Sunday, 9 December 2012
Dinning Out Etiquette
Dinning Out Etiquette
Even though they are working and you're not, it doesn't mean anything goes when it comes to restaurant staff. Etiquette and manners still apply and the relationship between the restaurant and the patron goes both ways.
When it comes down to it, the vast majority of restaurant owners and employees are hardworking people that do their best to ensure that you have an enjoyable dining experience. Their job depends on it, after all. But little things, like making eye contact or talking on your mobile / cell phone, can make all the difference to the staff.
Respect the staff and the staff will respect you
Almost everyone I know has either worked in a restaurant at some point or is close to someone who has. While restaurant staff does serve you your food, there is a big difference between a server and a servant. Respecting the staff is not only the right thing to do, but when they feel respected and appreciated, it almost always leads to better service. Long gone are the divisions between the classes of people that work in restaurants versus those who dine in them. Common courtesies like looking your server or busser in the eye and saying "please" and "thank you" should not be overlooked.
One thing that does annoy me is when the waiter tends to think they are better than you if for example you can’t pronounce some fancy dish, we are all equal here, I just came out to have a nice evening not to be judged.
Ask for recommendations
Chances are waiters have tried most of what is offered on the menu. They see the food being made, served and enjoyed on a daily basis and probably have a pretty good idea of what are the best menu items. Ask what they personally like to eat and why it is their favourite. If you feel like your waiter is just suggesting the most expensive thing on the menu to increase their tip, ask them to tell you why they prefer the fillet over the meatloaf. You don't have to go with their first suggestion, but at the very least, you will have more information to take into account when making your decision.
Be ready to order
If you tell your waiter you're ready to order, be ready. There isn't much that is more frustrating for a waiter to have to stand at your table while you are contemplating the pasta versus the steak for 10 minutes. Unless you have specific questions, tell the waiter you would like a few more minutes to decide. If it's a busy night, they probably have a dozen other things they could be doing, and standing idly for a few minutes can really set them back.
Tell the manager how your experience was
Many restaurant managers only get requested to come to a table when there is a complaint. A big part of a manager's job is to ensure customer satisfaction and deal with any issues that arise, but it is also nice and greatly appreciated, to hear positive feedback as well. If you had a particularly helpful waiter, tell them. Or, better yet, tell their manager. Restaurant work often feels like an under appreciated job, so a seemingly small compliment can make a huge difference.
Don’t you find that whenever the manager or waiter comes to your table you tend to have a mouth full of food? Coincidence…? I like being asked if I've had a good evening or if my food was okay but not every 10 minutes, I will find you if something is wrong.
Tipping is not expected in the UK in the way it is in the United States or Canada. All staff in the UK, must by law, be paid at least minimum wage (£6.08/hour as of 2012, unless aged under 21), whether or not they receive tips. Therefore, unlike in much of North America, the need and culture for tipping is much less.
Cafes and coffee shops
In a cafe, you may receive waitress service to bring your tea, coffee, sausages, or whatever you have ordered to the table. In these establishments tipping is not usual. If you feel the service has been especially pleasant you can leave a pound or your change in appreciation.
In coffee shops, such as Starbucks, there may be a tip jar on the counter, but very few customers offer tips.
In casual cafeterias, where you collect your food and place it on a tray, commonly found in tourist attractions, you wouldn't really tip, as you have basically served yourself.
In casual restaurants, where you pay for your order at a counter, but food is brought to your table, tipping is uncommon.
In restaurants where you place your order with your waiter/waitress and receive food, and your bill, at your table, it is usual to tip around 10%. The expectation does vary from place to place - in fine dining restaurants where you receive personal service, a tip would always be expected (while never compulsory, it would be considered rude unless there was a problem with the service), whereas in the most casual of restaurants tipping is not universal.
If you have been unhappy with the service, you really shouldn't feel like you have leave a tip.
In some restaurants, a service charge may be added to the bill, typically 10% or 12.5%. This should be noted on the menu, sometimes only for larger groups. If it is not, it would be appropriate to object, to ask that it be removed. If you are otherwise unhappy with the service, you should also request that it be removed, explaining your unhappiness.
In any case where a service charge is added, or the menu notes 'service included', you really don’t have to add any further tip, you’ll soon be out of pocket if you did. Beware that in some cases a service charge may appear on your bill, and if you pay by credit card the machine may then ask if you want to add a tip. Check your bill to see if a service charge has been added before paying, and if it has, be sure not to add any more on at the machine.
Even if you're using a Groupon, gift card or other discount, you should still tip on the full amount of food and drinks ordered and served.
Don’t switch tables without asking the host
Figuring out what parties are going where is often like a game of Tetris. On a busy night, if a table or two gets moved around, the entire arrangement could crumble, leading to chaos for staff and customers alike. If you are unhappy with the table you are seated at, speak up right away. Tell the host why you would prefer a different table and allow him or her the time to look into switching your table.
Don’t overstay your welcome
When you're paying to dine out, you should certainly stay as long as it takes to leisurely enjoy your meal and beverages. But if you've finished dessert an hour ago and the only things left on your table are water glasses and a bill, don't camp out all night. Most restaurants need to turn tables at least a couple of times in a night in order to make a profit, and it can seriously hurt them when a few tables linger well past a reasonable time frame. Not being able to turn those tables can easily make the difference between a good night and a bad night. It's never fun to be the table that had a reservation but is not able to be seated because of lingering tables.
Don’t talk on your mobile / cell phone
We've all sent a quick text here or there when dining at a restaurant, but full out conversations on your mobile / cell phone are universally against restaurant etiquette. It is extremely rude to those who are trying to serve you and is annoying for fellow customers. If you must make or receive a phone call, step outside the restaurant and keep it brief.
Don’t send back a bottle because you don't like it
The purpose of tasting a bottle of wine is not to let you decide if you like it. It is to let you discern if the bottle is oxidized or has anything wrong with it. If you're unfamiliar with most of the wine on the list, or if you want to branch out and try something new, ask to speak with the sommelier or beverage manager. Tell them what you are looking for in a wine and let them offer a suggestion before you have them open a bottle that you don't know much about. If their suggestion is nothing like what they described, then it is OK to let them know. If you chose the wine on your own and there is nothing wrong with it, then you should stick with it.
No-show for a reservation
If you've made a reservation, the restaurant is holding one of their tables specifically for you. If you're not going to make it, be sure to call the restaurant to let them know -- and give them as much notice as possible. Restaurants often turn away patrons when they have empty tables because they are saving them for those who made a reservation. There is not much that is more frustrating for a restaurant manager -- or the service staff -- than an empty table that didn't need to be.