A Restaurant Dilemma

***Caution – this post may step on some toes.

The restaurant was packed that Sunday afternoon. Groups of hungry individuals occupied every chair and table in the place. Waiters and waitresses scurried about taking orders, bringing drinks, and refilling chip baskets and salsa bowls.

For those who occupied one table, stomachs rumbled and parched throats longed for relief as the group waited for drinks and entrée’s.  Eventually, patience wore thin for some and they began to voice their frustration. To them it seemed that patrons at other tables who ordered later, feasted on meals first as their food appeared in rapid succession.   Cries of, “this is not fair,” and “this is ridiculous” began to echo across the table.

After quite some time, food began to arrive, though not all at once. Even that upset some. One person actually received their food well after the majority of the group finished their meal. Unfortunately, that order had to be sent back to the kitchen because it wasn’t correct. When the order arrived a second time, it still wasn’t correct. So, an additional request to rectify the problem was sent to the kitchen. This brought more cries of dissatisfaction.

Not everyone in the group was vocal about the service issues. However, from where I was sitting, I could hear those in the group who did cast judgment of wrong doing on the part of the waitress. As time wore on, the finger pointing escalated to lamenting about not enough help in the establishment. I felt sorry for the waitress and began to squirm in my seat.

Previous experience of waiting tables and serving banquets taught me that being a waitress is not an easy job. If your section gets slammed (meaning if you are seated large parties or if your section is filled all at once) it is very difficult to serve patrons as quickly as preferred. Getting slammed causes stress for the server, and even with experience, the challenge to keep everyone happy, refresh drinks, and stay on top of special requests is a monumental task. Furthermore, once the server turns in the order to the cooks, the arrival of food is somewhat out of their hands.

As time lagged and frustrations mounted, embarrassment began to creep through my body. By the way most were dressed, the group had obviously come to the restaurant from church. The fact that they all bowed their heads to pray before the meal made me more uncomfortable with their actions.

Contemplating these things, I wondered what kind of effect their complaining had on the waitress. What if she needed to be in church that morning because she was struggling and needed a word of encouragement, but was required to work instead? What if she was close to making a decision to follow Christ, but the actions of the group caused her to rethink that decision? What if . . .

As I watched this situation unfold, I longed for someone to apologize to the waitress for their behavior towards her. None did, and that caused me greater embarrassment.

Two days after witnessing this situation I found myself in a similar scenario. My family and I were at lunch and the waiter didn’t materialize for several minutes. After he arrived and took our order, he disappeared again for a long time. When we saw him again, he was leaving a check at a table near us. After depositing the check, he passed by our table and briefly glanced our way. Eventually he arrived with our drinks. Sometime later he came with our meals, but both my meal and one of my daughters meals were wrong.

She and I looked at each other and contemplated what to do. As we talked about what we had witnessed at lunch two days before, we decided that we would go ahead and eat what was served. So, I gave her my taco soup and she gave me her chili.

Was it what we wanted for lunch? No.

Should we have sent it back? Yes.

But we could see that our waiter was struggling. And because of the dining scenario two days earlier, we chose to be content with what we had received. Besides, being the adventurist, I figured this prompted me to try something I normally would not have ordered. Plus, it gave our family an opportunity to discuss appropriate responses when faced with situations like these.

For days these two lunchtime scenes nagged at me. The result – this post which concludes with a list of things that even I need to keep in mind when dining out.

  1. Don’t forget your manners.
  2. Your server is a human not a robot.
  3. Be patient. You will not die of thirst before your drink arrives, nor will you die of hunger before your food is placed before you.
  4. If your server looks frazzled, harassing them will not help.
  5. You are not owed free food because yours arrived late, or because it didn’t come as you ordered it.
  6. From the eyes of those around you, complaining paints you in a bad light.
  7. If you just came from church, shame on you for thinking you are entitled to special treatment. No one is entitled – period!
  8. Be respectful at all times.
  9. You are not perfect either, so when your server makes a mistake, smile and politely explain the problem.
  10. When in public and praying for your meal, how about asking God to bless the restaurant and those who are working there. In fact, why not pray for God to work through that establishment and in the lives of those individuals. Who knows, maybe that’s exactly the kind of prayer these folks need at that exact moment.

Photo is compliments of morguefile.com

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