If you’ve ever worked in the restaurant service industry, no doubt you and your coworkers have chimed on and on about your greatest pet peeves regarding restaurant patrons.
On the same token, there are many things that upset restaurant guests when they visit an establishment. Let’s face it—both parties here want to have a good time.
If a person takes a date to a specific restaurant, it’s probably because they’ve visited there before and enjoyed the experience, heard good reviews about it, or they’re just being adventurous and trying something new on a whim.
If you are a worker at a restaurant, you should want the best for them so that they can tip you accordingly and tell their friends about it and put, even more, money in your pockets.
If you are a guest at an establishment, you should understand that though the workers want to help you, they are also there to cater to others as well as their shift duties, and so sometimes you will have to be flexible.
Here are some things I think we can all work on to make dining out and dating easier for all!
Worker: Try not to let your heightened stress levels from previous issues affect a new customer
Perhaps you received some bad news that day; you’ve been slammed since you arrived at work, you’re on your third double, you just had a terrible experience with another guest.
Murphy’s Law is out to make an example of you!—trust me, we’ve all been there—don’t start off on a sad note with someone that has nothing to do with the situation. Every new face that walks in is an opportunity to take a deep breath, smile, and start over.
If you are so stressed out that it’s going to affect your service with your guests, be honest about it! Many people appreciate that. Restaurant goers are often judging every single moment of their dining experience, from the 2-minute wait to be seated, to the amount of time it took to receive their first glass of water.
If they know you’re going through some things and you guys have a good laugh/bonding about it, they’ll be more apt to understand and speak to you with kindness and patience when you come around rather than disgust and annoyance.
Patron: The world is not your oyster
Most places that you visit, the workers will be more than happy to cater to your wants. However, many restaurant patrons go overboard with this, trying to modify absolutely anything on the menu, even a simple item on an entree that can easily be picked off.
It may not seem like a big deal to you that you want brioche instead of focaccia for your burger and spinach instead of kale for your salad.
But at least try to keep in mind that the server must first relay the message to the chefs in the kitchen and sometimes to a manager before that, then they have to get the ok before checking back with you just to see if you still want it.
All the while they’re tending to their other tables and running drink orders and trying to remember their other special requests and the cooks are positively swamped trying to cater to food allergies and now modifications when they’ve spent months preparing a specific menu and getting used to the food being prepared a certain way.
Yes, that run-on sentence is what it’s like going through your server’s mind when you say, “Can I just change one thing, though?” True, you’re often told the customer is always right.
And true, a lot of times it isn’t a big deal to make a simple modification request a reality, but also understand that you’re setting back “out time” expectations and flustering a lot of people.
Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “It’s their job, if they don’t like it they should go somewhere else.” Haven’t you ever walked into a room and then immediately forgotten what you were doing because you have so much on your mind?
So if you’re one of those people that love modifying restaurant menus, please be considerate of the extra amount of time it will take to appease your special request.
Worker: Automatically catering to the male patrons
This is something that has been mentioned to me some times. You (a female) are out on a date with your male friend.
You order a bottle of wine; your server retrieves the bottle that you ordered, presents it to your male friend, let’s him taste it, and then pours you the first glass.
Everything about wine etiquette says that this is all wrong—the person who orders the bottle tastes first, approves, and then is served last after each of their guests has been poured a glass.
But even in 2017, misogyny (however unintentional) still beats etiquette.
Another faux pas? The woman asks for the check, you swipe her card or change her cash, and then return the checkbook to the male guest.
Perhaps you didn’t even notice what you were doing; you’re so used to the guys paying that you always automatically assume that the guy is paying.
But a little bit of eye contact will do you wonders. You don’t want to put a sad end to an otherwise enjoyable night only because you’re making a silent assumption that a female patron is unable to pay for her male friend. Notice who is making the orders and cater to that person.
Patron: Reading every single mistake as a reason to mark down a tip
We all know that eating out is expensive and sometimes frustrating, and what’s even more frustrating is when you receive bad service and are still expected to pay a 20% service tip.
Still, a lot of patrons are just waiting for their servers to slip up and let them know exactly how they did so. There’s nothing more uncomfortable for a waiter than that perpetual look of dissatisfaction because the dinner plate hit the table a little too hard or a splash of water landed on the tablecloth or the specials spiel didn’t come with a song and dance.
Dining out is supposed to be a time to enjoy yourself and the company of your friends/guests, but it is too often treated as a Food Olympics, every single part of the transaction receiving a numbered rating.
If it’s bad, it’s bad, but don’t go looking for the bad. Just enjoy yourself (and tip your server appropriately)!
Worker: Getting upset over something that you can easily do
If a guest asks you to do something and you can’t do it, you should let them know. If they get upset about it, then obviously you’re probably dealing with a difficult customer, and if it comes down to it, you should get your manager to help alleviate the situation.
However, all too often I see or hear someone saying no to a request before they’ve given it a moment’s thought simply because they don’t want to do it and not because they can’t.
A lot of establishments do expect their workers to go above and beyond for their customers, and I’m not saying to jump through hoops of fire to make someone happy, but what's the problem in concocting a special sauce that will take one minute tops because they don’t like the ones you have to offer?
Again, if you can’t do it, don’t. But when you do go out of the way to help, your guests will notice that you care about their comfort and satisfaction, and that will affect your relationship with them in future when they return to dine at your job because YOU work there. What’s a greater feeling that?
Patron: Flexing in front of a date
You rave about this place to your date— the food, the drinks, the ambiance; they’re everything! You tell them you come here all the time; they know you here.
You get them all excited and then you behave as if you made special instructions to roll out the unusually long red carpet as soon as the two of you walk in, have your specialty cocktails ready to go, bring out the special menu that’s only made for you and your special friend, change the music to the unique music that only you like.
When all of these things aren’t done to your exact liking, you make a scene, insult your server; you say you must speak with a manager because you know the manager and they’ll take care of you.
All the while, you’re looking over to your date like “I got this. I come here all the time.” Not okay. Wanting to impress someone is never a reason to bring someone else down, especially when they haven’t done anything foul.
If you visit a place, no matter how many times you’ve been before (actually, especially if you’ve been many times before) you should understand their policies and restraints.
If you want to show off for your date, maybe take them to your boxing gym and then you can flex for them. But when you’re dining out, keep those guns in.
Ok, I said it: when it comes to having an enjoyable dining experience, we’re all responsible. Workers and patrons alike have got to stop putting the blame entirely on the other party and check their actions.
That way, when someone goes out on an awkward date, they can say honestly, “Woah, that was horrible when you threw up all over that sushi platter” (true cringe-inducing story for later) and not, “Woah, that was awful the way that server took 5 entire minutes to bring us water,” or “Woah, that was obnoxious the way they just assumed I’d know they want water without asking first.”
Take it from a foodie and a person that’s been in the service industry for years; food should equal happiness. Let’s make eating out fun again!