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How To: Dine Like A Decent Human

If you've ever (or currently) worked in the restaurant industry, chances are you've seen or experienced your fair share of smug, pretentious, rude, and snarky guests. Even during my somewhat short period (3 years) in a Michelin-star restaurant in a Forbes 5 Star Hotel, I was appalled by the audacity some guests showed during their dining experience.

While dining out is usually a time to enjoy the restaurant's ambience, flavorful foods, and creative cocktails or the smart wine list, others treat it (and the staff) as if the restaurant solely exists to please their every whim.

Disclaimer: this post is a no-holds-barred approach to dining out based on personal experiences. Snark, sarcasm, and some subtly explicit language is used. Enjoy!

The Host/Hostess is Not Your Servant

My first gig in a restaurant a few years ago was as the Host. And, not to be dramatic, but it's been told to me and said many times that being the Host is one of the most stressful roles in the restaurant and I'd 100% agree.

As the Host, at least in my previous role, you're basically the mother bird to the restaurant staff. Making sure the menus are clean, free from spelling or punctuation errors, checking in with the GM and Chef to note any last minute menu or guest updates, managing the seating chart and zones for the wait staff, alerting the kitchen of any guests with severe allergies, preparing special menus for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Graduations, Engagements, etc. Coordinating with guests for delivery of flowers or pre-paying for a bottle of wine or full meal, and confirming all of the guests for the following evening. It's. A. Lot. And, despite the stress and frustration that may have occurred before service, it's your job to smile and warmly greet the matter their disposition. I can't tell you the number of times I've said "Happy Birthday" or "Congratulations" for someone's anniversary only to be met with blank stares and the personality of a snail.

General "Dining Out" Guidelines & "Do Not's"

- DO NOT: List your allergy as "severe" and then arrive and say, with a laugh, that you really only meant "a dietary preference". Saying "severe" gives the chef a red flag that they need to prep so as to not feed you something that kills you. There's a big difference between "severe" and a "preference"!

- DO NOT: Call 10 minutes before your reservation time on a busy Saturday night and say you are "around the corner" when, in fact, you haven't left your house that is at least 20 minutes away in good traffic.

- DO NOT: Arrive 30 minutes late to your reservation (again, on a busy Saturday night) and stand in front of the Host stand with arms crossed demanding that the Host magically create a free table for you and your husband who are hungry. And then asking to speak with the GM who, also, does not posses magical table-making skills.

- DO NOT: Call at 9:20 p.m. when the last reservation allowed is 9:30 p.m. and your reservation time was 8:45 p.m. and plead on the phone, "no, no, don't do this to us!!" when the Host informs you that the restaurant will not accept your arrival at 9:45 p.m. when there is a 15-minute grace period. Also, speaking (yelling) at the GM for 15 minutes won't get you a table, either.

- If you are dining at a fine dining restaurant, the Host should be (and probably is) well versed with the menu. No need to call and demand to speak to the Chef during dinner service with questions about how the food is prepared; nor is it acceptable to say to the Host, "well, you're just the Host, you don't know about the menu". B*tch, please.

- And, finally, if you arrive at your reservation time and your table is not ready upon arrival or you need to wait either 2 minutes or 40 minutes, I guarantee you it is NOT the Host's fault. The Host does not have final say on the cut-off number of guests in an evening...but it's his/her job to manage the angry guests who have to wait an hour for a table.

Haven't Decided Yet? Say So.

If you're still trying to decide between a couple items on the menu, it's 100% ok to let the waiter know you need more time. That way he/she can visit other tables and not stand staring at you while you think about it for another 10 minutes. Same goes for ordering wine.

High Expectations vs. Being a D*ck

High standards and expectations are good to have. In some ways, it keeps the restaurant crew on our toes and challenges us to meet those expectations if not surpass them. But being demanding, rude, and saying that you hate everything on the menu only points to the fact that you are better off either staying home or ordering carryout from another restaurant. There are some people who simply cannot be pleased.

Pretentious on a Shoestring

Guess what? There are often times when guests who act like they bathe in money spend very little on food, order the cheapest wine, and leave a less than 10% tip. Trust me, you have nothing to prove to the restaurant staff. If you know a lot (or a little) about wine - awesome! Let's have a friendly and insightful conversation about the wine list and select something great. No need to study the list, order the cheapest bottle, and then sip and swirl the (cheap) wine as if you're judging a Grand Cru Chablis. The jig is up. Also, *cupping the bowl of the wine glass doesn't help your "I'm so fancy" cause. *hold by the stem. always.

"I'm not paying for this, I didn't like it".

*as the guest points to their empty plate*

Truly, if you order something and then after the first or second bite realize that it's not what you thought or it's extremely against your preferences, go ahead and send it back (politely) and order something else. If you eat the entire meal and then complain about its poor quality at the end and ask for a discount or to have the meal removed from your bill, it makes it look like you're cheap and trying to get a freebie. Be up front asap. Don't "power through" and voice displeasure after the fact.

The Restaurant is Not Your Personal Nightclub

I have been teased by friends that I'm actually an 80 year old trapped in a 30-something's body. And I'm not disagreeing. But it's next level B.S. when a guest blares a song or video or takes a phone call in the middle of a (Michelin) restaurant. Yes, you are a paying customer and it is the staff's mission to make your experience enjoyable. It is not, however, your private dining room and it's not polite to subject everyone else (who also is paying for a nice evening) to endure your playbacks of the Instagram video you just took. Too loud!

It's Not a Slumber Party.

A night out on the town at a nice restaurant, good conversation, amazing food and can be a night to remember. But everything in moderation, right? If you notice that the lights are up, the music is off, and the staff are cleaning and breaking down the tables around you, it might be a very not so subtle cue for you to exit the establishment. The staff would like to leave at a reasonable time (before 12:30 a.m. is a miracle) so please be courteous! And no, at this point, if we say, "no rush" we don't actually mean "take your sweet a** time and linger".

Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.


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