Diatribe with Dave: Eight Restaurant Courtesies You've Probably Never Heard Of
Every second and fourth Wednesday night of the month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau hosts Dinner with Dave at Memphis at the Santora, where he treats drinkers to a free meal and live music as the evening progresses. To remind ustedes of this great night, Dave treats us every Wednesday morning that he's on to a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!!
The F&B biz can be nerve-wracking, strangely addictive and, if you are truly cut out for it, there is probably no way you are ever going to get away. Whether it's working the line, running tables or pouring drinks, it's a tough enough way to make a buck and when you put the people factor on top of that you have a recipe for breaking even the hardiest of souls. When that happens you don't need to wonder where that first time server you just spent two months training went to. They couldn't take the heat and went back to work at Costco stocking shelves.
The X factor in any restaurant situation is always the clientele. Depending on how you handle and/or read who is sitting at your table or bar, that guest can have either the best or worst of nights. But there are a few things our public can do to make our lives easier as well. Here are the most glaring "DO NOTs"
1. Calling just before you get there does not count as making a reservation
I used to get this all the time at a former shop, usually people rushing to make a show at Segerstrom Hall. It went like this:
"Thanks for calling The ReTreat, this is Dave"
"Yeah, I'd like to see if I could make a reservation"
"Yeah, for sure. What date?"
"Oh, it's for this evening"
"We're pretty booked tonight but I might be able to fit you in. What time?"
"We'll be there in 5 minutes"
-"click"- (Me hanging up)
Someone realizing after they get in the car that they forgot to make a reservation isn't the shop's problem; it's theirs. Just drive.
(I also like it when people call asking "Where are you located?" I reply, "I'm standing behind the bar next to the phone. Where are YOU located??")
2. Showing Up 10 Minutes Before Closing Won't Get You a Relaxed Dining Experience
There is an unwritten rule in the The Biz that most people won't tell you about: If it's not particularly busy, the shop is probably going to start breaking down a half hour or so prior to the actual closing time. I'm not defending those that say they are open 'til 10pm but close at 8:30 because it's slow. But seriously: showing up right before the joint closes and acting all poopy because you can't sit there for two hours dining is not only rude but also unrealistic. Don't even think about calling and asking them to stay open an extra fifteen minutes because you are running behind (yes, I've gotten that).
3. Self-advocate, But Don't Expect a Restaurant to Cater to Every Ingredient Whim
A restaurant is only obligated to serve you sanitary food in a timely fashion at a (hopefully) decent price. Everything else is icing on the cake. I've seen some really self-entitled douche bags get all bent out of shape when they didn't get their way and I've seen others who were gracious, played nice and got what they wanted. It's all the rage to pander to any perceived or real ingredient issues and there are plenty of shops that are sympathetic to that. Just don't expect all of them to feel that way and be appreciative when they do.
4. Curb the Rug Rats
Everyone likes kids but, let's face it: some are better behaved than others. Be considerate if yours aren't and leave them at home. Remember: it's the kids' job to behave themselves in public, not everyone else's job to put up with them. And if they can't do that take them to the child combat zone on the family side of Zubie's Dry Dock in HB.
5. Don't Plate-Stack
Your server doesn't show up at someone's work trying to help write mortgages, sell cars or otherwise jump in--don't do it to them. I get it if the server is slacking and you want those plates out of your way, but if it's plain 'ol busy let them be. I've seen some stacks that looked like the leaning tower of Pisa and there is nothing worse than sticking your hand under a plate only to have it coated with béarnaise from the one it was sitting on.
6. Don't Be Too Bro-y
Addressing your server/bartender as "Pal" "My Man" "Sweetie" "Sugar" etc is just plain tacky and is an instant indicator that the patron is gonna leave a five percent tip, if that. (The same goes for servers--don't be all fake and perky. Peeps see right thorough it). People in The Biz truly appreciate being addressed in a respectful, friendly manner but I see that taken too far all the time. Even worse is sitting at a table smacking your lips loudly proclaiming how unbelievably amazing and delicious everything is. A simple, quiet acknowledgment is sufficient.
7. Don't Order Water for the Whole Table
If someone wants to feel like a big shot at the table they should order a round of cocktails or a couple bottles of champagne. It doesn't matter if it is a drought year or not, ordering water for people that are probably not going to drink it anyway is a waste of natural resources and servers' time.
7. Don't Garnish-Grab
I don't know what other people do with their fingers but I know what I do with mine and it's not pretty. There is a big difference though; mine are submerged in a raging hot sanitizing solution most of the time. I don't care how drunk someone is, the garnish tray isn't the salad bar at Sizzler. And with the current craft cocktail fad, the bar top has turned into a veritable smorgasbord of candied fruit, pickled vegetables and all manner of wacky garnishes. But they are for cocktails, not snacking. Keep your grubby mitts off other people's beverage accoutrement.
8. Be Nice on the Phone if You Left Something Behind
True story: I was sitting at the bar having dinner at one of my favorite joints when my bartender buddy got a phone call. The gentleman on the other end thought he had left his Blackberry behind and was calling about it. My friend was actually quite nice about the whole thing (he is a notorious hard-ass), placing the caller on hold and asking the servers/busser if anyone had seen it. He got back on the line and informed the caller that nobody had turned anything in. The caller then proceeded to launch into a profanity-laced tirade accusing my friend and the shop of stealing his phone and covering it up. Once again, he was surprisingly tolerant and took the patron's name and number saying he would gladly call if anything turned up.
Five minutes later a Good Samaritan was kind enough to come in holding the Blackberry in question, saying he had found it in the parking lot. My friend took it, thanked the individual and waited for him to leave. Then, without a word, he placed said Blackberry in the brew basket on the institutional-sized coffee maker behind the bar and pressed start. Enough said: when your stuff is with you it's yours; when it's not, it's not. Play nice.
What we do for a living is a hard-knock life at times and it's the little things that can add up to make a great or lousy shift. That equation is a two way street though and if you want your long-suffering server or bartender to treat you right, have the courtesy to do the same. It's called karma.
Want more of Dave's rantings/ravings/ramblings? Check out www.dinnerwithdave.com for the latest! Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.