Tag Archives: restaurant

Things to never, ever, do as a customer in a restaurant

I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for almost three years, and even now, I still raise my eyebrows at a lot of the things I’ve seen. Between rude customers, customers who act like they’ve never been to a restaurant before, and families who only tip 10% on checks of $100 or more.

Image from brittany-ferries.co.uk
If you follow this list, you and your waiter/waitress will have as good of a time as this staged picture. Image from brittany-ferries.co.uk

When you work in the service industry, you experience a lot of things that will make your blood boil, make you laugh, or simply make you nauseous. Here are some of the things I’ve seen, and that you should definitely not do.

1. Bad tipping

Repeat after me: you must tip 20% on your check. For example if your check is about $20, tip $4 for average service or more if your service was excellent. Servers are only paid $2.13 an hour and make their money off of tips. Some customers are angered by this because why should they have to make up someone’s pay? Although there are some restaurants who pay their servers the required minimum wage and tips are just the icing on the cake, servers go into work knowing their wages mostly come straight from the hands of customers.

As a customer, you have to have a certain amount of empathy and realize this is someone’s reality. If you don’t agree with this system, don’t go out to eat. If you can’t afford to tip, or if you simply just don’t want to, do yourself and servers a favor and stay home to cook dinner. I’ve seen servers be completely stiffed on multi-hundred dollar checks, even if the service was top-notch. There’s simply no excuse for that. Again, if you afford to tip, stay home.

2. Bad parenting manners

We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve been sat next to a screaming infant at a restaurant. Along with ear-piercing squeals disturbing other guests, this can make the servers job very difficult. It can be hard to hear what your orders are if your child is screaming. It’s pretty common courtesy that you’d take your child outside or to the bathroom so as not to disturb other customers, but some people let their baby “cry it out,” which may work at home, but is absolutely unacceptable around perfect strangers who are just trying to enjoy their dinner.

Along with wailing babies, small children are often allowed to roam freely around the restaurant while their parents watch from afar. Even if the restaurant seems pretty kid-friendly, allowing your child to utilize the restaurant as their personal playground is not only obnoxious but extremely dangerous. One of my friends, a server, was recently turning a corner in her restaurant when a small child ran into her legs. She precariously held the large tray in her hands, which was heavy with ceramic dishes. The kids mother quickly apologized and ushered her child back to their seat, but that child was small enough that if the server had dropped that tray, the child would definitely obtain some pretty nasty bruises.

3. Bad ordering manners

Although some servers simply introduce themselves quickly and ask what you want to drink, some servers like to take the time to ask how you’re doing before asking what drinks they can retrieve for you. Even if you’re not feeling particularly talkative, it’s very rude to cut the person off with your order such as, “water with lemon.” You wouldn’t cut off a host of a dinner party to tell them to get you a drink, so why would you, as a guest, cut off the person who is bringing you your food and beverages?

Servers also don’t control the menu, so if one of your favorite items on the menu is taken off, it’s never okay to get angry with the server or let that affect their tip.

4. There are rules

Yes, there are rules when you go to a restaurant. You can’t have 5 shots in front of you along with a pitcher of beer. Many restaurants have rules regarding the bar, such as that people under the age of 21 aren’t supposed to sit at the bar or in the bar area after 9 PM. I’ve had customers get pretty nasty with me when they come in late with their children and I have to seat them away from the bar. But this is simply a rule that I’ve been instructed to follow, if you have an issue with it, write to corporate.

There are also a lot of legal rules we have to follow. For example, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau have set out very clear rules, for which we can be punished for not following. For example, ABC agents may come in and sit as regular customers and if the server doesn’t check their ID when they order a drink, the server will most definitely lose their job and the restaurant will get an ABC violation and cause the restaurant to lose their liquor license.

Sometimes customers want to substitute one item for another, but often times we simply can’t do that, at least not without charging you extra. Again, this isn’t us just being difficult, we have rules we are told to follow.

5. Being rude to the host

Being a host can be extremely stressful on busy nights. We’re the first person people see when they walk in, so we’re often the first to blame for the wait that can come with getting a table. Believe me when I tell you that there’s a very specific system we go through to seat tables and if we don’t follow this system, your service is going to be horrendous. Sure, you may be sat quickly, but you may wait a while before your server can take your drink order.

When there’s a waiting list, chaos often breaks out. For example, on a recently busy night at the restaurant I work at, we had 5 different groups on our waiting list. The group at the top of the list had 6 people, while there were several small groups of 2 or 4. For a group of six in our restaurant, there’s no way we can seat that group in a booth. Unfortunately, a majority of the tables we have in the restaurant are booths. So when I sat a group of 2 at a booth which is made for 2 people, one member of the group of 6 became irate.

“Why did you seat them before us,” he asked with a red face.

“Well you have 6 people in your group, I doubt they can fit in a booth specifically made for two,” I explained.

The man mumbled under his breath, “I don’t care.”

As a customer, you have to be understanding that the more people you bring with you on a night that is typically busy for restaurants, the longer your wait may be. Additionally, there are tables made for larger groups of 10 or more. To seat a small group of 5 at a table like that means that larger groups have nowhere to go and could potentially be stuck waiting up to an hour, when the smaller group of 5 could have simply waited 15 minutes for a table of a more appropriate size.
If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, it can be hard to fathom the systems we have for seating, ordering food or drinkings, and for actually making orders. Just understand that there is a system and although following the system specifically can sometimes hinder the operation of the restaurant, this system is usually in place to help the restaurant run efficiently. Be patient, and be kind, because servers are people too who are just trying to pay their bills.

Four things you learn after working in a restaurant

At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I got my first job at a restaurant. Although I was reluctant, I needed money, so I had to get a job. This first restaurant job was in Blacksburg, right off Virginia Tech’s campus. After working there for 7 months, I was fed up.

You see, for those who have never worked in a restaurant, there seem to be a lot of things that people just don’t understand. Although I’ve never been a server (I’ve always been a hostess) there are a lot of things I observe servers battling with. As a hostess, there are quite a few things I’ve experienced firsthand that need to be addressed.

  1. There is a set system for seating

In both restaurants I’ve worked at, the seating chart is fairly simple. Servers each have their own sections. Each server has a “turn,” in other words, servers usually get seated based on what order they came into work. At my current place of employment, a few servers will come in at 4 p.m., a few at 5 and a few at 6. This way we’re not over-staffed when it’s slow early on in the afternoon. But the one minor flaw with this system is that the sections of the servers who come in later cannot be used.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried my best to keep servers in their prescribed sections, but it never fails, something has to go wrong. For example, a few days ago I came into work at 5, before the closing (6 p.m.) servers had arrived. A couple came in, and the server whose turn it was only had one table that needed to be wiped down. I told the couple to wait just a moment as I cleaned off the table. They both started looking around confusedly, as there were a few tables nearby that were perfectly clean. The woman asked why I needed to seat them at the table that needed to be cleaned when there were already clean tables. As I cleaned off the table, I tried to explain how the system works but the woman just scoffed.

In a situation like this, where it will only take a moment to clean off the table, I cannot comprehend why it matters so much. Sure, if the table had to be completely bused and wiped down I probably wouldn’t have made them wait so I can clean the table. But it takes about 15 seconds to clean a table. If you want your service to be good, don’t mess with the system.

  1. We have limited space
Working at a restaurant can be irritating. Graphic by Jilletta Becker
Serving at a restaurant can be irritating. Graphic by Jilletta Becker

It never fails that on Friday nights the restaurant gets busy. Families are winding down for the weekend and want to be able to relax and be served. During the school year, a lot of times big groups and teams will come to eat after a big game. But the thing that always seems to be hard to comprehend is that sometimes there’s no physically possible way to seat a large group together.

One night, at about 10:30 p.m. a woman came in and said she was going to be having a group of 12. Both of our big tables that can usually accommodate large groups were taken. I explained this to the woman and she said, “Do you not have anything we can put together?” I explained that the only tables that could be put together to fit them were taken as well. She looked around the store and said, “well it doesn’t look like you’re busy.”

The thing is, just because we’re not busy doesn’t mean we can still accommodate a group that big immediately. Especially a night such as where high school football games are being let out and several families decided to go out to eat right after.

Not only is timing for these bigger groups complicated, but sometimes we simply can’t fit a large group completely together. During the summer, a basketball team came in and asked to be seated together. There were going to be 25 people, so in the limited space we had, this was going to be impossible. You can’t always get your way.

  1. Small requests can be difficult to fulfill.

On a busy Saturday night, sometimes the smallest request can throw you off. As a hostess, sometimes there is a line going out the door of people who need to be sat. When I’m running back and forth, seating tables, grabbing menus and telling servers they have a table, it can be difficult for me to fulfill any extra requests.

Several times, I’ve been running through the store and a customer will flag me down. Even if I’m in the middle of something, I can’t ignore them. I’ll often be in the middle of a seating crisis and be asked for another cup of ketchup, or extra napkins. At my old job, it was very often that customers would ask me to put in an extra order of fries or a drink order. But as a hostess, I can’t even do those things.

As far as seating goes, picky seating is really difficult. I can completely understand when someone needs a table because getting in and out of a booth is difficult. But I’ve had customers say, “I don’t want to sit in the front,” or “I want to be somewhere quiet/cooler.” When it’s slow, these little requests aren’t hard to fulfill. But on a busy night, these little things can throw the whole restaurant off.

This goes back to the seating system. When someone asks for a booth and it’s a certain server’s turn, yet all they have is a table, I’m going to have to skip them. Sometimes this means someone else will get double-sat, if they’re the only one with a booth open. This can ruin no only your night, as the customer, but cause the server to not be able to tend to their tables at top efficiency. Therefore, you get bad service.

  1. There are rules

At both restaurants I worked at, there’s a rule that after 9 p.m. no one under 21 is allowed to sit in the bar area. When I say “bar area” I mean the area around the bar, including the bar. At my old restaurant, there was a rule that no child under the age of five was allowed in the bar area.

One night at my old job, a couple came in with their baby and asked if they could sit at the bar. When I explained the rule, they grinned at each other and walked into the bar area anyways. My manager had to go find them and explain the severity of the rule, especially because they were sitting at the actual bar with a baby carrier, which is a huge no-no.

The reasoning behind this rule is first, because they don’t want underage kids drinking. But second of all, especially with a little infant in a carrier, there is a risk that a glass could fall off the bar and onto their little head. There isn’t a bar stool made for baby carriers so obviously the glass catches a lot of momentum as it falls off the bar.

At my new job, a regular came in with his four kids. He asked to sit in the bar area, but because it was after nine and one of his children was only 18, I couldn’t let them sit there. As I sat them elsewhere, he grumbled, “I’ve been coming here for 25 years and not once have I ever had to sit away from the bar area.” I apologized, explaining that it was a rule at a lot of bars. He rudely scoffed, although his kids didn’t seem the least bit bothered by it.

Although I feel bad having to deny people of their one simple request, the rules are there for a reason. Some might seem egregious, but incidents have happened that have put these rules into place.

 

After working in the restaurant business for just over a year, I have a new appreciation for those who work in restaurants. I notice I’m a lot more friendly and understanding to servers when I go out to eat. I hope that those of you who haven’t had to work in a restaurant, reading this gives you a new appreciation for those who handle your food.

BTO vs. Pinkberry: Radford restaurant reviews

BTO Self-Serve Yogurt is quite popular among Radford University students, but does it actually deserve its reputation?

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Mmmmmmmmmm. Photo from Creative Commons.

The answer is maybe, depending on what you’re looking for. BTO does have good frozen yogurt, and it also provides a hangout place that’s off campus and alcohol free; but the yogurt at BTO is comparable to the yogurt at Pinkberry in both price and quality. Continue reading BTO vs. Pinkberry: Radford restaurant reviews

Is a dirty diet healthy or trendy?

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Some gourmet food doesn’t even look that appetizing. Photo from Creative Commons.

If you went through elementary school without taking a bite of mud pie, you missed a staple of wacky childhood hijinks. Eating dirt, or being dared to, is just a thing kids do. How could we help it? They’re called mud pies! Pies are delicious! How does that in any way mean we’re not supposed to put them in our mouths? Screeching mothers aside, all children at heart can relive their glory days by taking a quick trip to Tokyo, Japan, where Chef Toshio Tanabe is making heads turn with his unique menu. Continue reading Is a dirty diet healthy or trendy?