"A well-trained management and host staff should be quick on their feet, and be able to adapt to the ever-changing floor plan," noted chef Jason Fox, of Commonwealth in San Francisco.
But being late or not showing up for a reservation can really make life difficult for the restaurant and for other customers. Whether you're late due to weather, you make a wrong turn and can't find the place, or it just took longer to get ready than you thought it would, do yourself, the restaurant, and fellow patrons a favor — call to let them know that you're running late, or not going to make it for whatever reason.
If there is food that you simply don’t like or want, it’s incredibly helpful for the restaurant to know ahead of time instead of in the midst of service. "If you have allergies to certain foods, provide management with a list of those allergies when you make your reservation," advised chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows and MC Perkins in Ogunquit, Maine.
Listen up! Servers hate it when they say something to a table and then the next person asks the question they just answered. "The only thing I hate more than repeating myself, is repeating myself," noted Dan Latimer of Husk in Charleston. "God, I hate that."
"Many guests don't realize that the kitchen begins cooking their entrées as soon as the ticket comes in the kitchen," explained Tobias Peach, the general manager of Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, Calif. "In great restaurants, an entrée can take up to 30 minutes or more to cook. Everything is timed so that when you are finished with your appetizers, there is less than 10 minutes to wait before entrées are ready."
Guests that order appetizers to start and then order entrées after they get the first course, end up waiting much longer for their main dishes. This is called an "order fire," and chefs loathe them. "Guests that 'order fire' tend to complain about slow service, but really they don't understand how that order affects the kitchen," added Peach. "Or they are accustomed to dining at establishments that precook food that can be pumped out of the kitchen quickly, but sacrifices quality."
Many servers will take an appetizer order and hold on to it until they can come back and get the entrée order and put them in together. This will prevent the long wait in between courses.
Waiters want to take care of you. Making you happy (usually) results in them making more money. But they have other guests to take care of, too. "You aren't doing anyone any favors if your companion asks for a straw and when the server returns with it, you ask for lemons," noted Dan Latimer of Husk. "This holds true with drink refills and coffee orders, too. If your guest is getting another glass of wine and you want one too, get them at the same time (if feasible, of course)."
When your server asks the table for coffee, everyone who wants coffee should get it then. "At Husk we serve French press coffee," Latimer explained. "Each one takes four minutes to bloom and steep. If you order them one by one, it's going to be breakfast time before you all get coffee."
"Don't be passive aggressive," advised Jeff Benjamin, a partner in the Vetri Restaurant Group in Philadelphia. "If your plates are there for a long time due to bad service, then say something. Otherwise, trust that the establishment you have entrusted your two hours of enjoyment to knows what they're doing and purposefully left the plates, perhaps while the rest of your party continues to enjoy. Nothing more uncomfortable as a guest than to have it pointed out that you're the only one eating."
"Making snide comments about 'milking' or 'butchering' the cow when asking about where a dish is makes no one want to help," noted J.T. Stellmach, manager of Queen Anne’s Revenge in Daniel Island, S.C.
"There always will be a certain amount of human error," explained Robert Wailes, the general manager of Café Adelaide in New Orleans. "When this happens, please understand that we are doing everything within our power to rectify the situation."
"We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen," noted Carl Walker, the general manager at Brennans of Houston. "Treat everyone as such. That should cover loud, vulgar language around our other guests and staff."
Wailes put things more forcefully: "The rare verbally abusive guest will not be tolerated. Most times we will correct the error in a big and grand way, so please allow us to do this without embarrassing yourself or your guests."
"We usually pull the receipt and check the signature, as well as talk to the server," said Adam Fleischman, founder and owner of Umami Burger in California. "If the customer is still there, and claims they didn't receive something, we take it off the bill. The customer is not always right, but always needs to be heard."
"When I served in the past, if I walked up to a table and said, 'Hello,' and no one responded or looked up, I would just walk away," noted Dan Latimer, the general manager of Husk in Charleston, S.C. "I would return shortly and check again, but honestly from that point, you've lost the respect of the server, so I wouldn't expect genuine service from then on."