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Restaurants: How to Get the Best Food and Service in Your Favorite Restaurant  
by: : Patricia Robbins

I have been a waitress for many years, working in all different kinds of places. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that working with the public is never dull. You really have to like people and enjoy talking to them if you’re going to make it in any profession that deals directly with the public. I have found that 99 percent of the people you come in contact with are just as nice as could be. Just watch out for that other one. He or she could ruin your day. The purpose of my writing this article is to share some thoughts from the “other side of the table.”

The first things I would like to talk about are reservations. Not all restaurants require them, some don’t accept them at all and some you couldn’t get into without. If you’re not sure whether you need a reservation, by all means, call the restaurant and ask. If it is for a special occasion or holiday, call well in advance (at least a week or so) of the date you want to reserve. Realize that if the number of people in your party changes you need to call the restaurant and tell them. In most restaurants, a party of five or more involves a bigger table, which most restaurants only have a few of, or putting tables together or moving them around.

The restaurant then takes other reservations based on how many other free tables they have and the positioning of them. When you call and make a reservation for five and then show up with ten people the hostess has to scramble to find you a bigger table. If she has to use more of the smaller tables for you, what about the people who have reservations for those tables? It causes all sorts of problems that you may not think of. If you make a reservation for 7:00 p.m. and you’re going to be late, please call. Most restaurants will only hold a table for 30 minutes. The reason for that is that they have estimated how long you will stay and have reserved the same table for someone else later. What happens to those people if you’re still there and the establishment doesn’t have another table? It’s all about being considerate. Worst of all, don’t make a reservation and then not show up. The establishment, the server, the bartender and the bus person are all losing money. It only takes a minute to call and cancel. Also, most restaurants keep track of who does things like this and after a couple of times won’t accept reservations from you.

So, you’ve made your reservation and you’re at your favorite restaurant for a night out with your friends/family. My best advice to you . . . be nice! Realize that the owners/management/staff all want you to be happy and enjoy yourself. It is to all of their benefits that you do. They will all make more money both in the short term and the long term if you are happy than if you are not. That having been said, there are some things that you can do to help the process along.

When the server walks up to your table, smiles, and says “ Hi, how are you tonight” look up at him/her, smile back and say “fine, thank you and how are you?” It’s not so hard. As a waitress it has always amazed me how many people don’t do this. I have always said that I don’t want your life story nor do I want to tell you mine. I will not hover around you. I will try to be as unobtrusive as possible. But if I am at your table it is for a reason. To get your order, serve your food, drinks or whatever. While I am there, Please give me your attention and be polite to me.

Please don’t assume that the server, bartender, or chef can read your mind. If you have a question about how something is prepared, ask. If you want something prepared a different way ask about it. If you want something extra or something left out, ask about it. Most restaurants will be happy to accommodate you. If the menu has items without a price or that say “market price” it is up to you to ask about it. It is not the server’s responsibility to tell you. Some things are included in the price and some are “ala carte.” If you are not sure, ask. It is not the server’s responsibility to inform you. The reason for this is that some people are insulted when the server tells them things like this because they feel that it makes them sound cheap. If you are allergic to a certain food or spice, it is your responsibility to ask about the ingredients. Please don’t wait for your food to come and then send it back.

If you are truly not happy with your meal please tell the server about it. The server and the chef want you to be happy and should offer to get you something else. Do not, however, eat two thirds of your meal before doing this. How bad could it have been if you ate all that? If you are trying a food that you have never eaten before and decide that you don’t like it, that’s not a reason to send it back. Just call it a learning experience. And while you are in the process of sending your meal back, be nice to the server. Remember that he or she didn’t cook your meal. If the problem is in some part the server’s fault and if he or she has apologized to you, be nice. Realize that he or she is probably going to get into enough trouble with the chef.

Lastly, when the bill comes, tip appropriately (assuming you’ve had good service). While I would be the last person to advocate tipping well for bad service, if the service is good it should be rewarded. The appropriate tip these days is 20 percent at minimum. That’s 20 percent of the total bill, not just the food, not before the tax. For those of you don’t know, the server in most restaurants has to split his/her tips with the bartender and the bus person. In most places I’ve worked I’ve had to give the bus person 15% of my tips and the bartender 10%. So humor me and let’s do the math. Say I wait on you (and give you excellent service). Your bill is $100.00. You give me a twenty-dollar tip. I give the bus person $3.00. I give the bartender $2.00. Now I’m left with a fifteen-dollar tip. Maybe you didn’t know that.

In closing, let me just say that I go up to each and every table expecting that I’m going to like the people I’m waiting on and that it’s going to be a good experience for both of us. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, but I try. Let me say one final thing about the tip. The way that this whole thing is supposed to work is that you tip to ensure good service and I give good service hoping for the best tip. I will do the best job for you that I can. However, especially if I’m busy, I will make sure that the people who I know to be a good tip get the best service and the people who I know to be a poor tip will get whatever attention I have left after taking care of the good tippers. Think about it.

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