I hate BOB and other tales from the other side…

October 16, 2010 at 6:47 am (Random rantings)

I’m a chef, but I also work as a server quite a bit as well.  The more I work in the front of the house, the more I realize how many of my customers probably never have stepped foot in the other side of the restaurant.  I thought maybe I’d share a few of the pearls I’ve picked up over the years.

Keep BOB outside. And by BOB I mean that massive contraption touted as a stroller.  If you are lucky enough to live within walking distance of one of your favorite restaurants, do them a favor and park your stroller outside.  That goes for all strollers.  They’re big, bulky, don’t fit at the table and have no need to be in a restaurant.  If your child is too young for a high chair, bring him or her in an infant carseat; I can’t think of a restaurant that doesn’t have a way of handling infant seats.  Or my favorite idea, hold your baby.  You probably do it at home while you eat dinner, it shouldn’t be that different.  Few things are more frustrating than walking through a dining room with plates stacked all the way up your arm and realizing you now have to shimmy between a stroller and the next table.

Kids are people too. When you walk in the door and put your name on the list to wait for a table, please tell us about all the people in your party.  “There are 6 total.  Three adults, two high chairs and an infant in a carseat.”  Whatever the case may be.  We want to fit you at the smallest table your group will fit at comfortably to keep the larger tables open for groups larger than yours.  If, in the previous scenario, you only told me about the four people who will be ordering (for example, the infant and one of the highchair dwellers are too young to order anything), I’m going to seat you at a table that only fits four people.  Now I’m left with two choices, make you wait and move you, or force you to squeeze in.  Which one sounds like more fun with three kids in tow?

Please interact with your children. Even kid friendly restaurants aren’t 100% kid safe.  There are plenty of breakable things and other diners who should be left alone.  If you would like to allow your kids to run off some energy before their dinners arrive, please take them to Chuck E Cheese, or at least outside.  Not only is the dining room not designed with your child’s entertainment in mind, some of our other patrons have paid a babysitter good money to have dinner without being climbed on.  Texting your friends while sitting at the same table was your kid is not interacting, nor is asking for crayons them handing them blindly to your 18 month old.

Meltdowns happen. I’m a mom too.  I get that meltdowns happen, especially when it’s time for food.  If your precious little angel turns into her evil twin, please take little Suzy outside or to the restroom for a moment of distraction.  If you know your kid is getting close to that point, there is nothing wrong with asking your server for whatever kind of food you can get as quickly as possible.  Often, some bread or a cup of soup is pretty quick to come by.

Small toys are OK. So little Billy isn’t a fan of coloring and that cute little box of crayons at the table isn’t going to keep his attention, no biggie.  Feel free to bring in a small car or two if they’ll work better for you, but please leave the 6 foot long track at home.  If it takes batteries, makes noise, or requires disassembly to fit in the car, it’s probably not the best choice.

Keep time in mind. Going out to dinner with kids in tow is often more of a sprint than a marathon.  Getting it done and over with is usually in everyone’s best interest.  Toddlers in particular aren’t suited to many hours long meals.  If Billy and Suzy are with you, think twice about ordering wine, appetizers, entrees, dessert, etc.  By the time dessert hits your table, they’ll be hitting the wall.  Next thing you know, you’re now rushing out the door.  The other side of that is time of day.  As servers, we see a lot of kids.  When I see one walk in the door at 8pm, I’ve already got him sized up.  By the time dinner hits the table, he’ll be a whining mess.  Be realistic about what time he used to going to bed; don’t assume he’s up for a late dinner just because you are.

I will ask you about dessert. It’s going to happen.  Just as you’re finishing your last few bites of dinner, I’ll swoop by and drop the dreaded D word right in front of your kids.  Dessert.  It’s my job, I’m supposed to up-sell you.  If you know you’re not ordering dessert, cut me off (politely, of course) and let me know you’re ready for your check.  If you let me say the D word in front of your six-year-old and you say no, the result will not be pretty and you’ll have to deal with the crying all the way home (I however, won’t hear a peep once you’re out the front door).  When I get to your table, start clearing the first empty plates and begin a question like “How was everything?” or if I have the telltale dessert menu in hand, simply say, “I think we’re ready for our check, thank you.”

There’s more I’m sure, but the gist of it is that the better everyone’s experience is the better we all feel at the end of the night.  If your kid doesn’t fall apart during dinner, you’re probably having a better time yourself.  The table next to you will thank you as well.  If you and the other patrons in the room enjoy your dinner more, you’ll be more likely to tip me well, which to be honest, really improves my mood too; I’ll also be less stressed.  The table after you gets a happier server and the cycle continues.  Please help us make your experience the best possible.

Side note: tipping is expected. I’m not trying to be rude here, just honest.  Some people seem to have really forgotten that as service workers, we anticipate tips as part of our income.  My work hard to earn my tips.  I spend many long hours on my feet managing the dining experiences of dozens of guests at a time.  My hourly pay isn’t a ton and I assume I’ll be getting tips to make up the difference.  I could make just as much money in an office somewhere (tips and wages included), but I honestly enjoy what I do.  If you appreciate quality servers, please compensate us.  Somewhere in the last few years standard tipping seems to have dropped.  When there was a time that a 20% tip was standard, I now find that a rarity.

Sorry, college kids. I apologize to you college kids out there, but I definitely have a prejudice against your demographic.  As a whole, yours is the group that tips frighteningly low amounts.  Consistently, groups of 6-8 college kids come into my workplace, and make me work twice as hard.  They get upset about the single check policy my boss requires for large groups, don’t listen when I’m trying to tell specials, aren’t ready when I’m taking orders (even though they say they are), etc.  After dinner they try to negotiate separate checks regardless of how many times I’ve said I can’t (for many, many reasons).  Finally, they pony up cash and IOU’s to one friend who hands over his debit card.  And I know it’s coming.  The tip line on the receipt says $5 on an $80 check.  I guess universities don’t teach Life Lessons 101.

Again, I don’t want to be rude, but I’m hoping that by shedding a little light on how we see things from the other side of the restaurants, we can all enjoy your dinner out just that much more.

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