Service Please

Portrait of a young business owner wearing an apron and standing in front of his cake shop

Portrait of a young business owner wearing an apron and standing in front of his cake shop

Good service can make or break a meal. Polite, efficient and knowledgable wait staff are always in demand – but they have a few words of advice for their customers.

Respect is a two way street.

Wait staff aim to please – it is never in their best interests to be grumpy or inefficient. Generally, politeness is met with politeness. Your business is absolutely welcome and important to the establishment, but being ‘the customer’ does not make you superior to those there working. Try to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Problems do arise at times, but dealing with them in a courteous manner by both parties will makes the resolution so much easier.

Unless stated, please wait to be seated. Plonking yourself by the window and moving a reserved sign or rearranging table configurations without asking is out of order. The restaurant or cafe may have other bookings, or there may be a system for seating. If you have special requests or a large group, by all means ask (or phone ahead), but accept that there are other diners who need to be accommodated as well.

Special menu requests can be tricky.

Ordering and costing food is a complex business. Each dish will have been planned, costed and portioned to avoid waste. While it may seem simple to you to substitute salmon for chicken, or ask for beans instead of coleslaw, that may mean two dishes are affected, which costs the establishment double. Most staff will endeavour to accommodate requests, but if it can’t happen, you may need to select something else.

The same goes for removing items – that will not necessarily translate to a discount (“if I only have half the chicken, can we make it $15 not $20?”). The fact is, in a busy kitchen, special requests mean extra work.

The great news is that most restaurants and cafes cater to a wide range of needs – gluten free, vegetarian and vegan. Chances are, there is something on the menu which will suit you.

Splitting bills can be unfair on everyone.

If a table pays together, most establishments will be flexible and allow the bill to be paid by individuals. The difficulty comes when a group is more fluid – if diners leave in stages and pay for what they think they ordered, there is a chance the last to pay will be left with the bill for the mineral water, bread and other extras. This is understandably unfair on the last patron, but it doesn’t mean the restaurant should have to wear the cost.

The same can be true for someone who arrives late and has one glass of wine, but has the bill split evenly when everyone else has been ordering cocktails and nightcaps. The ‘no split bills’ rule aims to eliminate this – however, when you arrive, you may like to have a quiet word with the manager and discuss a payment arrangement that suits (splitting by couple or individual).

Serving and negotiating with intoxicated patrons is a fraught business.

Liquor licensing prohibits the service of alcohol to intoxicated people. You may believe your behaviour hasn’t changed, but to the sober premise manager, it may appear differently. In this case, they are likely to have the better judgement.

Not only can drunk people impact on a liquor license, their behaviour can also be extremely disruptive to other diners. The last thing any manager wants is an argument with a customer, but the safety and enjoyment of all patrons needs to be taken into account.

They really want you to have a good time.

Wait staff really want you to enjoy yourself. They will absolutely go out on a limb for you whenever they can – the kitchen staff or managers may give them a really hard time for trying to accommodate your special requests, but when you are polite and reasonable, they will happily encourage others to go out of their way for you. However, sometimes the answer has to be no. They realise it can be frustrating, but hope you will accept that an honest effort has been made.