As we slowly pull out of the pandemic of 2020 and start going out, let’s not forget about showing continued patience and love to our local restaurants. They’ve just gone through one of the toughest sixteen months in restaurant history and are still working through challenges for staffing, higher ingredient costs and shortages of… well, everything! Eating out and dining in restaurants is one of my greatest pleasures because breaking bread with friends and loved ones is a special time to me. And restaurants work really hard to make your evening a special one, delivering great food, ambiance, and service to please you.
I’ve recently read multiple articles about how tough the re-opening has been on restaurant staff, about angry impatient customers and diners. That being said, even though we are paid customers at restaurants, I believe we’re also still guests to some very gracious hosts when dining out. So I do have some suggestions on how you can be a better customer for restaurants and their staff, making the whole evening flow more easily for everyone involved! Especially as they work on re-opening and dealing with staffing shortages during this crazy year.
Are you ready to listen and consider? Well, here you go, here are some of my dining suggestions (and yes, I do these as habit).
- If you make reservations and have a change in plans, please cancel them – If you’re running late or can’t make it at all, call up the restaurant and let them know! It’s potentially lost business if you don’t follow this basic courtesy so get on the phone and just do it.
- Actively listen to your wait staff’s description of daily specials- OK, I’m guilty of occasionally violating this rule but when your wait-person lists off the specials, try to listen! Just so you don’t have to ask again, it takes time and effort the first time around.
- Know what you want to order- If your wait-person is ready to take your order and you’re not sure yet, ask them to come back when you’re ready. Hemming and hawing for several minutes with them at the table slows down service for everyone in the dining room.
- Don’t ask for too many custom substitutions or special requests- This habit kills me but the menu was designed for a couple of reasons. First, the dish is supposed to taste a specific way. Second, the kitchen is set up to make dishes a certain way. If you’ve got serious allergies, fine. But if not, you’re just being difficult…
- Collect menus for pick-up- If you’re sitting near the server, grab the menus as people finish ordering and make it easier for pick-up when the table is done. Just a thoughtful courtesy as a diner.
- Say “thank you” and “please”- Manners still matter in 2021 and I cringe when I hear people say “give me” when ordering. And if you need assistance, just make eye contact and they’ll usually come right over.
- Try to minimize back and forth requests of wait-staff – Each trip to the table takes time so if you need more napkins, water, condiments, etc, try and make the requests together as a table. If I’m dining solo, I’ll often give them my card to close out and save the wait-person an extra trip with the tab.
- Move the dishes to the side/edge of the table – Once I’m done with an appetizer or entree, I’ll move the plate towards the edge of the table to let the server know we’re done. If it’s a messy plate, I’ll even orient the plate to give them a clean spot to grab.
- If you bring in your own wine or your own dessert, expect to pay a fee. Corkage fee, dessert fee, there will be more plates, utensils or glasses to clean and you’ll be hanging at the table longer so be reasonable.
- Tip in cash, 20% minimum- Tipping in cash is more of a suggestion, I realize it’s not always possible. BUT given servers are working for tips (average hourly wage is about $10), tipping in cash helps out and I recommend starting at 20%
- Don’t linger too long at the table after paying- Here’s a judgement call but if the restaurant is slammed, head on over to your next stop and free up the table. It may help the restaurant squeeze in another table for the evening. If it’s not really busy inside then no big deal.
- And finally, don’t review restaurants on delivery orders outside of say, pizza places – Especially if you order through DoorDash, Postmates, or Uber. It’s totally out of the restaurant’s control on the condition of your meal or time it takes to get your food. Cut them some slack and just either hold off on a review or eat at the restaurant itself before reviewing, highly negative reviews should be carefully considered before posting.
Now some of these suggestions may sound like a lot, but running a restaurant is really tough business, especially in 2021. There’s a lot of hard work done in the front of the house and back of the house to keep customers satisfied and happy. And I always feel that as a customer, I can help them do a better job to help the evening flow in a good and pleasant way for everyone involved. In the end, it’s all about showing some consideration as a guest versus being a customer and we can all use a bit of extra kindness in 2021, bon appetit!