Guide to Being a Courteous Customer

The following are just a few things that get under my skin on a weekly-to-daily basis.  Keep these things in mind the next time you go to a restaurant (or anywhere, for some):

1 – Get off of your phone.  I cannot communicate with you when you are on the phone talking to someone else.  This means I cannot:
-get your order
-answer any questions you might have
-receive any modifications to your order

It’s also just a polite thing to do.  How would you feel if you were at a store and the cashier just whipped out their phone and started talking on it while you were trying to conduct business?  Annoyed?  Ignored?  Unimportant?  That’s how I feel when I’m trying to serve you while you’re on your phone.

2. Use your words.  I understand that there are some folks out there that don’t have the ability to do so, but for those of you that do have the ability to talk to me, please do.  Pointing at a picture sometimes isn’t sufficient.  Sometimes I write down what you pointed at, and then you become disappointed when it comes out not as you expected (i.e., pointing at a “specialty” burger when all you wanted was a cheeseburger.  If you wanted a cheeseburger, order a cheeseburger!  Not the one that costs you $3 extra and that you’re going to send back because it “wasn’t what you ordered”, even though it was, because you pointed at it!).

3.  Sometimes things take longer than you plan.  If you’re on an hour lunch break, and I advise you that it would be in your best interest to not order a well-done steak, you probably shouldn’t order a well-done steak.  Because, Mr. Business Man, you’re not the only one on their lunch break.  This means that there are SEVERAL orders that are being processed in the kitchen right now, so that means the timing for things might be a little off.  If you take a quick glance around, there are a lot of other people here; some are on their lunch break, but that giant party of 12 over there is a group of ladies that haven’t seen each other in 15 years and they all ordered stuff that takes longer to cook anyway.  So please order something that takes less time to make, so I can get you back to work on time.  Because otherwise, you’re just going to blame me for being late.

4.  If you have to “camp”, follow these guidelines:
-make sure the restaurant isn’t busy.  There could be multiple other families or “customers” that would love to have a seat, but you’re just sitting there not ordering anything else, not even a free refill on your soda.  If you don’t want anything else, please cash out and go hang out with your friends and family at home or at a park or something that isn’t costing someone money.
-make sure your server isn’t just waiting for you.  They can’t leave until all tables are cashed out, unless they transfer you to another server that is staying.  Keep in mind that the national minimum wage for servers is only $2.13/hr.
-if the service was good to exceptionally awesome, leave a better tip.  You took up that server’s table for X hours, so that server couldn’t turn that table over to other paying customers.  If you sit there for a long period of time and only tip like 10%, you probably just really screwed that server over.

5.  Tip appropriately.  I didn’t really want to have to get into tipping here on this blog, but….the general consensus is: 15%-18% for good service (15% is generally typical for lunch service, whereas 18% is typical for dinner service), and 20%+ for excellent/amazing service.  Not 10%.  Not 5%.  Not a nickle on $80.  If your server was truly horrific, ask them to send over the manager.  Leaving a crappy tip doesn’t tell the server anything.  Perhaps your food took longer than you thought it would.  Was this the server’s fault?  Probably not.  Perhaps your steak came out medium-well instead of well.  Was this the server’s fault?  Probably not (if your server put in the order correctly).  Sometimes just getting a manager can make all the difference in the world…which brings me to….

6.  If you aren’t happy, see a manager.  Yeah, this might go hand-in-hand with the previous point, but it’s so so so important.  If I screw up, I want to know how I screwed up.  Please talk to my manager and they will definitely notify me of the problem so that way I can watch out for it next time.  Sometimes, if it works out appropriately, you’ll benefit from seeing the manager anyway (i.e. something being removed from your bill).

7.  Keep in mind your server has nothing to do with price changes or menu changes.  I cannot fix them.  I’m sorry that yesterday that dessert was $2.50 cheaper, but I literally had nothing at all to do with that.  I’m sorry that last week we had X entree and now we don’t have it, not even the stuff to make it.  I know how it is to have a favorite dish at a restaurant.  I’m actually a pretty particular diner, so once I have a favorite I hold onto it for dear life.  But sometimes, The Big Bosses think it’s a good idea to axe that item off the menu.  Am I going to blame the server for this?  Absolutely not.  Because s/he had nothing at all to do with that decision.  If it was something I was definitely passionate about, I would contact the corporate office to suggest that the item be put back on the menu.  But never in my life would I blame the server, or stiff them on a tip, just because they didn’t have what I wanted.

8.  If you see your server at another table, this does not mean walk up to your server to ask for something you need/clap or snap loudly while they are talking/whistle at your server like they are a dog. I don’t see this needing any further explanation….

9. Your server is a human being, not a robot.  That means they have bad days too.  Sometimes we do make mistakes.  But if the server is good at their job, they will do anything in their power to fix the problem to make sure you leave happy.

Sometimes, technology fails us too.  The other day, I was putting in a very elaborate order into the computer.  I double-triple checked the order against what I had written down, and then sent it back to the kitchen.  Being the sometimes-paranoid person that I am, I walked back into the kitchen just to make sure the order sent back correctly.  Guess what….it hadn’t.  Now, this was in no way my fault.  This was a quirk in the system that put half of my modifications to the entree on the appetizer order for no apparent reason.  Which of course made absolutely no sense to the cooks.  Now, had I been bad at my job, I would’ve probably not noticed the computer screw-up, and all of those modifications for that entree would have been ignored, therefore having the entree sent out incorrectly.  But because I like to make sure my tables are happy, I frantically hollered the modifications to my expo, who then relayed the modifications to the cooks and all was right in the world.

Sometimes we misunderstand orders as well.  I’ll read back what I have written down (because, again, I’m paranoid that I have something incorrectly written down), and sometimes I misunderstood what was ordered.  Sometimes I’m just having a bad day, and I’m trying my hardest to not scream and shout and cry.  You have bad days too.  And you’re not a robot either.  Treat others the way you want to be treated, and then, for the most part at least, everything will work out 🙂

10.  Treat your area as if you were at your house/your friend’s house/the President’s house.  I do not, for the life of me, ever understand how messy some people can be when they go out to eat.  A family of three children and a baby is pretty understandable, but I don’t understand how adults going out to eat alone can be so messy.  Is it because you don’t have to clean it up?  Well, I do…So, please stop:
-leaving your gum under the table/in the booth/on the carpet.
-shredding napkins for like…no reason other than to make me confetti.
-taking out sugar packets and emptying them out in something other than your beverage.
-grabbing a stack of beverage napkins before I even come to the table to greet you.  I’m going to give you ACTUAL dinner napkins, not these thin, tissue paper-like napkins that you’re not even going to use.
Surprisingly, the list does go on, but you get the idea.

11.  When I ask you if there’s anything else I can get you, please let me know then, not every 5 seconds after the fact.  I do need to lose weight, and I frequently joke about how work helps me exercise because of all the running back and forth I do.  But, it’s a joke.  Let me give you an actual example of a table I had.  I had asked them if I could get anything extra for them (and this was after I dropped off extra napkins and refills for their drinks – without them asking me, it’s just something that I do to make their experience better).  They said no.  Not even two minutes later, as I’m at a different table, I see them out of the corner of my eye trying to get my attention (see #8 – I SEE you, but I’m talking, so I’ll be there in a second!).  When I’m finally able to stop by, one of the people at the table wanted some extra lemons for her water, so I go and get them.  When I come back, that’s when her friend decided she wanted some extra (EXTRA, as in a large ramekin, not a small one) dressing for the 5 bites she had left of her salad.  So, I go and get that.  Then, I come back, and they have managed to “use” (by use, I mean they like, wiped their fingers on the corner of them, and then balled them up) the 5 extra napkins I had dropped off earlier, in addition to the napkins the silverware is wrapped with, so they wanted more of those.  And back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, for at least 2-3 minutes.  I’m the type of server that will give you my undivided attention, and I will not stop giving you that attention until you convey to me that you are satisfied.  So, at this point, I can feel another table getting anxious because I haven’t been able to come to them yet for the things that they needed.  Long story short: when I ask you if you need anything else, try to get me to get those things in one trip, not 8.

Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would want to be treated.  When all else fails, think about how you would feel in that other person’s shoes.  How would you want to be treated at that moment?  Try to be the customer you would want to have.  When in doubt, express your concerns in a calm manner with your server.  If that doesn’t work, talk to the manager.  Life is too short to make mountains out of molehills (or sugar packets).

Bon Appetit!


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