Sometimes a lack of civility on the part of the patron -- yes, you -- will ruin an entire dining experience. For you, your dining party and sometimes even the entire restaurant.
Inspired by a series run on our sister papers in Phoenix and Seattle, we're starting our own weekly series on why you -- yes, you -- are personally responsible for ruining your own meal. You need to learn some manners, and we're here to help you out.
Most of us -- especially the females in the audience -- have been a hostess at a restaurant at some point in our lives. It's hardscrabble work being one of the lowest rungs on the restaurant totem pole, at about the same level with bussers and dishwashers.
However, unlike dishwashers, hostesses are also in the unenviable position of being hit on constantly, whether by skeezy customers or even skeezier waitstaff. At the best, you're virtually ignored and lucky if you get a cut from the tip pool. At the worst, you're degraded by rude customers, say, getting a piece of broccoli thrown at you by a customer in an attempt to get your attention, as happened to our own Cathy Matusow when she was hostessing many years ago.
So here's how to make someone whose life may already be miserable feel even more miserable. Avoid doing these things and you could not only have a better dining experience, but you could also learn to be a decent human being and treat others with respect.
Why Your Hostess Hates You
1) Calling your hostess by anything other than her name.
Sweetcheeks, babycakes, dollface, et cetera. These are all unacceptable names, especially in this day and age. You are not a caveman. Walking up to a hostess stand and leering, "Hey, there, mamacita. How 'bout you give us a table for four right over there by that window, and maybe drop by for a margarita a little later?" will result in your hostess seating you where you wanted, but also warning the wait staff -- especially if it's a fellow female -- that you're a complete jackass. Your service (and likely your food) will suffer as a result.
2) Using too much restaurant lingo.
So you once worked in a restaurant. You know the difference between a two-top and a four-top. Who cares? Don't be one of those obnoxious people who says things like, "I bet you auto-grat on a six-top, dontcha?" or "Oh, man, y'all are really in the weeds tonight, huh?" You just sound like, once again, a complete jackass.
3) Complaining about where your hostess seats you, unless it's a truly legitimate complaint.
Most hostesses are simply trying to not piss off the wait staff in the restaurant when they select your seat. This means that they're trying not to double-seat a waiter who just had another table given to him two minutes ago, they're trying not to seat anyone in a section that's just been closed for the evening, or they're trying to give some business to a waiter whose section has dried up. Sometimes this means seating you by the bathrooms or the kitchen, but it's not a reflection on you. It's got much less to do with you than you think.
4) Showing up without reservations, on a busy night, at a place that encourages reservations.
Hostesses don't want to turn anyone away. That means less money in the tip pool, after all. But when you show up at 8 p.m. to one of the busiest restaurants in town without a reservation, then throw a hissy fit because we can't seat you immediately, you're being completely unreasonable. You might see open tables, but -- like we said -- those are reserved for people who actually bothered to think ahead. Should we punish them for being responsible by giving you -- the irresponsible, impatient one -- their table? No.
5) Showing up with more people in your party than you made reservations for.
Hostesses are not magicians. Sometimes they can't simply make another table materialize out of thin air when you booked a table for six and showed up with ten. When you call ahead with a large number of people, they set those tables up in advance and reconfigure a portion of the floor space to fit you. They often do this happily. So would you RSVP to a friend's dinner party for two people and then show up with four other people in tow? Of course not, so don't do it to your favorite restaurant either.
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6) Complaining when you see open tables but are being made to wait.
More often than not, those open tables aren't an indication that the restaurant is just sitting around, waiting on people to come and eat. They're an indication that some wait staff didn't show up for their shift, that the manager only scheduled a few waiters for that day or that the section is closed. If the hostess sat you at one of those open tables, they'd be making a lot of extra work for a waiter who is probably already overwhelmed because his idiot coworkers got wasted at industry night and called in sick. And trust us, you don't want that guy waiting on you if you force the hostess to seat you in his section.
7) Treating your hostess like a subhuman.
Look the hostess in the eyes when you talk to her. They're people, too. And if you smile back at them and treat them as equals, they'll do their best to guarantee that you get a good seat with good service. After all, they're the gateway to the rest of your dining experience. Don't you want to start things off on a good note?