Let me tell you, having worked in the industry for a while, I have learned that there are somethings that should never be allowed to fly in a restaurant. Unfortunately, most of these are items that the diners shouldn’t be doing. I’ve written some previous articles on how to improve as a dining attendant/mixologist. This one is for the hungry guest that appears at a restaurant door seeking a table at a nice sit down restaurant. I have started with 5 items but I assure you there are plenty more :).
- Know the difference between a preference and an allergy. When your dinint attendant comes to take your order and you ask them to hold the onions, the dairy, the wheat – you should always mention whether or not it’s an allergy. It sounds like oversharing but I assure you it is very very important. A preference is because you don’t like it. An Allergy is because it will cause you physical harm. Your dining attendant, the manager, and the culinary staff all need to know this information. When your ticket for food goes to the culinary staff it tells them whether they need to sterilize their tools and station before making your dish or wash them. It allows the leadership to understand how serious any mistake could be and how much attention your table will be needing. I cannot stress how important this bit of communication is and how it will change the experience you have at the restaurant.
- Do not let your children run around the restaurant. Parents who have children, aunts, uncles, grandparents who are bringing children in – do not let them run. Restaurants are not play grounds. It is inappropriate and unsafe for you to allow the child to roam the restaurant. Staff are constantly carrying sharp objects, breakable glass, and hot plates to and from places. They are moving fast and they are not looking for something below their normal line of sight – it’s uncommon in the restaurant industry and deemed unsafe (any boxes would be moved before the shift begins for safety). Children do not have fast reflexes or the knowledge of the place to know where is and isn’t safe. Running around will cause them to be harmed and place the staff of the restaurant at risk as well. Keep your child in their chair or don’t bring them in.
- Tips – This seems to be one of those issues where people tip poorly now days. Especially around the holidays. Let me tell you a secret – most of the staff there lives off the tips. They make minimum wage (at least in SF, CA) hourly but the tips make the difference between eating cheese and crackers or eating a burger. Many restaurants do not give their staff free food – they must pay for it. In Michigan servers only make $3-4 an hour and then tips. That is half of minimum wage. My point is – don’t skimp on the tip just because you didn’t order your food correctly. It’s hard understanding what a customer wants from the word go and yes good service should be rewarded higher than bad service. However, think about this – many of those employees do that for a living and are working atleast 2 jobs to get enough to pay for life. You are lucky to have a salary and stability – share a little. Great service should be tipped 25-30% of the total bill; good service 20-25%; ok service 18-20%; decent or minimal service 12-18%; and anything that’s considered poor service should be 10%. You should never EVER tip below 10%. That is just rude.
- Know that being Vegan or Vegetarian is a life choice. Let’s talk about diet restrictions. Like having allergies or preferences – many restaurants can accomodate vegan or vegetarian requests. However – this doesn’t mean you are allergic to animal biproducts. If you are vegetarian but ok with eggs – please say so. If you are vegan due to allergies – state that. It is common knowledge that these are lifestyle choices and not typically due to allergies. Again – allergies will change the way the food is prepared and handled in the culinary world and is very very important.
- Move your hands/dishes/phones out of the way. When someone comes carrying your food to your table – please move your items. The food is hot and so are the plates. Just because they aren’t using a hotpad doesn’t mean their fingertips aren’t burning. It is extremely rude to keep everything where it is and act all put out when they have to move stuff. SHIFT YOUR SHIT. Be kind and move some glasses. Move some silverware. Move a plate. At the end of the night we do need your cooperation to make the experience as nice as it is. Like wise – do not put bags or feet into the aisleway. If you are tall ask for a high top table. Leaving your items in the aisleway will create a hazard and you are likely to end up with wine or food all over you.
While there are many other things that need to be addressed in terms of what the “societally acceptable” behavior in restaurants is becoming – these basic items will help. Be respectful of the restaurant and their staff. They work very hard to make it a great experience and simple things like this will help enhance that for you. Don’t be that customer they talk about for the rest of the year.