The Art of Dining Out

My family owns a deli/sandwich shop in a beautiful, Southern town. We thought we were busy when we opened two and a half years ago but we are busier than ever now. That is, if you call making 200+ sandwiches and 15 gallons of soup a day, busy. Our food prep line is similar to that of Subway, so folks get to watch us make their food, and chat in the meantime. There are six of us that run it and it keeps us all busy most of the time. So we have definitely learned a lot about food service, customer service and how to keep customers happy. And trust me, we have the best customers a person could wish for. We talk about it constantly, how blessed we are. In spite of hastily serving a couple hundred people every day, we have managed to get to know a lot of our customers on a first name basis and are privileged to call them friends. We have folks who eat with us almost daily. Fine, fine people. In fact, for every disgruntled, demanding customer, we probably have 50 super nice, friendly and obliging customers. And since we’ve been in business now, and have developed a kind of routine, we have learned a few things, which has changed some of our mannerisms of eating out. So I’ve compiled a list of things that hopefully can help you be a better customer when dining out:

As a customer:

-Be friendly.We have customers who can just walk in the door, and we all sorta smile and perk up because they are just so funny, or upbeat, or happy. That would have to mean shutting off the cell phone. We try to provide fast, friendly service because many of our customers are on lunch breaks. When you are on the phone, we can’t be fast or friendly because we don’t have your attention. If the call is urgent, finish it before stepping in line or ask the other person to hold so you can answer our many questions about bread and cheese and veggies, and all that good stuff. I realize that this friendliness thing is not always easy as a customer, particularly if the one serving you is not friendly or chatty or helpful. But be as friendly as you can.

-Don’t take advantage of free. We provide complimentary cups of water to our customers. Free water is great for those trying to lose weight, or pinch pennies. Please don’t fill your cup with lemons provided for paying customers, and dump in the Splenda. It might be poor man’s lemonade but it’s not considerate to the restaurant. We do have cost in the water, the cup and everything else, not to mention the time it takes to cut up all those lemons. This might not be illegal, but I deem it unethical- along with taking extra packs of taco sauce from Taco Bell with the intentions of putting it on your homemade burritos at home. And making cutesy DIY crafts with paint chips from paint stores. Google it once and you’d be surprised at how many projects promoted on Pinterest and other places demand huge quantities of these paint chips. One I saw was for decorating a dorm (since you aren’t allowed to paint) by gluing hundreds of these paint chips to a wall for a splash of color. Don’t try to tell me too that it’s free advertising for the paint companies. Half of the finished projects don’t even have the paint names on them. And who’s going to look at a cute little homemade paint chip bookmark and say, “Oh, I want to paint my room that color!” Probably not happening.
-Be aware of what’s going on around you. If you have finished eating and are just chilling, while others are leaving the restaurant because of no free tables, it would be considerate to think about leaving. We aren’t going to ask you to leave, obviously, but we do appreciate when folks give up their tables for people waiting to eat.

-Leave a clean table. Especially if you are doing fast food, or don’t have a waitress to clean up after you. A few crumpled napkins on the table and floor can make a dining area appear very messy. We try to keep the dining area clean but crowds of people and limited tables don’t always let it happen. And speaking of dirty tables, please don’t choose the only dirty table in the room and ask us to come wash it when you are surrounded by clean ones. Seriously! And when you are finished, push the chair up neatly against the table. These are little things that can make big differences!

 And now,even when we eat somewhere where we have a  waitress, we still try to tidy the table. Put all the trash together, stack the plates, etc. It shows the waitress that we care about their job and appreciate all that they have done for us. Trust me, we have learned a lot through this experience 🙂

-Be aware of the dynamics of the business. For example, we serve long lines of people and try to do it quickly because people are on lunch breaks. Therefore, if you want your veggies cut up finely, ask for them on the side and then do it yourself. In a busy food prep line, we are chefs, not food processors.

– Be honest with your experience. We hope you enjoyed your stay with us. But if you have a complaint, do tell that as well. We can’t fix what we don’t know about.

This wasn’t written to incriminate anyone or put anyone on guilt trips if you have or have not done some of the things I mentioned. We were ignorant of  a lot of them too, because we had never been on the other side of the line.

And once again, here’s a big shout-out to all the wonderful, funny, friendly souls who grace our tables. They have become friends and we couldn’t make it without them!

I should probably do a follow-up post on The Art of Making Dining Out A Good Experience– in other words, to the folks on my side of the line. We certainly aren’t perfect and make many mistakes in customer service. The responsibility of not only providing good food with a smile, but of representing Jesus is huge and we feel it.

So now…. you out there. Yes, you! What think ye? What do you do as a customer to make eating out a win-win situation all the way around? Or what are pet peeves of yours as it relates to those making your food and serving you. This could be really interesting 🙂