By Susana Acosta
The way you act when you go out to eat is important, and I’m not talking about how to tell your salad fork apart from your dessert fork. Too much emphasis is placed on the things in front of you when you are out at a restaurant rather than the people in front of you when you are taught about table manners. But the truth is that it begins with the way you treat the person who waits on you and ends with whether or not they would voluntarily wait on you again.
I am, by far, one of the pickiest people you will ever meet when it comes to food. I do not like bacon, mac & cheese, pickles, onions, vegetables, salads, salad dressings, alfredo sauce or any other sauce people usually pour on meats or sandwiches. When I order pizza, I only eat it if it has extra cheese on it and always get teased that I am basically eating cheesy bread. My point is that I’m probably every server’s worst nightmare. How do you think that poor waitress feels when she comes to the table and asks to take my order, and I rattle off a million questions about whether or not this entrée comes without that or if this can be placed on the side and so forth? Unfortunately, I no longer have to wonder, because I spent almost a year as a waitress at a bar and learned quickly that there is nothing more aggravating than someone who asks you for a menu recommendation and then quickly rejects it because you mentioned an ingredient that sets their alarms off. Well, actually, someone who calls you over to their table and then makes you watch them stare at the menu is worse than that, but I digress. If you are choosy with your meals, have some courtesy when you go to restaurants and be prepared with one or two plates that you would be willing to try. The waitress is not the cook; even if she writes down all the fine print of your specific instructions, the cooks will likely get it wrong and you will be upset and have wasted her time. Know yourself, or know the menu before you visit the establishment.
Secondly, never cause a scene. If you are having dinner with your boyfriend, and he brings up something unfavorable during your conversation, do not jump out of your seat and begin yelling. This is uncalled for in a public environment of any sort, especially where others have gathered to enjoy a peaceful meal. By the same token, if you are on the phone talking with a friend or your mom, try to not be super loud. Yes, if you are alone, maybe it is okay to be on the phone, but it not only makes it awkward for those who are forced to listen to you ramble about your recent visit to the gynecologist but also for your waitress who will have to find a decent way to interrupt you and ask if you need anything. Another example of behavior that is not acceptable is being the drunk mess. Some restaurants have a preconceived notion of what their environment will be like, and if it doesn’t match your plans, don’t go there. Be respectful of others.
And most importantly, tip. The standard for tipping is 18% or higher. If you feel like you did not receive the best service because your food was late, your order came out wrong, or your waitress gave you attitude, then call a manager over. A manager will almost always take the hit for whatever caused you to have an unpleasant dining experience and will take off a certain amount from your total bill. Either that or they will personally come over and apologize for whatever caused the delay with your food. As I said before, your waitress is just your waitress and only that. At places where they serve alcoholic drinks, she will only be bringing them to you. She didn’t make them, so if it’s not as strong or sweet as you expected, don’t punish her. If the food is burnt, don’t punish her-she didn’t cook it. If she has an attitude, maybe she’s having a bad day, but her job still relies on her making tips, so don’t be the person that ‘teaches her a lesson’ by leaving no tip. That is just rude and disrespectful. It is impossible for us, on the clientele side, to ever know what’s going on with the other side, so the polite thing to do is to bring up the complaints with the manager-including complaints about the waitress, and still tip.
If you can remember these three things, I guarantee that not only will you be representing yourself in a better light than most customers that dine out, but you will probably also get better service in return. It is always refreshing to have a customer sit down that is trying to make your life easier by being understanding, patient, and polite. It makes a world of a difference.
Once again we see that you really do get what you give, and if you’re giving out a negative vibe and an incredibly disturbing display of inappropriate behavior, then your chances of being welcomed with open arms at that establishment are going to be slim to none. Waiters and waitresses talk amongst each other, and they will remember you as the person that made their day difficult. Don’t be that person. Have some etiquette; it requires more than just please and thank you.