When I moved to Wichita Falls, I had a hard time finding a job. I was looking for something that would be Monday through Friday 8-5, and after filling out numerous applications I was getting nowhere. That’s when I decided to try my hand at serving, which was something I’d never done before. Buffalo Wild Wings gave me a shot, and in the time that I was employed there, I found that it was one of the most difficult, challenging, and rewarding places that I’ve ever worked.

There are nights that servers work 14 hours without a break. They work for very little pay. On a busy night they’ll walk between 10-15 miles going back and forth across the restaurant if it’s a big place. Here are a few things that I learned while working at a restaurant.

The serving staff is not made up of morons.

It’s easy to look around a restaurant and think that the people working there couldn’t “do better” or that your server is below the median IQ. The thing is, nothing could be farther from the truth. From management who hold business degrees to servers with a master’s degree, many of the people who work in restaurants are intelligent, educated people. There’s also a good chance that the person serving you is going to college.

My advice: Don’t judge someone just because they’re bringing you the refill on your iced tea.

Some customers are never happy.

It took 3 ½ minutes for your server to get to you and greet you, and it should have been only 3 minutes. Then it took 20 minutes to get your food on a Saturday night when it’s a packed house. After all that, you only got two sides of ranch when you wanted 3. Even though the problem was fixed immediately, you hold a grudge and demand to talk to management because your server is an idiot. After that you order three martinis and gripe because you got charged for all three. The horror! Then, after eating everything, you need to talk to management again because it was terrible and you don’t want to pay for it. Even though you ate it. All of it.

My advice: Don’t be this customer. When it’s a packed house, expect delays. And don’t expect to get your food for free after you eat it and THEN complain about it.

Not every server deserves a great tip.

You know when your server is busy. You can tell by the tables around you and a little bit of observation goes a long way. In Texas, servers are paid well under minimum wage, so when they say that they make their money from tips, it’s true. But some people get lazy and don’t check on their tables as they should. If your drink has been empty for ten minutes and you can clearly see your server in the corner gabbing with other servers, it’s not hard to figure out that they aren't doing everything they could. It’s possible, however, that your server is behind-the-scenes working. As a server you’re expected to do a number of things at once, such as fill the ice machine when it goes empty or run silverware through the dishwasher and get it rolled up for use. That may not sound like much, but on a busy night your servers are literally working up a sweat.

My advice: Take everything into consideration when it comes time to tip. I try to tip well, but there are times when my server will get the standard 15% because I could tell that he or she wasn’t doing their job. I also never stiff a server on their tip. Which brings me to my next point…

If you don’t leave a tip, don’t leave your number.

I don’t know how many times servers get a phone number from a guy, along with a terrible tip or no tip at all. Sorry, dude, your number won’t pay my bills and it doesn’t impress me. Interestingly, it happens more often than you’d think. When you’re a cheapskate or you treat the wait staff poorly, it doesn’t make them want to be seen in public with you.

My advice: If you want to give a server your number, go for it. Just be sure to leave an acceptable tip of at least 15%, if not much higher.

When the food comes out wrong, it’s not necessarily the server’s fault.

There are times when your food will come out wrong. Things happen. It very well could be the fault of your server, maybe it was the kitchen, or it could be you. There were times when people would order food from me, I would repeat their order back to them, and when it came out they would question why they got grilled chicken instead of chicken tenders, which are fried. If you’re not sure about an item, have the server clarify; it’s their job to do so. Then there are the times that a server gets your order wrong or hits the wrong button on the order screen, and the times when the kitchen doesn’t read the order properly. Even though you’re hungry, try to stay calm and it’ll get fixed for you.

My advice: If your order comes out wrong, let the server know and he or she will correct the problem. If they don’t, that’s when it’s time to get management involved. Everyone wants you to have a good experience, and when they apologize they really mean it.

Don’t get upset with the server when you get cut off.

People who are serving alcohol in the state of Texas usually have a TABC (Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission) license. What that means is that they’ve taken a course on the laws regarding the serving of alcohol. If you get cut off, there’s probably a reason for it. If you walk out of that establishment drunk and then get into an accident or get arrested, the person who served you could very well lose his or her job.

My advice: If your alcohol service gets cut off, don’t get mad at the server. They’re doing their job and your tip at the end of the night won’t pay rent when they get fired.

Some of the best people you’ll ever meet work in a restaurant.

Whether they’re just getting out of high school, between jobs, getting out of the military after serving our country, or going to school, some of the best people you’ll ever meet work in restaurants. Even though I don’t work there anymore, some of my closest friendships came from my time at Buffalo Wild Wings.

My advice: The next time you’re at a restaurant, treat your wait staff well. Their job is a lot harder than you think.