RESTAURANT ETIQUETTE: The Art of Thank You
“Saying THANK YOU is just as important as saying, I’M SORRY.”
Customer Service 101 is saying – THANK YOU. Not because you’re required to or it’s in your employee handbook but because at the end of the day, if it wasn’t for your customers, you wouldn’t exist. Customer service is so important but honestly, it has become a lost art. With the digital age taking over our abilities to have face-to-face conversations, every frequent diner stopping to take photos of their food and drink, the close-knit world of culinary savants is dimming to make way for the contender: The hungry diner with iPhone camera in tow. That said, unfortunately, much like restaurant staff have often forgotten to say “Thank You”, it seems diners have as well. So, this post is devoted to minding our manners and valuing the simple art of being grateful.
DINERS: I know it’s tempting to be lured by the notion that eating out at a restaurant means you can demand whatever you want but once upon a time, eating out was a luxury and a privilege. Eating out used to be for “special occasions”. We’ve all been hypnotized by the bewitching spell of social media and getting our opinions heard by thousands, our food photos out there for the world to experience – and while that is such an important part of marketing for restaurants – it’s also the thing that is taking the “class” out of dining. As an Editor and Journalist, it’s my job to go out and eat cuisine from a plethora of places whether sitting down with a chef or attending a media event or simply wanting something to feed my scathing hunger. I admittedly take photos of all of my meals but I have limitations. If I can’t get a photo in under 4 shots, I just leave it be and enjoy the dish. If you spend ten minutes staging a dish, lighting, etc. guess what is going to happen to that piping hot dish made with passion and love? It’s going to be cold. And you will no doubt complain to your server that the dish is not hot anymore. Turns out, had you limited your photoshoot to less than 4 quick snapshots, you would have been able to truly taste the authentic intention behind the ingredients on the plate before you.
REMEMBER: A lot goes into cooking. Even street tacos. Be a grateful diner and when something isn’t good? Say something in a way that isn’t condescending or rude. Be kind to your chefs. Like everything in life, sometimes, the kitchen is off. But if everything else is sublime? The service, the ambiance, the quality? Well, take note. Chances are if you’re polite enough, you’ll get something taken off the menu.
Be good to your servers when they are good to you. And when they’re not? Write a piece about the food being good but the service lacking the quality one should expect. Servers get lazy and entitled too, I get it. And when they do, talk to a manager. If the manager doesn’t care, stop frequenting the restaurant. This doesn’t mean you get to complain because the server didn’t jump when you said jump in a room full of 50 tables and only 4 servers. (Granted that’s a management issue that every restaurant needs to address.) This means complaining if a server is blatantly arrogant, treats you like an idiot, and spends more time on another table because they think they have more money to tip.
You’ll never remember how many people said THANK YOU but you’ll always remember who forgot to.
SERVERS: Remember. Rich people don’t always look the part. If you’re not treating every customer like they matter, don’t expect overt generosity.
CHEFS + RESTAURANTS: We love you, we do. Really. You feed our hunger, nurture our whims, excite us with flavor. You rock. BUT – sometimes, well, sometimes you can be a bit, um, cocky. I love a great meal. I love incredible decor. I love thoughtful ambiance. In fact, I get overcome with anticipation when I’m going to sit down to an extraordinary meal. I love a careful menu. I love an imaginative chef. However, I EXPECT quality and consideration. So should everyone else. As someone who frequents restaurants and knows chefs, I know how hard you work. I know how much you put into what you do. I know the hours you willingly give up to place those ingredients perfectly on that plate. That said, remember that the patrons walking in that door aren’t all media or critics or food savants or fans of your TV Show. Sometimes, they’re just hungry and looking for something really wonderful. Sometimes they’ve had awful days and they’re seeking solace in the food they randomly choose from the menu. Sometimes, they’ve scraped up all of their savings for months to enjoy a meal like yours. So play nice. Train your staff not to be egotists. Train them to have passion for what they do because they’re the face of what you do. And those patrons? They are what keeps every restaurant afloat. They don’t always need to be snubbed if they don’t know what a certain wine taste like or that truffles aren’t chocolate. Take that opportunity to excite them about something new! This is why you are a chef after all and why those investors took a chance on your restaurant.
GRATITUDE: In essence, we could all stand a little more gratitude. All you food bloggers out there? Think about what you get to do every time you eat. Most of the time you get to eat a meal for free. Most of the time, people treat you with respect even though you aren’t an “expert”. Food Critics? It’s ok to loathe something but if you’re going to criticize it, know why. Diners? Stop taking 50 pictures of your food. Learn the art of minimalism so you can actually enjoy your food. (This goes for you bloggers too!) Chefs? Be thankful people are excited about your food.
Even at a Michelin rated restaurant, the cuisine is meant to be art but that art? Well, it should taste like love because with that kind of prestige, love and passion should be inevitable. Let’s all look at the dining experience as a culinary marriage between diner and establishment. Let’s say THANK YOU to one another. And mean it.