In response to several of the comments I received on last week‚Äôs article, I thought a look at the perspectives of a diner vs. a server would be a worthy exercise. Last fall, Bruce Buschel wrote One Hundred Things Restaurant Statters Should Never Do, and the restaurant world was set a-buzzin‚Äô about whether or not we agreed with all of the points made. The response was quick and furious, with a litany of snarky servers airing their grievances about the table last night who tipped them poorly. (I myself have never said a bad thing about a customer EVER!) In writing this I hope to bring exactly what I try to provide my guests with nightly ‚Äì a better experience. I may not agree with every single one of the 100 things, generally, I do. It is with that in mind that I would like to present a brief‚Ä¶
10 Things Diners Should Never Do (Part 1)
1) Don‚Äôt be late for your reservation. Remember the last time you were frustrated that you were unable to sit down at the time of your reservation? It‚Äôs because the four parties in front of you were late for theirs. Running the door of a restaurant is a delicate art ‚Äì judging the ebb and flow of diners and accommodating special requests requires patience and skill. Additionally, if you do not have a reservation, it is never beneficial to point out, ‚ÄúBut that table‚Äôs open, and we‚Äôll be quick!‚Äù Just because a table appears to be empty doesn‚Äôt mean it isn‚Äôt reserved, or being held to form a larger table for a group coming in. If there is a possibility of seating you at a table believe me, they will. It‚Äôs their job to get you in! If you are unavoidably running late, simply call and let them know, it will normally not be a problem to accommodate you. Knowing your arrival time is valuable, and makes getting you sat in a timely manner possible.
2) Don‚Äôt ignore your server. This may sound like a silly request, but I can‚Äôt tell you how many times I‚Äôve said, ‚ÄúDo you prefer your martini up or on the rocks?‚Äù only to receive the response, ‚ÄúYes.‚Äù Chances are, the reason your server is talking to you is to help guide your experience, so you‚Äôll enjoy the restaurant to its fullest potential. It will only be a minute and we‚Äôll get out of your way to let you enjoy each other and the food. A server‚Äôs ‚Äúspiel‚Äù as we call it, will normally guide you through the menu, tell you about things that are not on the menu (specials, flights, etc.), and will provide you with a little insight as to best utilize the unique characteristics of the restaurant. And ultimately, your server is a professional who knows the menu, and can help you with your decisions. Which brings us to‚Ä¶
3) Don‚Äôt be afraid to ask questions. Don‚Äôt know what ramps are? Ask! No idea which Italian wine to choose because you normally drink Merlot? Ask! No matter who you are, you are not as knowledgeable about the restaurant‚Äôs food as your server is. They are not trying to be ‚Äúbetter than you‚Äù, it is very simply their job to know these things, and to communicate them to you. And realistically, you have a far less chance of getting something you don‚Äôt want if you ask for menu clarification when ordering. No vegetarian wants to inadvertently get the pasta with pancetta and the squeamish may be unprepared to receive sweetbreads (although you really should try them). A simple question or two easily prevents sending back inappropriate dishes.
4) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON‚ÄôT FORGET TO TELL US ABOUT YOUR ALLERGIES! I recently waited on a couple whose birthday celebration evening was ruined because they forgot to mention the husband‚Äôs severe nut allergy. It was perhaps the single scariest thing that‚Äôs ever happened to me at a table. Although the ingredient you‚Äôre allergic to may not be listed on the menu, it could be in the dish you‚Äôve ordered. Or (worse) your dish could be prepared next to a dish that contains your allergen, and cross contamination can occur. The very last thing we EVER want is for you to have to go to the hospital because of something we served you. I‚Äôm begging you. Just tell us. (On the same note, not liking something and being allergic to something are completely different. Hating mushrooms and possibly being killed by them are not in the same hemisphere. Please, tell us your aversions so that accommodations can be made, but don‚Äôt lie about allergies ‚Äì they are serious business.)
5) Don‚Äôt say you‚Äôre ready to order if you‚Äôre not. A server has a sequence of service in their head before you sit down. Timing is everything, and that frankly is why there is such great potential for things to go wrong. Your server has come to your table because they want to take your order accurately, send it to the kitchen correctly, have it delivered swiftly, thereby providing you the perfect experience. If you‚Äôre not ready, it throws off the entire system. If you have a few questions, that is of course never a problem (as referenced in ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt‚Äô #3), and will likely help you reach your decision. However, if you simply haven‚Äôt looked yet, or need a few minutes to reach your decision, even if everyone else at the table is ready ask your server to return in a few minutes ‚Äì really, we don‚Äôt mind. Any server who disagrees with this is unprofessional, and doesn‚Äôt truly care about giving you what you want.
Next Week: We‚Äôll finish the list of 10, and highlight a few restaurants with truly exemplary service.