Monday, November 8, 2010

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette part1

     I have had this idea brewing in my mind for some time as I held just about every job in the restaurant industry.  Manners have fled all aspects of American society.  We just don't instill the basics from the start like most other cultures.  Many languages require you to address elders and the like with specific titles or even arrange whole grammar structures around this simple fact.  Manners equal respect and when learned from day one its hard to go against what becomes second nature.
    It has occurred to me that along with this loss of respect for our fellow man has come an almost arrogant approach to all "customer service representatives".  When it all boils out of the pot that's what we are.  We work the font lines dealing with those that are spending the money they earned doing who knows what, for who knows how many hours a day, and how many days that week.  Trust me I get it. We all get it. I know your sitting there  reading this thinking "Yea man! I can relate."
     Maybe you don't work with customers at this point in your life, but you did at one time.  You mowed lawns to get that bike, babysat for that purse that was all the rage that summer.  Most of us at one time or another had to ensure our customer was satisfied and called next weekend for more work.  Well often as I'm serving tables at a local restaurant it baffles me how many people have lost touch with this, the simple etiquette, and purpose of eating at a full service restaurant. 
     I realize as I listen to patrons, fellow employees, numerous documentaries, and just casual conversation.  Fast food, and the overall pace of modern life has killed the dining spirit of America.  "Fast food killed the chef with the five star" hahaha remember the song "Video killed the radio star"?  Well same relation here.  Not to say that's the only culprit.  Many factors contribute, like portable electronic entertainment devices.  Instant gratification via Internet purchase and on demand cable.
     Think about the last time you waited in line for over ten minutes, or took a planned trip that was over a half hour or so.  Chances are you were entertained by your own phone, portable gaming system and DVD player.  Even gas pumps are popping up with t.v..  Well next time you eat out take a good look around you.  Bet your surprised how many people go to a good restaurant and are not enjoying the experience as intended.  Most people can't put life on hold for a half hour or more to converse, try a new dish, or share a combination of your favorites.
     All these little things add up as I trudge through some days.  If you truly know me then you know I LOVE my job.  It's all I've ever done and for good reason.  But sometimes it gets difficult when a patron loses touch and runs me through the ringer.  I call these diners "single server diners".  They for some reason think that I'm there for them only.  They can't see past the end of their own table.  I had an incident today as a matter of fact that suites this perfectly.
     I work a station of three tables, may not sound like much but a server who works full service with free refills on the starters and bread thru the whole meal and this is the main appeal, it makes for one busy little station. Imagine three tables of four needing refills all at once? That's 12 starters and servings of bread they all want instantly thanks to McDonald's.  Well this is the premise of my story.  I had a 2 tables that needed refills.  Now as the tables are all in eye view of each other, and you know full well what order you came in, I work my station in that order.  First in first served.  Fair right.  Apparently not.  I could not make one trip for both tables.  I often do but this time there was just to much for one tray.  As I dropped off the food for the second table the gentleman makes on offhand comment on how long it took. 
     Are you kidding me? I was offended.  I move fast when I work and am often told to slow it down.  I move with purpose, on purpose.  I want you to see I'm trying my best to keep up.  So when he made the comment I wanted to slam his head right thru the table, good thing all the MMA(mixed martial arts) training allows me to blow off that steam.  How am I supposed to handle the situation?  I acted like I didn't hear it and killed with kindness.  They left me a 40 some odd cent tip.  I make $2.13 an hour.  All tipped employees  in most states work for less than the federal minimum wage. Surprised? Check out the site for the rules on the United States Department of Labor.  That's the link to the site. 
     Point being we who serve tables work just as hard as you.  They deal with you.  They have lives outside the restaurant that sometimes catches up with them.  Just like you.  Think about it are you 100% at all times.  No but servers are expected to be flawless, fast, and efficient at all times.  Working for commission to supplement the as low as $2.13 an hour. Paying mortgages, paying off school loans,  supporting families, all while dealing with the modern diner and their lack of common respect and dining etiquette.
     So next time your out at a restaurant do me a favor and look past the end of your own table.  How many people can't put life on hold for the brief time that they are there? How many tables dose your server have?  How many people are sharing their meal and a good conversation?  I bet the answers surprise you. 
     I'll be writing this series of articles to help reform the dining spirit of America, pass on some knowledge and gain some along the way I'm sure.  I appreciate any and all feed back.  If there are any subjects you'd like me to touch on let me know.  Any stories of your own that you feel would contribute would be great. 
     Thanks and remember,
Love food, Live life.

p.s. urbanspoon rocks!  I recommend you check their apps out for the iPhone and Android phones.  Awesome amount of restaurants and reviews.  Huge community of foodies!

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