October 21, 2021 • By Dennis Beaver
Thinking of taking your staff, clients or family out to a nice restaurant?
Before going, “Please be aware that COVID has not only brought about short term challenges to dining out, but long term issues which will not be to the liking of some patrons,” says Paul Paz, Portland Oregon-based professional career waiter, author and hospitality consultant since 1980.
We have all seen how the restaurant scene has morphed into something unrecognizable, “And it is so sad, as over my many years as a career waiter, I’ve seen just how consistent and stable a focal point for the community restaurants have been.
“Today customer expectations are not even close to what can be delivered. The philosophy of ‘The customer is always right,’ has been replaced with something that can lead to a perfectly miserable restaurant experience.
“With changing legal requirements and levels of frustration that have never been so high, it is easier than ever before to turn a restaurant visit into a real nightmare.” Paz describes how this can occur:
1. Take out your frustrations about wearing a mask on the servers, ‘Because everyone knows it’s their fault.’
Consequences: You will enjoy the server’s ‘stink eye’ of ‘We appreciate you being a perfect jerk! Enjoy your disconnected, slow service.”
2. Put your chef’s hat on and tell the kitchen staff how to prepare the food they have spent years perfecting. Tell them how to do their jobs because you have been watching the Food Network and know how incompetent line cooks can be.
Consequences: Enjoy your visit with the chef who might ask if you were taught manners as a child. While simple modifications to a dish are possible, something personally whipped up just for you is not, unless it was pre-ordered, as restaurant do not keep on hand the selection or quantity of ingredients that a supermarket stocks.
In a worst case, arrogance and bad attitude will result in service being declined. And yes, restaurants have that right.
3. Forget to tell your server that you can’t have dairy but that cheese is OK.
Consequences: Oh, really? Cheese is dairy! You have just lost credibility. People with serious food allergies announce it early on, usually when they book a table. Kitchen and wait staff take these issues seriously and are concerned about food safety.
4. Think of yourself master and the server as your servant. Ask “What is your real job?”
Consequences: The hospitality history in America was one where, for many years, immigrants and people of color were the only ones offered employment as wait staff. This created a feeling among many patrons that this was an inferior job, and these people were often talked down to.
We still see this attitude today, regardless a server’s ethnicity or color. There is a stigma that they must only be doing this on a part time basis, as they have some other job, or want to have a “real” job.
Wait staff are still on the receiving end of disrespect, while many are actually highly skilled, career professionals.
Never forget there are lot of ways a server can get even. You and your guests can be provided the worst experience you have ever had dining out and still be made to pay for it. Is it wise or smart? Of course not, but it happens.
In the ‘getting even’ category, a server can forget to put your order in or let your food get cold. Ignoring refills of water or coffee is a classic.
5. Encourage your children to use the restaurant as a playground.
Consequences: Strangers yelling at your kids! When parents fail to supervise their rowdy children who knock over drinks or create other table disasters, servers just walk away, leaving the family to clean the mess, are asked to pay the tab and leave. At once!
6. Attack the restaurant on social media because of petty things, such as the coffee being cold when you failed to ask for a replacement cup.
Consequences: Bad reviews like these have resulted in restaurants closing and putting people out of a job at a time when small business across America is trying to recover.
7. Yell at the waiter because an item shown on the menu isn’t available.
Consequences: You reveal yourself to have no idea of the challenges facing supply and distribution in today’s economy. It is not the fault of servers or management. Restaurants across the country have had to close for several days because they were unable to obtain ingredients.
Concluding our interview, Paz observes:
“Those of us who work in America’s restaurants, bars, taverns, and cafes are in the hospitality business not the “Let’s upset our customer business.” We want our guests to be happy.
“But the current labor, supply and distribution system is a train wreck. We will all survive by being patient, considerate, and understanding.”
And to close today’s story on a lighter note, for anyone with family members so cheap they come to a pot luck with a “to go” box, just Google: Paul Paz Dennis Beaver.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.