Waiting tables feels more like babysitting when customers don’t get what they want. Perhaps there is some kind of regression to the womb when grown adults sitting at the dinner table are expected to behave themselves in a civilized fashion without any parental supervision. It’s amazing how the most minor issues provoke such violent reactions among guests when their expectations aren’t met. Here are the seven most common things that countless customers get overly upset about but are totally excusable:
1. Items on The Menu are Sold Out –
It happens all the time. You had your heart set on a particular menu item and now you’re crestfallen when you find out it’s not available. As frustrating as it can be to feel slighted, restaurants don’t owe it to every guest to make sure they have unlimited inventory. Of course, they should try their best to avoid “86”-ing dishes. Most restaurants do. Ordering the right amount of perishable food while minimizing waste is a tricky balancing act where being stuck with a surplus of product cuts into margins. Chefs are often at the mercy of market conditions when they purchase certain ingredients. Input costs can fluctuate wildly which makes it difficult to offer the same dish at the same price every night. Reprinting menus is expensive and sometimes missing items must be conveyed verbally. Occasionally, items may be unavailable because of supply constraints or delivery issues with specific purveyors. “But the [sold-out menu item] is the only thing I can eat!” some cranky patron always whines like a toddler with a soiled diaper. No, it isn’t. You’re exaggerating. You know what—we’re really sorry you can’t have the Tuna dish you order EVERY TIME but if we only had five of them because that’s all the fishmonger could sell us that day and we sold them all before you arrived, tough shit! Order the Snapper and stop being such a baby!
2. Your Table Isn’t Ready –
Restaurants cannot predict how much time a specific party will occupy the table. Most restaurants do their best to build a reservation book that is both fair to the guest and favorable to its own profitability. A restaurant reservation does not guarantee that you will be seated at your assigned time. People arrive late, get caught in traffic, or show up incomplete. A wait fewer than thirty minutes should be considered a minor inconvenience. Have a drink at the bar and enjoy your company. If you don’t drink alcohol, have a glass of water. Hydrate. If you have to wait longer than thirty minutes, most good restaurants with competent staff should offer some form of reparation for your trouble (a complimentary appetizer, another round of drinks, etc). The host knows you’re waiting so there’s no need to continually harass him or her about an ETA. In most situations, the restaurant is doing everything it can to manage the situation and get you seated as quickly is possible. It is never in their best interest to upset you, so give them the benefit of the doubt and align your chakras.
3. You Found A Hair in Your Food –
Fact: Most of us have probably inadvertently eaten a million strands of hair in restaurants without knowing it. Is it absurd to consider that we shouldn’t mind it so much? We get it—nobody wants to eat someone else’s hair. Truth is, even the most pristine kitchens are vulnerable to incidents of hairs finding their way into people’s dishes. Kitchen employees are well-trained in handling food and go to great lengths to avoid all kinds of contamination. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way of preventing someone’s hair from getting into every single plate every single night in every single restaurant. Sorry, dude. We don’t expect you to rejoice when you find one, but it’s an issue about which diners could stand to be a little more forgiving. There’s a pretty good chance—unless you are a bald man—that it came from your head anyway.
4. Your Waiter Forgot Something –
You asked for Dijon mustard like five minutes ago and it never came. You really need some mustard. Here’s an idea: Ask again! It’s not a big deal. Restaurants have a lot of distractions; often more pressing issues than your condiments. The waiter may have gone into the kitchen to get your ketchup and the chef ordered him back out into the dining room to run plates of hot food. The biggest customer meltdowns tend to happen when food arrives incorrectly or items are omitted from the order. Bear in mind that it isn’t always the server’s fault—sometimes it’s a kitchen mistake. Directing your anger at the server isn’t always punishing the guilty party. You have a right to be disappointed but it isn’t worth getting angry about. Take a Xanax—it’s not the end of the world that you didn’t get your Duck Fat Fries.
5. The Coat Check Lost Your Belongings –
We’re sorry we can’t find that Leopard print scarf that you checked with your hideous Mink coat. We understand it was a gift from your dead Aunt and, for sentimental reasons, cannot be replaced. Obviously, you think throwing a tantrum and delivering a dramatic soliloquy at the host stand is a better solution than allowing us to investigate. When airlines lose checked bags, most people understand that it’s a random occurrence and everyone is vulnerable. Acting like a spoiled child is not going to return your possessions. Give the restaurant an opportunity to fix the situation or to reimburse you for loss or damages before you start flinging accusations about theft or incompetence.
6. You Didn’t Get Free Refills –
If you don’t want to be charged for refills, inquire about a restaurant’s policies toward refilling drinks. Respect restaurant’s prerogative to decide for itself whether to charge for refills. If you don’t agree with their policies, go somewhere else. These days coffee is often too expensive to refill—many restaurants use high quality coffee grounds for drip coffee which makes it cost prohibitive to offer guests a bottomless cup. Every server doesn’t need to attach a disclaimer to every glass of iced tea he serves or proclaim, “Just in case you thought I was going to bring you an extra five diet Dr. Pepper’s for the price of one, you were mistaken.” Don’t roll the dice and wait for the check to come—take the extra five seconds and ask the server if he plans to charge you. You might feel like you’re being a cheapskate, but you are being a cheapskate.
7. Your Server Wouldn’t Make Separate Checks –
Most waiters cringe when they have tables who immediately request split checks before anyone has ordered a scrap of food. The most common reason people ask for separate checks is because they don’t trust their dining companions to fairly divide up the bill. Guess what? That isn’t your waiter’s problem! Maybe you should find more reliable people to dine out with next time? In busy restaurants, waiters don’t have time to itemize your bill. If you need to divide the bill into separate payments, ask the server to process multiple credit cards for different amounts. But unless you’re splitting payment evenly (which most POS systems are programmed to calculate automatically), you should do the math yourselves. Please spare the waiter your outrage. We both know why you’re getting so upset—because you’re lazy.