This post previously appeared on MUNCHIES in December, 2016.
You fall into certain routines rather easily in the restaurant business. You wipe down tables, pick up dirty dishes, foam beers off without even realizing you're doing it. You do it all on autopilot, and at the end of every shift, clock out with a few too many drinks.
I recently heard from a colleague of mine who suffers from the same autopilot tendencies, but it involves making jokes, mostly bad ones. When she used to work as a waitress, she had standard one-liners that made customers laugh every time. "When I hear someone say they want to have a 'Skinny Bitch', I turn around and say in a very dramatic way, 'Did someone call me?'" It's a devious hospitality trick to bring more entertainment to the table—even if extremely depressing—and it's particularly useful for self-interest: entertainment means tip, and tip equals overall enjoyment of life.
I recently visited several restaurants and bars around Amsterdam to find out what kind of jokes people are using these days. Apparently, doing tricks with beer glasses and repeatedly denying that there's a toilet in the building are all the rage. Here we go. God help us all.
Quinten (24), The Pool Bar Amsterdam
"I don't really have pre-rehearsed jokes, but there's something I often say to tease couples a bit. If they give me a tip, I'll say to the girl: 'It better be because you think I work well, and not just because I look so good.' I know… it's a really bad joke. Sometimes, I pretend I have a pair of binoculars with beer glasses. It looks so silly now, but you kinda have to be there when everyone is drunk. Those jokes immediately become a lot more fun."
Rijk (26), The Pool Bar Amsterdam
"Occasionally, when people ask for a large beer, I grab one of the huge pitchers. When people then ask for a smaller beer, I grab a shot glass. The jokes are not too intelligent, but it's still fun, and you'll make people laugh the easiest that way."
Maguy (21), Bar Moustache
"The joke that I always use is actually a pretty good sales trick. If I come to the guests and ask if they'd like dessert and I can see that they are unsure, I always say—with a very sweet tone—desserts don't go to the body, they go to the heart. It makes them laugh and it usually persuades them to buy a dessert."
"I make a lot of jokes with customers. You have to feel how far you can go with a certain person. Sometimes I say things that are just on the edge, but I do it with customers I know well. If it's an old lady and she wants to buy something, I might just say: 'What will it be, Grandma?' With Brits, I tend to have fun. We are a seafood restaurant, and when they ask if we sell crab, I say: 'we don't sell any crap here."
Charlie (25), Restaurant Lt. Cornelius
"A really bad joke I sometimes make when I hear people say 'nice' before I've put the food on the table, is by replying: 'you don't even know that yet'. They can always laugh about that.
Brechtje (20), De Heeren van de Aemstel
"Sometimes, I act like a real dumbass. When people ask really obvious questions like: 'do you have beer?' I simply answer with no. Of course eventually, they'll get their beer. When people ask stupid questions like 'Do you have a toilet?', I do the same thing and tell them, 'no, sorry, we don't have a toilet. If you go left and cross the bridge, you'll find the nearest one.' It's nice to see their surprised look."
Jeanne (24), Café Bouwman
"We have our own bar cat here, Doutzen. Guests find it funny that she climbs upon the bar stool, but to make it even funnier, we often give her a gin glass of water. We put it on the bar and she'll drink from it. Some guests don't pay attention and think the cat's really drinking booze. Cheap thrills, I guess.
Someone once took the cat's drink and thought it was for him. We had to react quickly and say, 'Uh, sorry, that's cat water."