Luis Lopera is the most tenured waiter at Cooper’s Seafood House in Scranton. The job is one of only two he’s held the entire time he’s been in the United States since emigrating from Columbia over 30 years ago. (He’s also worked as a courthouse interpreter). After three decades of experience as a food server, he shares his thoughts last January, during “Be Kind to Food Servers Month.”
“I love what I do. It’s great to work with different people every day. I come in contact with someone different every day, from someone 90-years-old who needs a little help to someone 2-years-old and curious about everything in the restaurant. Through the years I have come to know and create relationships with customers. Many people I have met are fantastic people. I’ve come to know their meal preferences and favorite dishes.
I try to help however I can. Sometimes I am waiting on someone who is handicapped or cannot use his or her hands very well. So, on my own, I cut up the steak and bread to make it nice and easy for them. Later, I’ve heard many people say, “You’ve helped my grandma or my daughter,” and it is so rewarding.
My favorite part of my job is when I bring something to the table and someone says, “Oh, that was great.” It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal; it could just be something simple that is so good. When I bring out cake for a little kid and see that smile, I come back to the kitchen and think, “Wow, this is great.”
It’s not always a picnic; sometimes you meet someone who is demanding with a little bit of a stronger way of saying things. Some people in the industry may say a person is “difficult to deal with.” I don’t find it hard to deal with people. I believe you just have to try to understand that they want things a certain way. Instead of trying to change their minds, I try to understand what they’re saying and help make it the way they want it.
No matter what the attitude of those I am waiting on, I’m not going to treat anyone differently. I do my job right. After many years in the business, I’ve seen those who I know will tip well and those who will not tip at all. Regardless of that, I do my job the best I can and treat each customer well. I would say 99 percent of people are grateful and appreciative to the server.
Cooper’s has the best family owners; it’s not a chain. It’s a great family; they know the business well and dedicate a lot of time to making it successful. They buy nothing but the best, freshest seafood they can find. When I serve something at the restaurant, I know I’m selling something good, something fresh made right here by our own chef. That’s what I like best.
I’ve waited on regular customers and performers from visiting Broadway shows and actors and actresses. At Cooper’s, it’s part of the job. I spend so much time there, I feel like the restaurant is my home! I have so many good days and met so many people, it’s very rewarding.”
Originally published in Happenings Magazine