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The Unwritten Code of Restaurant Etiquette

It almost marks two years since I was handed a grey shirt that has since been drowned in tomato sauce, gravy and mustard nearly every single shift.

I do love my job. I love the interaction with the customers, I love working with some of my favourite people and quite frankly, I just love the opportunity to crack a joke or two. You see that pea on the table? Yes? That’s an escaPEA!

Working in a restaurant often means that you have a lot on your plate (I just wanted to toss that pun in somewhere) so I thought that I’d share a few of the idiosyncrasies of customers which have developed into some of my ‘pet peeves’. So without further ado, here is the Unwritten Code of Restaurant Etiquette:

Upon Entrance (without booking a table in advance)

Walk in: a person/group of people who is/are looking to dine without a prior reservation.

“What about that table there?” Please realise that I’m almost as gutted as you are when I have to turn you down when you’re looking to dine at prime time on a Saturday evening because you haven’t booked in advance. I can assure you that the table you are pointing at that appears to be vacant is reserved within the next half an hour and I simply cannot offer it to you. Please book in advance to avoid this mutual heartbreak.

Helping yourself to a table. I truly do understand how exciting it is when you go out for food; I really do. I am a human too. A piece of my soul dies when a walk in sit themselves down on a table that is soon to be booked out. Enquire about the availability before taking a pew, just in case.

Ordering Food

“Yes please!” We offer quite a choice with our meals. We offer new potatoes or chips. Skinny chips or chunky chips. Mashed potatoes or new potatoes. Mushy peas or garden peas. I have lost count of how many times I’ve asked “would you like new or mashed potatoes?” and the answer has been ‘yes please’. Do I just guess at which one you would like? Throw on both? Or just very awkwardly ask again? I always do the latter and I’m always met with a very awkward exchange of conversation.

Delivering the Food

“I’ve also ordered a side of garlic bread.” In my left hand, I am bringing you your ribeye steak cooked medium. In my right hand, I am carrying your partner’s lasagne served with chips and salad. I’m so sorry.  I had completely forgot to use my third arm. Maybe I should have balanced the plate on my head instead… or my foot….

Can I get a tap water please? A napkin? Tomato ketchup? I would award you with my ‘favourite table of the day’ award if you didn’t make me run to and from the kitchen and bar with sauce sachets, drink requests and napkins etc. for the whole duration of your meal. Please, oh pretty please, order all your requests in one go.

During the Meal

Check-back: the art of checking back on a table after you have delivered their meal.

“Ooh, lovely thanks!” “Nope, nope, nope!” I always leave an adequate amount of time after I’ve taken out a meal for a table before checking back on them and ensuring that they are satisfied with the food and the service. The amount of times I’ve checked on a table to be greeted with ‘amazing, thanks’ only for them to complain at the end of the meal about a minor problem regarding their meal. If you would let me know when I did my check-back, I could have rectified the mistake immediately. This is the whole reason why I checked on your table in the first place!

Finishing the Meal

The Quarter to Three Position. Regardless of whether your plate is empty or not, I will not know whether you have finished your meal unless your cutlery is placed together on your plate. Surely everyone knows this, right? It’s the international restaurant language for ‘I’m finished’.

The Jokes

Handing me an empty plate and saying “I didn’t like it.” Are you trying to send me to an early grave? Am I meant to awkwardly laugh or attempt to deal with the ‘problem’ at hand? I already have a lot on my plate so please don’t say this to me unless you actually didn’t like it, I’m already bad enough when it comes to dealing with complaints.

Picking up plates/glasses and telling me to “clap my hands.” If I have a pound coin for every time someone would say this to me, I will be a millionaire by the time I turn 20. Seriously.


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