How Dinner Dates And Lunch Meetings Can Tell You Everything About Someone
Especially How They Treat Their Server
My grandmother was a waitress her entire life. Janet was her name, but I called her Nanie (pronounced Nan-EE). Later as an adult I realized that when I referred to my Nanie while telling friends and acquaintances stories, they thought I had a paid for nanny.
Nanie escaped the poverty of being a tenant farmer by walking to the next town and getting a serving job from a lady named Ma Blakeman.
To hear Nanie tell the story, Ma Blakeman was one tough boss to have. Nanie worked 14–16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Serving isn't an easy job if you have never done it. Coupled with the fact that Nanie was barely literate at the time but she worked hard. Nanie was able to suffer through the work with Ma Blakeman (who I think created a candy company eventually), and then she got a job at a local diner called The Bunboy.
By this time Nanie had helped get two of her sisters jobs at the diner and met two of her lifelong friends: Edie and Peggy. They remained friends until all three passed. Edie and Peggy consoled me at Nanie's funeral and told me stories of when they were young and rated young men based on how nice their cars were and how large the backseat was.
Nanie met my grandfather and they created a life together. They married. Purchased a home that Nanie kept immaculately decorated. Raised children, a garden, and later me. To say being guided by such a woman was a privilege is an understatement. Not often do you get to have your views shaped by a woman who had a firm foundation in spirituality, determination to get the fuck off the farm and make a better way, but a commitment to see her children and grandchildren sit at the tables she served instead of serving.
Thanksgiving and Christmas
No one and I mean no one, could cook, bake, and decorate the way Nanie could. Often she was called to make the wedding cakes of friends and family. My wedding cake was the last one she ever made and I had to throw a tantrum for her to do it. Refusing to have a wedding cake if it wasn't made by her. To this day, our family doesn't share the same sweet tooth most people do because quite frankly, any sweet made by even the most illustrious and well known pastry chef couldn't hold a candle to what she made . . . from scratch.
I didn't know you could buy bread in a store until I was in high school because she made our bread. I believe it was a variation of sourdough but we always called it light bread. It took three days to make and you really could only eat one slice. You didn't need meat and cheese on it. The bread with a small dab of butter was enough.
My uncle David, who essentially was raised as my brother (I know, Kentucky AF), hated that my Nanie always worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. She volunteered to work those shifts because the tips were bigger. And with those large tips, she saved for us, she paid bills, and she created the most magical holidays one could ever want. It never bothered me we had to pick a new day to celebrate than everyone else did but it did him.
Give, Save, Spend
One good thing about serving is that you always had cash. When someone made the comment that she was 'just a waitress', she would raise her head and respond (because Nanie was sassy AF) and say "I make more money than the women in the offices and the women in the factories." And she was right. She did.
My Pepaw (pronounced Pep-AW, Country AF) worked as a security guard for a local factory. He always got off work earlier than her. He would pick me up from school, he helped me with my spelling and English work. Years later after his passing I would learn that it was no accident that he took such an interest in my reading and writing. Nanie had delegated that to him because she wasn't a strong reader or writer and she wanted to make sure by any means necessary I would be.
Pepaw would feed me dinner from Wendy's. I got a kids meal. He always got a quarter pound single with no mayonnaise and a large Frosty. I can still hear his voice say that all these years later. Pepaw and I would eat and clean the house.
I never knew why we were cleaning when the house was already clean.
Again, I would learn years later that it was because Nanie was picked on at school the few days she was allowed to go because she was called the "poor, dirty kid". She fought that label until the day she died. You could eat off her floor. One time, I dropped a piece of food on the floor and had zero hesitation to pick it up and eat it. It was that clean.
We would set out Nanie's cigarettes, her crystal ash tray, and we would make her a glass of Lipton iced tea. Nanie was always concerned about looking her best so we never had sweet tea in the house. Instead, she preferred to have her tea sweetened with pink packets of Sweet N' Low of which she purchased by the largest box available.
When she got home from her shift, she would take out her money she made, and we would count it together to the penny. She then put it into piles. 10% went to the First Baptist Church as her tithe, 10% was allocated for saving, and she/we could spend the rest.
The Better You Look, The More Money You Make
While it always seemed to bother my mother and uncle that Nanie was "just a waitress", it never did me. I got to hear her stories of all of her customers and see her get dressed up on the days she worked. Nanie always said "the better you looked, the more money you made" as she put on a vibrant shade of pink or coral CoverGirl lipstick and took her hair out of the hot rollers.
Nanie believed in always looking your best no matter what you were doing. This was a woman who would mow her yard and work in the garden wearing diamond rings and pearls ok. She would be so dismayed seeing me write this story in my Hawaii tank top, Nike Pros, hair in a bun, with no makeup, lol. Perhaps she would overlook it, as she always wanted me to become a writer.
What You Can Learn From Nanie
The years went on. My uncle became a wealth management advisor, my mother went into insurance, and I became an entrepreneur and writer. Of all of the many lessons I learned from Nanie, one of the biggest takeaways was not what she said bluntly but what she said through her stories of her customers.
There were the white collar workers who tipped 10% and acted like they were doing her a favor, some would even go as far as to say "it must be hard to work a job like this, you should try for something better." After seeing her estate when she passed, I now know why she would say they needed the money more than she did. At the time of her death, she possessed more wealth than many of the 10% tippers.
There were the educated professors of Centre College, a small liberal arts college located nearby her restaurant, who suggested books to read, investments, and treated her like one of the family. Nanie always said the smarter you were, the kinder you would behave. Smart to Nanie didn't mean lots of money or even education, it went deeper than that, smart people know how to treat others well.
I studied French for 8 years. One of my favorite phrases from the French is
which roughly translates into "the obligation of those who are served to provide dignity, honor, and respect to those who are providing service".
Times of the aristocracy have passed, but I think there is a bit to learn from some of the etiquette and decorum. It was considered a social faux pas and declasse to treat your staff, your domestic servants, or anyone under your employment with anything less than the behavior reserved for a fellow gentleman or lady.
That concept resonates with me so deeply. When I see a server or a worker being treated poorly, all I can see is my Nanie.
As an adult in business and in love, I can learn anything I want to know about someone from taking them out to eat and so can you.
My friends know that I will refuse a second date with someone if they tip poorly or are rude to a server.
If someone treats a server bad, how will they end up treating you?
I have found that if someone is bold enough to be rude and hateful to a server, someone they do not know who is in the business of providing food and atmosphere, more than likely they will also be rude and hateful to those they employ, date, and parent.
If someone look down on servers, how do they judge other people?
A person's value is determined by more than their job title. And to quote Nanie "she made more than the women in the offices or the factories". So it's not an economic reason for looking down their nose at someone. I live in Florida. Servers and bartenders get PAID here people. Perhaps it's the idea that they "have to serve someone". But to cite my dear friend Cliff who owns a luxury architecture firm
"I could never have been a successful architect and gone on to own a successful firm without my years as a server. No matter what industry you work in Jess, everyone is in the business of providing service to others. Some serve food, some serve houses, but all are in service."
If someone is impatient to the waitstaff, how will they handle delays and setbacks that really matter?
Any level of delay can happen in a kitchen. Being short staffed, busy, or maybe the chef took too long smoking a J and texting his baby mama. For whatever reason, we all have experienced delays when dining. I find it enlightening to watch my companion's reaction to delays and mistakes in a restaurant. If they act like it's the end of the world because their strawberry salad doesn't have enough strawberries, how will they handle major setbacks and challenges? My assertion is not very well. And that is not someone I want to do business with or build a romantic relationship with.
If someone tips poorly or openly brags about not tipping, or a penalty system of tipping?
I have found this person does not have an abundance mindset and views the exchange of money as a penalty instead of an act of appreciation for the good or service. Therefore, that person will continually have trouble leading a team or creating long term wealth. They use penalty instead of reward as a motivator.
If someone leaves the table dirty, they probably are messy at home/office as well?
I went out to dinner early on with a man who insisted upon stacking every plate neatly when we finished eating. He wiped the table down and made sure to place all table condiments back where they went. I guess I was watching a little too intently because he explained himself by saying
"Everyone works hard. If I can do something that makes our server's day easier I am going to do it."
What that showed me is that this man was considerate of others, would pitch in and lighten the load for someone, and would try to make things easier for those around him.
In contrast, I have been out with people who attempt to leave their area a wreck citing "it's the server's job to clean up" (this is especially seen with people with small children). What that tells me is that they feel entitled to destroy and have someone else fix the problem, it shows me a lack of respect for places and people, and a certain level of being inconsiderate.
If someone treats the server well, that speaks volumes.
When eating with someone and I see they treat the staff with dignity, respect, and thank them for their work both with their mouths and with their wallets. I see someone who will treat me with respect. Who will be generous to those around them. I see someone who will provide encouragement to others. I see someone who shows grace when mistakes and setbacks happen.
And the little girl in me sees someone who would have been good to my Nanie while she was working.
And that is someone I want to date, be a friend to, or do business with.