I truly judge people on the way they treat their waiters.
I've never worked in the restaurant biz, but from my understanding, it's a tough job — tougher than most people realize. So when I'm eating out, I make it a priority to be extra nice, polite, and generous with my tips.
But hey, I'm human too. While I've mostly had good experiences at restaurants, there have been times that made me want to get up and leave. Restaurants are judged, not only for their food, but also for their service, or lack thereof. Just take a look at any restaurant page on Yelp.
Personally, I've realized that if the food is good but the service is shit, I generally don't return. I'm paying for it so why shouldn't I enjoy every aspect of the experience?
This week, Foodbeast's podcast, The KATCHUP, talks about just that: what restaurants can and should do to elevate customers’ dining experiences. Toronto restaurateur and author, Jen Agg's book, “I Hear She’s A Real Bitch” is discussed to delve into her personal Ten Restaurant Commandments. These commandments are what Agg deems appropriate or inappropriate on how restaurants should treat their customers. Having survived my fair share of some terrible dining experiences, you know I had to add some of my own commandments.
Reservations were made for a reason.
I'm rarely late to anything. In fact, I like to be about 10-15 minutes early for every appointment or reservation I have. I'm just a freak in that way. So when a reservation is made and I arrive to the restaurant on time, I expect to be seated within the next 15 minutes or so, and even that's pushing it for me. Look, I'm a very understanding person. I get that popular restaurants get busy, some patrons like to enjoy their time there, and it becomes extremely difficult for the restaurant to accommodate everyone. I'm truly ok with that as long as this is communicated. I've been to restaurants with enough class to offer me a drink at their bar while I wait for my table. I've also been to restaurants that expected me to just stand and wait over an hour after my reservation time without any explanation. In that case, you can bet that I'm leaving and not coming back.
Don't seat me at a dirty table.
Agg feels me on this one. She’s adamant that tables and bar surfaces should always be wiped down after every meal, no exceptions. Unfortunately, one too many times, I've been seated at a table that hasn't been wiped down after the previous patron. First of all, ew. Second of all, what the fuck? And lastly, how is this even remotely ok? You know how it is. You sit at the table, there's crumbs and drink stains, and then a busboy comes to wipe it down with a smelly old rag. And the worst part of it all is that the smell of the old rag lingers even after they leave. I don't have any patience for this, so please don't even try to explain it to me.
So you seat me at the table, without a drink or food menu, come back after 10 minutes, and the first thing out of your mouth is, "What can I get for you?" I'm sorry, was I supposed to pull these menus out of my ass and have my entire order ready for you when you finally decided to check on us? I like to thoroughly go over the menu before finally deciding on what I’d like to order, especially when I’m visiting a new restaurant. It’s important to me to see what their specials are, what seasonal ingredients they’re incorporating into their dishes, and just get an overall sense of how many dishes I can get away with ordering. Same goes for drinks! Why am I not given the luxury of sufficient time to look over the menu because you wanted to be aloof with your patrons?
Check your bad day at the door.
Everyone is entitled to a bad day. I have one every now and then, and apparently I become a fucking nightmare to be around. What I don't do, however, is let it affect my job. As a professional, it's essential to differentiate when and where you can release your bad energy. Work should be off limits. If it's something really overbearing, take a personal day. I'm out to enjoy delicious food and good company, and I'll be damned if you decide to ruin that for me because you want to be all pissy about your bad day.
It really grinds my gears when I'm in the middle of telling my friends a really dramatic story and a waiter comes by to interrupt us with a, "You guys need anything else?" for the third time in 10 minutes. Thank you for checking up on us, yet again, but what I really need is for you to be more aware of your patrons and not just cut me off in the middle of my sentence.
... But don't pull a disappearing act.
Honestly, I'd rather have the hovering waiter than the one who somehow magically disappears every time I need something. I shouldn't have to chase down the waiter anytime I want a water refill, a menu to order more food, or the check. In addition to this, it also sucks when the other waiters don't want to pick up our waiter's slack. Yes, I'm aware that you're not our waiter, but I'm not really understanding why you can't just help us get our side of ketchup.
Agg’s commandment that waiters should be nice to their patrons reminds me of the best waiter I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was a man that went by the name of Justin, and he worked at a popular restaurant on Melrose. I've had numerous experiences with amazing waiters, but what made Justin stand out was that he was just so freaking nice. For instance, in the middle of dinner, someone from our party asked for horseradish. Apparently the restaurant didn’t carry any, but he personally walked over to the neighboring restaurant to retrieve some specially for us, all with a genuine smile. By the end of the dinner, he knew everybody's name and we were all obsessed with him. The food was pretty good, but I would go back to that expensive ass restaurant in a heartbeat just to be served by him again.
Thank you for asking.
I'm the furthest thing from a picky eater, and I don't have any food allergies that I'm aware of, but sometimes, I just want my salad sans carrots. If it can't be done, so be it. I'll still eat it all. But I love when the waiter lets me know that they'll check with the kitchen before giving me a straight no answer, and I love that Agg agrees with me on this one. By doing this, it gets everyone on the same page about what the restaurant can or cannot do. Also, a simple, mindful gesture like this shows an effort to accommodate, and that never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.
I was actually still eating that.
Just because my plate looks finished, it doesn't give you permission to take it away without asking me first. Maybe I wanted to eat that last piece of fry, or even those couple pieces of lettuce from my salad. Ever thought of that?
You know what I absolutely love about going to "high-end" restaurants? When I leave the table to use the restroom and when I come back, my napkin is folded neatly again, ready for me to use. I think that's one of the most subtle, but classiest moves a waiter can do. It just demonstrates the level of awareness that the waiter has, and the effort he puts in to keep everything neat and in order. As a perfectionist, that move gives me more satisfaction than anyone will know or care to understand.
Free? For me?
You know what move I also love? When restaurants give you free stuff. Ok, we all love free things, but it's just so cool when restaurants are so nice about it. They don't, by any means, owe us anything. So when they decide to throw in a little appetizer, a small side of that dish you were going to order but didn't, or even just a dessert when you're celebrating, it's a delicious, pleasant surprise.
I never asked for the check.
Now that we're at the end, I think it's only right we end it with this. Bringing a check over before the patrons ask for it or are done with everything on their dishes is just straight up rude. Just like how I expect waiters to be aware, I'm aware too. If the line for the restaurant is out the door, I have the common sense and decency to clear the table within a reasonable time. However, if the place isn't poppin’ and I'm given the check, you can bet that I'll be babying my food and drinks for as long as I can. Also, from a business standpoint, it's just a bad move. I like to keep ordering food throughout my entire time at a restaurant, but that check on the table is telling me that I'm no longer welcome to.