Wednesday, December 23, 2009

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

I'm in a trendy DC restaurant in the Woodley Park neighborhood, sitting at the bar, watching an overweight bartender munching down on a large pizza about three feet from me (it's so close I could reach over and help myself to a slice, and this is at least the second time this has happened here). Am I crazy, or isn't this totally inappropriate? Hey, I'm not 100% sure of restaurant etiquette, so using my laptop to check the "perfect recall of silicon memory," aka the Internet (wireless is available here), I found this in about 15 seconds from the NY Times:

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do:

#35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests.

Here's another one I think is good:

#32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

And I like this one:

#43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.

I've written before about how I think it's insane to ask a perfect stranger (waiter or waitress) for advice on what they think you would like best. If I'm not sure I know what I want to eat, how would a total stranger be of any help?

Now in the pre-Internet days, I would have had to make a visit to a local library in the next few days, and find a reference book or article on restaurant etiquette. Now I can be upset immediately, without having to wait for confirmation.


At 12/23/2009 10:40 PM, Anonymous Eric H said...

*Never* touch them is absolutely wrong. See number 7 on this list by tipping researcher Michael Lynn.

Otherwise, we had a waiter that was acting a little loopy one time, and when we got up to find out what was taking so long, we found him pounding beer behind the bar. Then he tried to lie his way out of it. Bad waiter, no tip.

But as to asking the waiter for advice, this depends on whether you think they are smarter than the carpet. This seems to frequently result in very good advice, but sometimes we're just looking for a tie breaker.

At 12/23/2009 11:22 PM, Blogger QT said...

Why am I reminded of Lord Chesterfield's letters just one of the many examples of didactic literature? I can recall coming across a work by the Knight of Latour Landry who recommended that women never eat in front of men and never crane their necks like a turtle.

Funny how improving literature never seems to fade from the earth.

At 12/24/2009 12:14 AM, Blogger T J Sawyer said...

I'll frequently ask: "Which is your favorite?" It can produce some interesting suggestions and always builds some rapport. I can always not go a different direction from there.

At 12/24/2009 12:15 AM, Blogger Bret said...

"I've written before about how I think it's insane to ask a perfect stranger (waiter or waitress) for advice on what they think you would like best."

They obviously won't know what I like best, but I often ask, "Is X good?" and sometimes I get a response like, "Well, it's not the best dish here" and I know that I'd probably do well to avoid it.

At 12/24/2009 6:36 AM, Blogger reprise8 said...

I was eating in a diner (I must add, a diner on the seedy side of the norm - my co-worker took me there on the way to a job), sitting at the counter. As is typical in diners, the cooks are working right in front of you.

The cook finishes beating a couple of eggs and pours them out of the bowl onto the griddle. He then turns around, now facing me, and moves to place the bowl into the sink, which is under the counter, right in front of me. But before placing the bowl in, he drops a big wad of spit into the bowl, then drops it into the sink.

To stress, this takes place about 2.5' in front of me. While I'm eating.

But I guess that's okay? It wasn't on the list. ;)

At 12/24/2009 7:27 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

I frequently ask the waiter/waitress what they think is good on the menu. I'm not looking for what they think I like. What I'm really trying to ascertain is whether there is a dish on the menu that the restaurant is known for - their signature dish that you absolutely must try at least once.

At 12/24/2009 10:53 AM, Anonymous Luv Eating said...

Instead of asking "what's good" (funny how the "special" or the most expensive thing is always good) or for specific recommendations for me, I ask "If you were eating lunch/dinner, what would you be eating?". Or if I'm feeling cranky, I'll ask "What should I avoid?" and hope they are honest. Most are.

At 12/24/2009 10:53 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

So the employee was eating pizza in front of you -- maybe the restaurant was just trying to increase its producitivty! Here is a tip from RestaurantCity:

"How often should I feed Restaurant City employees? The more energy your employees have the more productivie they will be."
Therefore, to win in the eatery business feed them often.

BTW Restaurant City is a Facebook simulation game. Winning at the game may well give a false incentive for would be restaurant owners.

At 12/24/2009 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is insane to ask a stranger for desert recommendations, then it is equally insane to trust a 100 things list from a stranger. Or not.

At 12/24/2009 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, those lowly food-service employees, they eat, they reach out and touch, they have opinions (and are willing to share them) and they even breathe the same air as us. Why can't the "help" understand their place in society?? Jeez.

At 12/31/2009 7:51 AM, Anonymous O Bloody Hell said...

1) Mark, I'd forgotten it, but Eric is totally correct. You have to be very careful about it, but it does have a notable and measurable effect on tipping.

2) You say:

I've written before about how I think it's insane to ask a perfect stranger (waiter or waitress) for advice on what they think you would like best. If I'm not sure I know what I want to eat, how would a total stranger be of any help?

BOY are you off-base. You're not asking the waitron for what YOU would like. You're asking them for information on WHAT the place does well or badly... or even what's "off today" -- perhaps today's batch of 'x' was done by the third assistant sous-chef because all the others were on vacation or out sick? Or perhaps 'y' was done today by someone who has a particularly good ability for making 'y'.

THAT is what the question should be aimed to elicit.

It's up to you to apply that to your own personal tastes. I've often asked for advice and then turned it down, then asked for another opinion.

"...So quit asking me for advice and you'll be
a heluva lot better off. Or ask me for advice,
if it's advice you want - and if it isn't
appropriate, ignore it. Get this, A***ole:
Advice isn't the same as orders
It's only another option for a person to consider.
All it's supposed to do is widen your perspective
on the thing you're looking at. Use it that way."

- 'David Gerrold', 'A Matter for Men' -



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