When you go out to eat, you want everything to be perfect. I was a server for seven years at the Steak House and I worked very hard to make sure every customer I waited on had as close to a perfect experience as I could provide. It was in my best interest to. The better I did, the better my tip was. Honestly, this should be the goal of every server. Did this always happen in my case? Was I always “perfect”? Definitely not. Part of that is my fault. I am human and I make mistakes. Part of that is the restaurant’s fault because, lord knows, management wasn’t perfect. Some blame belongs to the corporation for inconsistent policies. Sometimes the people I worked with would makes mistakes (read: kitchen staff, hosts, bartenders, runners, etc.).
For most people, a perfect experience means your food should be prepared well, the server should be attentive and polite, and you shouldn’t have to wait to long for anything. These are completely reasonable demands. Common restaurant complaint number 6 addresses one of the first warning sign for restaurant staff that a guest with unrealistic expectations is dining in their establishment. The staff at the Steak House referred to these particular types of unreasonable people as the “Table Choosers”. Complaint 6 revolves around table selections.
A typical dining experience begins with a host saying hello and taking you a table. For most people, this is a simple matter. Unfortunately, there is a select group that will not be happy with any table the host brings them too. These people usually fall into three categories:
1) The upfront and honest types.
For me, the upfront and honest types are the most annoying. These customers, when brought to a table they don’t like, immediately start to complain about it. For example: “This is too close to the kitchen!” “This table is too dark!” “We are too far from the kitchen!” and of course “We want a booth, not a table”. This many not sound like a huge deal to someone who never worked in a restaurant. A table is a table right? Wrong. In the Steak House, each table was assigned to a server. The host usually has a rotation that fairly distributes customers to each server so everyone working can make money. Sometimes, when the restaurant isn’t fully staffed on a slow day, some of the tables in the restaurant will not be assigned to any particular server. In other words, hosts seat customers in certain locations for a reason. Usually the upfront and honest types will immediately asked to be moved if they don’t like their table. These same customers never seem to understand why it takes the hosts a minute to figure out where to put them. While seating a restaurant is not the hardest job in the world, there are a few things hosts should try to avoid doing. One of the cardinal rules of hosting is: don’t “triple seat” a server. Being “triple sat” sucks. That means three tables are sat in your section at the same exact time. As you can imagine, this makes servers insanely busy. Being triple sat takes years off your life. Obviously, when a server gets triple sat, it affects service for all the server’s tables. Again, this many not sound like a big deal to some, but I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write this. I still have nightmares about being triple sat. Usually the upfront types start pointing to tables they want to sit in and saying things like “I don’t understand what the big deal is! I’m the customer and I want to sit THERE!” The big deal is, by selecting your table, you may force the hosts to triple seat a server and your dining experience is going to suck because your server will be too busy to give you proper service… THAT is the big deal.
2) The silent but deadly types.
The silent but deadly types are just plain weird. Unlike the upfront and honest guests, the silent but deadly customers will sit in the table they are brought too, but will suddenly disappear only to reappear in a table of their choosing. The silent but deadly types are apparently too shy to complain and take a passive aggressive approach to their seating arrangements. These customers can lead to all types of problems. First of all, there is a good chance, on a slow day, they will seat themselves somewhere in the restaurant where no server is assigned to work. As a result, they sit in their chosen table for a LONG time fuming at the server who should be waiting on them (who doesn’t actually exist) before someone notices them and takes their order. Silent but deadly customers can also seat themselves into a section where the server is extremely busy. Again, these customers will sit, waiting for service, and generally get pissed at the slow waiters in the restaurant.
3) The driven by shiny objects and pretty things types.
Most of the time, these types of customers are driven by love: as in love of their children. At the Steak House, we had several “talking” animal puppets attached to the wall. I know. Don’t ask. The kids loved these animals and wanted to sit by them at ALL COSTS. It was not uncommon for these types of customers to be sat at a table only to ask for a different table “closer to the animals”. Also in this category are the customers who want to sit near windows or fireplaces. At the Steak House we had a very scenic view of a parking lot. Occasionally, we would have customers ask to be sat near a particular painting or photograph on the wall. It’s not like there was an ocean or something out those windows. We didn’t exactly have Ansel Adams’ hanging on our walls. But, inevitability, customers wanted to sit where they wanted to sit.
Sadly, the easiest way to deal with all three of these types of customers was to give them what they want and apologize, in advance, to whomever is forced to wait on them. You can forgive the parents who are just trying to make their kids happy. There is some nobility in that. Does that mean that I loved waiting on other people’s kids? God no, but that is a different story for a different day. The bottom line is, don’t be one of these people. The hosts are sitting you in specific areas for specific reasons. If you must change tables, be polite and patient. It will go a long way in avoiding spit in your food.