about something”.
Always keep that in mind when reading bad reviews. Look at that person's review history—more times than not all their reviews are negative. They only want to complain. What Darron did say was big is when restaurants respond to reviews in a professional way. That’s so important these days, that restaurants stand up for themselves in a review situation. When it's something that is clearly one-sided, it’s great to see when a restaurant stands up for themselves and says, "No. This is what actually happened, and this is why your review is a pile of poo".
Sometimes things happen inside restaurants. Customers come in, and they do a dine and dash or something of that nature. One, that can end up in a negative review, obviously. But at the end of the day, restaurants have to deal with that, and of course, servers have to deal with that. Darron had mentioned to me at one point that it's illegal for a restaurant to make a server pay for a walkout. He has confirmed that it’s not legal.
And yet, people write to him all the time that somebody walked out on their bill, and their boss, their manager made them pay for it. He’s like, "That is not legal. You are not allowed to make a server do that." An owner or a manager can write a server up for it, potentially leading to firing the employee for some other reason. But on the server’s part, the bad review isn’t their responsibility. It’s no different than someone shoplifting at a Macy’s or breaking a glass vase—the employee isn’t responsible for paying for it, it’s just the cost of doing business.
One last thing I asked Darron was for tips for servers from the standpoint of dealing with negative customers. I then asked for tips for guests to deal with servers, something they should be doing for these servers that maybe they're not already doing.
“I would tell people, ‘Don't focus on it. Don't dwell on a shitty tip. Just move on to the next table.’ Just don't... Somebody's going to leave you a bad tip. Move on to the next table. Put your focus on the person who's going to make your next tip better.
“I would also say, similar to that, ‘Leave your work at work.’ We don't work in an industry where [we] have to take our work home with us. I always say the only thing I take home with me is the smell of fajita smoke in my hair. Just when you get home, don't worry about your job. When you punch out, you are done with waiting tables.”
“I would want them to recognize that servers are taking care of a lot of people, and not just them. If something's taking a little bit longer than you're expecting it should take, just recognize that there are probably five or six other tables with three to four people at those tables that the server is also taking care of.
“I also would suggest, please make eye contact with your server. Nothing upsets us more than going up to a table and asking them how they are, and getting no response or even a glance up to look at us and recognize us as human beings. Just smile at us and remember that we're human beings, too. We're not there as servants. We're there to assist you with your meal.”
Darron said it best—those are great tips to keep in mind. I think a lot of people, at least nowadays, they want to avoid the confrontation, so they don't say anything. Even when a manager does table touch, they still don't say anything. Then they go and leave a negative review.
That's one of the things that we help do. We help create those processes, where we catch them before they actually leave that review. So, which tip is the one that I think is important? Those are all great tips, not only for servers but for customers.
Check this out: Do More with Your Front Door: The Portal to the Guest Experience
You guys have to be aware, for you who aren't in the restaurant industry, be aware that these people have families, and this is how they support those families. A lot of them have children just like you, and they've chosen this as their profession. Don't look down on them at all. Understand that—one of the things that Darron said which I really truly believe in—yes, they are called servers, but they are not servants. They are people who assist you through the journey of enjoying your meal. That’s something that should be really enjoyable, and that's why they're there, to kind of guide you through it.
Really look at it from that perspective or put yourself in their shoes because I think that's always a really important thing to do. At the end of all of this, I think we learned that sometimes you can create something positive from a negative situation as well as knowing that the restaurant industry is truly one of the most entertaining industries on the planet.
You can listen to this episode of the Bad Reputation podcast below. Enjoy! And make sure to follow Todd and Darron: