Wednesday, February 4, 2009

things to remember as a customer in a restaurant

as i was blogging about the denny's effect on my restaurant and the nightmare it caused, i thought i needed to come up with a list of things from a servers point of view customers need to remember when eating out.

1. if you are in a bad mood when you enter the restaurant, please do not take it out on your server. depending on your server, a few things most likely will happen. generally, your server will try to avoid your table because who wants to be given a hard time.

2. if you feel your food is taking to long, its not your servers fault. your server is not your cook. he or she cannot do anything to get it cooked any faster. look around you, if the restaurant is full there is your explanation. if there has been inclimate weather, there is a good chance the staff of the restaurant may not all be there either. your food item may be in high demand at the moment ie we ran out of grits and more are cooking. remember if you wanted fast food, you wouldn't be at a sit down restaurant. good food often takes time. my all time favorite incident involving this happened when a customer got upset with me when we had received word less than 15 minutes ago that a coworker had passed away. i apologized and explained the situation that we had been surprised by this news and were in a bit of shock and doing our best to cope. she handled herself as a perfect customer and human being from then on out.

3. do not base how quickly your food should get to you by the tables around you. just because you arrived first does not always mean your food will arrive first. your food item may take more time to prepare ie your neighbor ordered a salad and you ordered a well done steak. in my restaurant the most common situation this happens is with a wait on grilled chicken. grilled chicken takes the longest to cook of any of our proteins. they may have ordered before you. most tables order drinks then need time to look over the menu before ordering, but sometimes customers especially regulars come in already knowing what their order will be and give it to the server as soon as they see the server. speaking of regulars, just like in bars some restaurants have regulars who get their food without even having to order because they get the same thing every time. i have several of these regulars who the cook sees them walking through the door, and the cook begins their meal.

4. if something is wrong with your food, do not blame your server. once again, your server didn't cook it. explain to your server the problem with the food, and he or she will get the cook to fix it. often when taking food to a table, a server has no idea until the customer tastes the food there is a problem. i have served more steaks than i care to remember and am clueless as to the difference from external appearance between a medium rare and a medium steak. tell me, and i will happily take it back to have it recooked. please do not get rude with your server, yell at your server, or take it out of your tip. not wait til after your meal to tell anyone a problem with your food. complaining after you've eaten does no good but to leave you miserable. many restaurants and restaurant managers aren't willing to do anything if you've already eaten the meal. however, if you make your server aware the server can have it recooked or get you a new item or possibly even taken off the check. but, still a tip for the full amount of the bill is expected.

6. tip and tip appropriately. tipping for servers is generally expected to be 18-20%. tipping beyond that for good service is appropriate. as a server, i generally tip more since i work in the industry and know what its like. verbal tipping meaning telling someone they did a good job then giving a crappy tip or no tip at all is considered just about the worst in the industry. if you are trying to save money or can't afford a tip, don't go out. servers end up paying in essence for you to eat.

many states require servers to be paid minimum wage. but, the federal government only requires servers to be paid $2.13 an hour. many states still go by this guideline, virginia being one. servers absolutely depend on tips as their main source of income. additionally, the federal government tax servers based on their tips. the government assumes that servers will receive at minimum 8 1/2 % of their sales in tips. whenever you tip less than this or stiff someone the server is still expected to claim they made this much and be taxed for this. some restaurants automatically claim for the servers a minimum of 15% regardless of what the server actually made. additionally, a server is required to make minimum wage once tips are added. so, if a server only makes $2.13 an hour the difference between that and minimum wage must at least be claimed. there are slow days or days when you get stiffed and this does not always happen especially as minimum wage increases and server wages do not.

additionally, many servers are required to tip out. meaning a server has to pay a percentage of their sales to hosts, busboys, bartenders, and food runners.

finally,good service and bad service can often be tied to your tipping habits. if you ever repeat your business at a bar or restaurant, there is a good chance all the employees not just the person who served you last will know how you tip and treat you accordingly. someone who tips well even if they require a bit more work will have all the servers falling all over one another to wait and you and will go out of their way to make sure everything is perfect. a bad tipper is often ignored by waitstaff for the same reason. servers are working to make money and if they know you are going to tip poorly why bother when they can turn their attention elsewhere.

7. if you come into a restaurant as part of a large party, tip more. large parties are more work. its easy to remember who ordered what at a table of 2 or 4, a table of 21(yes, i've handled tables of 21 and larger and delivered everyone's food from memory.) is a lot harder. carrying the food for a larger party is more work. it means more running to and from the table since peoples needs are less likely to be in tune as with a smaller party ie drink refills will be more staggered. often in handling a large party, the server will have to give up taking other parties or not be able to give their other parties proper attention. i have learned through the years larger parties rarely tip more than 10%. this is less than miss manners would recommend and i have always been puzzled by this. my only explanations are that it may seem like a lot of money to give one person or they assume gratuity is automatically included with larger parties. i have never worked at a restaurant that has included gratuity for large parties.

8. use your manners. say please and thank you. its always the right thing to do. don't talk with your mouthful to your server. do not bark orders at them. your server is your server not your servant. do not yell across the restaurant or snap your fingers at him or her. rudeness is never appreciated and often will lead to you being ignored or who knows what else where your food and drinks are being prepared. never ever cuss at your server. this will hopefully get you kicked out.

9. do not physically harrass your server. this may sound simple but apparently it is a difficult concept for many customers both male and female. verbally flirting while not always appreciated is par for the course and generally harmless as long as it does not get lurid. i still do not know what it means when a guy tells me i am prettier than a pair of new snow tires. i told everyone i worked with and we all got a good laugh out of it. squeezing my butt has far from the same reaction. i currently work in a family restaurant that serves breakfast and had this happen only a few weeks ago. there were children who saw this, and that disturbed me. but, beyond that i am not working for those kind of tips. a spilled drink in your lap or worse will often follow this behavior. careful with your kids, do not let them roam or put a child especially baby at the end of the table. many people will assume i am griping about how parents need to be better parents. not at all. this is a safety issue. servers carry some dangerous stuff often balanced somewhat precariously. i have had children run into me full force with no place thanks to tables being in the way for me to go to avoid it. luckily no one has ever been hurt from me, but i worry. at any given time, i have hot beverages and food that could easily burn me or the child or glass and ceramic that could break and seriously gash someone just to name a few. leaving children in the walkway by being at the end of the table or leaving a baby carrier at the end places them in the same sort of danger. who cares if you want the comfort of sitting in a booth. put the child's wellbeing first.

11. if you are going to sit at a table for a long time and by a long time i mean several hours especially when a restaurant is full, you should tip more. you are making more work for the server and should pay as such. additionally if the restaurant is busy or sometimes even if it isn't, you are taking a table away that could be turned and be another customer and money for the server.

12.people may not realize this but you should tip the person who prepares your carryout. at many restaurants, this person is a server who has to put together in addition to his or her other duties. tips are expected and appreciated.

13.please do not complain the restaurant is cold. there is a reason for this. the back of the restaurant is ridiculously hot. the servers are running and burning up. the restaurant employees appreciate when the restaurant is a bit cooler. you may only be there for an hour or so. the employees will be there for many hours. the last thing you want is a server perspiring into your food.

14. consider what time of day it is when you go to the restaurant. going at the very end of the day may mean your food quality is not the best. as a server, i am the exception when i say that i like customers til the last minute. more customers more money to be made. but, cooks, busers, and other employees are hourly and ready to go. they will not give it the same time and care to preparing your food.

15. you are usually not the only person a server is waiting on so be patient. the server is trying to get to everyone, but it may some time.

16. handing the server the tip is appreciated if tipping with cash. a lot of restaurants have problems with busboys or other servers stealing tips. its quite a common problem. even worse, as a customer, i have witnessed other customers stealing tips off tables. i once saw the son of a patron go back to the table and take the tip when he was supposed to be going to the bathroom. not mumble or speak softly when ordering. restaurants are often loud. when i ask you to repeat your order, it is because i couldn't hear you or you spoke to quickly. trust me i just want to get your order right. do not get offended.

18.bringing your own food or beverage into a restaurant is rude. many places have signs posted about bringing outside food or beverage. just don't do it.

19. show your appreciation via speaking to manager or comment card in addition to tipping. many restaurants take these into consideration.

20.if you have a special order, remember your server will hear it from the kitchen. know that the server is going out of his or her way to get your order the way you want it and should be rewarded.

21. do not make assumptions about your server's intelligence or lack thereof. i have a college degree as do many of my coworkers. many servers are in school or are artists or mothers or just prefer the flexible hours. treat your server with respect in general. i once had an older woman overhear my conversation about the trouble my boyfriend and i were having with our water heater. she then proceeded to tell me that god hates people like me who live in sin. consequently, no one wants to wait on her now.

22. horror stories with food do happen. i have never spit in or done anything else foul to anyone's food or beverage. have i heard stories which i know to be true. of course. violating any of the previous rules is always the reasons why. remember your server will be handling your food and drinks and be interacting with those who are preparing them. these are not the people you want to mistreat.

23. tip with cash if possible. in some restaurants, servers do not get credit card tips til they get their paychecks which may be weeks. servers look for immediate money and generally depend on it. this isn't a must but is appreciated.
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