Between seating people during dinner rush, bringing out meals on time and making sure everything is up to the customers standards, there is a lot of room for innocent mistakes by restaurant staff. On a customer's special night, however, these incidents are even more cringe-worthy. Servers share how they ruined a customer's big night:
This Isn’t What He Meant By Wanting To ‘Take Her Out’
“This was on Valentine’s Day one year and I’ll never forget the shame. I was waiting tables in college and our restaurant had replaced all the big tables in the dining room with bistro style 2 tops. They were really close together for couples. It was 9:00 pm and we were packed. I grabbed a plate off one table, trying to be quick but discreet. When I brought my arm straight back with the plate, I moved too far. There was another one of those 2 tops inches from my back. My right elbow caught a 60-year-old lady right at the base of her skull. Hard. I knocked her out cold. She face-planted into her dinner. The whole dining room gasped. I freaked, the manager freaked, the husband freaked. Everybody freaked, except her. When she came to a few seconds later, she was the sweetest, most gracious, kind person you’ve ever met. Her face was covered in fish and asparagus, but she could not have been nicer, which made me feel even worse. We comped their meal, gave them a $100 gift card, and basically offered to be their slaves, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They even tipped. That was 20 years ago and I still feel awful about it.”
Not The Right Question
“An ex of mine came in with his wife and were having a couple drinks for an anniversary I think. I haven’t seen this guy in about 8 years but I know he had a son and got married. I promptly say my hello’s and say something along the lines of, ‘Hey you have a son right? How old is he now?’ It turns out their son passed when he was 5 due to cancer. The wife, of course, is tearing up and excuses herself. I’ve never felt worse.”
Everything Was Perfect, Except For One Thing
“I lost an engagement ring on Valentine’s Day when my restaurant was completely packed and super busy. My manager stalled dessert at that table for about an hour while I looked and still served all of my other tables. The ring box slipped through a hole in my apron, got kicked around by servers who only step on or over things in the kitchen, so I found the box after about 20 minutes in one place and the ring 40 minutes later in the most disgusting pile of grit and grime under the stove.
The guy wasn’t stupid and he figured that I had lost the ring, but my manager saved the day by sending someone to the bakery across the street and getting an elaborate cake to make it seem as if we had them wait in order to prepare such a wonderful surprise. He also kept the Veuve Clicquot flowing at their table. The special cake and finally the ring made everything work out in the end for the couple. I had to pay for their entire meal, including their cake and Veuve Clicquot.”
Tide-To-Go Couldn’t Even Fix This Disaster
“This is the biggest mess up I’ve ever heard of. I work at a high-end wedding venue in a rich city where people put down hundreds of thousands of dollars months in advance for their ‘perfect special day.’ This particular day we had a huge Italian wedding with approximately 300 people, an open bar, and a bridal party of 30 plus. Due to the size of the wedding, the Bride insisted of having their specialty made Italian canapés before the wedding photos so that some of the children and vague relatives could have some food after the ceremony without having to attend the reception. The newly-weds made a speech at this point to say thank you to the guests for joining them, etc and brought special attention to her $40,000 Swarovski Crystal covered dress which she said was the best part of her wedding.
Shortly after, we resumed serving the canapés, specifically these little bowls of ‘traditional family recipe’ ravioli in a bright red tomato sauce. One of the relatively new members of staff was told to make sure that the bride and groom got some food as they often miss out because of their greedy friends and family. The bride stood up from greeting a group of children just as the man with the ravioli approached her from behind. Not sure how it happened exactly but the man dropped a bowl of ravioli in tomato sauce all over the front of a $40,000 white Swarovski gown. Yes, he was fired on the spot.”
An Extremely Awkward Slip Up
“We had a guy, Dan, who would come in regularly but with different women on separate occasions. Ruby was his wife and Jessica was his girlfriend. Now he’s a regular, the whole staff knows this and feels terrible but what can we do? We can’t cause a scene by telling the wife or we’d get fired. We have to be pleasant to the dude and whichever woman he’s with or we get in trouble with our manager. Each of the serving staff dreads having them sit in our section because it means having to fake like you don’t know the jerk was in there Monday night with another woman.
They sit down in my section. I roll up with my cheery fake smile to take an order. Now I don’t know why I did this, but since they’ve been regulars forever, I do some banter about how it’s nice to see them again this week and they tell me it’s their five year anniversary. I say ‘Oh, that’s sweet’ or something and I ask Dan for his order, take it, and turn to his wife. ‘So Jessica, since it’s a special night, what can I get to make it perfect for you?’ Her face turns to stone. Oh god. I realize I called her the girlfriend’s name. I try to correct it but it’s too late. Ruby rounds on Dan and hisses, ‘You bring your mistress here?’ Dan asks me to get my manager. I scurry off as the screaming match begins. The manager, in between Ruby loudly verbally skewering Dan for being a faithless jerk, asks them to leave. He then comes to the back and tells me that I’m fired. He thinks, and Dan apparently insisted, I did it on purpose even though that’s not true!”
‘Pretty Run Of The Mill’ Until…
“This one was unintentional, but it definitely messed up someone’s evening. Back in high school, I was a server at a low-quality Italian restaurant in my city. The kind of place that feels really fancy to townies. One Friday night, we were powering through a dinner rush when one of my coworkers got a 12-top for some little girl’s birthday. It was all pretty run of the mill: they ate and had a good time, nothing out of the ordinary.
After they ate, my coworker (who is the epitome of ditzy blonde girl) offered dessert and the parents wanted to get a cookie for the birthday girl and ask, ‘Are there any nuts in your cookies? She has a severe nut allergy.’ My coworker responds with, ‘Oh no, none at all!’ She brings it out with a sparkler and the family sings happy birthday and everything is hunky-dory until a few minutes later. The girl’s face starts to swell up and the family starts to freak out. Our cookies are full of nuts. Long story short, a hospital visit was had, the restaurant paid the bill, ditzy blonde stereotypes were confirmed, and the little girl was fine.”
“I used to cook at a pub/bistro tourist trap restaurant. This place had a bunch of impossible to drink local suds on tap that unfortunately had the habit of foaming so instead of wasting half a barrel to pour a pint, the bartenders used to refrigerate the spillage in a jug. The spillage would be used in the kitchen to make batters, marinades, etc. The bad news, is the spillage was stored in the identical jugs as the sweet tea. And guess who got a big glass of it? The large table who came directly from the church next door, just after attending AA meeting – some sort of chip milestone celebration. I didn’t get to witness the immediate fall-out, but I know my manager had a lot of angry calls and e-mails after. Whichever young server with a poor sense of smell didn’t have employment after that day. Embarrassing…”
A Bloody Romantic Evening
“I was a working in a bar. I was bringing over a bottle of a fine West Coast Red Blend for the table. A couple was about to have a nice meal and I’m bringing it to them. Simple task, right? Wrong!
I’m doing the thing that you do when you serve it, showing them the label, etc. I start to cut the foil. The bar is slightly dark and the blade on the opener is razor sharp. It’s so sharp that I cut my finger but don’t realize I’ve done it. I start to pour it and it’s only then I see that I’m bleeding all over the table and I also got some blood on the guy’s shirt. Needless to say, they were not too happy but put on a brave face as I was bleeding profusely.”
She Ate Half Of Her Burger Before She Realized That?
“I was working one night at a fairly new restaurant. A family of about 15 people were out for this man’s 40th birthday party. His wife is a vegetarian and has been for 23 years. She tells this to the waiter, who has only been a server for about a month. She orders a vegetarian hamburger with blackened seasoning (which is like cajun seasoning, but makes the burger look black).
This server hits the button for a turkey burger. She doesn’t check when he grabs the tray and gives it to the customer. So it’s covered in this spicy seasoning that doesn’t really let the color of the patty show and she eats most of the burger before she realizes it’s not vegetarian. The customer absolutely lost it. The party of 15 people all walk out without paying (manager said he’d comp their meals), but they just dipped. She sent multiple emails to corporate, claiming she was vomiting all night and didn’t eat for four days after. 1,000-word emails that were straight rage.
She couldn’t resist all that free stuff the corporate managers were going to give her to stop bashing the restaurant. They fired the waiter, gave the customer a ton of freebies, and she comes back. Her first time back, just a nice dinner with her husband, she orders a vegetarian burger, tells the waitress she’s been a vegetarian for 23 years, please make sure it’s vegetarian. Veggie burger comes out with bacon on it. Wow.”
He Ruined The Big Moment
“I work in a very nice restaurant. In the reservations a guy had made, he specifically said, ‘I am going to propose to her, so please have flowers on the table, etc.’ The server came up to their table and assumed they already gotten engaged and they were going to dinner to celebrate and the first thing he said was, ‘Congratulations on the engagement!’ He ruined the whole proposal and the woman even cried.”
Myrtle Beach Mayhem
“I was a server at an oceanfront restaurant in the Myrtle Beach area about five years ago. Apparently, I ruined a family’s vacation. Summer tourist season was in full swing, so there were happy, sunburnt families everywhere. We were on a long wait, so there were people waiting outside on the front patio until they were called for their table. There was also seating outside on the same patio and I had a table out there. The front door to the restaurant was large and wooden and only had a small window at the top that resembled a window on a boat. I was running around like crazy during dinner rush and was taking waters outside to my table. I pushed the front door open with vigor and proceeded to knock a little girl down who was standing in front of it. As soon as I heard the insanely loud ‘thump,’ I knew something horrible had happened. I see the girl on the ground screaming bloody murder. Luckily, I don’t see any blood. Her mother starts yelling her head off at me in my face, telling me they were leaving and thanking me for ruining their vacation on the first day. I was trying SO hard to be sympathetic because I have a bad habit of laughing when I get really nervous. She talked to the manager and left. I didn’t get in trouble. I was just happy I didn’t spill my table’s tray full of drinks during the ordeal.”
What Was He Thinking?
“My manager was helping me with this group of girls who had a birthday. I thought, ‘Let’s make it fun and grab everyone’s attention and sing for this girl.’ For some reason my manager thought he should crack a joke so he asks the girl how old is she turning and she responded with ’18’ with some giggles. So he then proceeds to yell, ‘YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!’ He takes a break to build the suspense and then shouts, ‘SHE’S LEGAL!’ Not a single person laughed. Everyone just stared at us and the girl sitting just became super weirded out. Anyway, it was a super awkward happy birthday song and a swift exit from the ladies.”
You Missed A Spot, Sir
“I was a waitress back in 2006. I mostly did the Sunday shifts, which in Britain means I basically just carried roast dinners around a restaurant for 9 hours. Anyway, I serve some lamb dinners with gravy to a table of four. This table was obviously on a nice family dinner, a mid-30s couple with elderly parents. As I’m asking who was having the lamb, I spot the increasingly reddening, angry face of the younger man on the table. Fuming, he half-shouts at me ‘Excuse me! You’re pouring gravy on my mother!’
I look across my plates, spot the skewed angle of my left hand and my eyes follow the flow of gravy onto the shoulder of an otherwise pristine white blazer being worn by the elderly lady beside me. I immediately apologize profusely, call the waitresses over to bring cloths and help clean the gravy off this poor woman. At this point, the whole thing turns into a blur of commotion. Given that this happened ten years ago, I don’t really remember exactly what happened after other than the fact that I avoided serving that table for the rest of their meal (another waitress looked after them). It wasn’t even like I was new at it, I’d been doing the job for about 6 months at that point. “
Adding Fuel To The Fire
“I accidentally spilled a small amount of White Blend on a woman’s coat while clearing the floor. She instantly gets this look of vehement anger and disgust on her face but before she can say anything her husband butts in. ‘Oh, thank god! That coat is hideous.’
They had both been over-served and were really pissed off with each other. I apologized and tried to escape. The wife kept following me around trying to yell at me but the husband just kept stopping her mid-sentence, commenting on her horrible clothes and how he wished I would spill stuff on all her belongings. They eventually started yelling and screaming at each other and were escorted out by security.”
She Was Given Specific Instructions
“A few years ago, I was waitressing at a restaurant that did these huge, massive brunches on Saturday and Sunday. Usually, the staff goes around their tables, asking their guests if they are here for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary so we could sing them a song and give them a special dessert with fireworks in there. Anyway, this crowd of about 30 people walks in, all in black and they seat themselves. My manager walks in and tells the colleague who was supposed to waitress their table specifically to not ask those people if they have anything to celebrate. Naturally, she walks up to them and says something like, ‘Hello everybody! Are you here for a party or celebration?’ It turns out grandpa just died and they had a last moment together with the whole family.”
Everything’s Not Coming Up Roses
“I’m a hostess at a fine dining restaurant. For birthdays and anniversaries, we add either birthday confetti or rose petals to the table to decorate it for the guests. I was seating a couple and since it said it was their anniversary on their reservation notes, I took the rose petals with me. As they sat down, I sprinkled them at the table and said, ‘Since you’re celebrating your anniversary, we’d like to decorate the table for you.’ The guy looked up and said, ‘It’s our anniversary?!’ The girl then got pissed and screamed, ‘YES. Why do you think we came here?’ I gave them their menus and left as fast as I possibly could.”
Grandpa Was A Trooper
“I was working a birthday party for a families grandfather. They had a nice little cake with some type of WW2 fighter plane stuck on top of it because he was a veteran. I presented the cake and they sang; all was fine and dandy. There were so many comments on how awesome the cake looks and the grandpa was so grateful for his family getting him a thoughtful cake. I go back to cut the cake with the pantry girl and we accidentally drop the cake and it is all smashed all over the floor. I felt so terrible. The grandpa was understanding and didn’t care too much, but the daughter was pissed and basically in tears.”
Someone’s Not A Big Fan Of Birthdays
“A girl was having her 15th birthday party. There was a lot of family there, about 15 people plus her boyfriend. Her grandma had brought in a cake and gave it to the person up front to put in the fridge. Now, unless you say no singing, we’re going to sing when we bring your cake out. So we do and the girl flips out. She gets really mad and angsty, yelling at her poor grandma how she ruined everything. Grandma says, ‘I never told them to sing! It’s not my fault,’ while the staff stand there awkwardly. Her boyfriend took her outside to calm down and she came back in to eat cake.”
She Was Blamed For Her Clumsiness, But That Wasn’t The Case
“I was pretty new at serving and I had a party of 10 who were celebrating a birthday. As I was going around the table handing out their drinks, this baby a woman at the table is holding up grabs the lip of my tray. Everything spills all over this baby and the mother who is wearing a cream colored top which is now mostly pink from some strawberry puree. Of course, the child, also covered in pink goop, starts screeching.
I grab a stack of flimsy napkins in a futile attempt to dry these two off while a co-worker grabs something more absorbent. I’m apologizing profusely when she starts in on me yelling and calling me clumsy. All I can mutter is ‘the baby grabbed my tray.’ Fortunately, other family members saw what happened and told her to chill out. We offered to get her clothes cleaned and comped a few things from the bill as a gesture of goodwill. She still gave me the evil eye the rest of the evening.”
Bold Bachelorette Request
“I work at a Starbucks. A Bachelorette party came in and asked me to draw man parts on their cups and put junk-shaped straws in their drinks, etc. I refused. I guess I’m a huge party pooper, but I mean, this isn’t a bar. It’s a coffee shop, and there are kids all over the place.”
Too Much Pizzazz
I work in the kitchen. For a little more pizzazz, the people brought in sparklers to add to the cake instead of just candles. The waitress lights them, having no idea how much smoke they emit. It was enough to engage the fire alarm. There were no sprinklers, but rather an ear piercing alarm and emergency lighting on a Saturday night during the dinner rush. We had to evacuate and wait for the fire department. A lot of people who already ate just left. It was a fun little, calm, relaxing change of pace compared to the chaos of a typical Saturday night in a restaurant.”
A Balancing Act
“I was a host at a restaurant but I would help everyone who looked like they needed assistance. My manager one day asked if I wanted to come in on a day we are usually closed because there is a large party celebrating 3 children. It was a confirmation, a first communion and a birthday party for 3 siblings combined.
I had never done this before but I was handed a big tray with about 15 glasses of water on them. I ended up taking all the glasses from one side and when it started to not be balanced, I overcorrected and about 5 glasses of water tipped over on my tray and the lip of the tray was like a water slide. It launched 5 glasses worth of water at the 5-year-old who just had her first communion in this beautiful white dress. I was mortified and ran inside the kitchen while the other servers helped tidy up.”