No, it’s not nice. It’s not big and it’s not clever. But sometimes your server, who has little power in his or her job, may feel the need to exert a little control the only way they can – by adding a little extra to a customer’s dish. Here’s a list of how that customer may be selected.
1. Does It Taste As Good As It Looks?
Sometimes it seems as though half of Facebook is dedicated to photos of people’s lunch. As well as being pretty boring to look at, these “arty” photos could be the catalyst for your waiter or waitress deciding to give something back in the form of a little saliva to add some high-gloss sheen to those photos.
Look at it from their perspective. Most restaurants run understaffed, so your server has too many tables and not enough time. They probably get most of their money through tips, so they want to turn the table as quickly as possible. Savouring your food is one thing, but spend half an hour looking at it under different lights and from various angles first and you’re asking for trouble.
2. It’s Food. It’s Made of Food.
Of course you want to know what’s in your food, and few people would begrudge you a little extra information about preparation techniques. However, being the person who wants to know how every dish on the menu is constructed, right down to where the chef purchases his ingredients, is likely to earn you an ingredient that definitely doesn’t appear on the menu. Remember, you’re not interviewing the chef for a job in your own restaurant; you’re talking to a waiter about a starter.
Of course, you may have allergies to certain foods, be vegetarian, or have other dietary requirements. If so, explain clearly to the waiter and, rather than enquiring about the contents of every individual plate, simply ask the waiter which is suitable for your needs. Asking “Which dishes conform to halal standards?”, for example, is much simpler than “Please describe how every animal mentioned in this six page menu was killed.”
3. Just Pick A Plate
Remember point 1, which mentioned how the turnover of tables is directly related to the amount of money your waitperson takes home? Well, this is relevant here, too. If you deliberate over your choice for so long that your fellow diners are giving you the death stares of the very hungry, chances are that your server is also less than impressed. Unimpressed and overstressed wait staff are dangerous people where the purity of your food is concerned, so don’t have them coming back to your table more than once to see if you’re ready. They have other things to do and probably have chefs screaming at them to do them yesterday already, so help them out by just making a damn decision. You’re choosing a meal, not a car.
4. Don’t Drink and Dine
You know how you’re so insanely funny, witty and entertaining after a few drinks too many? You’re not. Having a bottle of wine and some after-dinner cocktails in a classy restaurant carries an implicit responsibility to keep it, well, classy. Slight tipsiness will generally be tolerated fairly well – after all, most restaurants have a frankly ridiculous mark-up on beverages and the inhibition-lowering properties of alcohol can mean better tips for your server, so it’s in their own best interests to keep you slightly lubricated. However, there is a line that should not be crossed, and it is in YOUR best interests to be very aware of where it is drawn. Becoming loud, obnoxious, clumsy, or handsy will likely be rewarded with an extra shot of nastiness in your next drink.
5. Your Waiter Speaks Your Language
If your waiter or waitress is working in your country, it’s usually a given that they have at least a basic command of your language. If they’re working as a server in your country, it’s safe to assume that they’re prepared to serve you food rather than a free class in their language. They probably won’t be overly excited by the fact that you can speak (or think you can speak) their native tongue – everybody they grew up with probably speaks it, too. Leave the holiday Italian at home and let them get on with their job.
6. Food, Food Everywhere
It’s understood that accidents happen and eating can be messy, especially if you’re dining with kids, but allowing your area of the restaurant to end up looking like a food fight in a mess hall will not earn you any friends amongst the wait staff. If your table looks like an absolute shambles, for the sake of your meal do your best to clear it up. No-one is expecting you to change the tablecloth and wash the glasses, but just looking as if you’ve made an effort will save your dinner turning into a receptacle for your server’s spit. It’s simple good manners – if you wouldn’t leave your own home or that of a friend looking chaotic and filthy, common decency dictates that you don’t do it in a restaurant either. You’re paying for a meal and service, not an industrial cleaning squad.