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How to be a good restaurant guest

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Like a lot of people in town, I have two jobs.

To no one's surprise, a part-time reporter's salary barely covers my rent, so I spend a couple of days each week serving at a popular après bar.

While it's necessary to keep afloat financially, I'm not just in it for the paycheque. When I moved to Whistler a couple years ago, I didn't know a soul. Now, I have a great group of friends, many of whom I met at work.

I also love serving, for the most part—it's fun to socialize, whether with guests or my coworkers. But, like any job, it's impossible to love all the time.

Some days, it's a breeze. Other days, there are 50 people demanding you give them what they need, immediately, at the same time. Some tables are pleasant, kind and generous. Other tables are rude, obnoxious, inappropriate or just draining—whether or not they mean well.

No matter how many good tables you have, the effect of those who aren't so pleasant seems to linger around a little longer. So here's a few pointers to avoid being a bad restaurant guest—your server will appreciate it.

TIP YOUR SERVER

There's a range of passionate opinions on North America's tipping culture. But regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, it doesn't look like the system will be changing anytime soon.

Currently, liquor servers in B.C. are paid less than minimum wage ($10.10 per hour as of Sept. 15, 2017) because they're expected to receive additional compensation from the customer—usually at least 15 per cent of the bill. Servers then tip out a percentage of their total sales to the 'house'—support staff like food runners or hosts, kitchen staff, and bartenders. Restaurants I've worked at require anywhere from four to seven per cent, though I've heard of others requiring more.

I have no issues with sharing my tips. Without support staff, I wouldn't be able to serve the volume of guests I do, or give as good quality of service. But when tables don't tip, especially on larger bills, that means I have to pay out of pocket to serve that group.

However, tipping should still, to a degree, correlate with the quality of service, and there are, of course, bad servers, too. While I wouldn't recommend spending all of your hard-earned cash on a high-percentage tip, it's still unfair to expect them to spend their income paying to serve you. A polite word with a manager about your experience will have a bigger impact, anyway.

BE PATIENT

It's no secret that Whistler is in the midst of a debilitating labour shortage. That means fewer cooks in the kitchen, fewer bartenders pouring drinks and fewer servers staffing the restaurants.

So please, be patient when waiting for a table, a drink, or your meal. Most servers I know do their absolute best to get you fed and watered as efficiently as they can. (Even if it's selfishly motivated: The faster you get out, the more tables we can serve in a shift, the happier you are with your service, and the more money we make).

We all know the pain of being starving and thirsty after a day on the mountain, but being short-tempered won't translate into better service.

BE POLITE

I might be here to serve you, but I'm not your servant.

While that's something that can be easy to lose sight of when I'm seemingly the only thing standing between you and a cold beer, when I ask how your day is going, "beer" or "water" isn't a suitable answer. Especially when it isn't followed by a "please."

Furthermore, you're not my only guest. If you see me talking to another table, please don't wave at me frantically, interrupt me, or snap your fingers. Likewise, please don't stop me in transit when I'm carrying a full tray. A smile and eye contact will do.

BONUS

Don't wait until you've finished your plate to complain about the food. We're happy to fix it for you.

Don't ask if you can have something for free. Also, if you have a discount or locals' card, let your server know before they bring over the bill.

Don't say you're ready to order, only to hum and haw. If you're undecided, just ask for a few more minutes.

Know what your server can and can't control—when there's a long wait for food, I can't exactly run into the kitchen and prepare your meal for you.

There are plenty more tips I could write here, but unfortunately not enough space. When it comes to dining out, it's pretty simple: just be considerate. How would you like to be treated if roles were reversed?

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