Restaurant owners and employees have to deal with a lot of different personalities, behaviors, and service issues as part of the business. That’s the bottom line, it’s part of the business. It’s not likely that a restaurant can post a list of rules like those on the wall as you exit the bathhouse on your way to the pool. Bad, annoying and sometimes rude behavior is something that often needs to be tolerated at some level since a large enough portion of the dining public falls into one of those descriptions, and to keep that segement of the population out of your business would be financially devastating. As long as the bad behavior doesn’t become disruptive to the normal course of business, we as restaurant people accept the fact that there are those individuals who either do not know how to act in a restaurant, or they have little regard for others. With that said, I have found that most people are a pleasure to serve, and make what we do very rewarding.
What if however the business wasn’t so beholden to a thin profit margin? What if we could post a list of rules that had to be adheared to in order to make our work even more pleasurable, and eliminate behavior that takes away from the dining experience of the courteous patrons in a particular venue?
Certainly these pool rules sighs would vary depending on the type of restaurant. A fine dining, white-linen spot and a sports bar would have differing rules concerning shouting. What about those things that should apply at any establishment? There should be a list of rules that apply to all restaurant patrons, in all restaurants. Here are some from a kitchen perspective that should be on the list. In a later post I’ll cover necessary rules from a servers point of view, then I’ll cover things that restaurants do that annoy customers.
1. Don’t write your own menu. Pubs, sports bars, diners, and chains and generally have large menus with enough selections that you should be able to find something you like. Fine restaurants have chefs who (should) put a lot of work into the menu, with careful thought to going into composing plates that work well. Don’t start asking the kitchen to come up with new dishes at 8:00 on Saturday night. They are busy and in a flow.
2. Actually read the menu and understand what you’re ordering. Don’t just see steak and order it mediun rare and have no other knowledge about what is going to come on your plate. When it arrives with Gorgonzola butter, and you then inform the server you have a dairy allergy, the kitchen will have to make you a new steak. Aside from wasting a steak and creating unnecessary work for the kitchen you’ve spoiled now the dining experience for the rest of your party since they have their food and you do not, all simply because you failed to read the menu. Of course, the dishwasher will be eating well.
3. Don’t lie about an allergy. If you just don’t like garlic, or a lot of it, then that’s what you need to tell your server and trust the restaurant to do the right thing. If you don’t trust the restaurant, then you should find a new place. What happens when you say allergy is that the kitchen will use a bunch of new utensils, equipment, and preparations, something that may slow the flow of service. This has to be done since real allergies can be dangerous and should be taken seriously. The problem is that when patrons are constantly crying wolf, a less than conscientious kitchen may start to doubt what you are saying and let their guard down a bit. If all night people have been claiming false allergies and someone then reports a dairy allergy, a lazy kitchen may think eh, it’s just a little lactose thing, there’s only a touch of butter, it won’t kill them. Well, if our little Stella has even a tiny bit of butter we’re either taking her to the ER or using an EpiPen.
4. Don’t go out of your way to tell the staff that you’re a food blogger, have a large twitter following, or will be writing a Yelp review. We don’t care. A quality kitchen does its best no matter who’s sitting at the table.
5. Don’t bring in food and ask the kitchen to cook it. You are having dinner in a restaurant, not taping an episode of Chopped. Yes, it happens. Someone once brought in a can of Spam and asked the server if the chef would use it to make appetizers for their party of four. The Spam never made it to the kitchen. I think they were from New Jersey. As well, you may be proud of the 8-point buck you dropped last fall, but don’t ask if I can cook the uninspected meat in my kitchen. You shoot it or hook it, you cook it.
6. Show up on time. Especially if you’re a large party. Since a smart front of the house staff will not book too many resrevations at one particular time, your party of 10 will dictate when many of the other reservations are booked close to your requested time. If you show up 30 minutes late, linger at the bar for a drink, then sit for dinner you may wonder why service is a bit slow or the food is taking a bit longer than you’d like. It’s because you altered the restaurant’s schedule and now the staff is spread a bit thin.
7. Don’t pretend to be a vegetarian. I recently had someone request a special meatless meal during a busy dinner service even though there were meatless options. I made the special meal and then was told by a server that the same woman was sharing the sausage and rapini pizza her dining companion. If you’re one of the 3% of the population that has made a choice not to eat meat, that’s fine. If you are pretending, please don’t.
Well, those are some of the things that bug us. Like I said, it’s a real pleasure to serve almost all of you, and you make what we do very well worth it. To those of you that do these things and many other annoying things, try to work on being a good patron.