Thursday, July 21, 2011

Restaurant Customer Etiquette

This is my dummy article (meaning it will probably never see print) for a restaurant reviewer job. I thought all my former restaurant people would enjoy it
One of the main reasons I got into the restaurant business so many years ago was because I like food. I like cooking. I like eating. I like going out to eat. I like sharing a meal with good friends and having a good time. You and your friends should have a fun and relaxing time when you go out to eat. Still having worked in restaurants for years I have come to notice some general mistakes that restaurant patrons make. If you go into a restaurant, just keep these hints in mind and it will make for a better all around experience for everyone.

The first mistakes most restaurant goers make is not tipping or tipping poorly. There are a lot of saying in the restaurant business, but for a server, the mother of all of these saying is, “if you can’t tip 15% to 20% on your ticket, you can’t afford to go out to eat.” It seems most people don’t know that the average server makes between $2.13 and $3.15 per hourly rate. They have to make the difference up in tips. Even after that, most restaurants require the servers to tip out the bar and bussing staff between .5% to 1% of the servers total sales for the night. Then of course they have to declare what they made for the tax man. Of course the quality of the serves should reflect the quality of the tip. But keep in mind that you are not the server’s only customer and that the server is not in control of everything that happens in the restaurant. And no matter how well intended, religious tracts and wooden coins are not a substitute for money.

The next most common mistake restaurant patrons make is to get mad. This doesn’t help you. EVER! It does not matter why you are mad, if you come in mad or something happens in the restaurant to make you mad. Losing your cool and yelling at the staff is not going to make it any better. If something does go wrong, the management and staff are going to do everything in their power to correct it. The best thing you can do is relax and calmly tell the staff what the problem is. Servers will usually go above and beyond for people who treat them with some respect, but will treat “problem” customers like they are carrying the plague. Take responsibility for your table, state if it is separate checks, what condiments you all will need, who all needs refills. Talk to your server. Communicate with them. Odds are they spend twenty to forty hours a week in that restaurant. They can tell you what to get, what not to get, what is good, and what is just okay.

Try something different! If all you want is a burger or chicken tenders, you can go to fast food places for that. If you are taking the time to go to a seat down restaurant, try something that the restaurant specializes in. But don’t get mad if you don’t like it and don’t ask for anything to replace it, if you have had more than a few bits. Again, talk to your server. They should know the menu backwards and forwards. They can make suggestion based on everything from how hungry you are to who is cooking in the kitchen.

Special order or “Going off the menu” is generally frowned upon in the restaurant business. When I was a line cook, we had a saying, “This isn’t burger king, you can’t have it your way.” Restaurant set up their menus in ever specific ways, for very specific reasons. Depending on the type of restaurant, foods are grouped together for bring out specific flavors, to highlight some specific ingredient, or to speed up production time,. Most restaurants will do a special order, especially if it is for dietary reason, but understand that it will take longer to do. Sense most restaurants wait till their whole order is ready to serve to take it to the table, the special order will be holding the whole party’s food up. If you are looking to “go off menu”, I highly recommend not going during peak time (Friday & Saturday night, Sunday lunch, and any holidays).

Customers rarely understand that the hostess is one of the most important people working in the restaurant. It isn’t her fault that there is an hours worth of people ahead of you. But she does control when you get sat, where you get sat, who your server is. This will determines the quality of your service at the table. If you are put on a long wait, you can always decide to try another place. But if you want to tough it out, send some one form you party to get some drinks from the bar, get a menu and start reading over it, and stay with in ear shot of the host/hostess. Get the drinks to help pass the time. Read the menu so that you will know what you want when you are sat, and stay close to the host stand, cause if you miss your seating, you go to the bottom of the list again.

If you bring children to the restaurant, control them. If you don’t let them scream, smash crackers and pour out all the salt, pepper and sugar at home, don’t let them do it at a restaurant. Children are always welcome at restaurants, its why there are kid menu’s. But just because you don’t have to clean up after them, doesn’t mean that some one else wants to do it.

And last, don’t hit on your server. No matter how hot or cute you think you are being, the server is being nice to you because it is their job. They probably have heard everything you have to say, hundreds of time, so don’t. Be respectful and don’t grab for them. This will get you kick out, usually be the very large and angry kitchen staff. But if you just have to give it a try, at the end of meal, put your name and number in with the bill (with a good tip, because it matters). You will either get a call or you won’t. If there is a “spark” between you and your server, let the server make the first move.

At the end of the day restaurant workers want, what everyone else wants, to pay their bills, to be treated with respect, and to have some fun. If you keep these few little hints in mind and experience of going out to eat will be better for everyone involved. Remember, relax, its just food.




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