Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

THE TOP COURTESIES IGNORED BY DINERS Series: SERIES

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

THE TOP COURTESIES IGNORED BY DINERS Series: SERIES

Article excerpt

Diners have certain expectations when patronizing a restaurant: Meals should be flavorful and resonant. Price should reflect the quality of the food. Service should be efficient and the place should be clean.

Likewise, restaurateurs have expectations of their patrons: Diners should be on time for reservations. They should be respectful and polite. They should pay their bills and they should exhibit appropriate behavior.

In a Twitter poll and interviews, I asked restaurant workers for pet peeves and other complaints about customers and their behavior. They had a mouthful to report.

While Bill Fuller, corporate chef for the local Big Burrito restaurant chain since 1997, said he's met "some really awesome people" who frequent his restaurants, he's also seen "some horrible things that have happened and met some horrible people."

His observations were echoed by others. Here's a list of bad behaviors that service folks from around the region said remain part of their job.

Entitlement

Customers with a sense of entitlement were among their top frustrations.

There's a difference between the customer is always right and the customer expecting the restaurant to cater to every whim, noted Mr. Fuller. He recalled an incident in which customers impatiently hovered over a coveted table as another group tried to finish their meal.

"You can't decide a table is yours and tell people to get up and move to another table," he said.

Brandon Baltzley, chef at Bar Marco in the Strip District, said he has customers "once or twice a week" who return dishes in a manner that suggests they know more than the chef.

"They say, 'We have sophisticated palates. We are foodies and know what we're talking about. And this is the worst meal we have had here.' "

A more effective exchange, he said, would begin: "This is not what I was expecting," or "I did not like this."

Staff also expressed dismay over customers hogging a table once they have finished a meal and not leaving, especially when there are people waiting.

Don't degrade the staff

Cursing at managers, grabbing a server's arm -- or worse -- can be part of a day's work.

"Please don't call my staff names," said Mr. Fuller, who listed "idiot" as the least profane insult he's heard irate customers call his staff. "These people are someone's sister, mom, cousin or boyfriend," he said, citing name calling as "a pretty constant problem."

"Don't grab a server's arm or pat a server -- anywhere," he said. "Servers get freaked out. It's upsetting."

Other offensive behavior includes denigrating the job of the server. "I can't tell you how often diners ask servers what their 'real job' is," he said.

A lot of servers at Big Burrito restaurants make above average income for this area, he said, citing one employee who helps support his family and three kids with his restaurant salary. …

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