How to treat customers

Bruce Buschel posts a list of dos and don'ts for restaurant owners and staffers that seems so basic and yet is so often ignored. It's at the NYT's You're the Boss blog. Here's a sampler:

--Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.

--Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, "Are you waiting for someone?" Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar.

--Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.

--If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.

--Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated.

--Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.

--Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

--Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.

--Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.

--When you ask, "How's everything?" or "How was the meal?" listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.

--Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.

--Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.

--Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong.

--Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them, or dust them.

--Never say, "Good choice," implying that other choices are bad.

--Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It's irrelevant.

I'm sure everyone has pet gripes. Mine are taking plates away while other people are eating (is the kitchen that short of plates?) and not offering a free drink or whatever when reservations are not honored. Of course, restaurant owners and staffers have their own gripes about customers, many of them quite valid. Can't we all just get along?

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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