Monday, May 20, 2013

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette Part 5: Your Table and Server

     You made it!  You chose where you wanted to spend your hard earned money.  You waited in the lobby, it's a busy Saturday night which made for a hectic and loud 40 minute wait.  You have your 6 year old and your 10 month old children with you so just making it to the table in a good mood was a challenge!  Now your heading through the dining room to your table, you requested a booth so there was no surprise when your table comes into view.  If you did not make it known you needed a booth rather than a table don't be shocked when your Host/Hostess guides you towards a four sided dinner table...

     Here we are again! :-)  I took some time off and it's long over due that I get to writing and cooking more often, and above all else sharing with friends, family, and friends to be; my thoughts on FOOD.  Why?  Well that is a good question that I plan on answering in length in my "I love my lil' kitchen!" post.  To sum it up quickly, it's who I am.  It's how I connect with people.  It's how I make a living.  It's how I try to maintain my health.  It's pretty much all I think about.

     The fact that your here could be for several reasons I know.  Maybe you Tumbled on to my page.  Perhaps you are a foodie just cruising blogs for ideas.  Or maybe just maybe you actually searched "Modern Dining Etiquette"!  Well what ever brought you here I hope you read on and find this series of articles fun, entertaining, and educational.  This is the point of view from someone with more than 17 years in the restaurant industry.  I also have 34 years of dining out experience!  I enjoy both sides of  the industry, being a guest in a great restaurant is a hobby of mine. 

     ...Do not be rude about it, I know you are stressed out from the kids and the wait but you choose your attitude.  You could choose to be snobby and point at a booth and say "Why can't we sit there?".  You can't sit there for several reasons I am sure.  The number one reason is that the Host/Hostess hates you!  They are out to get you man!  They come into work every shift with those beady eyes and devious smiles.  Tapping her finger tips together in classically maniacal bad guy fashion the hostess cackles "Who can I screw over today? Hahahahahah!"  Really??? Come on.  You know dang well that is not the case.  There is an order and structure to seating.  If you do choose to ask about the booth just be polite about it.  They may have no problem with it, it may even be in the same section of tables so you actually do not interrupt the flow of service.  Notice the word interrupt thrown into that last sentence?  Know that if you do switch tables on the fly you may have to wait longer.  That is why you were being seated at the table.  That server is more prepared at the moment to greet you and get your dining experience moving into full gear. 

     You should always let the woman choose her seat first fellas.  This is just classy and simple courtesy.  Beyond that I am not gonna try to tell you how to seat your children.  They are your kids and I am going to venture to guess you know best.  Once we get all settled in, everyone is in place and hopefully comfortable.  Now this is where location comes into play.  The concept of the restaurant you are in is going to dominate your experience from this point on if allow the staff to do their job and just enjoy your visit.  I feel a common factor for most tables gone wrong in my own experience comes from dinners who feel entitled and act as tho they are above me and try to do my job from their seat. I consider myself a professional server.  I am not the collage kid working through school.  I do it because I actually love it.  If you allow me to do my job your visit will be AWESOME! Toot toot! Yea that was my own horn LOL!

     Granted you are paying so I understand a level of expectation.  But be realistic.  Are you at the local Claim Jumper?  Burger joint?  Or did you treat your self to a restaurant with prestige and reputation?  If you are at an average family style restaurant it will be a loose experience with lots of room for you to control your experience in many pleasant fashions.  If you are at a nicer establishment you actually start giving up control over your experience.  You will be guided by professionals of mixology, and the menu you will be ordering from.  They will share their ideas and passions with the art of service and food.

     If you are at a family restaurant, especially a corporate restaurant, your server will have a short speech of offerings.  They are required to spout out all this information about specials and other offerings in the restaurant, and they do this over and over and try to make each speech unique.  Nothing like hearing your server rattle off the same robotic speech to the table next to you.  This can make the guest feel like just another table which will cause them to loose confidence in the service.  As a guest you should let the server inform you of specials and offerings as you may just be sold into trying something new and have a culturally blissful moment.

     I am going to go with a happy prompt hello from your server.  "Beautiful day out toady" He exclaims cheerfully.  The sincerity of his smile and the confidant eye contact strikes you.  This chap is in a good mood or really loves his job.  It's infectious.  My name is Charles and I will be taking care of you tonight, Nikki over there," he does not point but gracefully motions towards another server, "She and everyone else is happy to help you tonight so if you need anything you don't hesitate, you just let us know."

     Now if you had been in just a horrific mood for some reason and cut your server off you may, I know that I am, have been reluctant to ask another server for help.  That is just a sample of how I greet my tables when I serve.  I am also obligated to inform you of new items and specials.  I happen to work at a fabulous restaurant that changes the menu often and they allow us to try all the new dishes.  I go to my table with an understanding of what I am selling and I will be honest with you.  If I don't like I will say so and inform you why.  This may seem a strange selling technique but I understand several things.  My taste and your differ and I have confidence in the food and the kitchen.  I have had plenty of people order my least favorite item on the menu after they question me about it.  It's because I don't leave off on a negative.  "I have to admit I don't care for that particular dish, I do not like a sweet sauce, but it is my Mothers favorite dish."  Hopefully as a guest I established a trust.  I was not that robotic server again who just loves the whole menu, I was up front and honest.  I also did not bash the menu and try to steer them away from something they found interesting.  I informed them why I did not like it and backed it up with a solid endorsement from someone I know who absolutely loves it. 

     The point I am going for is as a guest I look for a confident server.  I want to know they know the menu and when I tweak my order they are not coming back to the table to tell me "I apologize but onion is actually it the Ravioli so changing the sauce will not solve your allergy issue I am so sorry." As a server I take pride in my knowledge of the menu, I cook at this restaurant as well so I am really getting to know the food intimately.  As a guest I let that server guide me through a culinary venture, that is why I dine out, to experience something.  If you are just going out because of time constraints, or out of town don't forget that even tho it really is necessary and your not doing it for the joy of it; does not mean you still can't enjoy it for what it is meant to be.  Again I bring you back to the phrase, You choose your attitude!  So guests and Employees alike let's choose to be kind and courteous to each other while me make a brief pit stop in each others lives. Let us....

Love Food, Live Life!


  1. Having read this I thought it was very informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself spending way to much time both reading and commenting.

    Bryce Restaurant

  2. Thank you Bryce! I love the industry and just want to share my passion. If one person finds my writing informative and/or entertaining then the time was well spent!