Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rules According to Jean for Restaurants

It's been a while since I've done a Rules According to Jean blog. I don't go searching. I wait until some etiquette oracle whispers in my ear that the world at large needs some hints.

I will go on record right off and admit I have never worked in a restaurant in any capacity. I do, however, have common sense and I eat in restaurants, so I declare myself qualified to write this blog.

We all eat. We all eat out. We all have all problems from time to time—problems that need to be rectified. I am not talking about fine dining here—you know, with the reservations, the four courses, the wine. So I am not expecting for my leftovers to be folded into an aluminum foil swan. I am not even picky about all the food coming out at once, though everyone should get to eat together at some point in the meal. On the other hand, I certainly am not talking about fast food or what I think of as semi-fast food where you are expected to fend for yourself.

I am talking about big chains and local casual dining.

Listen up.


1. If there are other places to sit, do not try to put me by the kitchen. If I want to hear clanking and banging, I'll go to the high school band practice. (This happened to me last week. We passed a dozen places to sit on the way to a booth where we could actually see into the kitchen. When I politely requested a different place, the hostess was snippy. I didn't take it out on the waitress in attitude or tip.)

2. If there are other places to sit, don't put me by two toddlers and their adoring mothers. Yes, I know it's a family place and those women have a right to be there. Yes, I know those children are babies and they have a right to squeal and bang on the table. Yes, I know those mothers have a right to jump up and take pictures of their darlings with their phones and be loud about it. And anyone who knows me knows I adore babies. I just don't want to try to have a conversation while they are doing what comes natural to them.

3. I don't care if you are trying to even things up for the servers. You need to let me sit where I want and you need to do it cheerfully.


1. If you know, please tell me what you are out of when you give me the menu.

2. Don't assume that if I don't order alcohol that I am going to tip poorly. I am a very good tipper for good service and I don't really like alcohol with food most of the time.

3. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and move on. I am not going to be mad if you get my order wrong. These things happen. I am going to be mad if you argue with me and do not rectify it gracefully.

4. Don't let me run out of my drink. This is especially important if it's breakfast and I'm having coffee.

5. I don't like surprises. I don't mind paying for a refill or for a substitution. Just tell me if it's not on the menu. If it's on the menu, I'm on my own and should have enough sense to read it.

6. Don't tell me you problems. I am patient and reasonable. Don't spin me a tale about how the kitchen is backed up, there's a party of 45 in the next room, or that Joe Bob didn't come in today.

7. Don't ask if I need my change back. Bring me my change. You take care of the service; I'll take care of your tip.


1. If you see your employees clustered around passing the time of day, put a stop to it. Chances are excellent that someone needs some coffee or there are some plates of food sitting under a light somewhere.

2. Circulate and ask if everything is all right.

3. Please don't assume I am trying to get a free meal if I have a problem. I am never trying to get a free meal. I just want my steak to be rare. You cannot unring a bell and you can't uncook a steak. You have to start over.

4. Remember that in most cities, you can't swing a dead dog without hitting an establishment pretty much like yours. I can eat elsewhere.

5. Don't swing a dead dog. It's disrespectful to the dog and the Health Department frowns on it.

This cannot be all. What do you hate to see when dining out?


  1. Jean, I love your rules! You're right on, here. I can't think of anything to add, however, I will give you a high five on the drink refills. I have been in a cajun restaurant, eating very spicy food, and my tea glass sits there, sad and empty. It's just wrong. -- LJ

    1. Oh, yes. That's the worst. I like spicy food, but I need some help.

  2. Well Jean, having experienced both sides of restaurant-world, I have to say I agree with everything you've pointed out.

    My biggest pet peeve is staff interruptions. And I don't mean they shouldn't take care of the obvious needs, menu selections and such. But I prefer them to be silent whenever possible. There's nothing more annoying to me than being interrupted fifteen bazillion times to ask if I want more tea or is everything okay. Be customer aware and refill as needed. But do it without harassing me, please. On the other hand, I don't want to be forgotten either.

    1. Oh, yes--the server who things you are his new best friend. I see why you have that effect on people. I want you for myself.

  3. You got mine, don't argue if you get my order wrong. Like you, I understand that mistakes happen but don't try to tell me the fried pickles have ALWAYS been spears when I KNOW I have had slices before at your establishment!

    1. That was bad day. It was the same day I went in the that little photo booth and had my picture. Pickles and Pictures.

  4. These rules should go global, Jean. ;)

    My pet peeves? You caught the best one, needing my drink refilled when it's time.

    If you don't give me a straw with my drink, please go get one. This will only have me repeating "Straw" to my companions until one appears. LOL!

    If a booth is available, don't sit me at a table with hard back chairs.

    Don't serve people who've come in after me and then tell me you're sorry that our food seems to be taking so long.

    But as usual, Kathy will sit there repeating "Straw" to herself over and over again without taking it out on anyone. And, because she feels guilty for not thinking she had great service, she'll leave an acceptable tip. (Not very piratey!)

    1. You deserve good service. Everyone does.

  5. Well, I agree with most of the rules. The one thing that most people don't know now is that the waiters/waitresses are paid $2.35 an hour and their salaries are boosted by the tips to make minimum wage - the companies actually set aside part of the tips to report as the salary. A portion of the waiters/waitresses tips are also set aside to PAY the salary of the seating hostess therefore the chain is not paying her. A lot of times the hostess will put a couple in an area of a good waiter/waitress because she knows the tips will be better thus insuring her pay. Sounds like something the wage and hour board needs to investigate but most of the chain restaurants are doing this.

    I do agree that I don't want to sit by the kitchen or the bathroom although, being a band parent, I don't think the clanging sounds anything like the band practices I have been to. LOL. I always ask for a different table and if the hostess gets snippy, I leave. My choice to be there or not.

    I have another restaurant rule which is being put into place in some restaurants now - if your child is crying, take them outside. I don't want to listen to it. Restaurants are now requesting the parents to take the child out and if they don't, they are asked to leave. It's being posted on the menus at the bottom of the page. I always took my son outside if he started crying in an effort not to disturb other people. Doesn't seem to be the case any more - people don't care.

    If you give me good service, keep the glasses full and don't intrude (I also have that stamp on my forehead that says to people "I am interested in your life" - NOT), I will leave a proper tip. If you don't, I have no qualms about leaving less.

  6. Ah, yes the crying child. The Guy, Godson's Mom and Dad, and I took turns. We spent many hours letting Precious Angel run up and down sidewalks. (We had a halter and lease. Don't judge us. We kept him alive.)