A Restaurant Point Of View

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 09, 2005
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A couple of weeks ago I wrote one of those columns that got the e-mails flooding in. It was about some of the things that drive me mad in restaurants, and the responses ranged from “great job, we completely agree,” to one lady who thinks I have no manners.

But the most interesting e-mail came from a waiter who expressed a desire to remain anonymous.

“Why don’t you write a column suggesting how customers should behave when they come to a restaurant,” he wrote. “Waiters have to put up with a lot of really tiresome stuff. It would be nice if people sometimes would act better when they’re out.”

So I visited a few of my favorite places and talked to some chefs and wait staff to find out what their pet peeves are. I promised everyone anonymity, but these are the actual remarks. Some of them might surprise you.

Like the chef who wants couples who are fighting to just stay home.

“Please tell people to stay home when they’re having an argument,” says this extremely well-known Waikiki chef. “Coming out to a restaurant when you’re in the midst of a serious disagreement results in only one thing - the chef gets the blame. We see so many people who are unhappy and then they want to find someone to blame - so they blame us.”

Hey, folks, they’re chefs, not social workers.

Or how about this, from a well-known wine lover: “Wine servers and waiters get taxed on their tips, so please tell people it’s appropriate to tip on wine as well as food. A lot of people think that the cost of opening a bottle of wine is not worth a 15 percent tip, but the server is being taxed on his estimated earnings. If someone orders a $200 bottle of wine and doesn’t tip, the waiter absorbs the estimated tax.”

And the issue that raised most comments by far was the use of coupons.

“Please tell people to respect coupons and the restaurants,” says one restaurant manager. “We have so many people who try to double up on coupon usage or try to get something extra on top of the free offer.”

If it says “restrictions apply” in small print, then that means you!

Another big issue at restaurants, particularly as we head into the holiday season, is calling to cancel a reservation. One very popular fine dining restaurant says, “We have a small restaurant and some guests book several restaurants and only decide at the last minute where to go. A no-show causes a complete loss to our family business - and other guests are upset that they were turned away.”

Calling to cancel a reservation is only polite, and restaurants love you for it. They have to fill their tables, and knowing you’re not coming makes life a whole lot easier. Or, if you’re coming with more or less in your party than you said, “Please remind people that it’s easier if we know in advance about the number changes,” says one restaurant owner.

If I had more room, I’d share the dozens of other things I learned from asking how to behave as a great customer. Here’s a final comment from a chef.

“If you don’t like the dish on the menu, then order something else - don’t try to change it. The ginger and garlic base of the steamed opakapaka dressing is there for a reason. If you don’t like an ingredient, it’s better to order another dish entirely rather than just asking for those ingredients to be eliminated.”

So now you know.

Happy - and courteous - eating!

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