Dining Out And The Patron / Server Relationship…

We all enjoy the occasional dinner out. For this author, my sole vice is a pleasant sit down meal at a nice restaurant. And the experience can be pleasant or not so pleasant, depending largely of course on the relationship you develop with your server.

Now I have my own little “circuit” of restaurants that I frequent, coupled with my favorite servers who have won me over with their friendliness, personality, and efficiency. Many times I will have my glass of sweet tea sitting on the table when I walk in….they know my car and know what I will be asking for. Believe me, it makes for a pleasant experience.

Sitting down with an unfamiliar server is another story. Now granted, this is the briefest of all possible relationships, but it can also cause quite a bit of stress. Don’t believe me? Try finishing off that plate of hot wings when your water glass is bone dry. There are however, some things that both parties can do to make the relationship a good one.

For starters, remember that servers are not allowed to bad mouth any of the dishes their establishment serves. So if you ask their opinion on something, you’re going to get a positive response. What you should pay attention to is exactly how it is phrased. If they say “Oh, yes, I love the mahi mahi!”, then that is an encouraging sign. If they say “It’s a popular dish”, they are indicating that they are not fond of it. Pay attention to nuances.

It is considered bad form to snap, tap, or whistle for your server if you need something. Treat them with respect and dignity and you’ll get excellent service. If you really need them that bad, just catch their eye and raise your hand slightly. They will understand.

Good behavior works wonders. I’ve gotten free drinks and desserts just for being an agreeable patron. If your server likes you, they will want you to come back, preferably to see them, and will do all they can to make sure that happens.

Likewise, if you like your server, learn their name, remember it, and ask for them next time. They may not remember you immediately, but they will be sufficiently impressed enough to give you really good service.

This from personal experience….if you wind up in the embarrassing position of not having cash for a tip, make the effort to get the cash and take it back to the server later on. I have had to do this a couple of times and the look of disbelief on their face is worth the drive. It makes you feel pretty good, too.

By the same token, the patron is not a slave to the server. There are certain things the server can do to facilitate good relations.

For starters, greet us as soon as we sit down, or at least within a couple of minutes. I went to a small local establishment a couple of nights ago and was ignored for ten minutes while they tended to the guy sitting at the very next table. If more than two songs play on the sound system and I still haven’t been served, I’m walking.

Do not greet me by asking if I want a margarita or a beer. I am a non drinker. Would you ask a vegetarian if he wants a steak? Please give me credit for knowing what I want. Don’t put me in the awkward position of making the first step in our short relationship a refusal.

We do not expect perfection, however we do expect that you will listen to us and make a decent attempt at getting the order right. I have had orders show up bearing no resemblance whatsoever to what was ordered.

On a related note, I’m always concerned with a server commits an order to memory as opposed to writing it down. While there are those with photographic memories who can make that look really impressive, the margin for error is definitely much wider when using this approach.

Other elements, such as keeping drinks filled and not asking if we want change when we pay (always assume that we do, you will still get your tip) are common sense and need no further explanation.

Now go and enjoy that night out on the town….

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