Tag Archives: etiquette

Ten Commandments of Restaurant Behavior

Nancy Leson, food critic for the Seattle Times, has published her list of Ten Commandmants for when you visit restaurants.

Hmmm. Although I agree with many of Nancy’s point, these are more “points of ettiquette” than actual commandments. Commandments should be immutable, and many of the items listed have exceptions. But this is me simply arguing semantics.

For the record, her commandments are:

  1. Honor your reservation
  2. Don’t hog your table
  3. If you don’t like where you’re seated, speak up!
  4. Bring your kids, but keep them in line
  5. Put your cellphone on vibrate
  6. If the food isn’t to your liking, say so, politely and immediately
  7. Life’s too short to drink bad wine
  8. Communicate dietary restrictions carefully and early
  9. Don’t even think about leaving a penny tip to show your scorn for a disappointing experience
  10. Spread the good cheer

Numbers 1, 2 and 10 of these commandments are based in the idea that restaurants are businesses that need to make money to survive. 3,6,7,8 and 9 are service oriented. Commandments 4 and 5 revolve around creating a decent dining environment.

Like I previously stated, I agree with most with them, to a point. But if you’re going to dictate customer behavior, then there should be commandments for restaurants to follow.

  1. Honor the reservation – If a reservation time is stated for 8pm, then it should be as close to 8pm as logistics can allow. Waiting for a table 30 minutes beyond the reservation time defeats the purpose of reservations.
  2. Respect the Table – If the customers don’t wish to interact with the wait staff, they shouldn’t be forced to do so. Forced small talk can serve to make patrons uncomfortable.
  3. Make no presumptions about your customers. Some will know more about food and wine than you, others less. Use good people skills to determine who falls where.
  4. Thou shall not upsell. Recommendations are a good thing, but they should at least sound authentic. When they sound like your trying to force more money out of my pocketbook, you come across as desperate. Save this behavior to Applebee’s
  5. Play your piped music at a point where it doesn’t dominate a conversation.
  6. Don’t play off of your customer’s supposed ignorance of wine. When I see a bottle of wine that has a 100-150% markup on the menu, it makes you look greedy.
  7. Ensure that your staff keeps personal conversations in the back of the house, away from the customers. I assure you, very few customers care that Nina didn’t come in today or that table 7A only gave you a 5% tip.
  8. Thou shalt have clean restrooms.
  9. The patron has a right to respectfully question any aspect of service. Specifically, when someone asks “Where’s our food?”, it is not asked to intentionally inconvenience the server.
  10. Hot food should be served hot.

I could write these all day.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Restaurants, ettiquette

Work Days

Quick quiz for you: You’re at a morale-building function at work (whether it be a company picnic, a birthday celebration, or even just coffee and donuts). Someone decides to ask you what you think about how the food tastes. Do you:

1. Offer a frank opinion, based off of the nuances of the food being offered.
2. Lie your ass off, because frank opinions in the work place are as unwelcomed as intercommed announcements requesting your presence in Human Resources.

The correct answer is “#3″ – Stare at the person who asked for your opinion until they offer their own answer and then mimic at your own discretion.

I offer you these examples, because while at work, you’re dealing with people who believe themselves to have exquisite taste, even as they offer you a bite of their green bean casserole made with Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup and stale Onion bits. Smile and take a bite. It won’t hurt you…much.

The idea of cuisine at most workplaces is a bizarro world of ideas and traditions. Coffee is proffered via vacuum sealed packs of micro-granules that were once coffee beans, but are now seen as standard requirements to getting any project completed. Food is offered in Vending machines containing donuts and Bear Claws that haven’t seen natural lighting since 1998. And when Birthdays are celebrated? Cakes are purchased from local supermarkets whose ideas of frosting include two primary ingredients…sugar and vegetable shortening.

You, with so little say in the ways of food at the workplace, can only bring yourself to nod and accept these culinary ideals, because somehow, somewhere in this building that you work in, someone else actually likes this stuff. Woe be to you if you happen to besmirch the fine, upstanding reputation of Caterer’s Blend Inoffensive Coffee Blend around said person, especially if said person is someone who has direct influence over the amount you recieve in your paycheck every two weeks. In the workplace, everyone has good taste.

I say this to you as a warning. Today was a day where the workplace’s Softball team held an event where they sold to an unsuspecting crowd chili (which consisted mostly of beans, ground beef and tomato paste), and hot dogs (which were…well…hot dogs).

It was wonderful.

Partners in crime

“What are you doing?” she asked me.

“I’m having one of yoru fries”, I responded, pulling my hand away from her plate. Why was she getting upset? It wasn’t like I picked up her burger and took a bite. I know the rules: Chips, fries and onion rings are fair game, communal foods if you will. Everything else you must have permission.

She looked at me as if I just spit on her dead grandmother…after I had dug her up and insulted her latkes.

I knew at that moment we would never be close friends.

Your choice of partners is a key component of your dining experience. Try dragging somone to an authentic vietnamese restaurant if they only eat steak and potatoes, and you’ll understand. If they look at the Bánh Bèo as if they had just been served a plate of slug mucous, then you may want to reconsider eating alone. If you find yourself shouting at them “It’s only steamed rice cakes for cryin out loud!”, then you most assuredly need a new friend.

There are some simple guidelines for finding adequete eating partners. First and foremost, they must never order the same thing as you. The is nothing worse than a lost opportunity at a restaurant, and a person who is so unadventurous as to pick the “Lobster Neuberg” simply because you did.

This is because of the second requirement of eating out: You must be prepared to share. Chances are better than average that what I ordered was not the only item on the menu that I wanted. Yes, I will wait until you say the traditional “Oh, this is good.. would you like a bite?”, but only because of tradition, and not because of ettiquette.

There is a sub-rule to this requirement. Any item that is a finger food, fried, and easily comes over a dozen in quantity is open for communal eating, as long as you will be assured over 50% of the food. So if I order mozzerella sticks, and I get 14, you are entitled to no more than 6 sticks.

Another rule. Dessert is an expectation, but not a requirement. Sharing a dessert is certainly more amenable than no dessert at all, depending on the restaurant. People unwilling to share a bite of their creme brulee are an insiduous lot, equitable to Ann Coulter, Kenneth Lay, and any younf child who taunts animals with sticks in degree of vileness. If you share a table with people like this, it is more than okay to douse them with holy water, lay your ands upon their forehead and shout “Begone evil spirits!”.

Also, anyone who asks for a hamburger without a bun should be left alone to eat in thier Atkins friendly fraudulance. Carb counting even more annoying than calorie counting. Both should be done either before or after a meal. Never during. If losing weight is such a concern, then eating out is probably not the best use of one’s time.

Lastly, for now, anyone who has a problem with spiciness will probably need to re-evaluate their own reasons for eating out. Complaining about how the potatoes taste of dill is not going to endear you to me. Telling me tabasco sauce is “too hot” will only earn you my contempt. Buck it up. Bland foods are best left to English housewives and TGIFridays. Everything else is a risk with a reward.

There are more rules to be sure. These are but the basic ones. Without them, the risk of a meal goign bad due to a dining partner is increased, and I’m not sure that’s what any one of us wants.

So next time you go out, order something different…something spicy. And share. Your partner will thank you for it.