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Three things waiters say that drive us mental

Time Out Melbourne’s chief restaurant critic (and former waitress) Larissa Dubecki shares her main gripes with waiters in this excerpt from her hilarious exposé of the restaurant industry, Prick with a Fork

By Larissa Dubecki

"Have you dined with us before?"

I was once asked this three days after the restaurant opened. (What to say? ‘Yes. I’m a regular.  I come here all the time.’) I don’t need to  know  how  the  restaurant ‘works’  or  the  ‘concept’ behind  it. Even that  Japanese  soldier in the Borneo jungle unaware the war has ended probably doesn’t need share plates ever explained again. Restaurants shouldn’t  need explanation. Any restaurant that does need explanation is a bad, over-thought, overwrought restaurant from  which  you  should  run  away  at  speed.  Just  once  I’d like a waiter to say ‘Have you dined with us before?’ and if someone  at the table says ‘No’, hit them with: ‘This is a restaurant. We serve food. You eat it.’

"Not a problem!"

The 'not a problem' waiter  is one  step  up  from  the  ‘Hi,  I’ll be your waiter today’ waiter or the table-croucher who thinks getting down  to the customer’s  eye level will increase intimacy  instead  of making  them feel they’re getting a pep talk from Coach  ahead  of a really important Little Athletics  meet. Why is everything  not  a problem?  Why,  indeed,  should  it be a problem  when  you’re just doing your job? Do you think saying three words instead of one perfectly serviceable ‘yes’ will show you’re working  harder, or that you  deserve  a bigger  tip?  Or  is it simply  that  if you  say ‘not  a problem’ enough, the entire restaurant will be appraised of the fact that you do not, in fact, have a problem?

"Don't know the answer? Just make it up!"

In some ways this is an unpleasant by-product of a bigger issue, in the way of pink  slime in the meat industry, permeate  in the milk industry, or travel allowance scandals in the political industry. Namely: chefs who make waiters too scared to ask questions. Alternatively,  telling diners  barramundi is a Japanese  freshwater fish, cilantro  is a smoked  chilli,  and  avruga  is premium  caviar, could be a symptom  of a waiter who just doesn’t give a crap. 

Prick with a Fork: The worlds worst waitress spills the beans by Larissa Dubecki (Allen & Unwin, 2015). $29.99.

Where the service is as great as the food

Vietnamese-style steak tartare served with rice puff wafers
Photograph: Graham Denholm

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