100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do, Part 1

Came across this brilliant article by Bruce Buschel in the New York Times, 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do. This article is basically one restaurateur's opinion of a code of conduct for restaurant staffers, sort of like the Legal Profession Act for lawyers.

I've added in some of my personal comments. Looking through these rules, I seriously doubt anyone will even attempt to follow all of them. Seriously, how many waiters/waitresses do it as a long-term career?

1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.
[Conversely, I've encountered a number of restaurants who train their staff to shout out (in succession depending on each staff's reaction time) an incoherent welcome greeting (usually in some garbled foreign language). It's not necessary, and the sincerity is lost with such shout-outs.]

2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?” Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar.
3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.
[I've encountered this several times in restaurants. I simply cannot see any logic in such a policy. Would any restaurant like to comment on this?]

4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.
[This is really not necessary, unless you're at a top-notch fine dining 3 Michellin star restaurant. Or an uptight snob who thinks that everyone owes them a living.]

5. Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated.
6. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.
[I always think I'm being judged by restaurants when I order tap water instead of bottled water. But seriously, drinking bottled water is a little pretentious. What's wrong with tap water in Singapore? It's one of the cleanest in the world!]

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
[Actually, I think this is fine, unless a waitress is flirting with a diner's boyfriend, blatantly in front of the female diner. This is the reason why most waiters/waitresses are exceptionally good-looking. Good looks = more tips. However, this is not applicable in Singapore where there is a fixed service charge, so there's no need for an appreciation of beauty when tipping.]

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.
[Unless they have been rattling on for an hour.]

9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.
[I've personally encountered this in Singapore. I think it's largely because our service staff are not very eloquent. Unless it's the manager, who usually is a better conversationalist.]

10. Do not inject your personal favorites when explaining the specials.
[I personally think this is fine. In fact, I sometimes ask the staff what their personal favourites are.]

11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.
[I actually appreciate if a staff tells me in advance what the kitchen is running low on. It shows initiative.]

12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.
[H1N1! SARS! The Practise Good Hygiene Movement!]

13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the handles.
[See Rule 12.]

14. When you ask, “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.
[This is generally done in most restaurants in Singapore, and some cze char places if you know the owner well enough.] 

15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”
[This is quite similar to sales staff, when asked whether there is a shoe in a particular size, lies that the stock is out, without having seen the shoe. Lazy, lazy, lazy.]

16. If someone requests more sauce or gravy or cheese, bring a side dish of same. No pouring. Let them help themselves.
[This is quite subjective. Sometimes if a staff doesn't pour it for the diner, the diner gets upset. Sometimes if they pour it, the diner doesn't like it.]

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.
[I don't see a problem with this. It's the restaurant's indirect way of telling you that others are waiting for the table. Most mid-priced restaurants in Singapore are eat-and-go types anyway. Go to a coffee joint if you want to linger.]

18. Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?”
[No biggy, most diners (at mid-priced restaurants) are quite easy-going and let's face it, restaurant staff wouldn't be serving food if they had a photographic memory.]

19. Offer guests butter and/or olive oil with their bread.

20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.
[I can't see the logic in this either. Would a restaurant care to explain this policy as well?]

21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong.
[This is an absolute no-no. A deal breaker for any restaurant. Even the cze char ones.]

22. If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two.

23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.
[Only required of service in a top-notch restaurant. This is quite onerous.]

24. Never use the same glass for a second drink.

25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing them on the table.
[See Rules 12 and 13.]

26. Never assume people want their white wine in an ice bucket. Inquire.

27. For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour.

28. Do not put your hands all over the spout of a wine bottle while removing the cork.
[See Rules 12, 13 and 25]

29. Do not pop a champagne cork. Remove it quietly, gracefully. The less noise the better.
[Yeah but there are way too many movies that teach this erroneous method. And the F1 drivers on the podium after a win.]

30. Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle.
[See Rules 12, 13, 25, 28.]

31. Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong.

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by.

34. Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers.
[Especially if you are complaining about another diner. That's just done in bad taste.]

35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests.
[Especially when the restaurant is understaffed.]

36. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage.
[Ditto for scented candles. Leave that for the bedroom or bathroom.]

37. Do not drink alcohol on the job, even if invited by the guests. “Not when I’m on duty” will suffice.
[Depends. If it's a gastrobar, being able to hold your own would probably get you more tips.]

38.Do not call a guy a “dude.”

39. Do not call a woman “lady.”
[What's wrong with calling a woman a "lady"? Unless the woman isn't a lady but a dude.]

40. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.
[People are seldom THAT sensitive. If they are, then it's THEIR problem.]

41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do. 
[Nothing wrong with saying "No problem". See Rule 40.]

42. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.
[See Rules 40, 41.]

43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.
[See Rule 10.]

44. Do not discuss your own eating habits, be you vegan or lactose intolerant or diabetic.

45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests.

46. Never acknowledge any one guest over and above any other. All guests are equal.
[This is really obvious. Some staffers will fawn over one supposedly rich diner over another supposedly middle-class diner. You never know if that supposedly middle-class diner has an expense account larger than a third world country's GDP.]

47. Do not gossip about co-workers or guests within earshot of guests.
[See Rule 34.]

48. Do not ask what someone is eating or drinking when they ask for more; remember or consult the order.

49. Never mention the tip, unless asked.
[A bit obvious. But again, not applicable to Singapore.]

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.
[Also a bit obvious. Also not applicable to Singapore.]

View the article here - 20091029 NYT Part 1

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