the gracious customer



I recently read an interview that asked a panel of Montreal restaurant owners and managers about proper customer etiquette in this modern age.  It was interesting to read that many customers do not understand or take the time to think about what it means to be gracious.  I think we should expect great food and service from the restaurants that we go to, but that should come along with our respect for the business.

If you are one that scoffs at the idea that as a paying customer you don’t have any responsibility to the restaurant other than paying for the meal and tipping for good service, I would disagree.  So listen up scoffers!  Dining out is meant to be an experience, and this experience is meant to be the same for every customer.  So if your actions as a customer are disturbing the experience for any other customer then you shouldn’t be allowed to continue those actions.

I am continually surprised at the things that customers do when they’re in the restaurant.  Some examples of being an ungracious customer include not showing up for reservations, talking on your cell phone, and making unreasonable special requests.  But maybe my least favorite is when a customer speaks disrespectfully to a server or manager (I feel the same about the inverse as well).  These are common occurrences that can ruin a meal for others.

If a customer doesn’t show up for a table being held for a reservation other customers may leave because they are unable to get a table.  In turn the restaurant loses money.  Every table in a restaurant represents a certain amount of income.  Too many no-shows and you’ll see menu prices rise and at the worst a good restaurant may have to close.  If you can’

Which brings us to grievance number two.  Talking on a cell phone.  I attribute it to the same as smoking.  Trust me when I say you have no idea how loud you are when you are speaking to someone else.  No one is interested in the big business deal you have going on or what drama seems to be happening in your life.  No one.  If you have an important call then step outside and let the rest of us eat in peace.

Food allergies are pretty common especially given all the weird chemicals that are being put in our food today.  I’m also not concerned about the simple substitution that we all ask for from time to time.  I’m referring to customers that make so many special requests that a dish no longer resembles anything close to its original form.  Extreme requests can put a strain on a busy kitchen and can often times back up other orders so that all customers end up waiting for the Lord or Duchess of Finickiness. If you go to a restaurant to eat, the understanding is that you like the food they serve.  Otherwise…why go there?

Lastly, there is a right way to complain and a wrong way to complain.  If a server or staff member makes a mistake or does a poor job that doesn’t give anyone the right to dress them down in front of the dining room or get belligerent. Give your feedback and expect the behavior or mistake to be corrected, but mind your manners.  I don’t want to be on the receiving end of some disgruntled employee who decides to take his bad mood out on my soup.

I’m sure we all have our grievances with other customers that we could share. But my point here is that “the customer is always right” was not meant to be taken literally, and was really meant more for the people working in the restaurant than for the customers dining there.  To be right as a customer means that you are behaving, as a customer should and being reasonable with what you are expecting.  It does not mean that once you walk in to a restaurant the rules of being polite and gracious to others cease to exist.  Anyone can easily avoid being rude or ungracious.  All it takes is being a little more conscious of the people around you.  Which is probably a good habit no matter where you are.

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