Ask The Salty Waitress: How Do I Support My Favorite Restaurant Without Being Annoying?

Dear Salty,

I'm worried about the fate of my local restaurants, but I feel like the employees must get tired of a million people asking them "How are you holding up?" or "Are you surviving??" I want to let them know that I'm there for them and that I want to help the restaurant pull through this terrible rough patch—but is there a right way and a wrong way to say "hang in there"? What's the best way to support our favorite spots right now?

Hanging in There

Dear Hanging,

One thing I've learned in all my years working in restaurants is that there's only so much I, a waitress, can do. I can take your order with a smile, bring the food to the table with a smile, try not to interrupt you mid-bite when I ask how the food is, and relay all your complaints and compliments to the kitchen. What I can't do is cook the food. I also can't change the prices on the menu or bring you a porterhouse when all we've got is flank steak.

What I'm saying, honey bun, is that we all have limits to our power. Even Thor. No one can fix the economy singlehandedly. But there's another thing I've learned from these past two months of watching all the Avengers movies on repeat, and that is, if you have powers, you should use them for good. Asking people how they're holding up is a kind and well-intentioned thing to do. It's hospitable, and you know how much we love hospitality. It's always nice to hear a different voice besides the one in your head. But in the end, if you're bleeding to death, why would you want to hear someone asking if it hurts? Of course it hurts!

What you can do, though, is keep ordering from your favorite local restaurants as long as they're open. Nobody knows what's going to happen, but we all know it's going to be bad. Almost everybody who's still open has switched to a delivery and curbside pickup model. Sometimes that even creates jobs for waitstaff like me. Other restaurants have started selling groceries. Go! Buy something! Contribute to a fundraiser if a restaurant you love is holding one. Yep, it's a small thing. It will feel like using an eyedropper to empty the ocean. But money still talks, and what it's saying is, "I still care about you, doll."

And—you knew this was coming—don't forget to tip.

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