It seems that making decisions becomes more difficult to those of a certain age. Perhaps it’s because we’ve spent a lifetime making them. Where should we live? What schools are the best for our kids? How do we choose the right car with the best gas mileage? What is the right career and the perfect job? I don’t know about you, but at this point in my life, I sometimes feel as if my decision quota has been reached and I just don’t have it in me anymore to make another one.
This becomes obvious when I’m invited out to dinner with friends in my age group, and I look around the table in horror as I realize that this is a problem of crisis proportions. Some of us can’t decide what to eat, whether to eat and how much to eat. We can’t remember if we’re vegan, vegetarian or carnivores. Are we lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant or just intolerant? We’ll turn to our spouses, call our kids, consult our medical records (some of us will check online, others of us carry our records around in a Walmart bag, just in case something happens). Meanwhile the ever-patient server grimaces and waits, pen and pad in hand, as sweat drips down his forehead. By the end of the night, said server is spent while the table of senior citizens happily and noisily departs the eating establishment, ready to take down another waiter or waitress on another night, very soon.
About 10,000 people turn 65 years old each day in the U.S., and so it is vital that restaurant servers receive special training in our care and feeding. These are my recommendations:
Tips on How to Serve a Baby Boomer:
1. Patience, my young friend. If you are a millennial, eradicate from your mind any similarities between this group of baby boomers and your parents. Refrain from the impulse to overexplain, underexplain or ignore them if these customers talk down to you. Do not take it personally. Just take their order.
2. Breathe in, breathe out. Practice your best meditation and breathing techniques before you approach the table. Expect repeated questions about the menu, how items are prepared, why braised lamb is not on the menu today, why are drinks so expensive. Take a deep breath, smooth down the front of your shirt and your ruffled feathers and answer the questions sans attitude. Refer to Tip #1.
3. Hey, sweetie. Be prepared for a barrage of dessert orders. It seems that senior citizens like their sweets more than any other population, including greedy Halloween trick-or-treaters. Perhaps it’s a lifetime of deprivation or restraint. Maybe they’ve decided to live it up in their declining years. Whatever the reason, assemble a stack of take-home boxes right near the door in the kitchen for their leftover entrees. 9 times out of 10, this table is going to stop eating halfway through dinner as if on cue and head for dessert. I have personally been in the company of seniors who ate desserts first, chanting “Life is short, eat dessert first.” Come to think of it, that was me.
4. Wine more, whine less. This age group loves wine. They’ll say things like” “Oh, I shouldn’t” or “Just one won’t hurt, will it?” but the wine list runs a close second to desserts and probably outpaces the meal as a go-to item on the menu. Maybe it’s the medication or the time of night, but if any of them orders more than one glass of wine, be prepared for sexual innuendo, repeated requests for the location of the rest room and a face the color of beets in the summer sun. Oops, that was me again. Check the employee code of ethics for your responsibility for tipsy elders at your table. Inform your manager to be on the lookout in case the group gets rowdy.
5. Tip off. They will sit around after the meal staring at the bill with a chorus of “Why didn’t we ask for separate checks?” This will likely affect the size of your tip. Many of them still think that 10% is the going rate. You will hear whispers along the lines of “How much are you supposed to tip now?”, with gasps when a more enlightened person who knows the answer tells the rest of the group, who may or may not comply. After all, this is a population who does not adhere to the norms of society any longer. In fact, you might hear them say, during dinner, “The best part about being 65 is I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do anymore.” Yep, me again. In any case, ask your manager to refresh your understanding of the Employee Bill of Rights. Feverishly practice Tip #2.
Yes, this is a demographic that will challenge you to your core. Get used to it. With increased access to health care, exercise and good food (including wine and desserts), seniors are living longer, so they’ll be around for a good long time.
Leave your angst and frustration at the door. If you play this right, you will be sitting in their chairs one day, wreaking havoc on servers of the next generation.