Thursday, November 5, 2009

Behave Yourself!

Recently a list of 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do was posted on the New York Times website, and boy, did it generate some commentary. While I definitely agree with some of the items, others I think are overkill—always bring the peppermill with the appetizer? Really?—and most of the list is really just a primer in good behavior. I know you didn’t ask, but it’s my blog, so here are my thoughts on some of these dos/don’ts.

3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.
PLEASE. I have always found this to be unreasonable. If the majority of the party is there, seat us, especially if we tell you that the remaining one or two are parking or in the cab or something.

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
The name thing doesn’t bother me. On the one hand, I’m not assuming we’re going to be buddies after my meal, but, if you’re an awesome waiter, I want to be able to commend you by name. But yeah, don’t flirt and don’t perform. That’s annoying.

12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.
OH MY GOD SERIOUSLY. I was at a gastropub this summer where the water comes in reusable antique glass bottles (very cool idea), but the runner picked up the bottle by ITS MOUTH when moving it to make room for our food. NO.

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.
I’ve talked about this one before, so I’ll just say this: WORD. A thousand times, WORD.

41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do.
I know a lot of people get wound up about this, but I don’t see it as a big deal. “You’re welcome” is certainly more polite, but I’m not going to get bent out of shape over “NP.”

64. Specials, spoken and printed, should always have prices.
Please. I always assume that the special will be more than the regular entrees, but I’d like to know how much more.

84. Do not refill a coffee cup compulsively. Ask if the guest desires a refill.
Mother of pearl. This happened to me at brunch on Sunday. The waiter would sneak in behind me and pour more coffee without asking. All I wanted was maybe one or two cups of coffee to wake me up, but I ended up with like five. And I got charged for the refills. Not happy.

85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.
Eh. I don’t love it when the check just shows up, but I hate even more trying to find the server when we’re ready for it. I think it’s okay for the server to bring the check and just put it on the table with “I’ll take this whenever you’re ready.” That way I don’t have to hunt for him, but I also don’t feel rushed.

97. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.
What? No, this one is just weird. I think restaurants need to keep their awesome recipes a secret—that’s what makes the experiences so special. I have a friend who partly judges her dining experiences on whether the food is something she could not make at home. Handing out special recipes diminishes the fun.

A lot of this list is just common sense, but people do sometimes need reminding. The flip side of this, of course, is a behavior guide for restaurant patrons. I’ll start us off:

1. Do not treat your server like a servant or be rude. You’re entitled to good service, not to treat a fellow human being like shit. And if you do that and I’m on a date with you, you may be sure you’re not going to hear from me again and that I will tell everyone you’re a tool.

2. Do not snap your fingers at the server or bartender, or ever, EVER use “garçon.” Did you not see Pulp Fiction?

3. If something is wrong with your meal, speak up early. Don’t eat three-quarters of your entrée and then complain about it.

4. Don’t expect anything to be comped, even if it’s a special occasion or something wasn’t right with your order. Restaurants are businesses, and it’s not a great business model to give the product away. If something is comped, then that’s great, and you should be appropriately thankful. But don’t assume.

5. If you’re a large party, for heaven’s sake, bring some damn cash. Don’t hand the waiter the folder back with 27 different cards in it to split up the check. It creates chaos at the end of what was probably an enjoyable time out.

All right, that’s enough of my peevery for today. I just think people need to remember that going out to eat is an event, and should be fun. If we treat each other right, everyone wins!

What gets you? Hit me up in the comments!