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Ted's Rules for Restaurants   6 comments

Posted at 5:30 pm in Uncategorized

I eat out a lot, and I've come to see that there are a number of rules for running a restaurant that are honored in the breach more often than the reverse. None of these are rocket science, but I thought I would write some of them down because a lot of restauranteers really need to read them.

1) Honor Your Posted Hours

I can't over-emphasize this item. Your posted hours are part of your contract with the public. Nobody forced you to post a particular set of hours on your door, but having posted them, you need to honor them. If I have made myself work until 9:30 with the lure of a nice supper based on your promise to be open until 10:30 and I show up to hear "Well, it wasn't very busy, so we closed the kitchen at 9, it's too late for me to go elsewhere. You have ruined my evening.

I try not to be a jerk. I will not waltz in at 5 minutes before closing and order an elaborate meal, but if I show up at least half an hour before posted closing, I expect to find your establishment in full operation.

2) Make More Tea

This is a related point. If I come in at least half an hour before closing, and you are out of tea, I expect you to make more. Yes, some of it will go to waste, but it is on your menu and only costs you pennies to make. Besides, if your staff weren't so hellbent on closing before you are supposed to, they wouldn't have dumped the urn.

3) If My Glass is Empty, Fill it Up

Really what more can I say? Is this so hard to do?

4) Don't Bring the Bill While I am Still Eating

If you bring the check before I have finished my meal, it implies that you want to get rid of me, and is somewhat rude. It also implies that you are washing your hands of me, and that I can expect no further refills. It is also not in your best interests. If I have been contemplating dessert, having a finalized bill pretty much kills the chance that I will ask for anything else.

5) Don't Let the Bill Sit

This is the inverse of the last rule. If I am not ready to go, I will not put cash or a credit card on the check you brought me. When I am ready, and do place my payment, I don't want it to take twenty minutes before you pick it up.

6) Never Ask: Do You Need Change?

If I have a check for $8.21 and hand you a $20 bill and you say "Do you need any change?", it implies you are angling for a $11.79 tip. It's even worse if what I would be getting back is close to (but more than) what I would be leaving you for a tip. In that case it makes me feel stingy for begrudging you an extra eighty cents.

The correct phrase is "I'll be right back with your change". This gives me the opening to say "That's OK" if I intend you to keep everything.

7) Make Sure the Staff Instructions Agree with the Menu

If your menu describes an item of food in one way, make sure the instructions given to the kitchen and wait staff agree with the written description.

For years, the menu at Shoney's described the spaghetti as coming with mushrooms. So I would order spaghetti, and it would invariably come without mushrooms, leading to the following exchange:

I didn't get any mushrooms with my spahgetti

You didn't say you wanted mushrooms

Well, the menu says it comes with them..

The same goes for El Chico, and the guacamole that is supposed to come with the beef burrito..

8) Don't Let the Waitresses set the Thermostat

They are walking around and carrying stuff. It's a hard job, and they are working. I am not, I'm just sitting there gradually freezing to death.

9) If You Must have a TV, Mute It

Sports bars are excluded, I suppose, but if I walk into a general restaurant, I either want to talk with the rest of my party, or if I'm alone, think my own thoughts. I don't want to hear about the news, a soap opera, an infomercial or even the weather I just came in from. On most modern TVs, you can activate a close-caption mode that lets the staff follow their programs without annoying the patrons.

10) Don't Argue

It amazes me that I feel I have to list this one, but it has happened, and flabbergasts me every time.

If I say I need a new fork, don't ask me "What's wrong with that one?". Just get me the fork.

I'm sure you have your own rules that are violated all the time. Leave me a comment, and if I agree, I'll add it to the list!

Written by ted on January 3rd, 2008

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6 Responses to 'Ted's Rules for Restaurants'

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  1. i suggest you stay home

    you're the type of customer who's food will get spit or pissed on

    enjoy your meal


    8 Feb 08 at 4:49 pm

  2. Good stuff here, Ted. I guess if I had to add one to the list, it would be something like, "Make the customer feel welcome," or something to that effect. I think people tend to stay away from listing this one because it's kind of an intangible and is difficult to articulate precisely, but there's just something about going to a restaurant where the staff makes you feel welcome without either (a) bugging you to the point of transparency (i.e., it becomes painfully obvious that they're incredibly insecure about their restaurant, their service, or (worst of all) their food, or (b) this completely disconnected, "I know I'm wearing a name tag and an apron but if I had my way I wouldn't be working here so please don't act like I'm supposed to wait on you"-attitude that seems to be increasingly prevalent at a lot of your mid-range family-style joints (and even at a few of the high-end places I've been to recently). It's difficult to define, but you know that "welcome" feeling when you experience it.


    12 Mar 08 at 5:34 pm

  3. Thanks Paul, that is a good one. I think I am either going to figure out how to turn comments on for the rules page on the sidebar, or just put a link in that one back to here so I can keep getting comments and updating it.


    12 Mar 08 at 11:02 pm

  4. I agree with pretty much all of this except the thermostat. I have long ago realized to take a jacket inside with me. Ive worked the restaurant gig before, and 8-14 hours 5-6 days a week of being on your feet running back and forth between a hot kitchen and warm eating area is a killer. Plus, do you want a frazzled, stinky, exhausted waitress who is dripping sweat on you and your food?
    I know the next canned comment, "if you dont like it, go back to school or get a new job". Do you know how hard it is to get out of the food service? And many of the employees are in school already. Its quick easy money, and most potential employers see that you are a waiter at waffle house and think "stupid, poor backwoods trash". My wife finally got a job doing billing in the evenings for a shipping company and classes during the daytime. She went through a TON of applications before she got it. It took me a while to go from food delivery to managing a store.
    One thing I love is when waiters/tresses leave me the hell alone till my glass is almost empty. I cant stand being asked if I need anything every 5 minutes. If I want something Ill flag you down or just wait till you come back. But dont leave me alone for too long. Its a fine line between annoying and serving.


    8 May 08 at 10:02 pm

  5. Hey Ted! I hate to post this but I was looking for a way to tell you when I hear of future businesses closing in advance. Or are you not interested because you just do this when "if it strikes my fancy"? :)

    Dennis B

    3 Nov 08 at 4:16 pm

  6. Eventually I'm going to set up an "have your say" page.

    I'm get any mail sent to closings at


    3 Nov 08 at 4:39 pm

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