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Food for Thought

Everyone enjoys eating at a restaurant with good food, but having an excellent waiter or waitress often makes things more fulfilling. So avoid these missteps and keep your servers in good spirits.

Maria Weller
December 1, 2016

We have all had mixed experiences when dining 
out. Some have been hugely successful and stood out, while others have unfortunately fallen short. As the customer, we are accustomed to the phrase and mindset that the customer is always right. But what if that isn’t the case?

Getting a Table
Few restaurants offer seat-yourself-service. But many times it’s as easy as walking in, telling the host how many people you have and being seated. However, on busier nights, it may require a wait.

This can be stressful for hosts since people may see an empty table and wonder why everyone is still waiting. Creating the flow of a restaurant involves a lot more than just sitting people in empty chairs. When there are visible empty tables, it’s for a reason.

Having a career in the service industry is possibly one of the most unforgiving occupations. Hosts, servers and bartenders aren’t gifted with the ability to read minds; yet they are usually expected to do so and with a smile on their face. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of attention to detail.

If customers are kind and understanding to the hosts, they may find that they are seated sooner and have a better experience.

How we treat our servers can have a much bigger effect on the experience than most customers realize. Sometimes people forget that servers are
 not servants. Try to establish a comfortable and respectful bond and maybe you’ll find that some of the upcharges or soft drinks don’t appear on the tab.

Servers go through training on how to properly treat guests, and for the most part, do their best. But sometimes customers can be guilty of making their servers’ jobs harder and less enjoyable. With a little understanding, respect and adherence to a few rules of courtesy, you’ll become a better customer and get better service.

Start with a smile. It will help get everything o on the right foot. If you don’t smile, the wait staff may pick up on some bad vibes coming from the table and limit themselves to basic service, anxious about upsetting you more.

Make sure to say “thank you” and “please” when addressing your server. They are there to help you, and if you are getting good service, then it’s important to let them know you appreciate it.

Keep in mind that servers aren’t all powerful; they’re at the mercy of the kitchen and other tables. When this is understood, often the server’s gratitude will become apparent in many ways.

‍Keep in mind that servers aren’t all powerful; they’re at the mercy of the kitchen and other tables.

This can be one of the most difficult parts of dinner for both guests and servers. Instead of peppering the server with questions about the descriptions of everything on the menu the moment they return with drinks, take a little time to study the descriptions of options so you’re better prepared. At that point, if you still have a couple of questions unanswered by the menu, your servers will be happy to help.

Servers are trained to be observant of everything going on at their tables. This doesn’t mean that they are infallible though. There are things customers can do to silently to alert them, like placing low drinks in plain sight. And if you aren’t ready to order when initially asked, politely let them know you need a few minutes. When you are ready, close the menu and place it on the table.

Correcting Errors
Sometimes when food arrives, everything looks good at first glance. But maybe after cutting into a steak, you realize that it wasn’t quite cooked to your liking. Servers always come back shortly after the food is delivered to check. At this point, let them know what’s happened and they will do everything they can to remedy it.

The restaurant works as a team, but unfortunately, the server is the face of all mistakes and inconveniences. The server is responsible for taking your order and putting it into the computer. From there, their fingers are crossed that the kitchen will make orders how you want them.

Also realize that mistakes happen. You never know what could be going on in servers’ lives that could be affecting their work. It’s good to try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Pace of the Meal
When many people go out to eat, they are there for the whole experience and not just to get food. After all, that is what they pay for: service, ambiance as well as the food. But sometimes you have a short lunch break or are trying to make it to a show. If you mention this, many servers can help get the meal moving by suggesting easy entrees or having the check ready as soon as the food arrives.

Recognize Effort
Serving can be a physically and emotionally draining job that can take a huge toll on a person’s well-being and health. So make sure you tip and do it correctly. You’re tipping because they provided a full service for you — it’s a form of gratitude.

Guests should tip 15 percent of their bill for a good experience, 20 percent for great service and 10 percent or less if the service was poor. If you had a really great experience, let it be known. Tell the manager if you had an outstanding server.

Keeping these things in mind when dining out will put everyone in a better mood. Chances are the hosts and servers will be so appreciative of your understanding and they will go above and beyond to make your experience great.