Some guidelines on how to be a good customer - by a former restaurateur.
So many people have been passing comments on restaurants, tipping, greedy restaurant owners over the last few days, it makes me wonder why anybody goes out at all! And it certainly makes me wonder why restaurants stay in business (I actually know the answer to that, having run one for 7 years – it’s because when it all comes together and the food is flying out the kitchen, the customers are laughing and the waiters are on the ball, there is no business like it.
The flip side is when you arrive on a wet Tuesday in winter, the freezer switched itself off overnight and all your food is ruined, the chef is sick, the cleaner missed his bus and the toilet is blocked. And that’s when you leave it all and become a wine writer!).
If I was going to do it again, I would like all my fictional future customers to sign up to the following Customer’s Charter – a code of conduct that they agree to and I do too so that we all know where we are and there are no misunderstandings. I’m going to follow this up with a Restaurateur’s Charter but let’s see how we go here first shall we?
The Customer’s Charter
1. I will treat my booking like a contract and if I can’t adhere to my side of the bargain, I will give you as much notice as possible and be apologetic if I’ve messed up your plans for the night. Equally so – I expect you to be ready for me, to have a table according to my requirements and to have built me and my guests into your food and waitering plan for the evening.
2. I will not change a dish and disrupt service. If I don’t like an ingredient, I will act like a grown-up and leave it on the side of my plate, or I will order another dish. Equally so – I expect your waiters to know what is in each dish so I can make my choice accordingly.
3. If I am not happy with anything, I will tell you immediately. I will be clear and calm and explain what I want to happen in order for this problem to be resolved. I expect you to listen to me and to try as hard as you can to fix every reasonable complaint. Equally, I accept that if I don’t tell you what’s wrong at the time, I have no right to whinge afterwards on social media.
4. I will treat your possessions as I would like you to treat mine. So I’m not going to squirt tomato ketchup on the floor, put my feet up on the cushions, stick my chewing gum underneath your table or any of the other gross things other people do.
5. I will tip the waiter appropriately for the service they give, accepting that a tip is part of dining out, and so I won’t be such a cheapskate as to only tip on the bill ex-VAT or to remove the wine costs first or whatever rubbish I may come up with to justify my cheapness. If I can’t afford to tip for good service, I will stay at home. Equally so – if I am not being looked after, I will complain and then I refer you to point 3 and my tip will be commensurate with your response.
6. I am at your restaurant to have a good time and spend my hard-earned money. Whilst I would never believe that the customer is always right, I do think that this fact might make me slightly ‘more right’ than you under these circumstances. So I will try and be reasonable in my requests and demands as long as you try your best to meet and exceed them whenever possible.
So there are a few things I’d like to have customers agree to if I was going to have a restaurant again. I’m sure you’ve all got lots of thoughts and ideas so tell us yours below. Both sides of the coin equally welcome!
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