Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Guilty? We're all guilty. Or at least we have been at some point in our dinerly existence. But that does not mean that we have to continue to commit incremental restaurantical felony after restaurantical felony. Especially now, when it's not only an increased risk for restaurant workers to be returning to work, but a likely necessity for them, on top of the fact that restaurant volume and subsequent revenues are limited, meaning smaller tip pools, it's important to up your courtesy as a diner.
As pandemics and basic human rights issues continue to expose just how many donkeys are out there (hint: I'm referring to those who favour YouTube over doctors and scientists; and while I'd like to say I'm referring to racists of any and all colours, I just seem to keep encountering white ones. Weird, right?), it's important we try to avoid donkeyship.
As a wine blog, and with wine being served and just tasting so damn good in restaurants and all, we feel that bringing this article to you is our duty.
Here are 5 things that you are probably still doing waaaaaaay too often when you're out at a restaurant that you should check at the door before you grace your favourite establishment.
Don't be a donkey. Let's go!
1) Sit Down At An Open Table Without Speaking To Anyone
The first cardinal sin, after not making a reservation, which I'm leaving off this list for some reason. I guess I'm warming up to the pop-in-on-a-whim type of event. Regardless, this is a great way to announce to the world: "I'm an ignorant fucking asshole who treats other people's property as if it was a penny I found on the street." That being said, doing anything on this list is a similar announcement. But seriously, listen up: unless you see a sign that says "please seat yourself" or you know the local rule is to do so, hurry up and wait for the host to seat you. Yes, 5 minutes sometimes seems like an eternity when you're waiting, but give them a break. The world isn't perfect, the restaurant is probably busy, there are probably too many tasks for one person to handle at one time, and in the case that the host is blowing it, understand that staffing is challenging when restaurants already operate on razor-thin margins, and that if the restaurant could afford to hire someone who was a little more efficient, they would. Just chill. It's a privilege to be able to pay someone to feed you and wait on you. That table you see open is reserved if you're denied access to it, even if it's empty. Is this so hard for you to understand? Would you show up at a rental car place at the airport and just proceed to hotwire the first vehicle you thought would be nice to drive? Don't answer that. Wait for the host to offer to seat you. And don't put pressure on them if there is a wait- you're the asshole who couldn't organize a good shit and didn't make a reservation, which is another hallmark of your entitlement. Don't ask to speak to the manager. They already invented Karens for that.
2) Ask To Make Modifications To A Menu Item
I can already feel the blowback on this one. Obviously, it's not fair to just ban people with serious allergies from restaurants. Sure, that can include basic indigestion or discomfort. If the food is going to make you sick, of course, you have to inform the staff. I get that. I also believe restaurants should do their best to be honest about what they can adjust safely or not, and even further, consider these potential guests when designing their menu, making it comfortable and delicious for these individuals in advance, so they don't HAVE to be that person always asking for mods. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the entitled geniuses who had still had mommy cutting up their chicken and steak into little bite-sized pieces at the age of 15 and scouled at the food they were being served. There are plenty of restaurants out there that, by design, are there to accommodate your preferences and give you freedom to express your culinary genius. Subway. Freshii. The gad-damned buffet at the Golden Corral. If you think you've got a better idea on how to prepare something, open your own damn restaurant or stay the fuck home and let Guy Fieri teach you how to cook. If you don't like the way the restaurant does something, shut up and go somewhere else. And if you ask for no onions just because you don't like them? Well, I hate to tell you this, tough guy, but that's some lame shit. Put on your big boy pants, open your mind, and order from the actual menu. And stop crying.
3) Not Being Ready To Order
"J&B straight AND a Corona."
"Would you like to hear the specials?"
"Not if you wanna keep your spleen."
-Interaction between Patrick Bateman and Server, American Psycho
Say what you want about the deplorable Patrick Bateman: the guy knows how to order. You gotta understand, there's a system to this. It's a two-way street. The server has a job to do, and that job is to be your server, not to be your serv-ant. There's a difference, and there's a contract. They're not there to be your friend, they are there to take your order, prepare you to consume it, physically maintain your table, deliver the items you order, and collect your money at the end. That's it. Now, in order to do this, you are required to participate. You're not the only table, and if you want to feel like you are, there are still some high-end places that can do that for you. Go there. They're fuckin' expensive, and you're already bitching about the wine prices. Here's how it should go. You are seated and given water and menus. Look at those menus, decide if you want a drink when the server comes over to greet you. When the drinks come, figure out if you need another five minutes or get your shit together FAST and order. Don't hum and haw and pretend like you might order only to take 120 seconds to say you need more time when the server is slammed with other tables. Yes or no. Don't ask too many questions, just fucking order it if you're curious. It's only food. We're not saving lives, assuming you aren't being reckless with your own allergies. And a side note here: the restaurant is not responsible to keep you alive. Yes, I believe they should do their best to prevent deathly allergic reactions. No, they can't control everything. There are nuts and dairy products flying all over the place in a kitchen. If a person passes out after being served 2 beers, they weren't over-served, they over-ordered. Now that we've got that out of the way.
The only questions appropriate to ask, in my mind, are when you have no idea what something is, or asking how much of the thing you get so you know if you need to order something else or not to fill the gap. Embrace the uncertainty. Embrace the absurdities. That's why you came to the restaurant in the first place. Make every interaction with your server meaningful, or tell them right away that you're good for now and to come back later. And when you say you need more time, figure out what it is you want, and when they come back, have your answer ready. Don't be that person who, after the rest of your table finally orders, is still dragging their feet and has 4 more questions before you pull the trigger. It's unbelievably annoying. If you want the service to be efficient, you need to be efficient, too.
A tip: If you want things to be REALLY efficient and smooth, figure out your appetizers and mains at the same time, and put them into one order, and let them course it for you. I don't know why people don't know this is a thing. Imagine you had guest come over for dinner, and you were going to let them choose what they wanted you to cook. Wouldn't you prefer some notice? When you order apps & mains simultaneously, the kitchen has a heads up and can more easily prep shit up to be timed nicely for your little 7-Diamond-Jerk-Off-Sales-Award celebration. Then, you can relax, the kitchen can relax, and the server can relax and focus solely on refilling your drinks instead of listening to you go, "ahhhh wellllll I just dunnooo....". Because, you know, that's what they really wanna hear, right?! Wrong.
4) Order A Million Cocktails And Wonder What's Taking So Long
Hint: It's the fucking million cocktails. This just proves that you've never made a cocktail in your life other than a Captain™ & Diet Coke™. Let me break this down for you. A cocktail requires many steps. Even if I'm at home on a Wednesday afternoon and my wife is also working from home that day and we decide we're going to dive into an imbibe at lunch, I make her margarita™ first before I crack my Pacifico™. Why? Well, I need to set up the shaker, the knife, the squeezer, the tequila, the liqueur, the lime, the egg white, the simple syrup, the shot glass, the cutting board, the rocks glass, the salt, and the ice. And a cloth, maybe some sanitizing spray. That's 15 things for one drink. I've got to rim the glass, put ice in the shaker and the glass, squeeze the limes, measure the ingredients, shake them up, let it sit to dilute for a hot second, pour it, and garnish it. Once I do all that, I take a bottle opener and crack a beer. One tool. Or a twist the top of a bottle of Soave, which requires no tools other than myself. Or pull the cork from a nice bottle of Château-Grillet (when you're drinking Viognier you say you're drinking Viognier, when you're drinking Château-Grillet you say you're drinking Château-Grillet). One tool. So, somehow, at home, with no distractions other than my miniature pinscher named Dexter yapping his face off, it takes at least 5 minutes before I can toast with my wife due to me crafting her the perfect margarita™, even though opening the fridge and cracking a beer took like 4 seconds. This entry is basically just free advice to make your experience go smoothly: if it's really busy or you're really thirsty, order wine, beer, or cider. If you don't mind waiting and making everyone around you who ordered wine, beer, and cider wait for you, order a cocktail. Just don't wonder what the hell is taking so long. Rather, don't you dare ASK what is taking so long. Could you really even taste the difference between an Aperol Spritz™ & that 200ml bottlel of Henkell™? Cheers to life, am I right?
5) Expecting Something For Free On Your Birthday
Unless you're eating at Chuck-E-Cheese...fuck it, even Chuck should charge you. Seriously though, this sense of entitlement people have, not even on their birthdays, but every day, is out of control. We should be celebrating intelligent, female teachers and professionals who still have to bleed and experience a biological hormonal upheaval once a month because that's life and still have to deal with cat-calling and abusive men in public and at bars and restaurants and mysoginistic bosses and co-workers and relatives and who are married to lazy and average men who don't do much to help because that's the unfortunate majority human condition and you could have married a bigger asshole and who have three kids that they will personally mold into contributing members of society...YOU deserve a free drink. Or two or three. That's a real occasion in my mind. Not the entitled birthday people. Entitlement. I think that's really what all of these shitty behaviours come down to. Guess what? Every single person in the world has a birthday. It's honestly the least special thing ever. I am not saying I don't celebrate them with and for those I hold dear. But myself and the establishment I work for don't need to celebrate yours, though we're happy to facilitate the people in your party making it happen...and paying for it. Because that's what a gift is. And last I checked, nobody expects a gift from a stranger. Which is what I am to you, and what you are to me. Yet, people expect these gratuitous gestures. Who do they think is going to pay for the labour, the lease, and the ingredients to fab up this free gesture? Get serious. You wanted to come here for dinner, you pay for your dinner. And leave a tip. A decent one. Like, at LEAST 15%. But 18% would be better. Honestly? Don't pretend that you can't use the machine. It's literally like, never been easier. You have a fucking iPhone in your pocket. And if you're old (not sorry) and back in "the day" tips were totally discretionary and 10% was good, also remember that you were using two tin cans and a piece of string to communicate, smoking was advertised as "good for your health", and men expected women to have dinner on the table and do all their laundry and serve them beer and keep their opinions to themselves and...wait, you're still that guy? THEN GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY RESTAURANT AND GET WITH THE TIMES.
I'm feeling hot today. Here are a couple rapid fire extra habits to avoid while dining out:
•Don't complain about prices. Have you ever run a successful business that sold things for what they paid for them?
•Respect dining windows. No, not the table by the window that you're not getting. If the restaurant told you you've got 2 hours, respect that or don't agree to it. They're running a business. If you want more time, negotiate it in advance, and make it worth their while by spending. Or choose another restaurant.
•Don't demean your server. Don't ask them personal questions. Don't ask when they're going to get a "real" job or what their passion is. Don't comment on their appearance unless it is a genuinely innocent and sincere compliment. Don't ask for their number or when they're off. If you're truly in love, come back by yourself and hold a boombox over your head with "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel playing.
•Don't ask to speak to the manager. Think for a second. What you were about to say is stupid and you can get over it. Chill the fuck out and order another drink. You don't drink? Fuck. Me.
•Don't go out to dinner.