Six Things the Customer Should Always Do

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If you've ever wondered why restaurant workers sometimes want to gouge their own eyes out or shave off all their body hair and stow away on a tramp steamer bound for Guatamala, New York restaurateur Bruce Buschel's pair of blog posts that ran recently in the New York Times (part one is here, part two is here) should give you a pretty good idea. 

Titled "One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do," it's a seven-page list of no-nos, better nots, and damned well ought-tos, some of them common sense ("Do not make a singleton feel bad," "Do not bring soup without a spoon"), some of them arbitrary and unrealistic ("Saying, 'no problem' is a problem," "If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill").  

However sensible or ridiculous Buschel's rules, though, the overall effect is more anal than a boxful of butt plugs and in general gives the idea that waiting tables is like indentured servitude without the benefits of contracts, a free place to stay, and bonking The Mister's frustrated wife while he's away on "business." 

Having formerly worked both front and back of the house as a waiter and line cook at various California restaurants, I really feel for anyone unlucky or desperate enough to take a job at Buschel's restaurant. So I thought I'd draw up a modest list of rules for customers. Not 100; trying to think of a hundred anything makes my hair hurt. But a few rules that diners might follow to help get the kind of service they desire; also to keep your waiter or waitress from hacking up a big loogie in your caesar salad.  

1.    You will treat your server like a human being. Rudeness, dismissiveness, acting as if they were put on this Earth to kiss your overly entitled ass is punishable by a year's worth of dining at Chuck E. Cheese. Sans earplugs.

2.    You will eat what the restaurant serves; it is not your personal commissary. Reasonable requests (sauces on the side, veggie substitutions) are one thing. Demanding the chef prepare something not on the menu because that's what you feel like eating is another. Stay home and cook it yourself.

3.    You will not blame servers for things that are not their fault. They didn't overbook the restaurant so you had to wait half an hour for your table with reservations. They didn't overcook your steak or price the entrees at $30 and up. Complain to the source; find a manager and make his life miserable.

4.    You will not act like a Big Shot. Anyone who's worked in the business has heard some Know It All whine the equivalent of, "Waiter, my sushi is raw" or "Waiter, I ordered sweet breads, not these little nugget things" or "Waiter, I ordered Zinfandel and this wine is red." If you don't know what a dish or wine is, ask. If you don't ask, keep your mouth shut and resolve not to be such a doofus next time.

5.    You will not assume that everyone who works in a restaurant is out to steal your wife, your watch, and your money and sell you into slavery. They really want you to have a good time. Honest. It makes everybody's life easier: You get a fun evening; they get paid. You both go home happy. What's wrong with that?

6.    You will tip at least 15 percent, unless service is truly abysmal. Yeah, it sucks that restaurateurs don't pay their servers a living wage or the tip isn't included in the bill the way it is in Europe, but that's life in the big city. Deal with it. Waiting tables is hard work, and a good server deserves every penny he or she gets. If you're too goddammed cheap to tip properly... well, there's always Mickey D's.
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