The Food Beat presents “Restaurant Etiquette Volume I”

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When I moved to south Florida from Michigan in the summer of 2005, I was caught off guard by the behavior of an alarming number of patrons and restaurants. I came to realize hospitality is a bit different in south Florida than the Midwest, and over the past eight years, I have witnessed head scratching events from both parties. So I thought I would take this opportunity to share some thoughts on how we can all make the going out for dinner experience a more pleasant one. The dining process is really simple, and should be a win- win for the restaurant and the consumer. The restaurant provides meals and surroundings at a price reflective of the caliber of food being served, friendly and courteous service, and an overall pleasing experience. The consumer should enjoy all of the above mentioned attributes, be kind and courteous to the people working at the restaurant, as well as to fellow diners. At the conclusion of a satisfactory meal, pay the bill and if waited on, tip the server 15% – 20% of the total meal. (or more if the service was exceptional) This is how it should work. But not every dining experience is ideal, and at some point, issues arise, something is not right, and someone gets their panties in a bunch. It is my goal to provide logical solutions so these hurdles can be easily overcome and everyone lives happily ever after. Let’s first discuss the two most common (and most obvious) nemesis of enjoyable dining. The bad customer The consumer we are talking about is not connected to a gender, race, religion, age, or social status. They are, in simple terms, “special people.” (or SP’s) The reason for their specialness is a curious one, as there is nothing detectible to the human eye. They appear to be regular people, but inside brews a toxic and potentially lethal self perception that surfaces the minute they step inside a restaurant. In most cases, the “special people” do not limit their venomous and self serving methods to eateries. They can also be seen cutting off three lanes of traffic to make the turn they missed, and aggressively honking their horn at any given opportunity. They view wait staff/servers as servants/ peons, and for some bizarre reason, feel their value to society is greater than others. The bad restaurant This is a place where no one seems to really give a $#@! about you or anyone else. Management treats the staff poorly, the staff treats the customer poorly, the kitchen doesn’t care, and the owner is the origin of this mudslide of disappointment. This is the place where the staff makes you feel like they are doing you a favor by letting you sit down at one of their dirty tables. No one smile, they are not courteous, and you wait long periods of time to be waited on. The hot meal is sometimes cold, your order is sometimes wrong, and worst of all, no one seems to care. They view customers as evil necessities and for some bizarre reason think people should support them just because. Let’s take some sample situations and list the things you should do and the things you shouldn’t do. A long wait to get a table Shouldn’t do: Stare at the hostess/host hoping that your relentless gaze will shame them into finding you a table, or, keep mumbling “I can’t believe how long this is taking” for other patrons to hear. Should do: Go to the bar, have a drink, and be glad you’re alive. Or, go to another restaurant. Slow Service Shouldn’t do: Constantly look around, look at your watch, whistle to get the servers attention, or act like a douche when the server does get to your table. If you are in a hurry, (going to a show, lunch, etc) let your hostess and/or server know you have a timeline before you order. Should do: Peruse the menu and converse with the people you are dining with. When the server arrives and offers no explanation as to why the service is slow, politely ask. Could be they are short staffed or another reasonable explanation. If the slow service continues and there is a sign of attitude from the server, ask to speak to a manager and respectfully share your frustration. Bad/Wrong Food Shouldn’t do: Throw your fork at the server, whine like a baby, get up and walk out and go home and write a horrible online review. Should do: Respectfully share the issue with your server. If they do not resolve the issue to your complete satisfaction, again, ask to speak to a manager. Remember, management is trained and paid to handle these situations. How they handle your issue will tell you everything you need to know about this restaurant. Management Fails to Resolve Your Issue Shouldn’t do: Accept it. The value of dining out should never be compromised. Mistakes happen, but you should never unload on a server for any reason (unless they hit on your wife) But accepting poor or rude service, bad food, and a bad attitude is reason to revoke your man or woman card. Should do: Write a letter to the owners. It’s possible they are unaware of their poor management team and they do not want to lose your business. Until you hear from them, stay away from this restaurant. If you never hear back from ownership, don’t go back and share your experience. If you do hear back, and your issue is resolved to your satisfaction, go back and share your experience. My simple philosophy is this: Never judge a restaurant on the mistake. Judge them on how they handle the mistake. And remember, dining out is supposed to be fun. Delray Beach has great restaurants with great people running and working at them. Be respectful, treat others the way you would like to be treated, and appreciate life. 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