In keeping with the Mental floss blog (www.mentalfloss.com) which has been posting excerpts from Amy Vanderbilts "Complete book of Etiquette", I thought I would post my own version of restaurant etiquette based on my experiences this last week.
1) When you enter the library or restaurant it is good manners to respond when the staff greet you. Dont walk past us as if we dont exist.
2) If your table is booked for 7:30pm it is entirely appropriate for you to arrive at 7:00pm to partake of a pre-dinner drink. It is completely rude to walk in at 8:30pm then expect to sit in the lounge for over an hour without a word of apology. If you are going to be late, the courtesy of a phone call informing us is very much appreciated.
3) If you have any dietary requirements, the time to tell us is before you order your meal. Not five minutes after the dish that you ordered is placed in front of you. Chefs work with knives you know, and they get a tad unhappy when we return food to the kitchen after they have spent the last twenty minutes preparing it to be told that the customer is "allergic" to shellfish, so can they do something else with the scallops and crab raviolis.
4) If you are going to order your meat well done, be prepared for it to have the texture and consistency of shoe leather. By cooking it well done, you are effectively removing any moisture from the inside of the meat, hence it becomes tougher and stringier. It chefspeak when a check is called on with a steak well done it is usually shouted down the line as " One beef - fucked!". It is considered bad form to return said steak to the kitchen to be redone because you dont know the difference between medium and well done.
5) Vegetarians eat vegetables. Last time I looked fish, chicken, rabbit, and veal are all generally considered to be animals, and hence if you are vegetarian then they are supposed to be off-limits to you.
6) Menus are there for a reason, the chefs are in the building from 8am preparing their ingredients for the evening service. They prepare their "mis-en-place" according to the recipes that they follow for the dishes. So if you come in and decide that you want a dover sole meunierre, dont be surprised if we cant do it. If the kitchen has the gear and crucially the time to prepare it, by all means we will do it. If you wish to order off the menu, have the courtesy and foresight to let us know in advance. Then anything is possible (as long as its legal of course!)
8) We spend several hours a day preparing the restaurant - polishing everything in sight virtually, laying the tables up in fairly precise settings. For fecks sake when you sit down DONT move the glasses into the middle of the table. Im not Inspector Gadget, I cant say "go go gadget arm" and my bionic arm will telescope out over the middle of the table and fill your glass up with wine/water/whatever. The glasses are there for a reason. You have more than plenty of personal space, leave the damned settings alone.
9) on the subject of at the table. Dont sit half a mile away from the table. Again this boils down to our lack of gadget arms. If we cant reach the table to put the plates down, then you aint getting fed!
10) We appreciate that you are here for a nice meal, often with company, friends, girlfriends, business partners whatever. All we ask is that the few occasions when we approach the table to ask for water, food choices, describe the bread, whatever, do us the courtesy of shutting up and giving us your undivided attention for those few moments. We will be out of your way in less time, and you are going to get much better service that way.
11) Contrary to popular belief the words Please and Thank you are still very much part of the English language and it would be nice to hear them a bit more often. They go a long way to getting better service.
12) Also despite popular opinion food allergies are surprisingly rare. Im not in any way belittling those people with geniune allergies to nuts, shellfish etc. But your latest faddy diet does not count as an allergy to whatever. If you dont like something be brave enough to say that you dont like something. You wont hurt the chefs feelings, and they can usually leave certain things off the dishes without major problems. Just dont make out some fantasy allergy, because we usually spot the bullshitters when they subsequently ask for something they are allegedly allergic to.
Thats about all for now, but Im sure that over the next few busy weeks Im bound to think of more. Maybe I ought to write a book about it?