I shouldn’t have to tell you these things about eating out at a restaurant. Most of you are couth (Is that the opposite of uncouth?) members of society who know how to compose yourselves when dining out with the rest of us. This post should just serve as entertainment for you.
But as a former server at a fine dining restaurant in Chicago, I know that a particular few of you are unaware of the cultural niceties that should be observed when you chose to dine out. Oh sure, you dressed yourselves in the presentable guise of the masses and had enough sense to choose a good restaurant (mine) for dinner, but apparently in making these practical preparations you forgot to observe a little sense.
I shouldn’t have to tell you not to do these things, but I am going to.
1. If you are going to bring in a bottle of sparking wine to enjoy with your meal, kindly don’t shake it up prior to me opening it. Contrary to what you may think, I don’t mind at all if you are bringing in a bottle from home instead of buying one from me. Even the most clueless of patrons know they should be tipping on the bottle, especially if no corkage fee is applied.
But I shouldn’t have to tell you NOT to shake up your bottle prior to me opening it up for you table side. I am telling you this, though, because it happens. Part of my job was to observe proper etiquette and decorum when opening bottles of all types, and it’s nearly impossible for me to do so when you took said bottle to Six Flags and rode around with it on the Batman ride all day prior to me opening it for you.
2. Don’t intentionally enter the kitchen. There are so many things wrong with this, it blows my mind. You know that general notion you have of restaurant kitchens being stressful places? Of chefs being loud and moody? Of it being hotter than the surface of the sun? Of personnel trying to maintain an admirable level of hygiene and cleanliness in their workspaces?
They’re all pretty freaking accurate. There is a lot more reality to Hell’s Kitchen than there probably is to America’s Next Top Model. Even if you have the noblest of intentions – for instance, to compliment the chef on an excellent meal – don’t you dare go in there. Not only might you actually get snapped in half but I will most certainly get ripped a new one because I couldn’t corral you to your own little table.
Don’t go in there. I shouldn’t have to tell you this.
3. You may be patrons, but please don’t patronize me. I’m not going to pretend that all servers in the world are great at their jobs and deserve an excellent tip*. I for one have had some really lackluster servers who detracted from what could have been a fantastic meal. But that doesn’t give me or anyone else a pass to treat my server like someone who has failed at life and is therefore relegated to a substandard profession. I already had my MA when I made the cognizant choice to enter into the service profession. The entire staff I worked with were just as educated (if not more) as most of our clientele, and the regulars who I developed a rapport with respected me because I was on their level and engaged with them there. The customers who would treat me like a wench and set me up with difficult questions they assumed I would never be able to answer about the wine list just made themselves look foolish when (Egad!) I was able to field their demands seamlessly.
*Although they ALWAYS deserve their 15%.
4. Don’t eat your entire meal and then “send it back” because it was unsatisfactory. I never got this one at all. In a purely logical sense, you can’t “send back” food that you have already consumed in its entirety and then complain of its supposed “inedibility”. If you are trying to scam me for a meal, do us all a favor and be a bit more creative about it.
People who would pull these kinds of shenanigans typically drew a lot of attention to themselves in other ways, primarily being really loud when complaining. Since our dining rooms were small, most of the other guests were well aware of what was going on with these loons and could see the level of jackassery they were attempting to pull. SO, not only did these people look ridiculous to us, but to everyone else around them.
Pretty common sense. Don’t do that.
5. The onus is on you if I can’t accommodate your requested reservation time. OK, so maybe I should actually have to tell you this because there is a small sliver of a chance that you don’t know.
But here’s the thing: Valentine’s Day Dinner? Mother’s Day Brunch? BIGGEST RESTAURANT DAYS OF THE YEAR. You had better make a reservation and make it early. I don’t mean “early” the day of, either. I mean weeks and possibly months ahead of time. Don’t you dare get snippy when I have nothing to offer you other than 4:30 and 10:30. Our books are configured to accommodate as many guests as we can humanly get through our restaurant on these busy days and if I had a table for you I’d gladly give it to you. So please don’t act like I’m hoarding the tables because I have a personal vendetta against you.
6. One of the surest ways to convince me of your lunacy is to drink 20 shots of espresso in the span of two and a half hours. Again, see title of this post. I think the house is a bit divided over the humor that can be gleaned from drunk customers; some servers think it’s funny when a customer gets royally sloshed, whereas some others are extremely annoyed by it. But we all generally agree that the over consumption of coffee drinks into the late hours of the evening is bizarre and annoying. How does one “cut you off” of coffee? We are not Starbucks. We are a four star restaurant. And you are clearly interested in staying up for the next 36 hours.
7. Don’t leave me a tip in foreign currency. I shouldn’t have to tell you that in the US, business isn’t typically transacted in Canadian currency. But I am. I’m telling you. I’m on the record.
Our restaurant would regularly hold wine dinners that would highlight a specific wine region and pair those wines with special dishes, and the press typically came out for these events. As the press, they would generally not be charged for their meal, although they would be expected to leave a gratuity. On the night of an Argentinian wine dinner, two reps from a (American) wine publication came out to cover the dinner. They glowed at every course and every wine paring, complemented the attentive and warm service*, and concluded the meal exceptionally pleased.
*Which, incidentally, included me having to tell them a lot of pretty basic information about the wines which one would think that as reps from a wine publication they would already be extremely familiar with.
One would think.
But they left no tip. I alerted my manager, who graciously approached them and gently reminded them to compensate me for my work that evening. They had no cash, so they left me with $1.50 in Canadian currency, which they laughed off and explained away as “a great way to finally get rid of that cash we’ve been carrying around since our trip there last March.”
Thanks, bruh. And enjoy your time in that special corner of Purgatory reserved for clueless imbeciles who take advantage of service employees.
8. You are not “allergic” to raw vegetables and fruit as a whole. You may dislike them. They may not agree with your insanely difficult intestinal tract and bowels. You may be getting over a foodborne illness caused by a piece of contaminated produce. But “allergies” in the strict sense of the word to all uncooked produce don’t exist. So, NO, I will not request that the chef heat up the iceberg lettuce in your Cobb salad.
I shouldn’t have had to tell you this, but I just did. Be informed.