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Guestiquette: Some Do’s and Don’t for diners out.

I was working at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, when my mother came up for a visit. There was a Puerto Rican restaurant about 10 blocks from where my brother and I lived. We went for lunch one day before I went to work. Now, there’s two things I really love, Alcapurrias and Pasteles. They had a plate with two of each, but they didn’t have a plate with just one of each, which was how I wanted to order. When I asked if I could order one of each, the server responded in a way I will never forget. “Yes, we will do it for you, but it will slightly ruin the rhythm of the kitchen.” I knew the rules, and here I was now the one causing the problem. I had not thought of “rhythm” before. I have not forgotten it since. – Chef Hal

When it comes to dining out, manners aren’t just knowing how to choose the right utensil or how to show up on time. Good and proper behavior at a restaurant or eatery can come in many shapes and forms. Knowing the do’s and don’ts, or let’s say protocols, can not only determine one’s quality of life in many ways but can also affect the outcome of your restaurant experience as well. Learning how to act and respond in various situations whatever and wherever they may be is key. Sadly, many times, we haven’t been properly informed, or trained, and the results can be unfortunate. The same can be said for securing a positive and pleasurable dining experience.

Here at Lockeland, we have a desire to not only provide our guests with great food but to insure a memorable evening, as well. In order for that to happen, it requires a mutual understanding of what is to be, and should be, expected of both parties involved. As odd as this may sound, it’s not a one way street. Many times, a guest may not realize what this reality truly entails. That’s another reason why we enjoy working to educate those who come to Lockeland. It just makes for a better overall experience.

“Hey waitress, we’re ready to order!”
First of all, the correct term these days is actually “Servers.” In life we call people by their names. A good server will offer you their name, and that is how you should refer to them the rest of your stay.

dining_areaThen, there’s ordering.
First and foremost if you have an allergy— start there. Before you look at the menu, let your server know of any issues. We can easily accommodate you. Our servers are knowledgeable on these subjects and they deal with them daily. Just let them know. They can help guide in making your experience in what you want it to be.

We recently had a guest who ordered a side dish that came topped with cornbread crumbs. We had not been informed they were gluten intolerant. Had we known at the beginning, we could have quickly adjusted by leaving the cornbread crumbs off as the rest of the dish was gluten free. Unfortunately, when the plate arrived at the table, it was soon returned to the kitchen. This causes a major domino effect that many are not aware of. Small things that come down the pipeline involve a larger number of people than you might imagine.

First domino: The Guests.
Those dining with you at your table are now involved in the situation. You are now affecting their experience as well. Either they will be polite and wait on you while their food gets cold, or they just start eating in front of you. It’s awkward all around.

Second: The Restaurant (the server, the kitchen, and the business)
The server is now distracted. They have a situation on their hands and can’t focus properly on their other guests. Next, this is where the flow and the rhythm of the kitchen has been disrupted. The kitchen was finished with that table and has moved on to the next orders. But now, they have to go back and the cook has to stop what he was doing. Whether we can do that same dish using the same product or using new has to be decided. He too has to figure how to get it back to the table as quickly as possible. This is now the top priority in the kitchen taking away attention from the other paying guests. This causes tension in the kitchen. We were all in a good mood, and working like a smooth machine, and now this. Sure we have to all be in control of our own emotions, however, all of this could have all been prevented had we only been made aware of the situation in the beginning. People may forget, the business too is now affected. We now have to cook something twice and it will be paid for only once. When this happens, we only break even on our efforts. No profit. If everyone that walked into our restaurant did this, we’d be out of business. Basically, people simply don’t understand the cause and affect of these situation. What may seem like a quick fix to the guest has now thrown the entire chain out of alignment.

Third: The Return
There’s a proper way to send things back. It’s all in how you ask. How you present it. If I made a mistake, I would apologize and tell the server to let the kitchen know what has happened and that I am happy to pay for the change. I wouldn’t expect it, but I would offer it.

Now, as much as we’d like to create a menu that meets everyone’s dietary needs, that’s just not realistic or logistically possible. That doesn’t mean we won’t work with a guest, but we need to know in advance, not after the food has reached the table.

forkCould we just add one more?
Unlike chain restaurants, we are limited on seating. It’s very strategic. Cara can work some amazing magic, but there are just some things that can’t be worked out. Our restaurant seats a set number of guests. There are configurations of tables, 2s, 4s, 6s, 8s. We had one party that went from 10 – 13 suddenly. We were able to make it work on a dime, but there may be times, due to being booked solid, we might have had to turn them away. We work hard to fit people in, and if you have patience, Cara or our hostess will find a way to make it work.

Then, there is the timing involved. We don’t want to rush those guests and we don’t know how long they will stay.

And too, we don’t want to give a server over 16 guests at a time. The quality will suffer after that number. Every nook and cranny is accounted. It’s hard for a walk-in or a person making a last minute add on request to process or understand this. Many times kids aren’t included in the number. Babies are people too, and they require space as well. We do have a certain number of high chairs. Just be sure to let us know.

“Hi, we’re running late.”
If your reservation is for 6pm and you call at 6:05 and let us know you’re late…we know that. At that point, let the games begin. Enough said.

We’re currently working on a Lockeland Table book that will include this etiquette idea in one of our sections. It too will focus on ordering and behavior in a restaurant. Cara is also working on this concept for a book that will be titled Guestiquette. That should be a fun project for us to sink our teeth into as well. Pun intended.

  1. Avatar Ryan Timmons says:

    Brilliant!!! Please let me know if there is ever a round table of professionals to discuss stories of said tragedies for the book. I would be honored to partake.

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