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Responsibility and the restaurant customer

January 16, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH, For The Leader-Herald

Oh busboy, the customer has responsibilities and you are a customer. After visiting a restaurant, it is commonplace for us to talk about the dining experience and critique our time there. This is a great idea because it's a fun way to extend our dining encounter. But while we talk, we need to include our own personal responsibility to the dining experience. What did we do to make or break the evening?

Think about it. Because you are part of that dining experience, you have an effect on it: your manner and mood; your actions and attitude; your time and timing all affect the total dining experience. Most of us act as if we realize we have some accountability when we visit a restaurant, but I think we all need reminding every now and then. So, you can call this your Customer Accountability Reminder .

Consider the responsibility that one customer (you) has to the other customer's experience. Everyone that sits around you is a paying customer entitled to a quick enjoyable bite or a leisurely evening of dining. You came to the restaurant to enjoy yourself. Your dining colleagues want to enjoy themselves too.

Only too well, we all know those people who have damaged our own dining experiences. Of course, I know that none of my readers are this type of customer - I know that you have all been seated next to them a time or two. Maybe you even brought them with you, say an Uncle Fred or neighbor Joan. They are those annoying others who act like the restaurant is their own private palace and they are the king. Let's take a look at some not so enjoyable dining colleagues.

Cell phone chatters: These are those dining roommates that let the phone ring no muting here. They talk louder than the rest of the diners sharing their secrets and schedules for the rest of their week. Last month, I was privy to all the reasons why a faceless teenager had to be home by 11. Sometimes, as they chitchat, they don't even leave the table thus preventing others from continuing conversations. Some of them sit alone and talk aloud and giggle throughout the meal as if the little voice on the rectangular receiver is sitting right there at the table. Did you hear that some restaurants are considering phone booths for cell phone users? Great idea.

The dreadfully friendly character: This guy (gals too) chats with everyone who catches his eye. He roams the room looking for a new "best friend." He keeps you 10 minutes talking in the restroom or on the way there. He loves to keep the wait staff listening to his stories. You might say he is lonely. Well, maybe he should talk to his wife who is, often, sitting patiently alone.

Self-centered someone: This demanding damsel (or guy) insists on the best table then changes it three times. She complains all the while she waits in line. She butts ahead explaining that she is in a hurry (like the rest of us aren't?) She calls the wait staff for every little need and sends her food back when it's almost finished. She painfully describes how she likes her food cooked, with specific spices and using specific brands of condiments. I apologize if I'm describing your Aunt Rita.

Messy-manners man: Oh busboy, this guy is one of my non-favorites. Everything is a mess. He uses the cloth napkin to blow his nose. He burps out loud and slouches down in the chair. He talks with a full mouth, showering the next table. He piles his coffee cup on the dinner plate for easy reach, gets sauce all over the top of the salt and pepper shakers, the candlesticks and chair. The floor is his catch-all. He may enjoy himself, but he leaves the rest of us queasy.

The hat hound: Come blank or high water, this guy (yes, it is usually a guy) insists on a cap to cover his cranium. I don't know what he is hiding under it, but he needs that be told that it needs to be detached at the dining room door.

Party-hardy people: It isn't a bad thing to have a party at a restaurant. The key word is moderation. Wild parties are for your wild home. Loud parties should have a separate dining room. I once served a party that sang "one-hundred bottles of beer on the wall" to see if they could finish before the food arrived. They were just having fun. The waitress did not have a fun night.

I think you are getting my message by now. When the dining colleagues who were seated near you get into their car, you do not want them to say, "That meal was great, but those people at the table next to us "

Restaurant watch: Seen any interesting customers lately?



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