Bill of Rights for Diners

by Tallahassee Table

Dining out? Before you make that reservation, take a minute to ponder what you have a right to expect when you walk into the restaurant.

Here, gleaned from more than 20 years of dining at and reviewing
restaurants, and with much input from dining companions and wait Guest check 3staffs, are things a diner has a right to expect from a restaurant.

— Rochelle Koff

  •   A greeting, and a sincere one, when I arrive. Even if it’s a casual place, I expect an occasional sir and ma’am.
  •   Get me seated at the time I reserved. If you can’t, give me something to drink, or even something to nibble. We had a deal.
  •   Give me a seat I like if at all possible. Would you want to sit right next to the kitchen’s swinging doors? If you’re not a maître de, and if the seat I want is not in your assigned section but some other waiter’s, I really don’t care. Let me sit where I want.
  •   Turn down the music. Yes, we know there’s a trend in some restaurants to manufacture a vibe with a din of sound bouncing off hard surfaces that requires shouting to communicate with your dining companions. Most people – and not all are old fuddy duddies – prefer to keep the music in the background, as a pleasant, soothing sound track that enhances the meal rather than competes with it.
  •   Make sure I have clean cutlery, plates and glasses. If I find old lipstick on my wine glass or egg on my fork, I’m within my rights to immediately take a hike unless you can somehow assure me this is not a reflection of general uncleanliness. Apologize and bring me something clean immediately. And I still may not be entirely convinced.
  •   Speaking of cleanliness, make sure the bathrooms are clean. And well stocked with paper, soap and towels. If the bathroom is not up to par, I’m going to have to assume the rest of the operation is not, either.
  •   Offer to bring water, without my asking, first thing. Then we can decide if it’s to be tap, bottled still or one of those fizzers that will cost more. Don’t be snooty if I opt for plain old tap water.
  •   Throughout this experience, refill my water glass – and with ice – when there’s about a third remaining. Don’t make me ask. If my dining companions leave their water untouched, don’t assume you can ignore the camels like me.
  •   Be able to describe the food, the ingredients and how it’s prepared. But don’t drone on forever. And don’t get annoyed if I ask you to repeat something, especially about specials that aren’t listed.
  •   Tell me the price of the specials, without making me ask. I don’t want an unpleasant surprise when the bill arrives.
  •   If I order a second bottle of the same wine, give me a fresh glass so I can swirl and taste the second, too. Don’t just pour the new atop the old. Ritual is important.
  •   I can indeed send back the wine if it’s truly skunky. Don’t automatically assume I’m a lout; I may in fact know what I’m talking about.
  •   Don’t tell me “good choice” when I order. If you want to tell me it’s one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, fine. And if you, in your personal experience, think a particular offering is not so good, be honest and tell me so.
  •   Don’t rush me, but do bring my courses in a timely manner. If there’s a delay, let me know why.
  •   Bring fresh silverware between courses. Don’t ever take my used silverware off the plate, where I left it for a reason, and put it on the table to be used again.
  •   Give me friendly, but not obsequious, service from start to finish. Don’t say “absolutely” and “no problem.” If I want know your life story, I’ll ask. Don’t tell me jokes unless they’re good jokes and you’re really, really good at telling them. And don’t expect me to necessarily remember your name.
  •   Bring the bill promptly, but don’t rush me. If I’m still sipping my wine or coffee, and if our table is still animated and having fun, give us a little more time.
  •   If the restaurant automatically adds a tip, you should tell me up front. Yes, I know that information usually is indicated on the menu, but often it’s in tiny type and can be easily overlooked, especially if we’ve had some wine. If you add a tip and then I add my own tip without knowing you’ve already got yours, you’re cheating me and you know it.
  •   Take care of me and I’ll take care of you.

Want to add to this list, or argue about it? Forget that last part. But you can email Rochelle at [email protected].

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