How To Prevent The Campers

A lot of the time there is that table that hangs around when you have been cut that prevents you from cashing out and going home and you cannot do anything about it. Here is what I do to prevent such a thing happening and it really works for me. It is what happens before they pay that makes all the difference.

Let’s say two ladies walk in and immediately when you go over to them they tell you they haven’t seen each other in a long time. Then you know that they want to talk. They will not be ready even to order a beverage at this point.

I will wait maybe about 5-10 minutes before heading back to get the beverage order unless they call me over before that. Then I get the beverage order. After that they probably haven’t looked at the menu yet so I wait maybe 20 minutes before going over there or until they motion to me they are ready. I will usually know that if they have picked up the menu to look at.

I am letting them talk and talk and talk.

Then when they give me the food order no matter if the appetizer is something simple and quick like a salad I will wait till they are finished before putting in their entrees. I always mention take your time there is no hurry and maybe too by this time they want another drink adding to guest check.

When they finish their appetizer I punch in their entree and that takes another 20 minutes to come and they are talking and talking.

Finally when they get their entree they are actually ready to eat it as now they are getting talked out.

Upon clearing and if they order dessert I get the dessert and let them finish and I clear. They have told you they have had a great dinner and are full. No more they say.

Now here is the key I find if you want them to get out and leave quickly so that you can go home.

I find with most waiters they present them with the bill too quick. I make them wait at least 10 minutes after that or until they look like they are wondering where the waiter is with the bill. If you present it right away they will not pay right away. It will just sit there and cause you agony just waiting for them to dig into their wallet. After all you spaced everything else out throughout the entire meal so they can talk so why upset the rhythm by rushing with the bill. They probably have a couple of other things to add anyway.

Almost all the time when I make them wait for the bill that length of time they are ready to pay and leave.

The whole idea is to get them to do most of their talking before they eat. Too many waiters think that by serving the food quick they will leave quick. No they will just talk an hour after they have finished and you will be left standing there in agonizing torture wishing they would just pay and go.

Now in case when you present the bill and they are still yapping and are not paying right away there are a few neat things you can do. First what I do is upon taking payment or presenting a bill to a table close by is I will swing around and go for their bill that is just sitting there on the table like I am ready to close the transaction. When I see the bill without payment or credit card on it , ( I know this already ) , I will say something like , OOPS. This will gain their attention and make them search their wallet.

Another sure fire way of getting people to pay is to do the same thing as above when a table is getting up to leave in your section. The effect of seeing others leave is subliminal and it gives the effect of oh yeah maybe we should be going too and they pay their bill.

An effective thing I do at the end of the night and I have one table left and they are eating slow is I hover nearby and I look at them. Then when they look at me I act shy like a little kid and let them see me looking at them then quickly turn my head giving the impression that oh geez they caught me looking at them and waiting for them to finish. Afterwards they are asking you for the take out container and the bill.

One last thing is keeping hovering around filling up their water or asking if they want more coffee. Eventually they will become so sick of you they will just leave. A lot of waiters will just hide in the back waiting for them to get up and leave. It will never happen if you are absent. Always serve over the top , filling up their waters and each time look at the bill. Clear everything off their table except the water glass. They will leave sooner this way.

We do not want sleepovers in the restaurant , do we?

One owner I worked for was real forthright. He used to take out his keys and show them to the guest and ask if they wanted to lock up! Gotta love that one!



  1. Excellent suggestions! Getting rid of campers is no easy feat. I have really never understood why people linger. I chalk it up to not having a firm understanding of how the business works. Not really their fault, just the way it it is.

  2. Chris…some people I think just forget themselves and lose track of time.They should just go home and have a coffee.

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