Singing “Happy Birthday” at Restaurants

I have never worked in the restaurant industry as a server. Because of this I don’t personally know the hardships of serving ten tables at once, putting up with entitled and snotty customers, or dealing with the aftermath of a table party that decided to get up and leave without paying. However I feel that if I ever did find myself as a waiter I would jump at doing those things ten times over instead of something I see all servers painstakingly doing at every single restaurant I go to:

Singing “Happy Birthday.”

About 95% of the time when I witness restaurant wait staffs serenading a customer with the song (or whatever variation they choose to sing) I watch them perform it with as much enthusiasm as if they were about to watch paint dry and with as much authenticity as a WWE wresting match. The whole experience is painful and miserable to watch.

When I would go out for birthday dinner with my family back in the day I made it clear that the ultimate birthday gift of all would be for them NOT to tip off the restaurant staff that it was my birthday. While it is painful and miserable to watch such a dog and pony show it is those two things plus embarrassing and mortifying to have it directed at you. Last thing I want is to minimize the enjoyment of my special meal because I am dreading the half-hearted singing and clapping cacophony that is about to come.

But enough about my disdain for such a train wreck. While I have to avoid it just once a year I genuinely feel bad for the servers across the nation who must perform silly songs multiple times a day. The nightmare varies from restaurant to restaurant. Some restaurants just opt for a mildly embarrassing rendition of the birthday song and that is it. Other establishments such as a Texas Roadhouse perform full out choreographed routines. Some restaurants use props, others use actual instruments.

Let’s face it, there is a reason why “funny people” like to go to a restaurant and slyly tell the server that it is their friend’s birthday when it really isn’t. No, it is not for the free ice cream or piece of pie. It is to bring upon as much embarrassment and humiliation as possible. Right from the start these things are jokes.

But then again, what do I know? As I mentioned above I have never as much brought out water glasses to a table before. I don’t know the first thing about serving. So let me open this discussion up to my friends in the industry and ask for their opinions on recognizing the birthdays of customers. What does your restaurant do for birthdays? Do you verify birthday claims with an I.D.? Must the whole restaurant wait staff participate in the birthday recognition? Do you feel like a complete fool?

If you take the time to answer any of these questions on my Facebook page I will send you one of my Don’t Blink pens so you have something really cool to write with when taking orders. Silly birthday songs aside I really do appreciate the work of restaurant servers. It is definitely a skill with extreme patience and multi-tasking involved. With so much already on the “plates” of servers I don’t think they should be required to add “serenader” to their list of duties. Don’t Blink.