Restaurant Critic Tells Us How We Should Do Things

Tom Sietsema is the restaurant critic for The Washington Post and he eats out all the time, even “doubling up” on the occasional lunch or dinner just so he can share his restaurant wisdom with everyone else in the world. Thank you, Tom, for your service. Anyhoo, at the start of the new year, he wrote an article with 10 “resolutions” that restaurants should enact to make them better. You know, since he eats in restaurants all the time, he knows fucking everything about them, Right? Uh huh. Yeah. Sure.

Several people have sent this article to me get my take on it and, believe it or not, I actually agree with most of his points. Don’t get me wrong, I still get rubbed wrong every time someone who isn’t a restaurant worker or owner decides to write an article about our industry telling us all the ways we should do it instead. Please allow me to go down his list and discuss:

Honor reservations. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you don;’t want to wait for your reservation even though your table isn’t it ready. I get it. I don’t want to wait at the doctor’s office until 1:30, when my appointment was at noon, but shit happens. Believe me, if we could tell customers to get the fuck out when they are done eating, I’d be the one to volunteer for that job every shift. But we can’t and sometimes customers linger longer than they should. I do agree with his suggestion that restaurants could offer a free glass of wine or something if the wait is too long. That’s a nice idea. Maybe we should give them foot rubs and blowjobs too.

Be willing to seat incomplete parties. No, no, no! Sorry about your grandma and the guy with the bum leg, but we can’t do it. They may be “on the way” but that two minutes can easily stretch to ten fifteen minutes or even longer and it’s going to throw everything off from drink orders to announcing the specials to serving the food. Every server has been burned by this: a party of eight, but only three of them are there and they persuade us to let them sit down. So we push the tables together for eight people and twenty minutes later we learn it’s just going to be four of them But the four of them have spread out over two table and now we can’t use it. You know what else that affects? Reservations, so if you get pissed off that your table isn’t ready at your time of reservation, it might be because we were willing to seat an incomplete party. Fuck that.

Bring up the lights. What, so you can see that I didn’t bother polishing the glasses or the silverware? I don’t think so.

Keep menu introductions brief. I agree. I don’t want to talk you anymore than you want to listen to me talk.

Learn to “read” guests. I agree. Every customer is different and I pride myself on being able to tell which one of my many personalities to turn on for which guest. I could ask the same of customers: read your server. If I look like I don’t give a shit about the reasons you can’t eat dairy, I don’t want to hear it.

Do not ask diners for accolades, as in, “Is everything delicious?” I agree. I’ll ask if it’s good. You answer. That can be the end of our personal interaction.

Banish from your delivery the string of words “Are you finished working on that?” I agree, but jeez, come up with something original to complain about, Tom. You are about the one-millionth journalist to say that. Yawn.

Treat restrooms as if your parents are coming over. Yes, we all like to have clean restrooms. Sadly, most customers are fucking pigs who don’t treat a public restroom as they would their own and they seem to pee and poop anywhere but the toilet. If the restrooms are a mess, I can guaran-fucking-tee it’s the fault of the customers. But I’ll tell the busser or the dishwasher…

Keep your website accurate and up-to-date. While I agree that the website should be up-to-date with menu and prices and clearly state the address and phone number, why does it have to have public transportation and parking information? Figure that shit out yourself, Tom. We can’t do everything for you.

Remember that little things are big things. Yes, we should wipe crumbs from the table and return the correct change, of course. Diners will notice these things. You know what little things we notice, Tom? We notice when customers don’t make eye contact or when they ask us a question and then don’t listen to the answer. We notice when they take garbage out of their purse and drop it under the table and we notice when they never say please or thank you. So yeah, little things are big things.

Thanks for the article, Tom. Keep up the good work of eating for a living.

12 thoughts on “Restaurant Critic Tells Us How We Should Do Things

  1. Just A Poor Server

    Well the comments section is closed, so I can’t say what I really want to on there, so I will say it here in the hopes that Tom (and the other idiotic commenters on that page) see it.

    Kindly shove your advice. While I agree on some points, it’s the other points (and those lovely added suggestions in the comment section) I can do without. Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start!)

    No, we will not seat incomplete parties. That’s just how it goes. It’s for a good reason, we assure you. When your entire party is sat, it’s easier to be able to provide everyone with their drinks/meals/extra stuff all at the same time, rather than having to worry about making sure the two that just joined get their drinks while I am still woring on providing the other three with their bread. You call it lazy? I call it efficient.

    Honor reservations? Please, tell me, how do we not honor them? You show up and we make sure we get you sat right away. Sometimes that isn’t as soon as you walk in the door because your table may not be ready, especially if it is a busy restaurant. And here’s another newsflash. Some restaurants don’t take reservations! THE SCANDAL!

    For my introductions. Trust me when I say I would rather not go through the whole spiel with you when you will ignore what I said anyway. But since I have to, why not just sit there for 2 minutes and listen? After, I am more than happy to get your drinks and put your orders in. Oh, you say you are going to see a movie later and need it rushed? Then don’t go out to eat before your next event! Wait until after your movie or pick a different day! Not my fault if you miss out on it, I don’t control the food, I can only do so much.

    I also can’t control lighting or music. And, trust me, you don’t want more lights.

    For the other commenters. If I am asking you if you want a box, it’s because I notice you aren’t eating as quickly so I assume you are full. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to get you out. It’s not that I don’t like you, but I am trying to make money and your $4 isn’t gonna help my bills, so I need you to skedaddle out of there quickly so I can get a new table and make more money! So I WILL be checking back constantly, I WILL ask if you need boxes, and I WILL ensure the check is ready and on the table if I feel you are ready to get going.

    And for the love of God, don’t sit there longer than necessary. Once paid, please, leave. You don’t have to go home, just get out of here!

    We should make a list of things we want guests to do differently! Get that published in a paper and see what happens. I can already hear the eys clicking on the keyboards of the haters.

  2. Jason

    I banished the phrase “Are you done working on that?? YEARS AGO. And you know what? Nine times out of ten when I approach a table and say “May I clear these plates?” and they aren’t finished, you know what THEY SAY? “No, I’m still working on it!” If the guest can say it, then why the hell can’t I?

  3. Not impressed, Tom

    What I don’t understand is why are there so many articles harping on what servers and restaurants need to do better? Why don’t people write artcles about what your dental hygenist can do better? How about what the doctor can do better? Or the public school system? Why do people think it’s necessary to tell us how to do our jobs or what we can do better? Kindly fuck off, Tom and maybe write an article about something that actually matters or maybe isn’t so fucking condescending.

  4. April

    The thing I hate about these articles, even if I agree with some of what is written, is it’s never anything original. This is not an original thought that no single server or restaurant owner has thought of before. It’s all regurgitated from 300 articles before it. I could write articles on what servers what from their customers, or what customers want from their server, but it’s been done. So the only thing to wrap them all up is “don’t be a douche”. Either customer or server. Done!

  5. jaye

    Re lighting: kinda agree. Some are so dark, makes me wonder what they’re hiding. Have reading glasses or use candle but usually those super dim places aren’t good enuf for 2nd visit.
    Bathroom: Everyone can tell its neglect or gross customers. If its the former I’m out

  6. Geo

    Yeah let’s talk about those bathrooms shall we? When the customers can actually put/aim their shit/pee/vomit where it is supposed to go we would all be A LOT happier. Buuuuut unfortunately since the customers are not cleaning the bathrooms sometimes that stuff just goes willy nilly and they DO NOT care.

    Then Mr. Food Critic needs to use/inspect the bathrooms right after Mr/Ms willy nilly has destroyed it.


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