Wow. Another set of questions already. Keep them coming guys! As always, if you have questions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and leave your first name and the first letter of your last name. Like this: "John S.".
Q. Got a situation tonight where the table next to us was being obnoxious and we wanted to change tables. All the other tables were full except for one across where it was initially reserved, but the reserved party came and ubruptly left. I wanted to ask for it, but didn't know if it was proper etiqutte. Are reserved tables fair game once the reservers shows up and leave?
- Bill R.
Really bummer of a situation you got there, Bill. It felt like you guys were trapped and once the reserved party left, their table looked like a life saver in a sea of obnoxiousness! While the answer may seem like an initial yes, this table is still the property of the restaurant. Certain tables are designated to be reserved tables regardless of whether or not they're actually reserved. Restaurants don't like to tell you this, but if there is even the most slightest chance that a celebrity or someone else important suddenly comes in, they have that special reservation table ready for them. Maybe not even in that extreme a case...sometimes they want to hold on to certain tables for customers they may deem worthy (or a frequent favorite customer). Whichever the case, you can ask for it, but the table doesn't have to give it to you for the reasons I said or otherwise. BUT! This being said, never be afraid to tell the waitstaff to quiet down someone for you. They will politely let them know that "someone in the restaurant" wants them to tone it down.
Q. I am a waiter and I can't stand people with iPhones and iPads (or any other mobile device that do similar things) in a restaurant. I'm going to be extreme about this and start a movement to demand all iPhones must be closed just like in the movies. People are walking around server lanes playing Words With Friends! Ugh! And when they're supposed to be thinking about what to order, they're giggling texting someone like middle schoolers passing notes! All restaurants should ban iPhones abd iPads! Do you agree, Ms. Yoyo?
- Vander A.
It's amazing what kind of times we live in, isn't it? When do people even use phones anymore as...phones? Today, they're like a super computer, camera and video game system rolled into one. As a former waitress, I hated it when people paid no attention about what they're ordering or wasting a server's time to help other tables. Put down Angry Birds! As a society, we need more self-control and awareness about where we are. Sooner or later, I think it will come down to your petition and it won't seem so extreme anymore. In most states, you're not allowed to be on your cellphone while driving. We already know they won't allow them during the course of a movie in a theater. So who knows? Maybe enough restaurant staff will universally be sick of it and start imposing a no cell phone rule. And if someone reading this thinks that's cruel, well, they've obviously haven't been waiting tables these past 5 years.
Q. Let it be known that there is such a thing called tipping karma. Admittedly, I was being a bit of a jackass leaving a restaurant with a dollar tip. The reason? I'm not from the town it was in and I knew I wasn't going back there again. The waitress I had was so nice too. But I thought, what the hell. Well, not too soon after, the rented car I was in suffered four flat tires on an unusually hot spring afternoon. Then my credit card account got hacked into and had to be closed for investigation by the bank. An hour later my wife calls and I find out my mother-in-law is staying with us for the rest of the year. [Explicit]!
- Kyle N.
Not a question, but I'll let it slide since it touches on a very important and true subject matter: tipping karma. No excuses in the world is good enough for someone "forgetting" to pay appropriate tips. Bad tipping happens on purpose. Yet, there is also the reverse -- good tipping can lead to good tipping karma! A guy once gave me 200% tips and the next time I saw him found out he won a $1000 lottery ticket. A woman who was always kind and struggled to get pregnant received her first pregnancy when she tipped a high amount. Whatever the reason, tipping is the ultimate sign of selfless giving to someone in need. If we didn't need the money, we wouldn't be waiting tables. It's always greatly appreciated by the most humblest group in the world: the waitstaff!
Q. So what's the deal? I asked the waitress I had what was good and she never said a bad thing about any of that I picked. Then the food came and it was terrible! You guys are walking billboards for the restaurants. Either that, or you try to bait us on ordering the most expensive thing on the menu just to get a higher percentage in tips. Yeah, I'm on to you. Do waitresses even answer that recommendation question honestly?
- Brian S.
Hah! You see, while we are not allowed to tell you that something is bad, what we can do is drop code phrases. Here, let me give you a breakdown on how it goes. If we describe something as "people tend to like it" or "it's really popular here", it's not an endorsement for it actually being good. If we like it, we'll say "hey, that's a really good one! I like it!" We're putting our own tastes on the line! So if you don't like it, we're to blame...that's how much confidence we have in it. We may also change the subject a little by drifting to another dish. "Well what about this one? It's just like the other one, but there's this, this and that!" We're trying to steer you to something better, take our hint! Here's another thing I do: use visualness. If another table happens to order the same dish, a server can use that both ways as showing how good something looks or how bad something looks. Sometimes what looks good may not be what tastes good, but there are times they are the same.
Q. I'm not used to Asian restaurants and the etiquette with the chopsticks. I read that you not only used to be a waitress, but one for a Japanese restaurant. Can you give me some chopsticks etiqutte dos and don'ts? I wouldn't want to look like a knucklehead next time and accidently be insulting.
- Marsha M.
Don't be so harsh on yourself, Marsha! Being unfamiliar with another culture doesn't necessarily make one a "knucklehead"...it's the refusal to learn with each opportunity time and time again that makes knuckleheads, and that certainly isn't you! Let's start off with what to do when you're not using your chopsticks. A lot of people have folded the wrapper/holder that comes with the chopsticks and created a paper chopsticks holder. Simply fold it into a tripod (doesn't take origami skills!) and use it to hold the chopsticks upright. Or you can put them on the side right under your main entree plate. Always put them together, and never cross them. Never, EVER stick them in your food or bowl when you're not using them. It's very rude and gross! This shouldn't be explained, but also don't use the chopsticks to pull the dishes towards you, especially in Chinese restaurants with the rotating table center. For the superstitious purposes, don't stick your chopsticks upright on the food or rice bowl, as this implies giving your food to the dead (it figuratively looks like incense). For one more etiquette purpose, if you're in a Japanese restaurant, don't poke at what's inside your sushi or other kinds of food to see what's in it. This is a signal that you don't trust your chef and it's insulting. Hope this helps!
Thanks for the five people who asked! This was a fun! To ask questions, please send to: email@example.com. Please leave your first name and the first letter of your last name (example: John S.). We'll take the five we like every 15 days!