Restaurant Etiquette for The Guest

Lesson One: The Host.

Often restaurants have a host, no surprise there. It may come as a shock to most people who haven’t worked in a restaurant is that the host is actually important in a lot of ways. The host actually does a lot depending on the restaurant. Speaking from experience I arrange the charts (as in we decide who goes where and in what order), cleaning a portion of the bathrooms, resupplying toilet paper and paper towels, directing people to seats, dealing with seating mix-ups, at times bussing tables if servers need help, and of course dealing with people (customers and staff). It’s by no means the hardest job, but it is a busy and stressful one at times.

Like I said, hosts have a system the restaurant makes them follow. We can’t over seat servers (depending on how strong of a server they are), seat them back to back, or skip them if possible. It’s one after the other and start the cycle again, and most hosts try to get everyone an even number of parties. So it is crucial that if you see a host stand, and no one is there, do not seat yourself, just give it a second. Hosts are never too far from the host stand for very long, so even though we may be doing something we’re probably going to be back in a second or two.

If you seat yourself, you throw the system out of balance and the host has to adjust for that, which is more stressful than you may think. You may not get waited on because no one knows you’re there. You may result in someone not getting an equal opportunity at the end of the night by having someone get skipped, or possibly having someone double sat and have more stress from the extra immediate work. It’s best if you just wait to be sat, so you don’t sit in the wrong section and cause all of this to happen. If it is taking too long simply ask one of the waiting staff for assistance.

As I said: system, maintenance, etc. So large parties are a particular problem. Sometimes we need to put tables together, sometimes we have split them up into booths in a system that works; big parties are just a mess. Then you have to organize what the servers are doing. Whether or not one server or two are taking the party, who they are, then adjusting the cycle to this. Big parties are stressful. Huge parties are especially problematic when you can’t make proper traditional accommodations (aka in the normal dining area, which is most of the time). That’s why when you come in, and the host asks you how many there are, it’s important you don’t lie with an outrageously high number. So you may think you’re cute or funny when say you have 30 or 50 people, but you’re not. It scares the shit out of us because that stress and worry of what we’re going to do rushes in. So when you talk to the host, just tell us so we can do our jobs.

Some restaurants are divided into parts. In the restaurant, I work at there is the sports lounge and the dining room (the part I mostly look over). Although each part has its own set of servers and sections. So it’s our job as hosts to ask which part you would like to sit in, but it is also your responsibility as the guest to make up your mind. Too many times have I asked guests where they would like to sit and gotten “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.” The problem with this is it tells us nothing and keeps us from doing our jobs. No asking what the differences are or anything like that, just simply “I don’t care.” I’m happy you guys are so carefree, but hosts have jobs to do, so we need answers.

Lesson Two: Treatment of the staff.

A little information about servers. The minimum amount a server can be paid in the U.S. is $2.13 an hour. Servers need to make at least minimum wage in tips each month in addition to their wage, or the restaurant has to raise its wages to an appropriate amount. The only thing is, because of the nature of tips and taxes; servers get taxed a higher percentage than someone making just minimum wage. Even if they did raise it to minimum wage, we all know at this point you can’t make a living off of minimum wage. So please, tip your servers 10-15%. You may be thinking this is counterproductive, but it isn’t. Even if they do get taxed more; they still receive more income than if you didn’t tip them. If the restaurant had to raise its wages mandatorily then the prices would also have to rise. So please, be a good person and tip.

If you don’t have the money to tip, don’t let us know you didn’t, and especially don’t apologize. You may think it’s better to do so, but it’s like rubbing salt into a wound. The last thing the servers want is for you to not tip and know it’s because they never had a chance of getting tipped in the first place.

Keep in mind, just because we have to serve you, doesn’t make us your servants. You’re not the most important thing in the world when you walk through that door. We have lots of responsibilities. Lose the sense of entitlement.

Lesson 3: You and your kids.

When you sit down at your booth or table, you’re not in a sound studio, everyone can hear your kids yelling, and it’s incredibly annoying.

If your kids leave a huge mess, at least clean up a little bit. There have been times half plates of food and entire baskets of popcorn have been dumped on the floor and parents refused to do anything about it. While yes it is the job of the staff to clean it up, there’s a fine line between some dropped food and entire morsels of food being left on the floor. At that point you’re not just being a guest, you’re also being a complete dick.

Lesson 4: Calling the restaurant.

If you call the restaurant, don’t waste our times by rambling on. Tell us what you want so we can direct you to the right person or take care of you.

Don’t continue to ask us the same question over and over again. If you ask us once and we give you an answer, re-asking the same question rephrased over and over isn’t going to change the answer.

When spelling out your name for a reservation, don’t just spew it out. Take it slow, we are not recorders who can hang on to every bit of information you throw at us.

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