Be polite, not boorish, with restaurant staff, etiquette expert Nora Cline says.
Dining out is a treat. We choose where we eat and what food strikes our fancy. Better yet, someone else cleans up after us. Dining out both is relaxing and enjoyable, in part, because we are waited on by servers and restaurant staff whose job is to serve and provide us with a pleasant dining experience. Yet, a customer must realize that there is a difference between server and servant and they need to treat their server with respect.
Greet your server with a friendly hello when he introduces himself. Call him or her by name or waiter, waitress, miss or ma'am accordingly. Refrain from addressing anyone as honey unless you are his or her parent or
relative. A closed menu is normally a signal to the server that you are ready to order, but sometimes this is not the case. If you are not ready when she approaches, politely tell her that you need more time to decide. You
would both rather that she not hover, so you might tell her that you will put the closed menus on the edge of the table as a signal that you are ready. Give your server your attention when she recites any specials and make
requests for separate checks at the start before ordering anything. Asking at the end slows down service for the entire restaurant as your server refigures the tab.
When you need something, it is not always easy to get your server's attention. If you can't catch his eye you might have to try raising your hand to chin level and point your index finger skyward to get his attention. It is
acceptable to softly call "waiter" or "waitress" if the server is not looking your way. It is never acceptable to snap your fingers, wave your hand, whistle or give other inappropriate gestures to get your server's attention. If it is
important, simply ask another server nearby to tell your server that you need assistance.
If you need to send food back to the kitchen because it isn't what you ordered, is not cooked to order or if you find a pest or foreign object in your food, don't blame your server and don't make a fuss. Speak of the problem to
your server only and do it calmly and quietly. Other people at your table will be thankful for your discretion, as will your server.
We have all experienced the too efficient or hurried server who appears out of nowhere and scoops up your plate when you are simply taking a break. Don't hesitate to say "I'm not finished yet," even if he is on his way to the
kitchen. If she takes it while you are not there it is perfectly acceptable to politely point out to her that you were not finished eating. When you are ready for your plate to be cleared, place your knife and fork in the finished
position beside each other diagonally on the plate. A well-trained server will know this is a signal that you are finished.
Competent, considerate servers and great food contribute to a positive dining experience. As their customer we too must do our part by being respectful and considerate to them as well as everyone else in the restaurant.
Nora Cline is the owner of Modern Manners -- www.modernmanners.biz -- in Powell.