OVER the past 15 years I’ve had a career in hospitality that I really love. Cafes, restaurants, bars, catering, I’ve done it all and for the most part it’s a blast.
But ever so occasionally I get a tricky customer that makes me think Australia should have mandatory hospitality service so that everyone can learn how to be a good customer.
Don’t get me wrong — most customers are fantastic. But then there are the others.
Once, a customer approached me with her face screwed up in an expression that resembled a cat’s bum. I smiled and asked, “can I help?”.
She had come to tell me that her salad was “not that tasty”. She ordered the lamb salad without the lamb and no dressing. So no wonder her salad wasn’t tasty! That’s why it’s not on the menu!!!!!!
I’ll tell you what IS tasty? The warm lamb salad with the tahini dressing that I PUT ON THE MENU.
So I’ve got a couple of suggestions for etiquette when dining out.
1. PLEASE, ORDER OFF THE MENU
Believe it or not the person who wrote the menu probably put a lot of thought into it and they may even know a thing or two about food.
We’re all adults, if there’s something in the dish you’re unsure of, be outrageous, try something new. Not only is it likely that your poorly thought out modification will result in you getting a less desirable dish but it also holds up the process.
Every time the chef has to change something on one of the orders, it interrupts the well oiled machine that is a chef on autopilot. The chef has to stop and make sure they’ve made the dish without that awful ingredient you just couldn’t have on your plate. You’ve probably asked to have it replaced with something though, and that something is probably not within the chef’s reach so the chef will now run to grab the extra ingredient and add it to your dish.
Not only is this holding up your meal but its also holding up every order that has come in after yours. And here’s the thing, you probably haven’t created a gastronomical delight and you’ll almost certainly have order envy when everyone else’s meals arrive.
2. DON’T SPLIT THE BILL
If you’ve planned to meet your friends for lunch and you know you’re all going to pay separately why not just make sure you have some cash out? It’s not the wait staff’s job to manage the petty finances of your group.
Just work out how much each of you owe yourself and put the cash into the pile. Most places these days will even let you order and pay at the counter before you sit down which is a great option when you’d all like to pay separately.
Asking the staff to split the bill after you have all ordered together just means they have to delete the whole thing and start again. Once again, keeping all the other customers waiting.
3. DON’T BE RUDE
Being rude to people very rarely inspires generosity in them. If you’re rude or demanding it’s almost certain the staff will attend to everyone who is being polite before they attend to you.
This is probably going to make you increasingly frustrated which you will probably show by being increasingly rude, but by this stage the staff are going to be taking pleasure in it.
There seems to be some confusion among the general public about what the wait staff are responsible for so let me clear some things up.
They didn’t cook your meal, so don’t yell at them if you don’t like your food.
They don’t do the orders so it’s also not their fault if the venue has run out of your favourite dish.
Believe it or not they work hard, they usually work for minimum wage and they have a very physical job. If you see them stopping for a quick chat and glass of water, before you get frustrated that you haven’t been addressed instantly, remember it may be the first time they have had a chance to stop for hours.
4. CONTROL YOUR CHILDREN
Save your hate mail. I know this is an unpopular statement. But let me first tell you that I used to have one of the most child friendly cafes in Sydney. We had free activities, free baby chinos, we held free school holiday events and generally spoiled the little tykes rotten.
But even with all of that on offer there were still some parents that were nothing short of disrespectful.
People don’t seem to understand that even in the most child friendly establishments it can be dangerous when you let your kids run around unsupervised. There is hot food and hot drinks and glass wear everywhere so it’s no wonder unsupervised little ones put all of the customers on edge.
My cafe had an accessible bathroom. To meet the standards for the bathroom we selected, we installed a shower head. One mother used our only bathroom to shower herself and her children. No I’m not kidding.
Not only did she use our bathroom to shower her family but they soaked the place. The kids broke the toilet brush, the hand towels were soaked, the spare toilet rolls were destroyed, there was sand and water from one end of the bathroom to the other. And the bathroom was now so slippery it was unsafe for everyone else. Which brings me to my last suggestion.
5. BE RESPECTFUL WHEN USING THE FACILITIES
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old lady, if you wouldn’t do it to your bathroom then please don’t do it to mine. Come to think of it, I don’t care what you do in your own bathroom, just please don’t trash mine.
It’s not that hard people. If somehow you’ve managed to miss the luxurious, well positioned throne — clean up after yourself.
I will never know why people throw toilet paper, and hand towels on the floor in public bathrooms. I’ll never understand why people try to flush sanitary napkins. And I will forever be astonished if you choose to shower your family in my toilet.