Sunday, March 26, 2006

Customer Education Week

I've decided that every restaurant needs to have a Customer Education Week. It might be helpful if everyone were on the same page when it comes to expectations. Maybe I'm just saying this because I've worked four days in a row, and people tend to get on my nerves more when I work a lot of hours, but still. . . if we laid a few ground rules it might make life easier for everyone. A few suggestions to improve your future dining experiences:

1. Don't expect a server to be able to give stuff away. What makes a customer think that I can substitute lobster bisque for a salad at no charge? A guest asked me this on Friday, and when I informed him that there would be a charge, he said "I'm sure you can work some magic there." Actually, I'm a server, not a magician, and since this soup has to be ordered from the kitchen I can't get it without ordering it through the computer and charging the guest. Even if I could get it, I would be risking problems with my boss. It's not like lettuce and lobster are interchangeable.

2. If having a bunch of servers come out and sing "Happy Birthday" to you with a free slice of cake is important to you on your special day, consider calling ahead. Not all restaurants do this. Mine used to, and doesn't anymore. It has disappointed more than one person.

3. Please hang up your cell phone when ordering. It's rude, and I highly doubt you are paying your server enough to justify the rudeness.

4. Please READ THE MENU. Especially if you think it's cute to have your date order for you. Telling me that you would like to have the tilapia is only the beginning. If you will read the menu, you'll discover a wealth of information needs to be communicated to your server, including the preparation method, the portion size, the side dish, and the salad choice and dressing, if applicable. All of this is on the menu. If you read it, you will avoid a situation that is awkward for everyone, and also avoid tempting me to omit telling you that you have a choice and just ordering you what I think you should have (which would be whatever is most expensive and/or easiest for me).

And just so you know, the custom of a man ordering for his date began back in the days when all servers were men, and a lady could not speak directly to a man to whom she had not been introduced. Since this is no longer a social taboo and I'm a woman, it isn't really necessary for a man to order for his date.

5. It is not generally wise to have small children in a restaurant late at night. I had two children under the age of two in my section at 10:00pm last night. This is not fun for anyone, least of all the child. I can't tell you how many children I have seen asleep in booths in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Get a babysitter, get take out, or get used to eating before 9:00pm.

I wonder if any profession has the same dilemma serving does, in that your employer does not control your income. My boss can control my income to some extent - she determines how much I work, and when, and what section of the restaurant. And a lot of my income depends on how busy the restaurant is. The deciding factor is tips, and that (theorectically) depends on the quality of service that I provide. So when there is a vast difference between what the customer wants (free substitutions, extras, etc) and what I can give, it's a tough spot to be in.

Luckily, the vast majority of my customers are polite, considerate people who tip adequately and make my job enjoyable. Kudos to good restaurant patrons everywhere.

No comments: