Thursday, April 23, 2009

Smoking in the Lobby

In North Carolina, for now, smoking is still permitted in restaurants. However, just because smoking is allowed in the restaurant, doesn't mean that customers should smoke in the lobby. It is very inconsiderate of smoking customers to walk through or stand in a restaurant lobby with a lit cigarette. If there is a specified smoking section, please remain in that section with your cigarette or go out side if you are having to wait to be taken to your table.

I am not a smoker, so I do not claim to know that strength of nicotine. However, I have friends who are smokers and I have learned that if it is socially inappropriate to light up a cigarette, their sense of social responsibility outweighed their need for nicotine.

So, if you are a smoker, please consider the people around you. Just walking through the lobby on your way out the door from the bar can be very unpleasant for the people around you, especially when the smoke lingers. On a personal note, I am a hostess, and I have to hold my breath when I seat people in the smoking section because I am allergic to cigarette smoke. Therefore, when a customer walks through, it is very difficult for me to catch my breath and seat the next customer.
So, if you are a smoker, please consider the people around you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lobby Etiquette

When customers enter a restaurant, many have tendencies that make it very difficult for the host or hostess to do his or her job. These include talking on cell phones, examining the host or hostess's seating chart, and speaking extremely quietly.

Talking on your cell phone:

It is totally understandable to want to come in from the cold, rain, or heat into a comfortable lobby to finish your phone conversation. However, it is very frustrating for both you and the host or hostess if you attempt to have two conversations at the same time. If you aren't in a major rush, finish your conversation out of the way of traffic in the lobby before approaching the host stand. If you are in a hurry, ask the person you are talking to on the phone to hold on while you get seated. There may be a few questions that you are asked before you can be seated, such as "How many in your party?" "Smoking or non-smoking?" "Are there any children in your party?" and, "Do you need any high chairs or booster seats?"

These questions will vary in amount according to your previous answers, but anticipate answering a few before you can be seated. Until you are asked to follow the host or hostess to your table, do not get back on your phone. When you try to resume resume your conversation between seating questions, both parties involved get very frustrated.

Examining the seating chart:

Unless you are an employee of the restaurant you are in, do not examine the seating chart on the host stand. Staring at it and then walking around the stand to where the host position is will not make you understand what you're looking at, it will only anger or irritate the host or hostess for encroaching on his or her space. When you approach the host stand, stay on your side of the stand and be a customer, don't try to pretend to be a seating rotation chart coordinator. Allow the employees to do their jobs and, basically, don't get in their way.

Speaking in a whisper:

It is hard to seat a customer if her or she refuses to speak loudly enough for the host or hostess to hear shat the customer wants. It is rather inconsiderate to make the host or hostess come out from around the host stand to put his or her ear right by your mouth in order to hear you. It is especially frustrating when a customer is practically whispering when the restaurant is crowded and the host or hostess is having to manage a waiting list and needs to get customer information quickly.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sitting in a Booth

The majority of restaurant goers tend to prefer sitting in a booth to sitting at a table. I have touched on this subject slightly in another blog, "Why You Sit Where You Do," but I would like to elaborate on this particular seating preference.

First, when asked at the door how many people are in your party and whether you prefer to sit in a smoking or non-smoking section, answer the questions and then say, "we'd like to sit in a booth, please." If you do this, you won't make things more complicated for whoever is seating you when they take you to a table and you tell them that you don't want to sit there. If you happen to forget to say that, however, and you absolutely must have a booth to enjoy your meal, please be polite about asking for a booth. There have been far too many times when I have taken a party to a table, only to be glowered at and looked at as if I am stupid for seating them at a table when "there's a booth RIGHT there!"

If you apologize, it makes a world of a difference in the seating host or hostess's opinion of you. I know that not everyone cares about what people think of them, but the impression you give the people serving you will often impact the quality of service that you receive.

Second, some people simply can't fit in booths. I am not saying this to be mean in any way, it is simply a fact. If you happen to be a particularly large individual and you ask for a booth, please realize that a great deal of booths do not allow you to scoot them one way or another to make it more comfortable for you. Also, please don't get aggravated with the person who seated you for your discomfort. They did not intentionally take you to a particularly small booth, they are all about the same size (although there often a few that will scoot). Remember, you asked for it.

Most seating hosts and hostesses will automatically try to take people with canes, wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and weight problems to a table because it is assumed that a table will be more comfortable than a booth for these individuals. If you fall into any of these categories, please realize that you are being taken to a table almost automatically only because the staff wants you to be comfortable. That being said, if you truly will be most comfortable in a booth, please say so up front.

As for people with babies, please realize that this could mean sacrificing dining in a booth. In the restaurant I work in currently, we only have nine booths that we are allowed to place high chairs or baby nets at the end of; the remaining thirteen booths are risen and we are therefore not permitted to add anything onto the end. If you have a baby carrier and request a booth, you will either have to wait for a booth that sits at ground level, or, especially if you're at a restaurant like mine on a busy night or at one that has all risen booths, concede to eat at a table. It is very irritating to seat someone who insists on a particular, risen booth who has a baby carrier with them. As I stated earlier, many booths are not able to be moved, so please don't get mad at the seating host or hostess when you can't move the table to get your baby carrier wedged between the back of the booth and the table.

I once seated a party consisting of two people and a baby in a carrier. They were so determined to sit in a booth that one of the people in the party sat on the same side as the carrier and was literally falling out of the booth because there wasn't enough room. That just doesn't make any sense to me! In my mind, when you decide to have a baby, you decide to make certain sacrifices for the gift of this wonderful new gift of life to provide for. Is sitting in a booth really too much of a sacrifice to make?

Please take all of this into consideration the next time you decide that you want to sit in a booth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Your Relationship With The Staff

When you walk into most sit-down restaurants, the first person that you will come across is the host or hostess. He or she should smile and greet you, then ask you how many people are in your party. If you think that anything about this person is cute, it will make them very happy if you keep that to yourself. Please don't respond to, "how many will be in your party tonight?" with "well one, but two if you want to come and join me." This is a very difficult situation for a host or hostess, some people are joking when they say this, others are not. In either situation, the employee is supposed to remain as polite and friendly as possible. Please don't put your host or hostess in this position.

The other thing that some customers do that makes everybody on the wait staff uncomfortable is encroaching too much on the host, hostess, or server's personal space. Getting too close to the restaurant employee makes him or her want to just take care of whatever he or she is responsible for done and then run away. Just because an employee is being friendly when you attempt to flirt, it does not mean that you are getting the okay to flirt some more.

If you are a natural flirt, I am not saying that it is necessary to not be yourself, but tone it down enough that the person you are interacting with is comfortable. Please be aware of how your words and body language affect the person who you are interacting with.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Public Displays of Affection in Restaurants

People go on dates, it is common knowledge that this is a frequent occurrence. It is also rather well known that people on dates tend to go out to restaurants. I understand that, I can respect that, and I enjoy going out to eat on a date myself. However, it would be very greatly appreciated if the public displays of affection during these restaurant dates could be downed down just a smidgen.

When out to dinner on a date, please realize that you are in a public location and people don't necessarily want to see you and your date with your hands all over each other. Some people like to sit on the same side of the table as each other, that's fine, but please don't do things under the people that other people can, unfortunately, see.

Not only does this behavior make other customers uncomfortable, but the staff as well. This kind of behavior may very easily make your service not quite as good as you may have hoped. Think about it, would you want to serve a couple of people who made you terribly uncomfortable? A personal example of PDA causing great discomfort for me is from one night when I was working as a seating hostess. There was one couple that was obviously very happy with each other. I could see that when they walked in and thought that they looked very sweet together and was happy for them. However, once they sat down they started making out! It was terribly awkward for those around them and I actually avoided walking by them. Once they had finished their meals they relocated to the restaurant lobby and continued there previous session only with more fervor and contact. I had to abandon my post as seating hostess and simply walk laps around the inside of the restaurant until they left.

Please, please, please enjoy your significant other, be attracted to them, pay close attention to them, but in the right amounts in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why You Sit Where You Do

When you go to a restaurant that isn't crowded in the least bit and ask for a table, there is a reason that you are taken to the specific table that the host or hostess seats you at. Many people wonder why they may be taken so far from the door at times or into a certain area. The reason you sit where you do is because the host or hostess is required to follow a certain rotation. In a restaurant, the tables are divided up into sections and each section is assigned to a server. In order to maintain equality in tip dispersion throughout the wait staff, whoever is seating customers is responsible for taking them to tables rotating from one server's section to another. If the servers on duty have sections toward the back of the restaurant, that is where the seating host or hostess will take you.

If you would like to sit specifically in a booth or at a table, please let the host or hostess know up front. If you don't, you may end up walking to a section that is in a completely different area than where you want to sit. If you don't say where you want to sit and are taken to a place that isn't exactly where you had in mind, if it won't affect your dining experience in any negative manner, please sit there and be appreciative. It is very frustrating for a host or hostess to take a party to a table and have them glower and huff at the table instead of just saying, "If it's not a problem, can we please sit over there instead? This seems too cramped" or something along those lines.

One more thing that would help give your dining experience a more enjoyable start would be to specify your preferred area to be seated. Hosts and hostesses understand that some people prefer certain areas, but it makes life much easier for both parties if that preference is stated up front. Often times, I have witnessed restaurant goers request to sit at a booth then, once taken to a booth, tell the person seating them that they don't want the booth that they have been taken to. It is not as big of a deal if the restaurant is slow at the time, even if it is a little frustrating for the seating host or hostess. However, if you are arriving at a restaurant during a busy time, don't expect the luxury to be particularly picky about where you sit if you are also expecting to be seated in a decent amount of time.

I apologize if this seems like a rant, but as a restaurant employee, I have been unpleasantly surprised by just how rude some people can be. It bothers me that these rude people, the people that just tell the host or hostess "no" and just expect him or her to know exactly where they want to go without saying anything, the people who request something specific and then yell at and insult the intellect of the staff when someone is seated before them, these people make the staff irritable when someone requests something specific. If people would simply treat the people serving them with a little respect, they would make the dining experience much easier and enjoyable for all involved.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Phone Communication and Etiquette

I have worked in two different restaurants, one a pizza buffet with a carry out option and the other a family oriented restaurant with a To-Go option. In both restaurants, phones are constantly ringing. I have some tips/suggestions for customers on phone etiquette.

  • Restaurants aren't always the most quiet places, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Please, please, please enunciate when you are speaking to make it easier on both ends.
  • Please be patient with the person on the other end of the phone. If you get frustrated, then they will get frustrated. As an employee I can honestly say that restaurant personnel (at least most - I will be completely honest in this blog) want to provide the best service they can for the customer. If you are getting angry with the personnel on the other end of the phone it makes it very difficult to be accommodating.
  • If you have an issue, it is not a problem to ask to speak to a manager and have the problem solved, but please ask for the manager up front. More often than not, the person answering the phone is not a manager. If you immediately start explaining a problem you have as soon as you hear "hello," and then just wait for the person to have something to say about your problem, you have just wasted your times and the employee's time as well. You will just have to explain the problem again to a manager.
  • If you are calling in an order on a night that you know is going to be busy in a restaurant, please be patient, expect to be on hold for a bit. Someone will be with you as soon as possible, you are not simply being ignored if your order is not taken immediately.

If you heed these suggestions, a restaurant phone call will be far less stressful for you.