I have worked in restaurants for over 10 years and it continues to baffle me that sometimes the general public just doesn’t get it. Without a doubt, restaurants and really, the hospitality industry as a whole are in business to please guests. I have limited experience with any other sector of the hospitality industry besides restaurants, so this will be limited to what I know but in no particular order.
1. When you put your name on the waiting list and you are quoted a wait time, generally you should expect the time to be within 5-10 minutes of what you will actually wait. Quoting wait times is not an exact science and there will be times when you wait much less than expected and there will be time when you have to wait longer than initially expected. Always the restaurant is pleased when you decide to wait but please keep in mind, just because you wait 1-2 hours for a table does not negate the time it takes to get your drinks and cook your order. Also, you may take a quick glance around the dining room and see available tables, I guarantee there is a reason these tables are empty- it may be that the host is waiting for the table next to it to become empty so they can be pushed together for a large table. It may be that the host is trying to not overwhelm the server. It may also be that the manager is trying to pace the kitchen and maintain short ticket times (the time it takes from when the kitchen receives the food order until food is prepared and sent to your table.)
2. Your server/bartender is a human too. When they arrive at your table, introduce themselves and ask what they can bring you to drink and the response is “Can we have some bread?” There is a general disconnect in communication.
3. As the guest, if you have any issue, whether it be with your service, drinks, food or the restaurant in general, please ask to speak to a manager. And please do so before you’re walking out the door because at that point, it is too late to rectify the problem. Ultimately, the restaurant wants you to enjoy your dining experience and generally, should be willing to correct any problem.
4. Children in restaurants can be awesome and they can be horrible. If you bring your child to a restaurant, please be considerate of the restaurant, the staff and your fellow diners. Under no circumstance is it acceptable for you to allow your child to run a muck throughout the restaurant. If your child is screaming bloody murder, you may be able to tune it out, but chances are, your precious darling is disturbing other guests. And finally, if when you leave, your table and the floor around it looks like a disaster zone- please let it show in your tip you appreciate your server cleaning up after your little one(s).
5. I am a bartender. I love my job. I love talking to guests. I take pride in serving good looking drinks that taste good. I want you to have a good time while you are sitting at my bar. I understand if you want to try something new and tasty. Sometimes the restaurant gets super busy and it’s natural that lots of waiting guests want to get a drink from the bar to enjoy while they wait. It is also very nice when one person volunteers to go get a couple people’s drinks. I beg of you, please get their drink order before you get to the bar rather than get there, realize you don’t know what they want and have to yell back at them to see what they want.
6. Also, when the bar is very busy- any bartender worth their weight is moving as fast as they can. (They make more drinks, they make more money- that’s just rational.) And chances are, they are working on 3-5 drinks at a time- whether they are taking orders, popping beers, shaking martinis, scooping ice cream, or pouring shots. If they do not look you in the eye and ask what you would like to drink, please do not just yell your drink order as they go whizzing by.
7. Now, let’s talk about closing time. If a restaurant closes at 10PM that means (at least everywhere I have ever worked) that you can walk in and be seated up until 10PM and will be served. The restaurant company within I currently work, it is company policy to seat and feed anybody that walks in up to 10 minutes after close. I honestly believe that that the last guests served of the night should enjoy the same considerations as the first guest seated of the night. I like to eat later myself but please be mindful if you are the last guest seated and don’t dilly dally after you finish eating. At the end of the day there is a couple hours of work to be done, much of which can’t even be started until the last guest has departed.
8. Eating out is one of the best activities in the entire world! It is one of my absolute favorite things to do while I am waiting for my life to unfold. I love sitting at a bar interacting with other bar guests and bartenders. I love having an dinner date with Bub. I love eating out with a group of friends. I totally appreciate someone else cooking for me and washing the dishes. I also completely appreciate good service. It’s working in restaurants that has taught me it really takes a small army to deliver excellent service. And servers have to tip out all those behind the scenes people that help deliver your good service. So, if you believe you got 10% service, please revert back to #3.
9. I work in a vacation town and have now for 3 1/2 years. I love having a busy season and I love having an off season. I love that people from all over pick my town as their vacation spot. However, the state in which I reside has some particular laws in special regards to alcohol that your home state may not. While you are in the state of Alabama, you have to follow Alabama state laws. It is unfortunate that it is illegal for your to leave the restaurant with an open (alcohol) container. And it is awesome that as an 18 year old you can drink with your parents’ consent in your home state but in the state of Alabama, you cannot. And I appreciate being on a budget, but in accordance with my restaurant’s liquor license, our guests cannot bring alcohol into the restaurant. (All of those laws, have to do with liability.)
10. There are all types of restaurants out there and with all types of policies and procedures. But, generally there is a certain order that your drinks and food should arrive at your table. 1. Drinks 2. Appetizer 3. Soup 4. Salad 5. Entree 6. Dessert. Your server should be pacing your food in that order and this takes time. If you want your server to throw that pace out the window and bring your food as soon as it’s ready, tell them so they can do so. (They can probably have your salad and or soup to you quicker than your appetizer- not always, but most of the time.)
I hope this sheds light on the behind the scenes of a restaurant and helps you understand the symphony that is conducted each lunch and dinner service. I really encourage you to go out and enjoy yourself and have a good time but be respectful of the staff and restaurant. Ultimately they are there to ensure you a pleasant dining experience.