It’s 10:24 p.m. on a Saturday, six minutes before closing. An eerie calm haunts the empty booths. Hushed murmurs and tennis shoes on wooden floors break the hollow silence. From the back, I can hear the faint and distant sound of bussers and dirty tableware.
As hopes of getting home at a semi-decent hour start to rise, a small face peeking through the window shatters the dream of a good evening. The sweeping wooden doors swing open letting a cold gust in from the outside. Two forms stand in front of me. And then the four most dreaded words of the restaurant business sound out: “Are you still open?”
These guests were just two more in an endless line of customers, set out to nag, push and stiff the restaurant employees. I have two words for these grumblers: restaurant etiquette.
Throw away your mother’s words of “chew with your mouth closed” and proper uses of forks and spoons. In the land of dining out, those don’t matter.
Not treating a restaurant employee with the respect they deserve will land you with a plate of “smashed” potatoes and a side of “spit” pea soup. With these helpful hints, diners and workers alike can enjoy an evening away from the kitchen.
Hostesses are the first employee a customer confronts. The most common sound they hear: sharp, whining noises.
More annoying than “we’ve been waiting so long” or “this booth is too small” is the complaint hostesses get asked regularly. “Why do we have to wait, there are a ton of open tables.”
In a restaurant there are “sections.” Servers have around three to five tables they attend to during the shift. Slowly, as more servers come to work, more tables become available. Hostesses cannot seat tables that have no servers.
From the very moment the server’s section opens, a stampede of starving individuals take over six hours of a server’s life. Of the entire restaurant staff, servers get beat down the most.
Servers have two jobs: to take an order and get food out. Once a server turns a food ticket over to the kitchen, it’s someone else’s responsibility.
More important than understanding the workings of a restaurant is appreciating the people. Remember that everyone is a person, not an ignorable decoration. The words “can I have more water?” should not be uttered with a mouth full of salad.
This sea of dos and don’ts could turn anyone away from restaurants. But consider that servers are belittled from opening to closing with no chance for rebuttal. When put to good use, this information can give customers a chance to redeem themselves.
I have had bad dining experiences that ended in a poor tip. Now, I tip 20 percent and let the server off the hook. These extra steps aren’t necessary, but will be appreciated more than you think.
Besides, when was the last time you wanted to help someone who snapped their fingers in your face?