As someone who has worked in the service industry in one form or another for longer than the jail term I would have received for murdering one of my customers, I would like to address the fact that people (granted not all of them, but an alarmingly large number) do not know how to behave in a restaurant setting. What follows is essentially a rough guide to surviving the restaurant dining experience for the socially inept.
NO WOLF WHISTLES
Firstly, your server knows you are there. In fact your server is fully aware of EVERYTHING going on in their section. So the following is about as acceptable as wearing a Borat style mankini and doing lunges on Grafton street; clicking your fingers, waving, whistling, or any form of vocal noise that is not a simple “excuse me”. Bare in mind, that although you are the only customer at your table, you may be one of up to 50 that your server is trying to get to.
DONT JUMP THE GUN
Let’s be honest here, some people get so preoccupied with attracting the attention of a server, that they forget step 1. Decide what you want so you can communicate this valuable information to said server. Let’s assume you’ve managed to politely (not using any of the above methods) attract your servers attention, up until this point he/she still likes, or at least doesn’t dislike you. He/she says “hello, are you ready to order?” You in turn look blankly at the menu and say “eeeeeeeeeeeh….” Aaaaaaaaaaand you’ve lost him again. So while you’ve achieved getting him to your table with German-like efficiency, you’ve now lost any chance of him rushing back.
If you REALLY feel the need to take something from a tray, or out of your servers hand, please do not be surprised or offended when you end up wearing said gastronomic delight or beverage. This is not to be interpreted as a threat of any kind, rather a simple fact of physics… Your server does not simply precariously balance things willy nilly on a tray like the delicate ceasefire between warring nations, instead everything is carefully balanced to allow a spill free delivery in sequence to each table. So if one is unexpectedly removed the rest will fall like the hopes and dreams of Louis Walsh’s latest boy band.
This is at its core what you would imagine to be the most obvious part of your dining experience. READ THE FUCKING MENU. Don’t ask your server “do you have?” If you’ve read the menu, you know what they have and what they don’t. As a competent human being you would be very embarrassed to walk into barber shop and ask “do you cut hair?” Same principles apply. Also, here I feel I need to touch on the fact that a question and a statement are, quite obviously, not the same thing. You cannot expect your server to know that “I’ve just been to the gym, so…” Means you want something with a high protein count. He instead hears “I’m not ready to order yet and was just looking for an excuse to let those around me know I’ve been to the gym today”
In no restaurant in the world (I do not consider McDonald’s or any other fast food joint a restaurant) is it acceptable for a group of people to accrue a bill the size of the GNP of a small country, and then insist on paying only their part of the bill. Work it out among yourselves and then present the full amount to your server. In the rare case that the stars have aligned and your server has deigned you appropriately nice to split your bill, simply tot up what you had and present them with the amount you wish to pay. DO NOT list off what you had and expect your server to go into rain man mode and present you instantly with the total for your personal consumption.
CREDIT CARD MACHINES
When presented with this particular device (although the majority of people complete this exercise more than once daily) 90% of people will look at the server like he’s handed a rubics cube to man and with one arm and is waiting expectantly with a stopwatch. Your server will most likely give you instructions when handing you the dreaded apparatus, and if not….. Said instruction are emblazoned on the screen. If all else fails, ask… Don’t jab at the buttons like a 6 year old playing Xbox and just hoping it’ll all work out.
Tipping culture is still fairly new to this country and about as well understood or explained as social welfare entitlements or the IMF bailout. Essentially, your server makes minimum wage and is dependant on tips to survive. This system exists to make the dining experience more rewarding for all involved. It’s premise is this, if your server works his ass off to provide you with exceptional service, you reward him with a tip. This ensures that 1. He works hard and 2. You get excellent service. Think of this as that tasty performance based bonus you get if you manage to squeeze every penny you can from your impoverished clients. A good tip is between 10% – 15% of the bill. Some people don’t tip. That’s fine we understand that, but if your not going to tip DONT leave the 5c change in the tip tray. No tip means you’re not a tipper, 5c means I completely undervalue as a human being and wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire.
While it IS acceptable to presume your server can advise you on your choice of dish if you have an allergy or dietary requirement of some description, it is NOT acceptable to assume your server is up to speed on the intricacies of the latest celebrity fad crash diet and what you are, or more to the point, are not allowed to consume on said headlong dive into a lifelong eating disorder. We are not dieticians or walking calorie calculators. If you’re that committed to it, know what you can eat yourself or go and sit in a corner somewhere in your MBT shoes and flab-buster belt and savour that tasty glass of water.
Whilst the majority of servers have reconciled themselves to the fact that they must be part au pair, part clown, part waiter when a family takes up residence in their section, this only excuses a certain amount of evils. A good server will engage and occupy your children allowing you 15 or 20 unadulterated minutes of child free nourishment, this however, does not mean you can turn your back on your little darlings allowing them to turn your table and the entire restaurant into the equivalent of the apocalypse brought to you by coca cola.
ARE YOU CLOSED?
Yes the sign on the door says open till midnight, yes it is 11:45, and yes technically we’re open. But do you really want to come in and enjoy a nice relaxing meal with a team of servers and possibly kitchen staff standing waiting for you to finish? Personally I can’t enjoy a chocolate bar if someone is eyeballing me while I chow down. It’s not out of any badness that we do this, it’s human nature… Imagine, if you will, it’sFriday evening 4:45 and your boss comes into your office/cubicle/booth and (very politely) hands you a project that HAS to be done ASAP. Regardless of how nice he is about it, you’ll still be pissed at having come so close to freedom only to be pulled back to the bleak reality of the job, which in that moment you’d rather suffer some extravagant form of torture than complete.
I know at first glance it seems like a lot to remember while trying to decide what to eat and then having to eat it all at the same time, so just try to remember this… Your server is a human being who is trying to make a living in the unsociable hours while the rest of the world is at rest, he spends at least 10 hours a day running around like a lunatic, always with a smile on his face, and if that’s not enough to make you care, remember… He’ll be alone with your food before it arrives to your table.
Have a pleasant meal.