Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What NOT To Do When Dining Out

Before you begin to read this post, and assume I am an arrogant, presumptuous brat, I'd like to say a few things. I am not implying that every person I've served falls into the following categories of people. I am simply highlighting negative experiences. I've had just as many positive experiences in this industry (if not more) than negative. I'm simply trying to help people from becoming the subject of some other server's blog by providing a few essential dining tips. Ready? Keep reading. Still think I'm arrogant and presumptuous? Read another blog. This one is clearly not for you.

Dining and Closing Times

We've all been there. It's late. You're hungry. Not in the mood for fast food. What do you do? Cruise over to your favorite restaurant. The only problem is, by the time you pull in, it's nearly closing time. "But Sarcastic Sever, I still have fifteen minutes before they lock the doors!" Well, uninformed diner, let me inform you of what goes on during these fifteen minutes:

Chances are, the staff is dying to go home. It's late in the night, so the dinner crowd has died down. Managers are closing down drawers, servers are doing their copious amounts of side-work (various cleaning tasks, rolling silverware, and doing all of their tip-outs for the evening, to prepare to go home).

What happens when you burst through the door, eager to breathlessly announce your arrival before close? You screw up the program. Cooks are upset that they must now dirty clean utensils, servers and bartenders who once had dreams of an early night off are now left to wait for you to sit, decide on food, wait for the food to be cooked, wait for you to eat said food, and wait for you to pay your check. Noticing a trend? There are a few simple ways to get around annoying the entire staff:

1. Order something fast, and easy to be cooked. Try a salad, or order something that can be fried quickly. Shy away from foods that need to be cooked on a grill, or flattop, as to avoid dirtying the (usually) already clean areas of the kitchen.

2. Better yet, make your order to go, and enjoy your restaurant fare in the comfort of your own home.

3. Be polite. Nothing pleases restaurant staff more than a gracious, understanding patron who values the time of the employees.

4. If you do choose to dine in, be sure to tip appropriately. You're taking up valuable time, let your server or bartender know you appreciate their efforts to make you more comfortable.

Dining and Children

I'm sure your child is just the sweetest thing to ever grace this planet in your eyes, but to others, children can be an obstacle when dining out (to both staff and other patrons). Tips for managing your little ones, and keeping the peace in the dining room:

1. Servers are there to make your meal away from home convenient and comfortable. We are not there to monitor your child while you and your friends/husband/boyfriend/etc. have a private moment. Keep an eye on your children, and ensure that they are on their best behavior. Unruly children can ruin it for everyone. I'm sure you expect me to ooh and aww over Junior's new-found ability to eat with a spoon for a few bites, but the mess that is made is less-than-adorable. Try to keep the mess to a minimum. If you are unable to keep the mess confined and manageable, be sure to compensate your server with a good tip. Do you enjoy wiping applesauce that has been dried onto a table and chair at home? How about scraping french fries or other food matter off of the floor after a meal? Well, how can you expect your server (who did not birth said child) to be pleased to find a mess of epic proportions after being left a meager 10-15% tip?

2. Servers are not the only people displeased by unruly children. Other patrons choose to dine out to enjoy a quiet, well-prepared meal away from home. Loud, rude, misbehaved children can ruin it for everyone. Try bringing a toy, or something else to occupy your child during wait times for food. You can even ask your server to place your child's order first, to ensure your hungry child gets fed fast. Trust me. It helps.

Treatment of Staff: What Is NOT Acceptable

1. Snapping fingers & whistling. We are not animals. We have names. Some of us even wear nametags. If your server isn't wearing one of these newfangled identifiers, a simple "excuse me", or even eye contact will work. We will get the point, and get with you as soon as possible. Snapping and whistling will get you nowhere.

2. Condescending behavior. We are people. You can look us in the eye and speak to us like humans. We are not invisible. When a server approaches your table and greets you, it is expected that you return the greeting, whether or not you care about your server's day. We typically work long shifts, and a little kindness can turn a long shift into less of a nightmare. A little goes a long way.

3. Wait your turn. Believe it or not, you are not our only table. If each server only had one table at a time, we'd be sitting at street lights on our days off panhandling. Just finished the coke your server set in front of you .014 seconds ago? Allow him or her the chance to greet another table and offer them their first beverage before refilling yours for the second time. We won't forget about you, but we do have other responsibilities. We won't let you starve or die of thirst, we promise.

4. Crystal balls stay at home. Servers are not mind-readers. We do try to anticipate your needs before you request them, but sometimes we can't anticipate out of the ordinary requests. Do you absolutely NEED that bleu cheese dressing to dip your fries? Ask your server when putting in your order. Try to avoid running him or her back to the kitchen each time he or she arrives at your table. Think about whatever condiments, spices, or other special needs you may require for your meal. We want you to be comfortable, and we don't want you to wait long for your needs to be met. Ask us. You'll get it. Our tip depends on it. Unnecessary trips cost us time that could be spent at other tables, which can put a server in the weeds in the blink of an eye. Avoid this at all costs.

5. Camping. Tables are our source of income. If you've eaten your meal, and your check is sitting on the table, pay it. Try not to linger, especially if there is a wait. For example, if you finish your lunch in 30 minutes, but choose to sit and linger for another 30, your server could have easily sat another couple at your very table, and made more money. Instead, you're sitting, taking up precious real-estate. If you and your companion just have to have this table for more time than it takes to eat, make up for it by tipping additionally. After all, think of the money that could have been made had another couple been sat after you.

6. Know what you want when you tell your server you are ready. Don't decide to read the menu when your server arrives, and then ask him or her to wait, because you're going to "decide quickly". While you "hmm" and "uhh" over your lunch, your server could be helping other customers. Not ready? That's fine. Just don't hold your server captive while you tediously read through each selection in the menu. Your server WILL return. I promise.

I will probably come up with a few other juicy tidbits to add to this compilation of information, so read on for any additions in future posts.

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