Do LA Chinese restaurant waiters not smile enough?

World Journal (世界日報) reports that Chinese restaurant customers don't think they're getting service with a smile. Waiters reply that it is hard for them to offer considerate service with an excessive workload.

Some diners said that the waiters were often in a rush and did not give them warm welcomes. A customer complained that the waiter started cleaning up the table in the middle of a family-gathering meal, showing them the back door. In some cases, the waiters arranged strangers to sit at the same table during busy hours. A foodie who frequents San Gabriel Valley commented that the Chinese restaurants had first-class food but third-class service.

Many waiters responded to the Journal that they are under intense pressure from workload and the potential to be fired. According to Mr. Chen, an experienced waiter who has been serving in a San Gabriel Valley restaurant for ten years, his work days have been cut from five days to four days since last year, while his work load has doubled. Another waiter said that he worked long hours six days a week, and his job got overwhelming during the weekend as loads of customers flood in. In this circumstance, he said, it is hard for a waiter to keep smiling.

6 thoughts on “Do LA Chinese restaurant waiters not smile enough?”

  1. Daniela asked very good questions and Gloria, thank you for coming to share your understanding as a young Chinese student. You had said something I wanted to say. I also would like to use this opportunity to introduce you to Daniela who is also from USC.

    When we came here to study in the 80s and early 90s, Mainland China was still very poor, even though most of our families were not poor by the Chinese standard at that time. As an example, my mother’s monthly income as a medical doctor was less than $50. However, a 2-bed room apartment’s monthly rent was less than $2 — yes, $2!

    For most of the Chinese students I knew in my time, it was impossible for their families to pay for the education in the States. This was one of the reasons why we must find any job available (and work illegally in order to survive) — Chinese restaurants, sewing factories and motels were the most popular places for us to work. So, we became the resilient and hard working Chinese laborers (and students). And, of course, we did not care about being underpaid or treated not like human being by the Chinese bosses at that time. Well, I am not complaining. Actually, I still thank them for giving me the opportunities to make a living and forcing me to become a man a little early.

    I was the 2nd group of the “Red China” students who came to the States (1981). Not everybody has the courage to come to a new land without knowing the language first. However, that was the group — so we (about 300 people) ended up studying at Evans Adult School in Chinatown first. Every opportunity in this country was a treasure to us because we did not have it in the Communist China. We were the motivated people and the word “difficulty” was not in our dictionary.

    Of course, the situation has changed and most of the Chinese students here now are also very different — they are richer, better prepared and did not experience the starvation and political persecution (like Jewish in WWII) before they came to the States. And, of course, most of them were very well educated even before they came here (e.g. Gloria had her masters degree). Chinese restaurant jobs will surely not have that good taste anymore.

    Currently, most of the waiters/waitresses of the Chinese restaurants are the ones who do not speak English very well. Some of them are new immigrants and had their first job here.

    I will write more when I have time.

  2. That is an interesting phenomenon. I did not realize the fact until I saw this article.
    I think students in my generation are relatively richer and labor-lazier than before. So most of them won’t take part-time jobs like working in Chinese restaurants. It requires more labor work and pays low. They prefer jobs that need more knowledge & technology and with higher pay.
    With that being said, most of the waiters/waitresses nowadays are lower educated and they do not have passion in what they are doing. It is just something they do to make a living.
    Besides, most of the people who visit the Chinese restaurants are Chinese and generally they just tip by the minimum, like 10% for lunch, 15% for dinner. They won’t tip too little even if the service is not good; nor will they tip more if the service is excellent. So there is no encouragement for the waiters/waitresses to provide better service. To be honest, I guess they don’t really care…
    These are just my own opinion. Hope it makes sense to you.

  3. That is an interesting phenomenon. I did not realize the fact until I saw this article.
    I think students in my generation are relatively richer and labor-lazier than before. So most of them won’t take part-time jobs like working in Chinese restaurants. It requires more labor work and pays low. They prefer jobs that need more knowledge & technology and with higher pay.
    With that being said, most of the waiters/waitresses nowadays are lower educated and they do not have passion in what they are doing. It is just something they do to make a living.
    Besides, most of the people who visit the Chinese restaurants are Chinese and generally they just tip by the minimum, like 10% for lunch, 15% for dinner. They won’t tip too little even if the service is not good; nor will they tip more if the service is excellent. So there is no encouragement for the waiters/waitresses to provide better service. To be honest, I guess they don’t really care…
    These are just my own opinion. Hope it makes sense to you.

  4. I agree. I know very well how a Chinese waiter/waitress feels at work.
    The other reason why the services are not that good is that we are no longer seeing the highly educated waiter/waitress any more as we had seen them in the 80s and early 90s.
    The Chinese restaurants were able to find lots of poor students (I was one of them) who were happy to work with the minimum wage or no wage at all (just the tips), and still worked very hard.
    To me, a waiter’s job was the best job I could find as a student who had no working permit. Serving 10 tables at a Saturday night could make more than $100 in tips, and when I went home, I could always sleep very well because I was happy and tired.

    1. daniela.gerson

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Ivan. Why aren't there highly educated watier/ waitresses anymore? How are they supporting themselves? And who are the waiters/ waitresses instead?

  5. We don’t go to Chinese restaurants for service or friendliness…. we just go for the food…. LOL…. Is that bad???? LOL…. They’re all about customer turn overs and making money…. if you know this already you don’t take their “attitude” personally…. If you desire service and “welcome”…. don’t go there!!

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